Are you wondering how to have anxiety-free travel? With a little preparation and these helpful tips, it is possible to overcome travel worries and fears and enjoy the benefits of travel.
Traveling can be a wonderful and enriching experience, but for many people, it can also be a source of anxiety and fear. Whether it’s the unknowns of a new place, concerns about safety, or simply a lack of experience, there are many reasons why people may be hesitant to hit the road.
Instead of thinking of the travels ahead with worry, use these tips to anticipate the fun you are about to have on your upcoming adventure.
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Oh, and BTW, these tips are not intended to be medical advice of any sort. Just helpful information based on experience.
Control What you Can with Organization
1. Make a Trip Itinerary
Overplanning can stress you out so keep it simple. Under planning can have the same effect. Sometimes not knowing what to do, or having too little to do, can cause anxiety as well. It is easy to wrongly estimate the amount of time each activity may take.
To maintain a balance, create a general outline of each day of your trip. Add one or two must-dos and then several possibilities. This way each day you have a focus and a backup plan in case that doesn’t work out. If you end up having free time on your hands you will have a list of choices ready to go. No wasting time sitting around wondering what to do.
2. Pack Early
Pack a little each day leading up to your departure. Sometimes it feels overwhelming to gather everything the day before. It also leaves you extra time in case you need to pick something up specifically for the trip.
3. Make a Home Checklist
Create a checklist of things to do before you leave, that way you won’t worry about forgetting something. Maybe instructions for the cat-sitter, going to the post office to have the mail delivery stopped, or notifying the credit card company online that you will be traveling. Type up a digital list that you can reuse each time you travel.
4. Create a Travel Budget
Travel can be expensive, and the fear of overspending can be a major source of anxiety for many people.
Again, type up a reusable checklist or worksheet. Anticipate basic expenses in advance and estimate the remaining cost.
Creating a budget for your trip and sticking to it as much as possible can help you avoid financial stress during your travels.
5. Familiarize Yourself with the Local Layout
Getting lost in an unfamiliar place can be a worry.
Thankfully with GPS technology, it’s less of a worry than it has been in the past.
Download maps and Apps before you leave.
Preload city maps or hiking trails in advance to your phone.
6. Get to the airport too early
Sitting around for an hour before boarding may not seem like your idea of fun, but the anxiety of missing your flight probably sounds a lot worse.
You’ll need time to park, get to the terminal, go through security, and get to your gate. Once those are behind you, you can take the extra time and relax until you board.
7. Splurge a Little to Make Your Trip Anxiety-Free
Worried about finding your hotel? If spending hours learning the subway system stresses you out, take a taxi from the airport. It costs more but you won’t have to worry about finding your lodgings or using public transportation.
Unsure about navigating the city or getting lost? Hire a guide vs. wandering aimlessly. A local guide is an invaluable asset to have in an unfamiliar place.
Sometimes spending a little more on certain things is worth it.
8. Travel Lighter to be Anxiety-Free
Does losing your luggage worry you? Don’t bring a checked bag. Just stick with a carry-on item. The less you have with you, the less you have to worry about.
9. Interview Pet-Sitters
Worrying about leaving your pet can cause anxiety for their owners. There’s no way to explain to your pet why you’re not around.
Interviewing potential sitters and having your pet build a relationship with someone else is a good idea. Have your pet spend a day or two at daycare if you plan to use a facility for your pet-sitting service.
This way they’ll be familiar with the staff, sights, and smells of the kennel and you’ll know how they react.
Knowing your pet will be happy and safe without you is a huge stress reliever.
Strategies for Anxiety-Free Travel on the Airplane
10. Board Early
This gives you time to settle in and orient yourself to your space. This will be your home for the next few hours so you can make yourself comfortable and check out how everything works before taking off.
11. Stay Distracted on the Airplane
Play a game, watch a movie, or bring something to read.
Noise-canceling headphones are a fantastic way to block out everything around you.
If you find yourself falling down that rabbit hole of nervousness, just look at the flight attendants. Flight attendants are trained in safety and emergencies. If they don’t look worried about anything, then there is nothing to worry about.
13. Just Breathe
If you do feel your anxiety escalating just take some deep breaths in and out. Learning meditation before you travel is a great idea. There are many helpful calming strategies you can learn in advance.
14. Wonder! Be amazed!
Every time I am on a flight I let my mind marvel at the science and technology of it all. How is this possible? I’m traveling thousands of miles above the Earth at incredible speed and will go from one continent to the next in a matter of hours. I just can’t get over it. I hope I never do.
Address Concerns About Personal Safety
15. Get Travel Health Insurance
Getting sick or hurt while away from home is a concern.
Caution, personal hygiene practices, and travel health insurance will help lessen this fear.
The chances or likelihood of illness or injury is always present when you’re home, but you may not think of it. Adopt an it can happen anywhere, anytime mentality, because it is true.
Anyone can easily trip on their own front step, fall, and break an arm at home. So what’s the difference if you do it while in Paris?
This applies to things outside your control too, such as natural disasters. Grabbing an inexpensive travel insurance policy will give you peace of mind to cover the unexpected.
16. Maintain Excellent Personal Hygiene
Continue the same personal hygiene strategies you use at home.
Covid has heightened health concerns for many people who wish to travel.
Wash your hands often. Mask up whenever, if you wish to. Pre-covid, a lot of people wore masks during travel in large crowds. It’s just common practice now.
Just do whatever makes you most comfortable because nobody’s looking twice at a mask anymore.
17. Schedule a Proactive Health Visit
Visit a doctor to see if vaccines for Covid or flu shots or any other kind of proactive measures against illness are right for you.
A physical check-up to ensure good health and to get destination-specific travel advice is reassuring and helpful.
18. Be Excited to Travel!
Your heart is racing, your energy levels are up, stomach is jiggly. Don’t confuse fear with excitement. Feeling fear and feeling excited feel the same to your body. Keep telling your brain its excitement for the adventure ahead and it will be.
19. Anxiety-Free Travel Requires Rest
Not sleeping enough can decrease your stamina and increase your anxiety. Try to keep your same sleep schedule whenever possible so that you are rested and ready. Bring snacks and stay hydrated. Being “hangry” is real!
20. Assemble a Health Kit
Before you leave home gather simple over-the-counter medications and vitamins that you may need.
Prepare with medications for headaches, diarrhea, and personal hygiene items that might be harder to find in another country.
You may not end up using any of them, but it’s good to know you have them and they don’t take up that much room.
21. Join In
You may have anxiety about feeling lonely or homesick when traveling, especially on long journeys. Chances are you may feel that way at some point.
So plan group travel, or meet-ups, to help with the loneliness. Finding a day tour or staying in a hostel is a great way to meet fellow travelers. Sharing common challenges and discoveries is healing to a lonely heart.
22. Traveling Alone Anxiety-Free
Safety is a major concern for many travelers, and it’s understandable why. I do know that many, women especially, feel anxious for their personal safety when traveling alone.
Use the same common sense you use anywhere and be aware of your surroundings. Know the local emergency number in the area such as 911.
Knowledge of what to do in the event of a scary situation is calming.
Recognize Cultural Anxiety while Traveling
23. Do Some Research
Arm yourself with knowledge for anxiety-free travel. Research the culture and customs before you leave home. Learn as much as you can about your destination. Know some of the best ways to experience local culture before you get there.
Learn the language even if it is just a few polite phrases.
Not knowing how to communicate or being afraid you won’t be understood is a valid concern.
Take a language class, practice with a language app, and have Google Translate ready to go. I love to be able to pick out a few random words on a menu or a street sign.
24. Start small
Go someplace not too far away.
Maybe you’ve never traveled internationally before. Start off with a place that primarily speaks a language you are familiar with to get your feet wet.
25. Travel slower if at all possible
Get to meet and know some of the people as you journey. We’re all just people after all.
26. Ask questions
Google makes our life easy because it always seems like the answer is simply one typed question away. You may need a question answered in context, right then and there, so the best thing to do is just ask someone.
Think about if a stranger in your city asked you a question about what to do. You’d be happy to help them and you wouldn’t think twice about it. Most people don’t mind because they feel the same way you do.
Having a traveler’s mindset can help reduce anxiety.
Conquer your Fear of the Unknown
The idea of traveling to a new place can be intimidating for many people because they don’t know what to expect. If you’re new to travel, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the unknowns. Check out this practical guide with tips for the first-time international traveler.
27. Use Social Stories
Play the game of “what ifs”. Think of every worst-case scenario and then think of how you could deal with it.
For example, “What if I lost my passport?”
So what if you did? What would happen?
Make a list of every possible consequence.
I couldn’t identify myself to the authorities. I couldn’t fly home. etc…
Then, imagine every solution you could come up with to handle the situation.
I could go to the Embassy and report it.
Lastly, brainstorm numerous ways you could keep the worst-case scenarios from occurring.
I could keep my passport locked in the room safe. I could scan it and keep a printed copy with me before I leave home. I could take a picture of the inside of my passport and have a digital copy in my phone.
If an unfortunate situation does occur you won’t panic. You’ve already considered it and you have a plan of action. You got this!
28. Bring a comfort item
Small children often have a teddy bear or a lovey to cuddle when they need some emotional support.
Adults can need this too. I have a small lap quilt from home that I use daily. It has a lot of sentimental attachment. I roll it up tight and squeeze it into my personal carry-on wherever I go.
29. Daily Affirmation of Gratitude
Traveling always reminds me of how amazing the world is. I reflect on how lucky I am to be healthy. This planet is filled with beauty and I am privileged to be able to go out and explore it. I understand travel is a gift that I am grateful to experience.
30. Have a Mantra
You Can Do It! A short Mantra you can repeat in your head whenever you’re feeling uncomfortable. It could be as simple as I’m fine. Manifest good things and they will happen.
31. Talk About It
Maybe your travel companions have no idea of your anxiety. Everyone feels some level of travel anxiety so empathy is not far away, but they can’t help you if they don’t know. Who knows? They may even secretly have the same worries as you. Don’t tough it out alone. Get support if you need it.
32. Bring a Travel Buddy
Consider traveling with a friend or family member who has more travel experience. The saying goes “there’s safety in numbers”. Not traveling alone may make you feel safer and anxiety free.
Remember, a lack of experience is only temporary. the more you travel the more experienced and confident you will become.
Bonus Tip (#33) for Traveling Anxiety-Free with Children
Bringing children with you while traveling can add a whole new level of anxiety.
As a parent, you will have to add more things to your checklist to include your child’s needs. But that’s pretty much an everyday occurrence anyway.
Sometimes we worry less about ourselves when we think about what we need to do for our child and so that could be a good thing. The role of parenting can keep us from hyper-focusing on things that make us unnecessarily anxious.
Traveling with your child and seeing the world through their eyes is one way to fill your heart with joy. One I highly recommend.
If you are traveling with children who are anxious, many of the strategies discussed here are just as useful for children as they are for adults.
You may even want to read this engaging picture book with them before traveling. It might help them understand their feelings. A Case of the Zaps.
To Sum It Up
Just do it.
Don’t overthink it and have balance.
Everyone starts somewhere.
Everyone makes mistakes.
Mistakes equal learning.
Whether it’s your first trip or your hundredth, remember to take things one step at a time. Anxiety-free travel is possible! Don’t let your fears hold you back from missing out. Go travel.
Is it normal for people to have travel anxiety?
Yes. It is very common for people to feel anxious when traveling. People can have travel anxiety for many different reasons.
How do I stop worrying about becoming sick or injured while traveling?
Purchase comprehensive Travel Health Insurance before leaving home to put your mind at ease. This may not stop the worrying altogether but it should help, especially regarding the financial cost of becoming ill when traveling.
Contributors, WebMD Editorial. “What to Know About Hodophobia.” WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/trip-a-phobia. Accessed 2 Feb. 2023.
“Hodophobia: How to Manage a The Fear of Traveling.” Healthline, 13 July 2020, https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/hodophobia.
Staff, Mindful. “How to Meditate.” Mindful, 14 Nov. 2022, https://www.mindful.org/how-to-meditate/.