Top 10 Tips for Anxious Flyers and How to Manage Your First Time Flying Abroad

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College Study Abroad

A study abroad experience guarantees you’ll be enriching your education, participating in exciting activities, and soaring to new heights – quite literally. And if you’re someone who is scared of planes or scared to fly, it can be daunting to think about how to relax on a plane while you’re en route to your amazing destination.  

We get it – heading out for a new adventure (and likely even a new country) can be nerve-wracking as it is, and even more so if you happen to be a nervous flyer. Not to worry – whether you’re scared to fly or a first-time flyer, we’ve got you covered with suggestions and resources that will ease your flight anxiety and have you feeling grounded and steady while in the air. Read on as we highlight our top 10 tips for first-time flyers. 

10 tips for anxious flyers

Read More: 5 Tips For Getting A Great Deal on Your Study Abroad Flights 

Is Flying Scary?  

If you’ve never flown before, you might be wondering, “Should I be scared to fly?” It’s perfectly normal to be nervous about flying, especially if you’re flying for the first time. In fact, lots of people are scared of flying or experience first-time flying anxiety.  

Fortunately, flying is an incredibly safe way to get to your destination! Thousands of flights occur all over the world every day, and flying is considered one of the safest ways to travel. So, while your head is in the clouds daydreaming about all the marvelous opportunities waiting for you at your study abroad location, you can take comfort in knowing that you’ll be traveling there safely.  

plane window overlooking mexico ocean

Top 10 Tips for Anxious Flyers Traveling Abroad  

Studying abroad is an exciting journey that is brimming with intrigue and adventure, as well as an enhanced global perspective. But there’s no denying that traveling can sometimes be stressful, and for those who are nervous about flying, that added stress can be challenging to manage.  

If you’re thinking, “Sometimes I get nervous on airplanes,” you are not alone! Read on to quell your flight anxiety with our top 10 favorite first-time flying tips for those who are scared to fly. 

Tip #1: Head to the airport with plenty of time to prepare.  

Minimizing travel anxiety starts with preparation, and the more prepared you feel, the less worried you’ll be. If you’re flying for the first time, preparation can be a total game-changer!  

Giving yourself ample time to arrive at the airport will help you account for any unexpected occurrences, so you can move through security, get to your gate, and even sneak in a snack or two before your flight. Trust us – this is a must.  

Here are some easy ways you can maximize your preparation: 

  • Double-check your flight times and airline details to make sure you know where you’re going and how to get there when you arrive at the airport  
  • Factor in traffic and parking so your airport arrival will be smooth and seamless  
  • Review the airline’s flight schedule and gate information so you can be aware of any last-minute changes or adjustments upon your arrival 

Ensuring that you have enough time to comfortably arrive at the airport will help you feel more settled, which will help lower any stress or flight anxiety you may have ahead of your trip. 

Tip #2: Bring comfort items.  

Flying for the first time can be nerve-wracking. Creating a packing checklist with your favorite comfort items is a great way to calm your nerves before your trip. You’ll want to include the basics and essentials in your carry-on bag, but also items that help you feel at ease and comfortable. These might include entertainment must-haves, prescription medications, and things to fidget or play with while you fly. 

Here are a few suggested items to include: 

  • Sleep eye mask 
  • Earplugs 
  • Gum 
  • Ginger ale 
  • Neck pillow 
  • Book or magazine 
  • Headphones  

Be sure to review your list the night before your flight, so you can rest assured you have everything you need. Knowing your favorite items are within your reach on the plane can work wonders in relieving first-time flyer anxiety! 

public transit prague students

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Your Study Abroad Packing List (10 Essential Items!) 

Tip #3: Pay attention to flight attendants (and befriend them!)  

Flight attendants are a great resource for nervous flyers. From assisting with your luggage to explaining safety precautions and providing in-flight snacks, flight attendants are experts on all things in the air. They’re also super friendly! 

Plus, flight attendants are knowledgeable professionals who spend their working hours on planes, so you know you can trust them! They will prompt and guide you through all the pilot’s instructions, including staying in your seat and buckling your seatbelt.  

And informing the flight attendants that it’s your first time on a plane or you’re scared of planes will be a benefit – they’ll check in with you and make sure you have what you need. They’ll even explain everything in detail, so you know exactly what to expect from takeoff to landing.  

Tip #4: Pick a seat by the plane's wing. 

This one may seem counterintuitive but believe us, it works wonderfully! If you experience flight anxiety, you may think that being near the window might make you more nervous. But seeing the incredible sights as you move through the clouds can actually have the opposite effect – you’ll feel grounded. Ever feel more comfortable while traveling in the front seat of a car versus the back? Well, the same is true in this instance!  
You’ll be able to take in all the beauty from a view you simply can’t beat, and you’ll be reducing your stress and anxiety while doing it.  

Tip #5: Distract yourself with entertainment.  

If you’re wondering how to relax on a plane, putting your mind to work is essential, especially if you’re nervous about flying. Staying focused on something fun means there isn’t much room for flight anxiety to creep in! Luckily, there are lots of ways to stay occupied on the plane. Many airlines provide in-flight entertainment, including music, movies, and even live TV! Reading a book or flipping through a magazine you’re interested in are also great ways to keep busy. You can even peruse the CIEE blog for exciting details about your study abroad destination and program (wink, wink).  

You can also work on crossword puzzles and play other games, listen to playlists or podcasts, or even chat with the people beside you. Diving into activities you enjoy will promote a sense of positivity, too – which is another great anxiety reliever. 

tokyo japan plane

Read More: How to Survive a 26 Hour Flying Experience 

Tip #6: Get a good night's sleep the day before traveling.  

As hard as it may be to contain your excitement the night before your study abroad adventure, you’ll want to try to get as much sleep as possible ahead of your trip. Sleep helps you regulate your emotions, including stress and anxiety. So, catching some Zs is a top priority if you’re a first-time flyer, or if you’re scared to fly.  

Tip #7: Eat a nutritious meal for energy (and bring your favorite snacks!) 

Maintaining your energy is important if you are a nervous flyer. Stress and anxiety can be draining, so you’ll want to take care of yourself by staying nourished.  

Eating a balanced meal before your flight is a must. You can bring your own food and snacks if you’d like (just make sure it will pass through security guidelines), or there are tons of options to choose from at the airport, and even on the plane. Having something to munch on will not only keep you refreshed, but it can help keep your mind busy, too.  

Another important tip? Hydrate! Drink lots of water so you’ll feel steady and replenished during your flight. 

Tip #8: Keep your ID cards and important documents in an easily accessible place. 

Part of preparing for your flight includes bringing the pertinent documents you’ll need (i.e. ID card, passport, etc.), and keeping them somewhere within reach. You want to be sure any essential documents are in an easy-access place, so you can grab them when you need them. Keeping your ID card in your carry-on luggage is a good idea, too, so you’ll have it ready to go.  

Knowing where your documents are and how to easily access them will relieve any unnecessary stress – a huge plus for those who are nervous about flying! 

Tip #9: Travel with a friend, if you can. 

If possible, link up with a travel buddy who can be your plane pal during your trip. The distraction of conversation can go a long way in calming flight anxiety, and positive interactions can give your mood a boost and lower cortisol levels, meaning that funny or interesting discussions can actually reduce your anxiety!  
It can also be helpful to discuss your flying concerns or fears with your friend, so they can check in with you and reassure you throughout the flight.  

And if you don’t have a friend on the flight, flying for the first time is a great way to make one! Depending on the location of your study abroad program, you may have a long flight. There’s no better time to get to know an interesting person next to you – you might meet someone who’s staying at the same place as you are (bonus!) or make a lasting friendship. 

rabat students arrive summer session abroad

Tip #10: Picture yourself in your final destination.  

Remember when we mentioned daydreaming? We weren’t kidding! Visualization can be a powerful tool for mitigating flight anxiety, and for first time flyers, this can be extremely helpful.  

Maybe you’ll be slipping on a sun hat and enjoying one of Australia’s many beaches, or learning about the ancient history of the Yucatán Peninsula, but wherever your journey is bringing you, start picturing yourself there! The positive associations will have you feeling excited about what’s to come and keep you from focusing on your nerves.   

Become a Jetsetter! 

Many people are scared to fly, but flight anxiety doesn’t have to keep you from soaring to an incredible country. Now that you know all the best tips for first-time flyers, you’re ready to travel the world! The possibilities are truly endless with CIEE’s collection of programs and locations. 

All that’s left to do is get going and take flight. Up, up, and away!