Two weeks ago, my family boarded a plane bound for Iceland. Why? Here’s the backstory…
Instead of Christmas gifts in the form of toys, we give the gift of experiences, together. We’ve given trips (which also combine as our family vacation) because we love traveling and the kids love traveling. Plus, trips are a family gift, which means this is also Mom and Dad’s present. The money that would have been spent on toys and other stuff goes into the family vacation fund. Each year these trips look a bit different. One year we may drive to a local spot to explore hidden gems for a few days. Another year, we may travel somewhere that requires more planning (both financially saving and planning lodging and flights). <-Iceland was a trip that was years in the making!
Our main goal behind this tradition is to encourage togetherness and experiences versus amassing more stuff. The goal isn’t minimalism, elimination of things, or exotic travel; rather, the goal is intentionality and thoughtfulness. For us, we all love to travel and so, for now, planning to visit a new place (a campground or beach, a country or city) is an intentional gift that can be enjoyed as a family.
You’ll find more together/experience gift ideas over in this post.
Our kids are now the perfect age (6 and 8), in my opinion, to start exploring new places–as schedules and funds allow. People have told us that children won’t remember anything about travel, but I beg to differ. The kids often talk about previous adventures–reminiscing about special moments, places, and even food. Keeping daily journals has also helped the kids keep the memories alive.
Travel is certainly amazing, except for one major part: flying!
Flying isn’t my thing. It’s not something I love or look forward to. My kids, on the other hand, love flying. Dustin is a frequent flyer due to work and also loves being in the air. That leaves me, the nervous mom. The sweaty-palmed, anxious flyer. The interesting thing is that I haven’t always been this way. My fear of flying developed in my late 20’s.
In preparation for our flight to Iceland, I asked the Live Simply community over on Instagram to share tips for calming flight anxiety. Here’s a snapshot of the many suggestions.
The ideas shared on my list (many of which came from our Instagram chat) calmed my flight anxiety and allowed me to fly comfortably to Iceland (7 hours each way)–something I haven’t experienced on a flight in years. I plan to use these same anxiety-calming strategies on our next flight.
Many Instagram friends expressed similar anxious feelings about flying. I’m certainly not a doctor, therapist, or herbalist, so today’s list is purely based on my own experiences. This list isn’t meant to diagnose, cure, or treat any condition. My desire is to share what worked for me and offer encouragement to fellow anxious travelers. Flying comfortably, even with flight anxiety, is possible! You don’t have to let fear stand in the way of experiencing the amazing world we live in.
Calming Flight Anxiety, Naturally
I used to expect smooth flights without any bumps. Once I researched turbulence, I realized that expecting a completely smooth flight is not realistic. This unrealistic idea was making me feel anxious when bumps came because I felt like something was wrong or about to go wrong. Now, I expect turbulence because it’s normal!
Get to Know Turbulence
One of the best things I did before our flight to Iceland was research turbulence online. There are a lot of helpful videos and posts about this subject, written by pilots. I also talked to a pilot friend about the truth behind turbulence. Here are a few tips that I wrote down in my Notes App as a comforting reminder:
- Planes are made for 150 times the turbulence experienced today.
- Planes can safely drop up to 100 feet while flying. Although, that certainly wouldn’t be fun for passengers–the idea is that bumps aren’t going to hurt a plane.
- Pilots know upcoming weather on a flight route before the flight, so they know the safest route to fly.
- Planes can glide for 100 miles without any engines.
- Turbulence is similar to pot holes when driving. You don’t expect a car ride to be completely smooth. Flying is the same way.
A therapist would probably advise against this next step, but it worked well for me. I also watched a few videos on YouTube of people experiencing turbulence on flights. In a really weird way, this comforted me because it made me realize that turbulence is 100% normal–even really bumpy turbulence.
Each time we hit some turbulence, I reminded myself that these are pot holes in the road; a necessary, safe, and normal part of the flight. I also stopped calling this turbulence and referred to the experience as “yeehaw pot holes.” Once again, this sounds crazy but the shift from something that is often viewed as negative to something that is fun and positive was incredibly helpful for me. This video from Mel Robbins was also helpful.
Yogi Kava Tea
This tea came highly recommended by an herbalist friend. I decided to give it a try before flying, just in case it didn’t sit well with me. All was good, so before our first flight I asked Starbucks for a grande cup of hot water and brewed two tea bags. The tea calmed me down before the flight, which helped me remain calm throughout the flight. I purchased the tea at Whole Foods.
Just in case I couldn’t get hot water at the airport (particularly in a foreign country), I also packed a tincture from Richard’s Foodporium (Anxiet-Ease) made with kava and other calming herbs. The tincture is added to water before consuming. Herb Pharm brand also makes a similar tincture called Anxiety Soother.
In the future, this will be my go-to supplement for travel.
Bach’s Rescue Pastilles
Bach’s makes several versions. I personally like the pastilles which are similar to hard candies. The company also makes sleep-aid “pills” (for overnight flights) and kid-safe varieties. I only needed one candy during each of our flights. The tea was my favorite and these were my backup–the combo worked really well, along with the essential oil blend and inhaler mentioned later.
Natural Calm Magnesium
Another stress-relieving supplement. Since we were on an overnight flight this helped calm my body enough to get some sleep. Individual, travel-friendly packets are sold at most health food stores for just a buck.
Essential Oil Blend and Inhaler
A sweet Instagram friend sent me an essential oil roll-on blend. I can’t remember what was in the blend, but it was amazing. I applied the blend to my wrists and the back of my neck before the flight. She also sent an essential oil inhaler that I found helpful for taking deep, calming breaths.
Plant Therapy sells a Worry Free roll-on blend. Patti, the sweet Instagram friend, doesn’t have a shop for her essential oil blend or inhaler. You can message her on Instagram for information about the blend and roll-on (tell her Kristin sent you).
Coffee is a stimulant that can make me more anxious in stressful situations. I love my coffee, but avoid it when flying since I’m already anxious and on high alert. Since the supplements are designed to calm my mind, I don’t want to do anything that would reverse this. Plus, I want to stay hydrated so the goal is to drink water, not coffee. On the plane, I usually ask for water and/or hot water with lemon. I avoid coffee a few hours before my flight and during my flight.
Feeling anxious makes me sweat, which only adds to my anxiety and uneasiness. Turning on the air vent above my seat during a flight keeps me cool and comfortable, which means I can relax and focus on my entertainment.
Bose Noise-Canceling Headphones
Okay, these are an investment. They’re expensive! Dustin has a pair for work travel and suggested that I use his pair for our Iceland trip. The noise-canceling headphones silenced the engine and other noises coming from the airplane. This meant that I could focus on my entertainment and almost forget that I was flying. The headphones made turbulence bearable and worry-free (in addition to the tools mentioned above) since I didn’t have the added clanging sounds (mental triggers) in the background from beverage carts, etc. If you’re an anxious flyer, and fly frequently enough to justify the cost, I highly recommend picking up a pair of these headphones. I believe there are some cheaper models and brands.
Before the first flight, I downloaded a bunch of music on Spotify, along with some shows on Netflix and Podcasts. I also ended up watching The Greatest Showman from the Iceland Air on-board entertainment. Keeping my mind distracted by good ol’ entertainment was a big key to reducing anxiety-inducing thoughts.
I purchased the Calm App last year for my morning and evening routine (the meditation and sleep stories are great). I downloaded my favorite sleep stories before boarding the plane and listened to these soothing stories during take-off (my least favorite part of the plane ride).
I believe there are many apps that offer a similar program without the price tag of the Calm App. I actually didn’t realize there was a cost associated with this app until I was charged after downloading it for free and then accidentally downloading an upgrade session. Despite my surprise, and follow up with the company, I’ve actually really enjoyed the paid features.
For a long flight, these are essential! A friend let me borrow her unused pair for our Iceland trip and I can’t help but sing praises for these socks. Compression socks apply pressure to the lower legs, which keeps the blood flowing and reduces swelling and pain. I wore footie socks on the plane (along with slip on sneakers) and then changed into compression socks once we boarded.
We will be flying at the end of the month on a quick 2 hour flight to Texas. I probably won’t take my compression socks. For a flight that’s 3, 4, 5 plus hours I will definitely bring these along.
Wear Comfortable, Loose Clothing
Flights are most enjoyable when I wear comfortable, breathable, loose clothing. My go-to travel clothes right now are from Carly Jean Los Angeles (a black tank and gray long-sleeve kimono were my go-to for Iceland) and jogger pants.
Fast During the Flight
Eating during a flight, particularly during a long flight, makes me feel crappy, blotted, and lethargic. These are not things I want to deal with on top of anxiety (which thankfully is taken care of due to the above tips). Fasting for the duration of a flight, even long flights, eliminates these issues. I’m convinced that since we’re moving through time and space so quickly, it’s hard for our bodies to digest food and feel great during this time. I always pack a snack, just in case I’m starving and need something. But I haven’t had to touch this snack in the past. I also avoid alcohol before and during flights (plus, I don’t want to mix kava and alcohol). Fasting during a flight even helps with jet leg.
Fasting during a flight doesn’t mean avoiding food all day; rather, I fuel up on a real food meal a few hours before getting on a plane, such as: eggs, chicken, sweet potatoes, greens, avocado, etc. I also pack a snack for when we land. Before we left Iceland, I picked up skyr (Icelandic yogurt), a little package of peanut butter, and a banana to enjoy when we landed.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
A day before my flight, I increase my water intake. I continue this practice up until my flight and during my flight. Packing an empty water bottle (Lifefactory 22-ounce) makes this hydration goal a reality since I can easily fill up my bottle at the Starbucks in the terminal (post-security) and throughout my flight. Starbucks hasn’t been invited to Iceland. At the airport, the country offered bottle filling stations throughout the airport–even better!
Move Before the Flight
Whether I fly in the morning, afternoon, or evening, movement before the flight is always a priority. For me, this means attending a Pure Barre class or taking a long walk. Not only is this good for my muscles and body, it also helps with flight anxiety thanks to the release of endorphins. Endorphins = a happy feeling.
A travel pillow is about more than comfort when trying to rest on a long flight. For me, a travel pillow is comforting and calming. A pillow that wraps around my neck (in a comfortable way) makes me feel like someone is embracing me, and hugging me. In a weird way, this also helps reduce my travel anxiety. My favorite pillow also offers chin support which I find helps my back and posture during a flight.
I know it’s been a while since this post but I’m finding it invaluable for my upcoming flight(s).
Just a couple follow-ups:
What has been your go-to out of all the remedies listed?
Lastly, when did you take the Rescue Remedy during your flight?
Hey Armando, Glad it’s helpful. The noise-canceling headphones and the Rescue Remedy both helped the most. I get freaked out over the noises on the plane, and not hearing those noises really helps calm my anxiety. For the rescue remedy, I would follow the directions on the package. For the lozenges, I took some before the flight, then during.
That’s great! I have noise-cancelling headphones, Yogi Kava Tea, Rescue Remedy Drops and my wife made me a roller with EOs. I think I’ll be all set! Lol
My first flight in over 2 years but I plan on fighting through and making it a positive experience because like you, my kids are older to where they want to travel. I keep reminding myself that I need to do it for them and me. 🙂
Thank you so much and any other advice would be great!
Awesome! Have a great flight!
Im wondering if customs gave you any trouble with oils and or supplements??Thanks
Hey Nicole, No, they shouldn’t. Certain countries ban certain supplements, so check out the country you’re going to before packing.
Thank you so much for all of your tips. I am so afraid of flying and Will try some of your calming tips. Will be leaving for Las Vegas from Hawaii in a few days for a long overdue vacation. It is so good to know that I am not alone in my fear…
Just reading this made me feel calm! Thanks for sharing this. I used to be an intrepid fearless world traveller but the older i get, the more anxious a flyer I’ve become. I’ve determined not to let it stop me travelling but it is a struggle sometimes … I’m going to use some of your ideas for my flight to Iceland on Friday!
So happy to hear, let us know what helps you on your flight! Have a great time in Iceland! 🙂
I’m so happy to hear that, Gabrielle!
Awesome! Article about flight anxiety and flying comfortable. I worried about it. I love travel. I will go in Australia next January with my family for travel. This tour will be my first time in abroad. I hope your all information will help me very much.
Thanks Kristin and keep it up…………….
Thanks Kristin for your suggestion.
You’re welcome, Alicia.
Could you please share a link to the pillow you used on your flight? I loved all your photos. Looked like a beautiful trip!
Hey Cari, Thank you! Here’s my pillow: https://amzn.to/2KMmJM2
Your blog ion flight anxiety is just what I need. Can you provide a condensed version I can print out?
Hey Jan, I’m so glad it’s helpful. That’s a great idea. Let me see if I can do that this week.
And, I think it’s wonderful how you plan family time together as gifts. I wish we had done that. I know both our grown children will tell you they had woderful childhoods, but I also know they couldn’t tell you what most of the gifts were that they received.
Thank you, Patti. So far it’s been a fun tradition, one that I hope we’ll look back on with fond memories.
Thank you for sharing this helpful information. I too am an anxious flyer, especially during takeoff. Last year, I had a connecting flight from Philadelphia to Allentown, Pa on a puddle jumper. It was such a turbulent flight I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t get sick. An older gentleman told me he had been on much worse! I have found with aging, I’m 57, certain situations cause me anxiety. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often, but it’s not something I seem to have any control over and find embarrassing to say the least, and yes, coffee seems to aggravate it when it does happen. I will definitely be trying some of your suggestions.
Oh my, puddle jumpers are the worst. I’ve had some really bumpy flights on those, too. It’s always comforting to have someone to encourage you and settle your mind, like the gentleman did for you.
Thank you so much for the post Kristin! I’m an anxious flyer too. Been so right from my first flight! Although I used to be fascinated by planes before I got into the first one! Like you said take off and mid-flight are the most scariest for me. Landing is a big relief since I know I’m touching ground ? imagine, with flying anxiety I have been on 22hour flights (with a break in between, but still a nightmare). I’m going to give your tips a try – definitely cutting coffee! Great post! And amazing pictures from Iceland ?
Hey Jayashree, Thank you. I can completely relate, and I feel the same way about landing–it’s my favorite part because I’m finally touching the ground ;). So glad the tips were helpful.
Taking good note of all these ideas! I’m very anxious about flying – or perhpas I should say, I used to be. Before my last flight I went to see a hypnotherapist. After two sessions, the difference was amazing. I was so much more relaxed, only slightly uncomfortable a couple of times. Perhaps something to try combined with the rest?
Hey Annette, That’s really cool. I’ve read about hypnotherapy being really helpful.
Thanks for sharing your Iceland pics and tips.
You’re welcome, Peggy. Glad you enjoyed them.
I know this isn’t the point of your post, but I love looking at people’s vacation photos. The photos you have shared are some of the most beautiful. Thanks.
Hey JoAnn, I’m the same way ;). Glad you enjoyed the photos. I had so many requests to share photos from our trip–I had to squeeze some in here.
Such a great comprehensive list! And beautiful photos that capture your trip.
Thank you, Jessica!
This is a wonderfully helpful post!! Thank you for sharing what worked for you, I plan to try them next time I get to fly (I’m reversing my initial thought of “forced to fly” to the more positive “get to fly” ?).
Hey Julie, I’m so glad it’s helpful for you! Great attitude!
I’m 24 and always enjoyed flying until recently. In August, I’m going on a 14 hour flight, and I’ve been freaking out about it! So thankful for all of these tips and will definitely be using them
Hey Danielle, I’m so glad the list is helpful! Definitely try out the compression socks for a flight that long, too. Have an amazing trip!
Thank you so much for sharing this list!! I used to travel all over the world when in my 20’s and was fine. Now all of a sudden in the past few years I’m scared, like really scared, to fly (I’m 40-yikes!). I’ll be trying these tips next time! And your trip looks amazing!
Yay, Tamara! I’m so glad it’s helpful. I know what you mean–I was fine with air travel until my late 20’s. I’m not sure what happened. I hope these tips help you on your next trip.