Are you a nervous flyer? Does the thought of boarding a flight make your palms sweaty? Although some people require professional help to cope with their aviophobia, most of us can get by with a little forward planning, a few nifty hacks and a more mindful approach to our journey.

Here are 8 tips to help you enjoy a more relaxing flight.

Window seats are best to avoid being disturbed

Plan Ahead

Only you know your anxiety triggers, be it a fear of crowds, fear of being in an enclosed space, turbulence, or the unknown. By planning ahead you can address your fears early – making for a happier journey all round.

Consider a direct flight without any connections to make the journey shorter, or book early to ensure you can choose your seat.

Opt for a window seat if you don’t want to be disturbed or an aisle seat if you’d like to stretch your legs. If you are concerned about turbulence, reserve a seat in the middle over the wings as here you’ll feel less turbulence.

Use an app like SeatGuru (which examines the seat maps of over 1200 aircraft) or chat to your travel agent about the best seats to book.

By planning ahead you can also pre-book shuttles or ‘meet and greets’ at the airport, which will ease any anxiety around negotiating your way around a strange city – not a bad idea if you arrive at night.

Ease All Transitions In The Journey

Airports, especially around the festive season, can be stressful places. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the airport before your flight is scheduled to depart.

If you can, consider pre-booking access to one of the airport lounges. Relaxing in the lounge is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the departures hall.

Paying a little extra for priority boarding is another useful trick. Sue Garrett, General Manager for Product and Marketing at the Flight Centre Travel Group, says that many airlines offer priority boarding – often at a pretty nominal fee.

“This might seem like an unnecessary expense at the time, but simply finding your seat first and securing space for your hand luggage can really ease airport anxiety,” says Garrett.

Accept The Inevitable

There will be queues. There will be babies (some crying). There will be almost no leg room – and you will be uncomfortable. There may be jet lag.

But if you accept the realities of flying, and plan accordingly, you are less likely to get wound up and anxious. Take deep breathes and accept the inevitable.

As anxiety increases, your breathing may get shallow—but deep breathing is an instant stress reliever. Breathe slowly and deeply, count to 10 and let it go!

Comfort Is Key

Once you have accepted the inevitable, you can plan for comfort. Think soft t-shirts, loose-fitting clothing, cardigans, hoodies, pashminas and sneakers. Layers are great as the cabin can get cool.

Pack lip balm and extra water, mints or rescue remedy – if it brings you comfort (even a favourite scarf), make sure it’s close at hand.

In flight distractions

Choose your distraction…

A captivating series, podcast or book (make sure it’s a real page-turner) is a fantastic way to pass the time.

Download a few podcasts (Pocket Casts is a great free podcast platform) or a binge-worthy series, switch your electronic device to aeroplane mode, put on your headphones – and watch the time fly by.

Alternatively, make a ‘to do’ list for when you land. What do you want to see or experience? Read up on your destination, mentally visualise everything – and get excited about your time away.


You might be tempted to have a drink to calm your nerves. Unfortunately, alcohol can actually feed your anxiety – and should also never be combined with anti-anxiety medication.

Coffee (and other stimulants) will only make you more jittery. Stick with water, you’ll thank us later.

passengers seated in a plane


Long flights are uncomfortable. Moving, flexing, and stretching to encourage blood flow will not only make you feel happier and ‘looser’ but will go a long way to prevent deep vein thrombosis (or DVT).

Sit Back and Stay Calm

There is no reason to leap to your feet as soon as the plane has landed. Ask yourself this, “Do I really want to spend 20 minutes standing in a weird, cramped position waiting to ‘de-plane’?”

Rather, stay seated, and stand up only when you can disembark. This way, you’ll arrive calm, cool and collected.

Happy holidays from everyone at Sawubona!

Wherever you decide to go, let SAA get you there. Book your tickets today!