Suggestions to make airplane travel less scary?

I fly very rarely and have tremendous anxiety about it. I flew a ton as a child and loved it, but we had one terrifying experience - picture sobbing flight attendants and everyone pulling out rosaries and screaming. After that, I did not fly for at least 15 years because my mother refused. So, my anxiety about it has really increased. I flew for my honeymoon 19 years ago and to Disney 5 years ago. I took Ativan last time, which helped a little, but not as much as I hoped. This time, my doctor prescribed Xanax. I am hoping it will help more, but I would love more suggestions about how to make it a better experience if it doesn’t. I don’t want my kids growing up with a fear of flying, so I want to appear calm and not completely terrified. Unfortunately, our budget doesn’t allow more travel so I am unable to fly more to get used to it. Ideas?

I think the Xanax is a good idea. My best friend has a fear of flying and has had to do it a few times lately for work. She is going to see her doctor ahead of time the next trip to get Xanax, but for the previous trips, she made sure she had a few full days before to keep her mind off it. Took her boys to the movies, mini golf and few other things. She got a ride to the airport so that was one less thing she was stressed about. Research the security protocol. Knowing exactly what has to happen at the TSA checkpoint was one less thing to be nervous about (I have TSA Pre and highly recommend it, but if you’re only flying once it won’t be worth it). She opted for a pre-flight beverage at the bar to calm her nerves, but not a good idea with the Xanax! And as her best friend, I loaded up my iPad with funny memes to send to her at 10 minute intervals to keep her laughing. We texted a few times while she waited in the terminal and then when she got on the plane. Having someone to keep her mind off of the activity and onto something mundane (or humerous!) helped her a lot. Then once in the air, she watched a move on her iPad. Not sure if any of these will help you, but she has survived two trips this way now!

I am very comfortable with flying, so keep that in mind, this may be a terrible suggestion. Depending on where you live, there may be small local airports with small private planes. It is often reasonably priced for them to take you up and fly around for an hour. Being able to sit next to the pilot and have them explain how everything works might be helpful? Plus, flying in a small plane is much scarier than a big one. If You can handle that, you can handle anything.

But again, don’t trust me, I’m not afraid to fly so this might be a bad idea. :grinning:

Exactly this happened to me in the mid-1990s.

I couldn’t stop flying because I liked visiting the US too much, so my strategy was a mixture of taking valium and washing it down with alcohol. That tended to knock me out. When I was awake, instead of spending the whole flight thinking “we’re going to crash and die — oh, the humanity!”, I was thinking “we’re going to crash and die — oh well, never mind”.

Three other things helped.

First, my bad flight was (wow!) over twenty years ago. I’m kinda over it now.

Second, I generally fly in premium cabins — these make me feel safer (for no logical reason) because they’re less claustrophobic.

Third, I found an amazing website (I wish I could tell you what it was) that was written by a pilot who was also trained psychologist. It was designed to help nervous flyers. There was a video and some reading and he said that for many people that would be enough. It was for me. Or you could pay money for extra help. I didn’t need to.

Finally, though I know this isn’t helpful, flying is spectacularly safe. Most air crashes are — I mean this so kindly — dodgy airlines in dodgy countries. You fly on a reputable US or UK airline between or within the UK or the US and you’re as safe as you can possibly be.

I used to worry about terrorism until I saw this:


Those are all the planes over the US at a given moment. There are loads of them. And it’s like that all the time. Well, during the day, when you’re actually flying. In 2001 four were hijacked. That’s nearly 18 years ago. They’ve never done it since. Even if they did it every day the chances of you being in one of those four is really small: look how many planes there are. And they don’t do it every day. They did it once. Two decades ago.

Security checks at the airport are a real ballache. But, damnit, they do keep us safe.


I too have a fear of flying, even though I travel very frequently. This is a great program that has really helped me. It has not cured me, but has definitely helped:

I bought the book SOAR , did not do the DVD program. Worth looking into.

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Some airports offer fear of flying classes, this might be worth looking into? Also, consider checking if you are able to meet the captain before takeoff. It might help to feel more personally connected to the person who is in charge of your flight.

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My wife constantly watches this YouTube channel where this guy put together video recreations of various plane crashes and near-crashes. It would seem she wants to torture herself, but she said it helps because at the end, they talk about why the issue happened and what new rules went into place to prevent such accidents again in the future. This means that plane travel is constantly getting safer. (Although, the Boeing 737 Max fiasco has jeopardized some of that feeling.)

I’m still scared to travel (because my brother’s best friend died in a plane crash, flight 255 out of Detroit, among other reasons), and had vowed to never fly again. And yet, next month, I’m boarding a plane because I have to help my parents move.

I’m nervous, but trying hard not to think about it.

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Not sure how helpful this is but getting into a car everyday is far more dangerous.

I’d also try to get TSA pre-check. The easier security clearance can really help ease some stress.

Get familiar with the normal sounds during flight. My first flight I wasn’t aware the landing gear would make some sounds and bumps till DH said what it was. Sit middle of the plane for less turbulence if possible, DD10 takes window seats and I sit next to her so I can see out if feeling crammed in. I still absolutely HATE flying at nighttime because there is no sense of the ground and harder to tell the plane is moving. Definitely take extra time at the airport, if you are stressed from rushing just getting to the boarding area it can make calming down a bit harder.

I wish I could suggest something, but all of my “comforting thoughts” are very dark. :frowning: I don’t want to share because I don’t think it’d help you at all.

But as it is already mentioned, it’s incredibly safe. In fact, the last flight I was on was so smooth and calm I fell asleep from pure boredom.

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Oh crikey, the rosary did me in, too, when I was flying back and forth from college to home and up until that time was never really scared to fly. The thing was, the flight was perfectly fine, but as soon as the engines revved, out came my seat mate’s rosary. And I am Catholic. So I was wondering, “What does she know that I don’t know?”

But I had to fly, though I was very nervous for years after that- until our first child was born and then there was so much activity around that, I remember being up at about 30,000 ft. and thinking, “Hey, I didn’t panic!”

So I think this may work itself out if you focus on the children. There won’t be time for you to panic. And take your Xanax!! It takes a little while to act compared to Ativan, but will last longer. Do you have connecting flights? If so, be sure you have another dose for that. And enough for the return flights.

That show has been called by a variety of different names over the years- I remember it being Mayday! I watch it from time to time but I’m better off not knowing, I guess.

I had a classmate in grad school whose father had died in that big crash in Texas in 1985. Even that was due to wind shear, not aircraft failure. When I was even younger than that, it seemed like they were happening every couple of years and far, far fewer people were flying then.

But there hasn’t been an accidental crash of a major American airliner in so long now, years and years. I want to say the last one was in Buffalo, NY, in 2009, and it was a regional jet (which I do fly because I have to). The safety statistics are really outstanding. A real miracle of modern technology if there ever was one.

I totally take Ativan or maybe 2 when I fly, I still get a little nervous but it’s not as bad! I loved it as a kid but as I have gotten older and have kids of my own, I freak out when not in control. I am flying with just myself and my daughter in September and I keep telling myself that I will have to remain calm for her so I am hoping that works. I wish I had more suggestions for you! I am usually less nervous when there is not a lot of waiting take off, when I am on my way somewhere fun, etc. I also try to book non-stop flights if at all possible.Good luck! I think we will both need it!

Whenever I have to do something that makes me nervous, I mention to people involved that I’m nervous, unsure, or even just plain petrified.

Lately this has involved a severe fracture of my left arm, TSA screenings (accompanying a minor to gate) and a WDW trip.

When I’ve calmly - kids are present - mentioned my being nervous or unsure invariably I’ve encountered helpful patient kind people.

I think arriving at the airport early - maybe an full hour earlier than recommended - will help you be more relaxed. You won’t have the added stress of rushing.

If you can check the majority of your luggage, leaving only a backpack for each, that will also relieve extra stress. Much easier to manage bathrooms or food purchases with fewer bags.

And it may help to explore the airport once you’ve located your gate. It’s fun to see things thru kids’ eyes. The doggie relief area is a big favorite of kids. It cracks them up. For some reason I’m enchanted by the shoe shine stands.

One of the kids I travel with loves to pick out a fellow traveler and construct a whole narative about that person.

One of my cousins retired from being an air traffic controller. He was full of statistics about air travel safety. I don’t think those help much. It does help me to remember that whoever it is - pilot, doctor, etc - they want a positive outcome at least as much as you do.


This helped me with interviews! Someone said to me how you really want everyone you interview to do really well, and when I thought about it from that perspective (we were interviewing at the time) it helped me be less nervous when I went to interviews myself.


Yup. I used to hate interviews until I was the one interviewing the job hopefuls. Makes a big difference.
Oh look. We’re all people.


A lot of good suggestions here. In particular, familiarizing yourself with all the procedures you will go through (TSA, boarding, pre-filght instructions, etc.) and all the in-flight noises you will experience. Many of the things that freak people out are normal things, like excessive engine whine during takeoff on some jets and the hard “thunk” when the landing gear are deployed. To add to the suggestions, here is a good list of flight anxiety relief tricks:

However, I would draw the line at anti-anxiety medication as there is a lot of evidence that it is not a good approach - see for more info. Also, do you really want to be taking a medication that could potentially impair your judgement/reactions when travelling with your kids in the extremely unlikely event that there is an emergency? Finally, if you do take Xanax, definitely do not drink alcohol with it.


I am so sorry. Severe anxiety is no joke and I know it can severely impact your ability to rationally think through situations that you know aren’t as bad as your brain is making them out to be. As long as you have a good relationship with your doctor and trust his or her judgment I wouldn’t hesitate to follow their recommendation for taking something to help you during your flight.

The more I fly, the more comfortable I am on a plane but I still get nervous at some point every flight. It’s totally a control thing for me. I feel completely out of control should something go wrong. I feel this way in cars sometimes too…100% of the time it’s when I’m in the passenger seat. Conditions, traffic, etc. could be the exact same but I am 10X more anxious in the car when I am a passenger than when I am a driver.

My husband is a terrible flier. He will fly because it’s the only way to cover long distances in short time. But he doesn’t like it at all.

He started taking Xanax for flight a few years back. It works really, really well for him. Such that our last landing, which was really turbulent, he didn’t even take note of as being rough.

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Actually it’s Ativan he takes