Start your holiday the right way: How to calm a frightened flier
Being afraid of flying is no fun. You’re on a knife-edge before the beginning and end of your holiday, constantly worried about being a burden on your friends and family, and simultaneously hating yourself for your fear. If you’ve ever flown with anyone who’s afraid of hurtling through the sky at 500mph in a glorified tin can, you’ll be all-too aware of how helpless you can feel. However, there are ways that you can make the experience a bit less traumatic – and can even help a person with a phobia overcome their fear.
Take care of all the odds and ends. Make sure that you take care of booking the hire car, packing the passports, checking that you’ve got the tickets and making sure the doors are locked before you set off. Someone stressing about a flight will have their mind on other things, and you don’t want to have a row on the runway because your partner can’t remember if they turned the oven off or not. Cut them some slack – it’s only a few hours you have to take control for.
Remember that people cope with fear in their own ways. Some people might want to give you every last detail of how they’re feeling, whilst other people might clam up completely until the plane’s safely landed at your destination. Make sure that your travelling companion knows that you know they’re under stress, and you’re happy to be as talkative or as quiet as they’d like. As long as they’re feeling comfortable in your company, that’s half the battle won.
If your travelling partner starts feeling odd or has a full-blown panic attack, remember to stay on their side, even if they’re attracting an audience. Hissing, ‘Stop it, you’re embarrassing me!’ will only make matters worse, and they’ll resent you for a long time when they’re feeling better. Make sure that they know that you’re with them all the way, and you should be able to avoid any shaky moments.
If your travelling partner’s comfortable with taking medication, they should consult their doctor about finding some medicine that’ll help with the stress of flying. Most doctors will prescribe a drug such as Valium that will help with anxiety, and should make the whole experience more bearable. Try to discourage any kind of alcohol intake, whether pre-flight or on the flight. It’ll dehydrate your partner, potentially make them feel worse, and it’s expensive. Plus, the decreased oxygen levels present when flying will mean the effects of the alcohol drunk in-flight will increase radically.
Distractions are always a good idea. Plenty of books, games, puzzles and music can work wonders – especially if you’re involved too. A game of cards can while away the hours, and an audiobook can be especially calming if your flying companion is familiar with the author. Keeping hydrated and having a few snacks to keep blood sugar levels up is also important.
Finally, it might be worth trying to confront the idea of flying a few days or weeks before you leave. Air travel is, statistically, very safe. If your travelling partner is comfortable with the idea, look at some websites on air safety, and watch some videos on YouTube of flights taking off or landing. Getting used to the idea of travelling in an aeroplane and seeing that it’s nothing to be scared of can help people prepare themselves mentally for a flight, and show them that it’s something that millions of people do every day.
Bio: UK resident Vicky Anscombe is a Norfolk-based writer who is happy to fly, but doesn’t like it that much. Her least favourite aspects of flying are turbulence and taking off. Her top holiday destinations are Greece, America and Malaysia.