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Carry On Packing Essentials for Nervous Flyers

Packing Essentials for Nervous Flyers

My sister is a nervous flyer.

Having traveled with her, I know that the experience can be downright stressful. The logistics can bring on panic attacks and overwhelming anxiety.

But you don’t have to let it stop you from exploring. If you come prepared with a few packing essentials in your carry on travel survival kit, and a little bit of research, your mind can be put more at ease.

Here are some of the packing essentials I’ve used to help my sister, and hopefully they can help you, too.

Activities and Distractions

It’s important to keep yourself busy during a flight to keep the panic from rising. After my sister’s first panic attack on a flight home from Puerto Rico, we started packing a handful of distractions to keep her hands and mind busy during takeoff and landing, the two things that bring on the most panic.

packing essentials for nervous flyers

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  • Coloring Book– They’re not just for kids! I got this one from a store on a whim, but there are even coloring books made just for anxiety relief. Color Me Calm and the Mandala Coloring Book are two great brands because they have lots of detail to color. And don’t forget coloring utensils! I like the Crayola Twistables Colored Pencils. (Check out the Color Me Calm book, the Mandala Coloring Book, and the Crayola Colored Pencils on Amazon.)
  • Play Doh or Kinetic Sand– These toys are others that were originally created for children, but have additional uses. Kinetic sand feels like regular sand, but you can sculpt it into shapes and it stays together. And Play Doh can be purchased at any toy store or even made at home! MohDoh is another product that brings together aromatherapy and a molding substance. (Check out kinetic sand on Amazon.)
  • Music and white noiseCreate a playlist on your iPod to play during the flight with calming tunes or white noise. Download some classical or instrumental music for your trip. On my playlist is some Simon and Garfunkel, Jose Gonzalez and Adem. There’s even a White Noise app that will cover up the plane noises so that you don’t get concerned. Get some noise canceling or high quality headphones to go with it.
  • Knitting and Crocheting– It’s not just for your grandmother! You can bring your knitting and crocheting needles on the plane, so take along a ball of yarn in your bag. This will keep you focused on not dropping loops and keeps both your eyes and hands busy.
  • Books and Movies– Obviously books and movies are great for keeping you entertained. Download a few books on your Kindle so that if you get bored, you can try another one. I also have games like Solitaire downloaded onto mine. And a few movies will help as well, especially if you end up on a plane with no entertainment system, as I recently did from London to Atlanta!

Aromatherapy and Homeopathic Remedies

Certain scents, like lavender and eucalyptus, can have calming effects on the mind, so you can bring aromatherapy oil or mist to spritz your pillow. It’s also a good idea to bring homeopathic remedies and medicines that make you drowsy to help you sleep through the flight instead of staying up and continuing to be anxious.

packing essentials for nervous flyers

  • Rescue Remedy– I’d heard great things about this product, so I bought a small vial to test out on my flight to London. It’s made up of five different flowers and herbs and is used for anxiety, mouth sores and dozens of other ailments. (Check out Rescue Remedy on Amazon.)
  • Tiger Balm– We’ve discussed it in the past, but in case you didn’t know, Tiger Balm cures just about everything! Sniff the tub to calm an upset stomach and anxiety or put a little under your nose. It’s also great for achy muscles and mosquito bites.
  • Sleeping Medicine– I also pack something to make me drowsy for longer flights so that I can either sleep or just feel calmer. Dramamine and melatonin are usually what I pack.
  • Paper bag– If worst comes to worst and you find yourself breathing rapidly, the sound of breathing into a paper bag, even if it’s an air sickness bag, can be calming.

Additional Tips

If you pack all of these items, you should be prepared for your nerves on the flight. But you can also get to the airport early so that you have plenty of time to prepare. Research what type of plane you’ll be flying so you know where the emergency exits, galleys and bathrooms are located.

You can board the plane last so there’s less time waiting around with people crowding the aisles. Pick your seat in advance so that you can get an aisle seat. And if it’s a long haul flight, skip the meal and go straight to sleep. If it’s a shorter flight, have an adult beverage to settle your nerves.

Any other tips for nervous fliers?

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Travel Survival Kit for Nervous Flyers

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Anna says

    Playdoh must count as a ‘liquid, paste or gel’ which means that you can’t take more than 100ml in your hand luggage and it will need to go through security in your (20cm x 20cm) resealable liquids bag. You could take up to ten 100ml containers, of course, if there is space in your liquids bag.

  2. Kaci says

    This is going to sound silly, but it’s gotten me through every flight I’ve ever taken. It started as a joke the first time I flew, I made a playlist of the dozen or so different versions of “Defying Gravity” from the musical Wicked that I listened to on the plane. Ha ha, right? Except my first flight, we flew through a thunder and lightning storm and the plane was shaking like crazy. When we finally landed safe and sound, it sort of became this weird superstition with me. So now every time I fly, I put on that playlist and it makes me feel more confident and less anxious that I’ll arrive at my destination safely. I know it sounds silly, but it totally works for me.

  3. Emma says

    Advice from my friend, who works as a stewardess, is to tell the cabin crew that you’re nervous about flying. This way, they know to keep an extra eye on you and help you out!

  4. Sarah says

    There’s also a lot of good help out there for those of us travel lovers who really get spooked on planes! Fear of Flying is a great web program, and I’m sure there are plenty more out there like it. As someone who was “commuting” back and forth from the US to Australia for two years, actually taking the time to work on flying anxiety made a huge difference for me.

  5. Brandy says

    Depending on how stressed and anxious I become, I am unable to breathe and of course it becomes rapid and labored. It can become alarming to your seat mate (FYI.) it is, totally a personal choice of whether you alert the person next to you of your anxiety. On my last round trip flight, I chose to do so on the way “up” and the person was actually super helpful and attentive when I had some tough moments. Incidentally, I didn’t say anything on my return trip. That experience was awful! If that’s all it takes to make the difference, I may lead with it every time!
    For me, the onset of my anxiety issues was once I stepped into the AISLE of the plane. I turn to measured breathing “counts.” I had to find my seat still so I focused on the numbers of the seats and count (1-2, inhale 3-4, exhale) until I reach my seat. It is discreet and self soothing.
    I always store my bag under the seat in front of me so I can access it during the flight. I have a jacket with a hoodie that I will pull the hood up on, headphones are a necessity for my phone. I may choose music, apps, audiobooks, etc. (even without them playing anything they help block distracting noise!) I also prefer the window seat–as I don’t like to be touched or have people constantly walking by me.
    If I could make it through the trip–and get on the plane to return, hopefully everyone else will find means of comforting themselves/loved ones to make travel more enjoyable.

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