I’ve had the title of this post in my drafts, along with an abundance of other travel posts, for about four months now and it’s time I got my act together! I am a nervous flyer and I have no idea where that actually came from! My mum was an air hostess and I always liked it when I was younger so your guess is as good as mine. Before this year, I’d only flown once on my own before and its safe to say it wasn’t fun. I was about 13/14 and I flew to visit my friend in Denmark and I’m sure I cried the entire flight there and quite a lot of the three day trip too! Oops. I did, however, get to experience the flight sat in the jump seat in the cockpit though which was one of the most amazing things i’ve ever done. So to be fair, getting that upset was worth it to some degree!
Over the last few years I’ve definitely become more anxious and I find that the idea of certain things such as flying alone is enough to make me feel ill. The big test came this year when my friend Emily and I arranged a trip to the States together during Easter. This all sounds fine right as we’d gone to New York together the previous Easter, but here’s the catch…she was already over there and I’d have to do the 11 hour flight entirely solo. There’s a bit of a spoiler if you’ve read my San Francisco, Seattle or Whistler diaries though as you know I did it! But here’s some tips that I found really helped me to get there:
- If it’s making you ill, see the Dr! – I’m starting off with this as it really is important. The whole idea of it was making me feel physically ill so I paid my Dr a visit and got a very low dose of Diazepam. I took it the night before the flight and on the day and it definitely made me feel more relaxed. Not totally relaxed but it took the edge off!
- Plan how you’re going to spend the flight – I pretty much had an itinerary! I knew what movies were available on the flight, which ones I was going to watch and when. I had three blog posts I wanted to draft and multiple audiobooks and kindle books to hand! Most airlines let you know the entertainment in advance so just google your airline and inflight entertainment and you should be able to find out easily!
- Have a drink! – I never understood this one as I wasn’t a huge drinker but I had one Gin & Tonic (obviously) and it did just settle my nerves a bit. I’d probably have had another one but the Dr had said don’t drink with the Diazepam so I didn’t want to push it!
- Make sure you’re comfortable. – I actually did an on the day upgrade to premium class as I was getting myself wound up in knots about the flight. For me this was the deal breaker. I had more space, better and unlimited service, I could recline and try to go to sleep and I was 50 times more comfortable in economy. I flew with Norwegian and to upgrade in advance was over £500 extra but on the day it was only £250. Worth EVERY penny in my mind. Had I not been able to, I’d taken an eye mask, the pillow from my bed at home, comfy socks and a face mask with me anyway to try and get more comfortable.
- Talk to people – I was in the middle aisle and had a passenger either side of me. One liked to keep himself to himself but the other was very chatty and we spent a good few hours putting the world to rights and generally passing time. It both calmed me down and seemed to make the journey go faster so it was a win win! He also actually lived and worked in the San Francisco area so helped me out with a few places to go and things to see. It actually got me really excited to get there!
- If you’re getting a connection, find other people doing the same one – On my return journey I had to connect in Toronto and we were running late. To put it mildly I was verging on a blind panic, but when I heard people discussing the flight to Gatwick nearby, I went and chatted to them and we ran to the next plane together. It was really nice not to be alone in that situation!
- Get someone to take you to the airport – Both my Mum and Dad came to the airport with me and helped me check my baggage in, gather myself together and help me on my way. I’ve got to say though, walking through that barrier and carrying on on my own was the hardest part and it took everything not to run back to them. It was the thought of such a fantastic trip with my best friend that kept me going and how disappointed she’d be if I didn’t go. It’s not a feeling i’d like to relive though!
- Get in the right headspace – This is the vital thing I think for me. Remind yourself what’s waiting at the other end, how short the trip will be in terms of the rest of your life and that so many people have had to do similar things. I guess to a certain degree it’s a little bit of mindfulness, living in the here and now not the what ifs. I’ve always tried to take journey’s in stages and tick them off in my head as I go and I find this really really helps! It goes a bit like: home>airport, inside the airport, the actual flight, inside the new airport, airport>destination. If any of these can be broken down any further I will do that too so I feel like I’m constantly making little achievements!
- Just ask– The final thing is that if you’re unsure of anything, just ask. The air stewardesses are so helpful, as are people in the airport and for the most part other passengers too. This counts for speaking to your Dr too and anyone prior to leaving for the trip that may be able to help you out with more information!
Weirdly enough now, I actually prefer to fly solo! I find it therapeutic to have a bit of time to yourself and you’ve only got yourself to worry about. I’ve flown on 4 solo flights this year and knowing that I did the 11 hour flight really helps as I feel like I can do anything now if I set my mind to it! Stepping off at the other end is obviously still a relief but such an achievement in it’s own right too! I hope these helped and if you have any other tips yourself then please leave them in the comments!