When you’re about to take a long-haul flight, it’s natural to feel anxious. After all, you’re travelling a long way, out of your comfort zone, in a giant metal container that somehow manages to stay in the air.
(Like, how? This will never cease to amaze me…)
Then throw a pandemic into the mix. There’s a whole new level of anxiety that comes with filling out health forms, getting a negative test result before flying and wearing a mask on a plane for several hours on end. Sigh.
Not to worry though — there are some things you can do to keep calm and beat flight anxiety before you head off to see your loved ones or have a much-needed holiday. In fact, I find that being as prepared as possible helps us the most.
That said, here are my tried-and-tested tips when it comes to getting organised for a trip beforehand so you can have a safe, relaxing journey (and arrive at your destination feeling good and excited about what’s to come).
1. Check In Online 24-48 Hours Prior
First things first, always try to check-in online 24-48 hours prior to your flight. During this process, most airlines also allow you to assign yourself a seat there and then.
If you’re a nervous flyer, knowing what to expect regarding the plane’s configuration and where you’re going to be can make you feel better before you even step foot on the plane.
The chances are, you’re going to want an aisle seat so that you have more room to breathe. Or perhaps you’re in the 50% of the population who loves keeping to themselves by the window. Either way, checking in and sorting out your seat means there’s one less thing to do and stress about on the day.
To do this, visit your airline’s website and find the “Manage My Booking” section. Enter the unique booking reference that was emailed to you when you initially booked your flight and follow the instructions for online check-in.
2. Print Out Your Paperwork
If you didn’t manage to check-in and assign your seat before the day of your flight or you selected “download boarding pass to your phone” option while checking in, there’s always the possibility that your phone might die when you get to the airport. In other words, you wouldn’t be able to pull up your emails to show the Check-In Agent your booking confirmation or digital boarding pass.
In this case, you’d be in a bit of a pickle. And this wouldn’t help your anxiety if you’re already anxious. Right?
Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to print out all the necessary paperwork ahead of your flight to have on hand should you need it (including your COVID vaccination status, proof of a negative test and/or travel health form).
Likewise, if you had to get a visa for the country you’re travelling to, print out this paperwork too and put it all together in a folder so you can just flash the Immigration Officer when you arrive with no bother. This will also help you to remain as cool as a cucumber on the plane, knowing that past you has already taken care of the important stuff for present you. (Thank yourself later.)
3. Tell Your Loved Ones Your Flight Details
Another good idea in terms of how to prepare for a long haul flight is to pass your flight number(s) onto loved ones who may want to track the journey. It can ease everyone’s anxiety if they know when you’re up in the air and when you’re landing (and you know that they know…).
This info is also handy for arranging transportation to and from the airport. If there are any unexpected delays, you can rest assured that those on the ground will be aware and can amend their plans accordingly.
4. Invest in Some In-Flight Essentials
Be sure to pack your airplane bag to perfection. There’s nothing like having the essentials with you to help you have a comfortable and stress-free journey.
Personally, I love flight socks, mini toiletries and an eye mask especially. After all, there’s nothing worse than trying to get some shuteye on a long-haul flight because you had to get up for it at 4am, but it’s actually the middle of the day and the plane is so bright that it feels like you’re flying towards the sun.
Needless to say, that eye mask starts to look real friendly… and totally worth the investment.
If you’re still struggling to sleep on the plane, it may be worth investing in a product that can help. Formula Swiss has a selection of CBN oils known for their sedative effect when it comes to promoting feelings of calm and improving sleep quality.
5. Pack Your Airplane Bag the Day Before
It sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many people leave packing their airplane bag until the day of their flight. Cue them running around frantically five minutes before they’re due to leave their house for the airport (and then being late for their ride). Not ideal.
If you want to beat flight anxiety and avoid a last-minute hectic rush, get everything organised the day before (or days before!). I’d recommend gathering all the things you want to put in your airplane bag, suitcase and/or carry-on bag in advance. Then pack them the day before your flight so they don’t get too creased and squashed.
This works wonders for ensuring that you have everything you need and avoiding feeling any extra pressure in the run up your flight.
6. Take Something Comforting With You
Full disclosure: the majority of long-haul flights go smoothly. Even so, there’s always the small chance that something may go wrong, whether this is a significant delay or you miss your connection.
This is precisely why I like to carry an item in our airplane bags that will soothe me if times get tough.
From calming music to a hoodie that smells like home or even a childhood cuddly toy, whatever works, take it. Trust me, you won’t regret it if the worst happens.
7. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Another top tip in terms of how to prepare for a long haul flight is to give yourself plenty of time to rest the night before.
“I’m going to be on a plane for hours on end, isn’t that enough rest?” I hear you say! Sure, but the whole journey is going to tire you out — from the moment you leave your house for the airport until the moment the taxi drops you off at your hotel at your new destination.
Not everybody is good at sleeping on planes (in fact, I really struggle with it). Ergo, the trick is to a good night’s sleep the night before your flight to keep energy levels up when the journey feels never-ending.
8. Give Yourself Extra Time to Get Ready
Before you go to bed the night before your flight, set your alarm for a reasonable time.
Although it can be tempting to get up at the last possible minute so you can have more sleep when you have an early flight (I’ve been there), try to avoid doing this. If anything, give yourself more time than you usually would to get going.
Why? Well, for some reason, getting ready for the airport always takes longer than you think. It’s bizarre but true. I always end up being late unintentionally, which — you guessed it — can cause extreme stress.
9. Set off to the Airport in Plenty of Time
Speaking of time allowances, build in some leeway when you’re planning your journey to the airport.
If you’re travelling by car, allow extra time for traffic. Seriously. You never think running into an accident or road closure is going to happen to you, but it does!
Most airlines suggest getting to the airport at least two hours before your flight departure time if you’re flying domestically. If you’re flying internationally, the recommendation is to arrive at least three hours prior. Follow these rules if you want to avoid any last-minute panic and frustration that you’re going to miss your flight due to unexpected road trouble or delays.
10. Take Deep Breaths and Ask for Help
Lastly, if you’ve done all of the above and you’re still struggling with flight anxiety, remember to take deep breaths. When you’re anxious, you naturally start taking rapid, shallow breaths that make you feel even more tense because you feel like you can’t catch your breath.
This is because of the upset in the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body. You can remedy this by inhaling slowly and deeply through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth for several minutes until you feel calmer.
Don’t forget to enlist the help of a loved one if you feel overwhelmed with getting ready for your flight. There’s no shame in needing a hand and having someone go through your checklist with you to ensure everything is in order.
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Learning How to Prepare for a Long Haul Flight
Figuring out how to prepare for a long haul flight is one of those things where the more you do it, the better at it you’ll become.
I find that the more organised I am, the less anxiety I have about flying halfway around the world. However, if you’re struggling to control pre-flight anxiety or you have a genuine fear of flying, visit your GP to see how they can help.
Either way, keep in mind that the journey and buildup will be totally worth it when you’re at your final destination without a care in the world. Have the best trip!
Do you have any more tips for learning how to prepare for a long haul flight?