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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!

 

Don’t Miss! How To Sur­vive Your First Flight With A Baby

 

 

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.