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I have a confession and it's a strange one for a travel writer to admit.

I am terrified of flying on airplanes.

As a parent, I don't want to pass my aviophobia on to my kids, and I certainly don't want to stay at home for the rest of my life. While road trips can get me to nearby places, there are many stunning destinations I can only visit by plane. So how do I do family vacations with air travel, even though I have a fear of flying? I've found a few solutions that have taken me across the country and across the world.

Whether you are a nervous flyer in general or are scared of takeoff, landing, or turbulence, here are a few tips for flying that will help you push through your anxiety and travel the world with your family. 

 

 

 

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You love to take family trips but you're scared of flying. Don't let your fear of flying keep you from making the best memories with your family during your family vacations! Use these tips to conquer your fear of flying.

 

 

Enlist Help

 

When flying with children, try to enlist the help of friends or family traveling with you. My husband knows that I struggle when it comes to air travel, so he takes full charge of the kids for the trip. He helps them with meals, points out cool things to see outside the window (shudder), and organizes in-flight movie watch parties. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles are another great resource if you're traveling with extended family; they'll probably be up for the countless games of tic-tac-toe that your kids will want throughout the plane ride. Even the flight attendants are eager to help nervous travelers, so feel free to ask for help when you need it. 

 

 

Tips to handle fear of flying with your kids

My kids love it when my husband points out the sights on the ground below. Meanwhile, I'm pretending we've already landed. Photo by Paul Nicholson.

 

 

Stay Distracted

 

Keep busy with books, music, and movies (or crocheting, for that matter -- whatever does the trick). Ensuring my mind stays occupied means I don't think as much about the bumps of turbulence or that funny noise I might hear from the engines. With another family member watching the kids, I'm able to do whatever it takes to keep myself distracted during the flight. I pick an absorbing novel, guilty pleasure music, or a movie I've been wanting to see and zone out as much as possible. I recommend preparing before the trip by loading movies or books onto your phone so you aren't dependent on the in-flight entertainment (guess how I ended up watching a cartoon about the Queen's corgis). 

 

 

Tips to handle fear of flying with your kids

I arm myself with entertainment to keep me distracted and happy during the flight. Photo by Paul Nicholson.

 

 

Focus on the Kids

 

Of course, help isn't always available. If you find yourself traveling alone with children, the opposite tactic also works. Focus on the kids and their needs. Do they have a drink or gum to prevent earaches during air pressure changes? Do they have the snacks they need? This worked especially well when my kids were tiny; making sure a baby or toddler stayed happy kept me busy until we landed. Those early family trips are some of the least anxious flights  I can remember (although let's be honest here -- that might be due to lack of sleep in that era). 

 

 

 

Create a Ritual

 

Having a ritual around flying can help create calm feelings. Touching the plane respectfully before boarding, meeting the flight crew whenever possible, and meditating during takeoff and landing are all options for finding peace when plane travel is required. I pray before the flight and whenever I start to feel particularly anxious (hello, fasten seatbelt sign!). Of course, rituals don't all need to be serious and somber -- one of my favorite traditions is to grab a magazine and some chocolate in the airport before I board the plane. I even find myself looking forward to the trip as I think about what I'll buy. I especially love this tip when traveling in a different country; it's a great way to learn more about the culture and food!

 

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Tips to handle fear of flying with your kids

Traditions and rituals before and during the flight can help with anxiety. Photo by Paul Nicholson.

 

 

Focus on the Good

 

Thoughts are powerful. Rather than focusing on fear, concentrate on the good things about your plane trip. This might mean picturing where you're going if you're headed to a fun vacation spot. Or you can think about your dream destination (mmm, the coast of Italy) and how this flight gets you one step closer to it. Also try to focus on the good in the moment, right there on the plane. For instance, I am absolutely fascinated by airplane food and can't wait to see what is served (yep, my family thinks I am totally weird for that one). Plus, who can wait to see what odd finds are in the Skymall catalog? 

 

 

Tips to handle fear of flying with your kids

If you're not taking pictures of airplane food, are you really traveling? Photo by Christy Nicholson.

 

 

Professional Help - Fear of Flying Courses

 

Talk to a doctor or a therapist. That's a great place to start for anxious travelers planning a trip. These professionals are NOT going to laugh or think you are crazy -- fear of flying is common, and healthcare providers will be glad to help you find a solution that is a good fit. Medication helps some people, while for others a few talk therapy sessions or homeopathic remedies provide immense relief. There are lots of courses that help people overcome their fear of flying. A therapist specifically helped our family with knowing how to talk about my fear with our kids. When we were debating whether or not to tell the kids, the therapist reminded me: "They already know. Kids always know these things." 

 

 

Tips to handle fear of flying with your kids

Fear of flying is common, so don't be too embarrassed to ask for help. Photo by Paul Nicholson.

 

 

Don't Miss! Love of Flying!

 

 

Keep Going

 

Every time you get on a plane with your family, you are helping yourself overcome your fear and be a little less afraid.

 

My number one flight anxiety tip is to keep going. Keep planning those trips. Keep getting on that plane. Exposure therapy is a proven way to help with anxiety and phobias; every time you get on a plane with your family, you are helping yourself overcome your fear and be a little less afraid. So keep pushing through, and you'll find that your fears don't have to limit your travel dreams. 

 

Christy Nicholson is a writer, editor, and recovering perfectionist from Nashville, Tennessee. When not traveling with family, she enjoys cozy days at home reading, gardening, making music, and wrangling two awesome kids. Christy writes at Any-Worth.com about travel and sustainable living.

 

 

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You love to take family trips but you're scared of flying. Don't let your fear of flying keep you from making the best memories with your family during your family vacations! Use these tips to conquer your fear of flying.