My Secret Travel Fear: I’m terrified of flying

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“You go. It’s better that you take the available seat because you don’t know how the system works and I’ll have to work it tomorrow to make sure Kalyra and I get on the flight. We’ll be fine.

We should get a flight tomorrow and we’ll just meet you in Sydney.”

How to get free flights

Craig, Kalyra and I were on our way home from the USA. We were on standby (free flights) at LAX thanks to Craig’s employment with Delta.

Being the busy months of July meant that it was difficult for us to get a flight home from Los Angeles to Sydney. This was our second day of trying. We only had a few days left before our visas expired and we would become illegal.

A space opened up on the flight –Β business class. We only had minutes to decide what to do before they closed the doors. We couldn’t take the risk so one of us had to go.

Reluctantly, I ambled down to the plane, my heart so heavy with sadness.

Firstly, because it should have been Craig getting business class seats as he had worked hard for Delta for 18 months, it was his reward to take.

Secondly, because I was leaving my two loves behind.

But mostly heavy because it threw my secret travel fear up in my face to deal with alone.

I am scared of flying.

I’ve been on hundreds ofΒ flights and still every time I fear. Days before I even board the plane, that sick feeling begins to settle in my stomach.

Fear that abates some once the plane settles at its flying altitude, but doesn’t completely leave until we are back at the gates.

The fear intensifies when I fly alone, and the fear is almost unbearable now that I am a mother.

I can only ever think of the unimaginable, that something will happen and my daughter will be on her own. And then when she is with me on the plane, I think the unimaginable and her fear.

She doesn’t like flying either.

In fact, she helps to keep me brave.

“Hold my hand, Mummy. I don’t like it when the plane goes up or down.”

“Neither do I honey. But we will be fine. Let’s help each other be brave.”

I have to keep my shaking under wraps for her, and I talk and laugh with her to distract ourselves from the unreasonable fear that eats away at us.

“If only you knew the safety checks that pilots and crew go through before each flight, you will never be scared of flying” an air hostess friend once told me.

“It’s safer than driving.”

“A plane can’t fall out of the sky from turbulence”

I’ve heard endless facts about the reality of flying and how safe it is but the doom never leaves me.

Business Class Surprise

I started to get myself settled into business class, but could not get excited at all. We were getting ready to shut the doors and start our preparations for departure. The air hostesses were scampering around offering the privileged fliers drinks for take off.

I could not muster up any enthusiasm.

I sat down on my comfy and roomy chair and the tears began to fall as I felt the separation between Craig and Kalyra and the fear that something would happen to me, or worse, something would happen to them when they flew tomorrow.

As I sat trying to calm my nerves, there was a flurry of activity coming from the door in front of me. I looked up and bursting through the door was my little angel followed by a beaming Craig.

I squealed with delight and wrapped my arms around her, kissing her all over.

“I’m so happy to see you. What happened?”

“Oh god, two seats opened up at the last minute in economy. We made it.”

Now if that secret travel fear of mine was to happen at least we would all be together.

The Secret Travel Fear Returns Now

A couple of days ago, I began to feel that sickness in the pit of my stomach again. That well-known uneasiness that comes with any flight. Except this time I’m not flying. Neither is Kalyra and neither is Savannah.

But Craig is, and I begin to worry and fear about all those things that can wrong.

Why do I always fear that being separated means eternal doom?

Craig’s just taken off down the tarmac. I won’t breathe again until I know he has touched down in Auckland. Actually, I won’t breathe again until I know he’s at home safe with his three girls again.

Do you have an unreasonable fear of flying or any other secret travel fear?


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66 thoughts on “My Secret Travel Fear: I’m terrified of flying”

  1. I can’t say I’m afraid of flying, but I do get a little freaked out when we get bad turbulence sometimes. And when I fly with my partner I always make sure to hold his hand when we take off, and say a little prayer to the angels who watch over us. For the most part, a small bit of turbulence, when I’m sleeping on flights, can feel like a car rumbling over bumps in the road and that’s what I try to imagine if I get scared. Surprisingly, the smaller the plane, the more comfortable I am. I love getting into small planes-my theory is that I have a better chance of surviving a small plane disaster because we are not so high up in the air!

    1. I used to always hold Craig’s hand in take off, now I have to hold Kalyra’s I think Craig would be grateful. It’s funny how your mind thinks about what your survival chances are in different planes. I gave up listening to the safety drill years ago as I’m convinced it wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway πŸ™‚

    1. I think as long as you can do it anyway then you are controlling that fear to a certain extent. I won’t let it win and stop me from doing what I love, I just have to deal with the pain. A bit like childbirth. A great reward comes at the end of it all

  2. I could have written this post. Seriously. I freak out when I fly, I freak out when DH flys and I’m not flying. There is NOTHING about flying I like. And the more places we travel the smaller the planes become. Everytime I conquer it whether it’s a Balloon ride in Capadoccia, the Air Baltic flight between Latvia and Lithuania where the plane was so old and small that the windows had no blinds, there was ashtrays and they asked our weight and the ticket agents says to is mandatory you are honest and of course you couldn’t bring a carryon on the plane because there was nowhere to put it that it would fit. Or our upcomig trip to Easter Island where there is NO LAND to land on if something goes wrong. I continually tell myself over and over I can do it and then I make it a point to reward myself with a new pair of shoes or purse!!!!!!!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    1. I thought I was the only one that probably freaked out when my husband flew alone. I know he is safe in Auckland so I can breathe a bit now until he is due to fly home again. Funny how I am not worried about him driving on those winding roads in a campervan at all πŸ™‚ I’d be freaking about Easter Island. Just think of the Hudson River landing in New YOrk and it might make you feel better.

  3. What a really great article. I think I could have a fear of flying, but I just refuse to think about it. My husband regularly flies 20+ hour flights, and I’m just beside myself until I hear from him. I would have to say that my travel fear is my luggage getting lost. It’s kind of lame, but it’s such a pain in the butt.

    1. Luggage getting lost is a pain. It has only ever happened to us in the States and twice. Lucky we got it all back. Love how you just shut out the potential fear. I often give myself lectures trying to do that but it doesn’t work

  4. I totally empathise. I never used to be afraid of flying but the more I fly the more frightened I get, I figure that statistically I am more likely to be in an accident the more I fly. I know that it is the safest form of travel and as I have been in 3 car crashes I should be far more afraid of getting in a car but I can’t shake that horrible uneasy feeling that descends every time I get on a plane. I find that the bigger planes are better for me as they don’t jump around so much when they are in the air.

    Sleeping pills on long-haul flights are the way forward for me!!

    1. I never thought of the statistics side of things. Geez now I will stress more πŸ™‚ I must admit that every time I hear of a plane crash I recognize a certain kind of relief in me as I think that means the chances for me are better. Pretty horrible right?

      It’s funny how we rarely feel the same apprehension when getting in cars and we really should

  5. Yes! I am TERRIFIED of flying! I’m normally ok once I’m up in the air, but I usually spend the entire take-off freaking out and squealing to myself. I thought it might improve the more I fly, but apparently not if you’ve been on over 100 flights and are still scared πŸ™‚

    1. Take off is always the worst for me. I hate it and just can’t believe that the plane can get up in the air. I’m convinced every time that we are coming back down.

  6. Thanks for sharing your fear! No matter how often I fly, I do feel some apprehension before take-off and until a few minutes after we’re in the air — especially if taking off over water! When it gets turbulent, I close my eyes which seems to help πŸ™‚ Like you, I’d never let this fear stand in the way of travel!

    1. I tend to get a bit more calm over water as I think I may have more of a chance. So ridiculous πŸ™‚ Sometimes I close my eyes and meditate that helps a lot

  7. Caz, thanks for sharing your fears! I think most people assume if we travel a lot, we don’t give it a second thought. But frankly, I’m right there with you. I’m absolutely terrified of turbulence. I know the plane won’t fall out of the sky – or so I’ve been told – but that doesn’t help. Until I’m safely on the ground, I’m a mess.

    And Craig will be safely home with his girls in no time! πŸ™‚

    1. I’m so glad I’m not the only one. I often look around the plane and wonder how everyone looks so calm and I think I am the only scaredy pants πŸ™‚

  8. Christy @ Technosyncratic

    I definitely have a fear of flying as well. For me, it’s the fact that plane crashes are just so intense and destructive. I realize that air travel is technically more safe than driving, but that’s only because planes crash less frequently.

    The problem is that when they DO crash, there’s such a high chance of it being fatal. There are no fender-benders when it comes to 747s, so I’m pretty convinced that if there’s ever a problem on a plane, chances are I’m going to die. So I just hope all the planes I’m on never have any issues!

  9. Shirlene from Idelish

    I know exactly how you feel! I have the exact same fear – that’s why I always, always make sure Jeremy and I fly together no matter what and on the days that we are separated, I too am a mess! I make sure we fly on bigger planes (I just feel more secure in larger planes with more engines!) and would pay extra to make sure we do.

    Friends and family don’t believe me when I say I have this fear because they see us travel on hundreds of flights. Yes, I am terrified but I don’t let it get in the way of travel itself.

    Don’t worry, Craig will be back in no time!

    1. I think the important thing is to not let it stop you doing what you want to do. I know it is irrational and I can control it as best I can. It has gotten better over the years, but sometimes I do think how nice it would be to never catch a plane again so I don’t have to feel so anxious. But then I think of travel and I could never give it up

  10. I admire you for sharing this fear on your blog. You’ve inspired me to share mine. Believe it or not, my fear is of being in an accident while traveling–specifically a bus accident. I tend to worry about it more while I’m home, before a trip, but sometimes during one, too. I think some of it has to do with the fact that when I lived in Ecuador, a friend of mine was in an awful bus accident. Several people died and her leg was smashed up so badly that she had to return to Canada.

    I know the buses are poorly maintained and that there are more accidents of this sort in the developing world, which is where I tend to go. Despite my fear, which is fortunately sporadic only, I do take buses, some of them of dubious quality. Like you, though, I won’t let fear get in my way. I travel regardless of it.

    1. I understand that fear of bus accidents. A good friend of ours was killed in Africa in a bus accident. It is a very real fear for most travellers. I like to get the overnight buses now so I can sleep and not see anything. It’s all part of the travel experiences- feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

  11. We can totally relate to this – we both used to love to fly, but the older we get and the more we fly, the more scared we get… sweaty hands & heart racing at take-off, and panic again when we land. We were on a flight with severe turbulence a few years ago and I think that triggered our panic of flying.

    1. It’s funny how these fears can get worse the more you do them and the older you get. I think the older we get the more we realize how precious life is.

  12. Flying doesn’t thrill me, but the only time I really freak is when there is intense turbulence. Then I pray and I focus on deep breathing. I actually like the take off part and enjoy the views. You’re brave to share and to keep making those flights for your love of travel.

  13. Wow who would’ve thought! Glad you shared this. I don’t particularly enjoy flying but luckily it doesn’t bother me much. When things get really turbulent I find deep breathing helps.

  14. This is easy, losing my Passport in a Third World country. And after all these years, it finally happened and even worse at the last moment when leaving Costa Rica. Broke into a cold sweat, I knew it was in the airport “somewhere” so there I go backtracking through the Airport, backpack on and laptop in hand. Luckily,after soaked in nervous sweat, I found at the money exchange booth as the Tica was waving me down. Once on the plane that cold cerveza never tasted so good!

  15. Caz & Craig, this might sound pathetic but my secret travel fear is that I almost always feel like I’m leaving something behind in my guest house, bus, train, plane, etc. It’s a constant nagging thought I have in my head – what did I forget this time πŸ˜›

    1. Not pathetic at all. We always do the triple checks but are always convinced something will be left behind. Luckily it is usually just shampoo or something replaceable. In April I left two jumpers behind on the Gold Coast, and one of them was my fave Tar Heel hoodie. Spewing

    1. Yes. I do remember that. It helped a little. I haven’t flown since reading it though so maybe all might be good. Will be back on a plane next month. I’ll let you know how I go

  16. I am also terrified of flying- especially solo. That is probably why I don’t choose to fly solo that often! If you figure out a way to overcome this- please let me know! πŸ™‚

    1. I will be selling the solution for millions. I guess maybe it’s called “suck it up” πŸ™‚ I wish there was an easy solution Maybe hypnosis

  17. Once you’ve skydived out of a plane…and nothing about flying ever scares you again!
    I must blog that jump in Africa…
    BTW yep, we’ll look after Craig over here. Probably send him home plastered though.

  18. Thanks to my mother being an airline employee I have flown all my life and never had a fear of it at all, I actually use to enjoy turbulence and then I watched that stupid movie “Final Destination”. In the film they board the plane and the little nob that holds the seat tray locked comes off which starts a whole sequence of events that lead to the plane blowing up after take off. Now because of that stupid movie I will not touch the tray until after we are high in the air and I almost freak out if someone else does. Lord knows what will happen to me if one day I witness one of those nobs come off in someones hand haha

    1. I have not seen that movie and probably best that I didn’t πŸ™‚ Sounds almost Jawsy- never been able to swim in the beach without fear since. I’ll be watching those tray nobs now and thinking of you on every flight I take and saying, “It’s all Cailin’s fault I’m freaking out right now” πŸ™‚

  19. I used to be a nervous flyer and got air sick as a kid. Now I tend to say a little prayer during take-off and landing! It’s a somewhat spiritual experience being up in the skies…but as you fly more you get less nervous. Cailin – I agree on that one, I try not to touch the tray table before the plane takes off!!!

    1. Sometimes I meditate which makes me feel a lot better. I often like to look out the window and pretend I am a bird looking down on the vastness of the Earth I find it weirdly comforting and humbling

  20. We have a really good friend who is a pilot. He is always telling us about the crazy stuff that planes make it through (that he has witnessed). We told him about our flight to Kauai last year where the plane shook so bad that I thought it would break apart. It was horrible. He shrugged it off and said “Don’t worry about that stuff. The only thing you need to really worry about is fire. And that’s extremely rare.” I found that comforting in a strange way.

    1. This is comforting to know. Except from now on I will be carrying a fire extinguisher on the plane with me. Will I get that through the body scans do ya think?

  21. Mine is of getting arrested abroad. Even for something benign. I know it’s fairly well founded, but it has definitely discouraged me from doing a few adventurous things just because of the added “what if”. The thing is, it’s not only in 3rd world countries with dreadful prison systems. It’s everywhere outside the US.

    1. That is a pretty real fear, especially in those countries with the harsh laws and prison systems. It’s good to fear something like that as it keeps you focused on making smart choices.

  22. I wasn’t sure how I’d deal with flying until I got on my first flight back in 2004. I absolutely *love* it. It’s always the start of a new adventure for me.

    What am I afraid of? It would be getting lost without the ability to flip open a phone and use GoogleMaps or even turn to a friend to ask. Getting lost in general scares the crap out of me.

    1. Getting lost can be fun Chris. You can discover so many things. But having the google maps can help so you can find your way back. How dependent we are on technology these days.

  23. Being a mom does crazy things… I already told you about the woman on my last media trip that said she became afraid of heights and flying when she had children.

    My secret: I’m afraid of everything… except flying! I worry about getting around once I land, about being out of place and feeling awkward when solo traveling. And I hate eating alone. Not the same fear, but still an anxiety I deal with on a regular basis.

    1. Being a mum sure does change the way you view things. I can’t even handle getting within 10 feet of a high rooftop wall now. I think my babies are going to fall over the top. Ridiculous.
      It’s good to know that everyone has irrational fears though- just another exciting thing about life πŸ™‚

  24. I have never had a fear of flying but I do have a fear of something is going to happen when I am not with my family for the day. Sounds silly because nothing is ever going to happen. But I have this fear in the pit of my tummy that something is going to happen because I am not with them, or near them, or cant see them.
    If I am away for a few days, or the weekend or even overnight I have to distract my crazy sayings in my head, and repeat over and over again “Its going to be ok, nothing is going to happen”!
    So I can understand your fear, and I feel for you.


  25. I actually love flying and enjoy being able to watch films and read and relaxing! it makes want to help others when they say they can’t go to places because they have a fear and can’t enjoy the things they want do fully like because they miss out so much more they could get out of the experience!. I’ve met some who find it difficult to enjoy activities with their kids and family e.g. because they have a fear of heights or being under water and others who take their family to the same place every year because they’re claustrophobic and can’t stand planes but new experiences is what I live for. I guess it’s why I do NLP Coaching to enhance travel experiences so I can share the great experiences of traveling with others. It only takes a few sessions on the phone or on Skype with someone to eradicate fears and give confidence to people with anxieties, phobias or self-doubts so they can enjoy their experiences fully and freely from then on and I just love the great feeling it gives both of us achieving that!

    1. I do love the watching of the films and the experience of flying, but I just hate the thought of it and the taking off part. Once it settles into flight mode I settle down a lot, unless we hit rough turbulence. I think the point you raised is important and some people definitely need help in overcoming their fears. I think the most important thing with your fears is to acknowledge them and then swallow them. Don’t let them get in the way of doing those things that can enrich your life

  26. Laney @ Crash Test Mummy

    I’ve done my fair share of flying, but I do still get a little nervous whenever I see the safety card in the seat pocket. Now that I’m married with kids it’s a bit worse. I hate when CrashHubby has to fly somewhere for work. It’s a horrible nagging fear until he gets home safely.

    On a brighter note, welcome to Melbourne and maybe we’ll meet at Problogger πŸ™‚

  27. Great post! I totally hear you, however, my fear only surfaces after we hit a spot of turbulence. If it’s a smooth flight, if I’m in Business on Emirates (we use our points a lot to upgrade) with a glass of bubbly in hand and lots of movies to watch, I’m just fine. But once we hit a bump, I just freak out. And, yes, it’s worse when I’m alone. I’ve got the long flight from Sydney to Perth to do on Tuesday to be with my Mum who is having some serious surgery and not looking forward to it at all. I’ll be thinking of you!

  28. Agggh Caz, you wrote down my fears exactly! Whenever my bf flies alone, and he has a few times in the past year or so (Germany, Beijing, Hong Kong, from the UK to Korea), I always freak out. I’ll have the flight tracker loaded on the airline’s site, and I’m only able to relax again once I know he’s landed.

    The only time I’m OK with flying is when I’m exhausted and can just slump in the seat and watch a movie. I detest take-off and always imagine the plane just coming straight back down. When the fasten seatbelt sign is off then I’m OK, but turbulence….nuh uh. I’ve learned to calm myself down and tell myself that if the flight attendants are walking around, then everything is OK. Still, I don’t like it and would rather take a bus, boat or train if at all possible!

  29. Wow, I never knew you had this fear! Was just reading your 17 tips for flying with children and landed here on this link. We are planning an overseas holiday next year (the boys will be 6, 9 and 10) – they’ve only been on one interstate flight in their life and we haven’t flown much either, a lot of it having to do with my fear of flying. Taking the plunge and telling myself all those positive things about flying!!

  30. Haha it’s funny how most people say they are scared of take off or landing and they start to settle in while cruising. For me it’s the opposite! I love the fast thrill of take off, but as soon as we are in cruising altitude I start to get nervous and can’t sit still. I think for me is that I can physically feel/see the plane moving during take off and landing but when I think about cruising altitude its like if something does happen I wont be prepared for it, because you dont really notice the plane moving and when you look out the window it looks like youre moving really slowly so i will just be sitting there and mindlessly watching a movie or eating and then boom it will explode or something that is my biggest fear. As soon as we are banking and descending i start to relax again and think the worst is over and we will be at our destination soon but i wont be completely happy until we land and the plane slows down and the engines are off. Excuse my poor grammar as i am typing this on my phone haha ;P On a side note, in your profile pic you look so much like jodie sweetin from the show full house it is uncanny lol!

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