Your First Flight: 8 Things to Remember
You’re excitedly researching everything about your destination – the must-try foods, the local attractions. You’ve never been out of the country before, and you can’t wait to experience something new – and then a realization dawns on you. This will be your first flight and the idea of traveling suddenly becomes a source of anxiety.
I had my first flight at age 20 going to Italy – an 8 or so hour flight. The first time was scary – I remember clutching the armrests on both sides. The person next to me thankfully seemed to understand and didn’t complain about me stealing his armrest during take-off.
Here are some things to know to prepare for your first flight.
1: Remember you are valid in your anxiety
Don’t dismiss yourself. It is totally normal and natural to feel anxiety the first time you do anything – especially traveling in a plane. Don’t call yourself weak, crazy, or silly for feeling a natural fear.
2. Remember this statistic
Statistically speaking, the chances of dying in a plane crash are virtually none. The probability is about 1 in 5.4 million according to The Economist.
3. Pay attention when the flight attendants explain the safety gear
Every single seat is decked out with safety gear under the seat and above. Before take-off, flight attendants spend 10 minutes showing and demonstrating how to use this equipment. Unfortunately, many people tune this out. Make sure you pay attention when they demonstrate.
4. Skip out on coffee or caffeinated drinks just before and during flight
Caffeine causes your heart to beat faster and can cause jitteriness. Caffeine can worsen the symptoms of anxiety you may already be feeling. Additionally, caffeine will dehydrate you and you want to remain hydrated as much as possible to avoid headaches on your flight.
5. Let a flight attendant know how you’re feeling and that it’s your first flight
Flight attendants are pros at flying and they’ll be able to reassure you. They will also likely check in on you throughout the flight when you disclose that you’re feeling anxious.
6. Pack everything you’ll need for your flight into your personal item
Your personal item is a small thing like a purse or backpack that you can leave under the seat in front of you. Generally, you want to keep all your in-flight essentials in your personal item for easy access. You don’t want to be that person opening their overhead bin mid-flight to get something.
Some in-flight essentials:
- Old school headphones with a cord to watch movies
- Eye mask/earplugs for sleeping
- Gum to help with the air pressure difference
- Wet wipes to wipe down your seat and table
- A book to read (or some other form of entertainment)
- Phone charger and charged battery pack, not all airlines have outlets
- Face wipes and anything else that will help you feel fresh after 5 hours in the air.
7. Expect turbulence and mentally prepare for it
There is virtually no way to avoid turbulence. Odds are every flight will have it to some varying degrees. I’ve experienced light turbulence that actually rocked me to sleep (or maybe I’m just weird?) and turbulence that had me wide-eyed and worried.
Turbulence is caused by rough or changing air currents, causing the plane to shake. It is natural and modern aircrafts are well equipped to deal with it. Generally speaking, it is considered to be worse in the back of the plane. Try to sit in the middle or front if you’re very concerned. Always keep your seatbelt on, especially when the signs on the plane indicate it.
Use your standard anxiety coping practices to deal with turbulence anxiety. Deep breaths. Immersing yourself in a distraction. Counting to 100. Whatever works for you.
8. Aisle Seat
While everyone envies the window seat, it is virtually useless and not entertaining except for take-off and landing. If you’re flight anxious, you may want to avoid looking out the window altogether.
The aisle seat will let you get up to use the bathroom, find a flight attendant, or stretch your legs for a quick second with ease. If you’re hydrating as much as you should, you will likely be needing more bathroom breaks than usual.
With these 8 things in mind, you’ll be able to get on your first flight seamlessly. I want to reiterate that it is okay to be scared and you should never be ashamed of it. Even as a seasoned traveler, I still experience anxiety around flying, but it decreases with every flight I take. When in doubt, think about the amazing adventure you have right ahead of you.
Danielle is a young professional aspiring to work in copywriting as well as freelance writing. She has a passion for travel, women’s health, and spirituality.