Turbulence makes most people nervous, but it’s rare to be hurt by it and it definitely doesn’t mean there’s a problem with the plane! There are lots of ways to handle turbulence calmly. Learning how to prepare for your flight, fight nausea and anxiety, and stay safe during turbulence will help you weather the bumpy ride as calmly as possible.
Preparing for Your Flight
Learn about the causes of turbulence. Turbulence during a flight is caused by uneven air distribution–it doesn’t mean the plane is going to crash! Learning about what causes turbulence and how it might affect your plane can help you enjoy the flight and handle any turbulence calmly. Research turbulence online or talk to airport staff to ease your mind.
If you want to research online, search for turbulence only and avoid articles about plane crashes–this won’t help calm you down!
Talk to your doctor about anti-anxiety or nausea medication. If turbulence makes you sick or very anxious, it’s totally fine to talk to your doctor about medication that can help you! Many doctors offer short-term prescriptions especially for patients who are about to board a flight. You can even buy anti-nausea medication over the counter.
Choose a comfortable seat towards the front of the plane. The front of the plane is somewhat less likely to be affected by turbulence, so choose a seat as close to the front as you can. If you prefer a window or aisle seat, choose that too. The more comfortable you are, the less you’ll be bothered by turbulence.
Get to the airport early. Feeling calm and relaxed will help you handle turbulence more effectively, and it’s easier to calm down if you aren’t rushed and stressed. Get to the airport as early as you can to have some time to relax before your flight. Bring along a favorite book or movie to watch to get you in a calmer state of mind before boarding.
Use the bathroom before your flight. The best way to avoid injury during turbulence is to stay in your seat with your seatbelt buckled. Make sure you go to the bathroom before you board, and if you need to get up to speak to anyone on the plane, do so before takeoff.
Relaxing During Your Flight
Get as comfortable as possible. Airplane seats can be small and cramped, but try to get as comfortable as you can. Wear loose, comfortable clothes, ask for pillows and blankets if you need them, and adjust the seat back to get into a state of relaxation.
Take deep, regular breaths. If you start to feel anxious during the flight, practice taking deep, regular breaths to prevent yourself from hyperventilating. Take a deep, slow breath, hold it for three seconds, and then release it slowly. Repeat for as long as you need to.
Meditate or think calming thoughts. Meditation can help you fight anxiety. Try getting into a comfortable position, closing your eyes, and concentrating on your breathing before focusing your thoughts on staying calm. If you’d rather not meditate, try thinking of something you find soothing.
Think about what you’re looking forward to at your destination, your favorite childhood memories, or even just a movie you really like.
Massage your pressure points. Rubbing your body’s pressure points can help you relax. You won’t be able to reach all of them while sitting in an airplane seat, but you can massage the ridges of your neck, your wrists, and the web between your thumb and index finger during the flight to stay calm.
Keep distracted with onboard entertainment. Make sure you have lots of entertainment options to keep yourself distracted during your flight. If your flight offers a media center or an in-flight movie, take advantage of it, even if you’ve already seen the movie! If you don’t know if your flight has in-flight media, bring your own. A book, crossword puzzle, or a movie on a portable player will help keep you distracted and relaxed.
Take nausea medicine before your flight. If you take medicine for nausea caused by turbulence, take it about an hour before you board and keep it within reach in case you need in during the flight. Be sure to follow the instructions exactly, and ask your doctor about any side effects that might make the flight more difficult for you.
Keep the motion sickness bag handy. As soon as you sit down, find the motion sickness bag and move it somewhere you can access easily in case of emergency. Practice opening it so you’ll know how to do it quickly just in case.
Bring your own food. Nausea can be brought on or aggravated by food you aren’t used to. If you know you struggle with in-flight nausea, bring your own food so airline food doesn’t make it worse. Avoid spices, dairy, and anything that triggers nausea for you.
Some foods like soups or sauces may not be allowed through security. Ask airport staff before you arrive, or consider buying food from the grocery section in airport stores.
Drink lots of water. The dry air inside an airplane can cause dehydration, which is a major contributing factor for nausea. Be sure to drink enough water to stay hydrated–about one regular-size bottle for every three hours of flight will be enough for most people.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol can both aggravate nausea, so try to avoid them on your flight. If you do have a coffee or a beer, sip them slowly to avoid upsetting your stomach.
Staying Safe during Turbulence
Keep your seatbelt on. Pilots usually know in advance if there’s going to be turbulence, but sometimes it takes them by surprise. Keeping your seatbelt on even when the seatbelt light is off will help keep you safe and secure in your seat. If the belt is uncomfortable, try loosening it a little–enough to let you shift positions, but not enough to let you stand up or lean into the next seat.
Avoid getting up during the flight. Most turbulence injuries happen to people who were moving around in the plane during flight. Try to take care of bathroom visits, staff questions, and chats with friends in different rows before the flight takes off. If you do need to get up during the flight, return to your seat as soon as possible.
If there’s a long line for the bathroom, wait in your seat instead of standing in line.
Stow all loose items. If you have anything sitting loose on your seat or the floor, it can go flying during turbulence and injure someone. Make sure everything you bring with you is stored in the overhead compartment or the seat pocket. Ask the flight attendant to dispose of food wrappers and dishes as soon as you’re done with them.
If there’s sudden turbulence while you’re holding something, grip it as tightly as possible!
Keep your tray table folded when you’re not using it. Hitting the tray table during turbulence can be pretty painful. If you aren’t eating or resting a computer on it, keep the tray table closed.
Sit in the closest seat if you’re up during turbulence. If you’re in the aisles during severe turbulence, don’t worry about finding your way back to your seat. Just sit in the first empty seat you can find and buckle yourself in, even if someone else’s stuff is there. As soon as the turbulence stops, you can return to your regular seat.
If turbulence hits while you’re in the bathroom, grab the side handles and stay put! Staying in a small space like an airplane bathroom is much safer than walking through the main cabin.
Obey the flight crew’s instructions. The flight crew might ask you to remain seated, assist other passengers, or put items away in the event of turbulence. If the flight attendant or pilot instructs you to do something, listen to them–they have your safety in mind!