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Essential Tips for First Time Flyers With Anxiety: Navigating Airports and Airplanes with Confidence

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Does the prospect of air travel worry you? Here are some tips for first time flyers with anxiety about the whole experience. If you’re new to air travel or an infrequent flyer, it’s understanble that you might be a little apprehensive but you can turn that apprehension into excitement and then enjoyment with some planning and preparation. You can reduce anxiety and increase confidence by being in control, knowing where to be and what’s going on around you.

Personally, I still get a little thrill when, seated and belted, I feel aircraft roll forward as the pilot pushes the throttles all the way to fully open and the engines reach full power. There’s that magic moment when the thrust overcomes the inertia and the aircraft begins its run to takeoff speed. Once we’re at that point the pilot gives the control column a gentle pull backwords, the nose wheel lifts off the ground and then, followed by the main wheels, we’re airborne and the undercarriage is folded away until it’s needed again for landing.

But before we get to this point we have to navigate our way from home to airport, through the airport to the boarding gate, and finally to our seat. Once airborne we have to make the most of the time aboard the aircraft, prepare for landing, and find our way through the arrival airport to our ultimate destination.

Overcome Your Fear of Flying

For some the anxiety is generated by a combination of the journey to the airport, the airport procedures, the flight, and the arrival at the destination before finally getting to their hotel. For other people it’s a fear of flying itself and this can be severe for some unlucky individuals.

Here are some ideas for learning to relax aboard a flight.

  1. Educate Yourself About Aviation:
    • Understanding how airplanes work can significantly reduce fear. Learn about the safety measures in place, how pilots are trained, and the rigorous maintenance routines aircraft undergo. Knowing the facts about air travel safety can help demystify the process and alleviate fears. Many airlines and independent organizations offer fear of flying courses that cover these topics in detail.
  2. Develop Relaxation Techniques:
    • Practicing relaxation techniques can be incredibly effective in managing anxiety levels before and during a flight. Techniques such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided meditation can help calm your mind. Apps that offer guided meditation or relaxation exercises can be a handy tool to have on your phone for use during the flight.
  3. Gradual Exposure and Support:
    • Gradually exposing yourself to the flying experience can help desensitize your fear. Start by visiting an airport to observe operations, then progress to short flights, gradually increasing the distance as your confidence grows. Consider flying with a companion who is an experienced and calm flyer. Their confidence can be reassuring, and having someone to talk to can distract and help ease anxiety.

Make Flying Stress-Free With These Airport Tips

Check In Online

Save time by checking in for your flight on the airline’s website or app up to 24 hours before departure. You may be able to choose your seat (depending on the airline, flight, and your membership of their loyalty scheme), but you can definitely print your boarding pass and have it emailed to you or added to the app on your smartphone.

Most airlines encourage this now. They’ve cut costs by reducing the number of checking staff and by going as electronic possible. If you fly British Airways from Terminal 5 at Heathrow, you’ll now see kiosks for check-in and self-service bag drop kiosks. It’s all a bit impersonal and unfriendly, but there are staff about to help out if you get stuck or don’t know what to do, much like a supermarket self-service checkout.

Know the Carry-On Rules

Familiarise yourself with the size and weight limits for carry-on luggage to avoid surprises at the gate. Pack smartly and avoid overstuffing your bags. Liquids must be small bottles and placed in a single, clear, sealable plastic bag. Your airline’s website will have the details of the size of bag you’re allowed to carry-on. Check this as they do vary.

Charge Your Electronic Devices

Bring a portable charger or charging cable so your phone, tablet, and other electronics don’t die mid-flight or while navigating the airport. Some airports and airlines offer charging stations, but they may be difficult to find when you need them most. They are often fully used and some may be unservicable due to the amount of wear and tear they receive.

Dress Comfortably

Choose comfortable, breathable clothing and supportive shoes for your flight. Layers are ideal for fluctuating cabin temperatures. You may be required to remove belts and shoes when you go through the security checks so bear that in mind when choosing what to wear.

Stay Hydrated and Fed

Bring an empty water bottle to fill once you’re through security. Dehydration and low blood sugar can make jet lag and travel stress feel worse. Put some protein bars, nuts, and other non-perishable snacks in your carry-on bag, just in case of delays or if the food aboard is not to your taste.

Essential Tips For First Time Flyers With Anxiety

Reduce Airport Stress With These Tips

Plan Your Journey To The Airport

Your journey to the airport will depend on your flight departure time. You should be at the airport at least two hours before the departure for international flights, sometimes earlier. For domestic flights you can arrive sooner but as always, check the airline’s website and your ticket.

The earlier your flight is in the day, the more sense it makes to stay at an airport hotel the night before. Some hotels have a ‘stay and park’ deal for passengers who want to stay one night before the flight but leave their car in a car park for a week or two.

Of course, this means more expense, so if you’re not prepared to do that then plan your journey so that you arrive at the airport in good time and not stressed out just getting there. This means checking for road congestion due to roadworks or accidents if you’re travelling by car, or rail strikes, engineering works, etc if arriving by train.

If you’re driving yourself to the airport you’ll need to park in one of the short or long stay car parks (some of these may be a (free) bus ride away from the terminal), or you can use a valet service to park your car for you. Make sure you use a reputable company endorsed by the airport operators.

Alternatively, book a taxi firm to deliver you to the airport drop-off point. They should do all the road condition checks as part of their service.

Use TSA PreCheck

For expedited security screening in the USA, enrol in TSA PreCheck. For a fee, you can breeze through security without removing shoes, laptops, belts and light jackets. PreCheck lanes also usually have shorter wait times. If travelling with kids, consider enrolling them in the TSA PreCheck Child programme.

Pay Extra For Fast Track

Spending a little extra can get you through security checks more quickly. If the airports have a Fast Track security service then those with Premium Economy, Club, and First Class tickets are usually able to use it as it’s included as standard. For those travelling Economy Class they may be able to use it for a small fee.

Use Airport Amenities

Take advantage of any amenities at airports that appeal to you, like airport lounges which may include gyms, showers, and play areas. Relax, freshen up, get some exercise, or entertain kids between flights if you’re waiting for a connection. Airport lounges vary from those that provide food, drink, and a quiet place to relax, to large lounges with many more amenities.

With some pre-flight preparation, your airport experience can be a breeze. A little organisation and planning goes a long way to ensuring a smooth, stress-free trip.

Relaxed Flying

Stay Entertained During Your Flight

To make the hours pass quickly on your flight, focus on staying cosy and keeping yourself occupied.

Bring entertainment

If the aircraft has a multimedia entertainment system in front of you when you’re in your seat then there will be all kinds of options, but that won’t be the case on short haul flights and there’s always the risk that it doesn’t work or there’s nothing on it you want to watch.

So, download books, podcasts, movies, or TV shows to your devices before boarding. Pack headphones, a portable charger, deck of cards or small games, crossword or sudoku books. If flying with kids, bring colouring books, small toys, handheld video games or tablets loaded with their favourite shows.

Rest or Walk Around

Try sleeping on overnight flights using an eye mask and neck pillow. During the day, get up once an hour to walk around. Do simple stretches like shoulder rolls, torso twists or calf raises. This improves circulation and reduces stiffness. Encourage your children to do likewise.

Learn some basic deep breathing, mindfulness, or meditation techniques. These simple exercises can be used anywhere to great effect to reduce anxiety; in a queue, at the boarding gate, during the flight, etc.

Make the most of your flight by planning ahead and focusing on comfort. The hours will pass in no time, and you’ll arrive at your destination feeling refreshed, or at least less frazzled than expected.

Avoid Jet Lag and Fatigue on Long Flights

Adjust Your Sleep Schedule

Before your flight, slowly adjust your sleep schedule to match the time zone of your destination. Go to bed an hour earlier or later each night leading up to your trip. This helps reset your circadian rhythm so you’ll feel rested upon arrival. Avoid screens and bright lights before bed to maximise the effects.

Limit Alcohol and Caffeine

Both alcohol and caffeine can disrupt your sleep, so avoid them in the hours leading up to and during your flight.

OK, that may not happen if you like a drink or two, but staying hydrated is important, so drink plenty of water as well. This will keep you refreshed and reduce fatigue so you can rest well on the plane.

Use an Eye Mask and Earplugs

Blocking out light and noise is key to sleeping on a flight. An eye mask and earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones can make a big difference. Some airlines provide these amenities, but bringing your own ensures comfort. With less stimulation, you’ll be snoozing in no time.

Get Up and Move Around

On long flights, get up, walk around and stretch when possible. This prevents cramping, improves circulation and provides mental relief from sitting for extended periods. Do some light exercises like rotating your ankles, marching in place or doing shoulder rolls. Staying active will boost your energy and make the flight time pass more quickly so you reach your destination feeling refreshed.

Use the Hotel Gym

If you arrive at your destination and check in to a hotel on arrival then head straight to the gym or do some physical exericse in your hotel room. On his podcast recently, I heard Joe Rogan say that this helps him to fight off jet lag.

Direct flights from London

DestinationDeparture atReturn atAirlineFind tickets
Aberdeen8 August 202415 August 2024EasyjetTickets from USD 77
Agadir2 September 20247 September 2024EasyjetTickets from USD 209
Malaga2 September 202425 September 2024RyanairTickets from USD 61
Almaty4 October 20248 October 2024Air AstanaTickets from USD 703
Alicante15 September 202421 September 2024RyanairTickets from USD 115
Algiers1 August 202431 August 2024British AirwaysTickets from USD 1 747
Amsterdam24 September 202424 September 2024EasyjetTickets from USD 91
Ankara10 October 202413 October 2024Pegasus AirlinesTickets from USD 193
Antigua7 September 202415 September 2024British AirwaysTickets from USD 650
Athens3 February 20259 February 2025Wizz AirTickets from USD 92

Save Money on Airfare With These Booking Tips

When to Book Your Flight

There’s a lot of debate about the best time to buy flights. I’m not confident that anyone has an answer that suits all flights and all airlines, but here are some points to take into account:

  1. Advance Purchase: Buying your tickets in advance can significantly impact the price, but when is ideal? Typically, it is said, booking a flight about 2 to 3 months before domestic travel and 3 to 6 months before international travel is recommended. Prices tend to be higher when booking too far in advance or too close to the departure date.
  2. Day of the Week: Data from fare comparison sites and airline pricing trends suggest that Tuesday and Wednesday are generally the cheapest days to book flights, as airlines often release new fare sales early in the week. Sundays can also offer lower prices for certain routes.
  3. Time of Day: Booking late at night or in the early hours of the morning may sometimes yield lower prices. This is because there is less competition for seats during these times, and airlines might lower prices to encourage bookings.
  4. Seasonality and Holidays: Avoiding peak travel times, such as major holidays and school vacation periods, can lead to significant savings. Prices tend to be higher during these peak times due to increased demand. If you have to travel during a busy period, booking well in advance is even more critical.
  5. Flexibility: Being flexible with your travel dates and times can open up opportunities for cheaper fares. Flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays often have lower prices compared to other days of the week. Additionally, flights that depart early in the morning or late at night may also be cheaper.
  6. Price Alerts: Utilizing price alert features on travel comparison websites and apps can help you monitor airfare prices for your desired route. These tools notify you when prices drop, allowing you to book when fares are at their lowest.

Be Flexible With Your Dates

Flying midweek or a few days before or after your target dates can often save you a decent amount of cash. Red-eye flights or those with one or more connections also tend to be more budget-friendly. If your schedule allows, adjusting your trip by even one day can result in big savings.

Avoid Peak Travel Times

The busiest days for air travel are Fridays and Sundays, as well as days around holidays. If possible, fly midweek or on Saturdays to avoid the crowds and higher fares. Departing very early or late in the day may also mean better deals. For the biggest savings, avoid flying the week of Christmas through the first week of January.

Check Budget Airlines

Don’t forget to compare fares on budget carriers like Ryanair, easyJet, and Eurowings in addition to major airlines. They often provide the lowest fares, especially if you’re travelling within Europe or Asia. Be aware of additional fees for checked bags and other amenities before booking.

Look For Discounts and Coupons

Search online for promo codes and coupon deals that can take an additional percentage or fixed amount off your airfare. Some airlines and travel sites release coupons for 10-20% off or $20-50 off select routes. It only takes a few minutes and can add up to huge savings on your trip.

With some flexibility and savvy searching, you can cut costs and fly for less. Keep hunting for the best deals and don’t be afraid to mix and match airlines or adjust your itinerary to save money. Travelling on a budget doesn’t have to cramp your style.

Conclusion

With these tips for smooth air travel in mind, you can breeze through airports, sail through security, stretch out in your seat, and touchdown at your destination feeling refreshed. Whether you’re a frequent flyer or an occasional traveller, these pointers will help make every flight feel effortless. Pack smart, plan ahead, and fly in comfort.

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