7 Tips to Overcome Your Travel Anxiety for a Better Vacation
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”– Anthony Bourdain
Summer is almost here, and the busy travel season will soon be in full swing. That means many of us will be in vacation planning mode. But for some of us travelers, travel anxiety can put a damper on our plans. (Yea, that’s me – raising my hand up over here. ✋)
There’s SO MUCH to do prior to and during a trip that it can get overwhelming and fast!
You need to make an itinerary, find accommodations, get travel insurance, plan your transportation, hire a pet sitter, clean the house, pack, get to your destination safely… You get it, right? We can go on and on here.
If you’re someone who struggles with anxiety, just the mere thought of all your travel to-dos can quickly send you into a spiral. And that spiral can cause you to push everything that needs to be completed to the very last minute.
Believe me – procrastination is NOT the way to begin your journey.
Approaching your travels this way will only make things worse in the long run. And ultimately, cause your trip to not be as amazing as it can and should be.
But what if I told you there are ways you can make it a little easier on yourself, and your travel anxiety of course?
I don’t get to travel nearly as much as I would like to. But I do any chance I get. And over the years, I have picked up a few tips that have helped tame my travel anxiety. So today, I want to share them with you to help ease your own travel anxiety.
Keep scrolling! I’m confident these tips will help calm your nerves so you can have a magnificent time on your next adventure!
1. Thoroughly Research Your Destination
I’m a planner over here. And if you have anxiety in your life, I will venture to guess that you are as well.
Therefore, I think it goes without saying – take the time to research your destination.
Get to know the city, state, or country before you arrive. What’s the culture like? What language is spoken? Will the weather be cold or warm? Sunny, snowy, or rainy?
If you have anxiety, winging it isn’t exactly ideal. You need to do your homework.
I promise – knowing these types of things beforehand will ease your anxiety so much! And with that extra calmness, you’ll easily be able to plan other things as well, such as your itinerary (that’s next), what to pack, and transportation needs.
Also, I find the research phase so much fun! It gets you pumped for your upcoming trip and is almost an adventure in itself.
2. Create an Itinerary, But Be Flexible
Commit to making an itinerary. (Cue the spreadsheets and planning tools please! I’m such a sucker for these.)
Creating an itinerary will undoubtedly make for a much smoother experience. But don’t believe for a second that preparing an itinerary means you have to follow it to a T. Knowing that you can be flexible will do wonders for your travel anxiety.
It will give you peace of mind knowing that you can adapt and take each moment as it comes.
When making your itinerary, figure out your must-do activities and carve out some time for them. Then, create a wish list and be flexible with the rest.
Also, consider mapping out your itinerary, knowing where each place is located, and how you’re going to get there. Determine the streets around your accommodations, restaurants, and any attractions you have planned.
Thankfully, we no longer have to rely on MapQuest to get this done! 😂
3. Don’t Fill Up Your Day – Allow Time for Rest & Relaxation
It can be so tempting to try and cram everything you want to do and see into one trip. Especially if it’s a trip of a lifetime.
But a lot of times, that’s just not feasible and can make a trip downright stressful and exhausting. And that’s no fun, is it?
Don’t cram your itinerary full to where you literally have no time to stop and smell the roses. Absolutely plan for some down time. I personally consider it a must do for every trip I take.
When I get overwhelmed, anxiety is sure to follow. And that tends to happen if I have a full itinerary. But purposely designating some time for rest and relaxation has been a complete game changer for me.
If I make time for rest on a vacation – I am more present, less anxious, and overall, in a better mood.
Not only is that a positive for me, but also for everyone that’s in my travel party or anyone that I encounter along the way.
And keep in mind, rest can look different for everyone. It may mean taking a nap, indulging in a yoga session, or just simply taking it easy in your hotel room or at a park.
4. Give Yourself Plenty of Travel Time
If you’re a seasoned traveler, you undeniably know that you should arrive at an airport 2 hours before a domestic flight, and 3 hours before an international flight.
And if you have travel anxiety, I highly recommend adhering to these recommendations. You may even want to consider adding some extra time to what is recommended.
If I feel rushed in any shape or form, I tend to move slower. My anxiety takes over and I end up stumbling around and messing up. This is also the moment where I start to forget things.
There have been occasions where I’ve been in a rush to get to the airport. And all it did was make me sick to my stomach. Which led to me being panicked and just generally not in a good mood. This is not how you want to begin your trip.
Also, you want to keep this approach for any point of interest on your trip.
Do you have a tour scheduled or a dinner reservation? If you’re in a new place, it can be hard to gauge how long it might take to get somewhere. As such, you want to give yourself plenty of time to get to any destination at any point of your trip.
5. Get a Travel Journal & Write About Your Travels
Writing is therapeutic for so many different reasons. For anxiety in particular, writing can help you organize your thoughts and feelings and it also gives you a way to push past your anxieties.
It’s no different when it comes to travel journaling.
Seek out a journal that is dedicated just to traveling. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Although it is fun to find a journal that speaks to you.
Below are a couple of my personal travel journal recommendations:
LEUCHTTURM1917 – Medium A5 Ruled Softcover Notebook
Price at time of publish: $22.50
I like to keep it simple.
For that reason, I recommend the softcover LEUCHTTURM1917 journals. These journals are unique in that they allow you to have a table of contents so you can organize your travels. The pages are even numbered.
In addition, this journal lies flat and includes a back pocket for storage. I love the flexibility of the softcover option as the journal can bend and expand should you hold on to mementos, such as tickets or brochures.
And as far as paper style, you can choose from ruled (lined), dotted, plain, or squared paper.
WANDERINGS Leather Travelers Notebook
Price at time of publish: $25.99 at Amazon / $29.95 at Etsy
If sustainability is important to you, consider a refillable travel journal.
The WANDERINGS Leather Travelers Notebook is a great choice and is simply beautiful. Refillable paper inserts include blank, dotted, lined, or even a calendar. You also have the option to purchase a zipper case and kraft card sleeve holder if storage is important to you.
Of course, any journal will do. The point is to have a way to record your thoughts and feelings to help keep your anxiety at bay.
6. Just Breath & Soak It All In
If you’re a regular here, you know I like to talk about breathwork, or breathing exercises. I use them all the time for just about every situation.
And traveling is no exception! In fact, intentional breathing is a mandatory exercise for me, especially if my anxiety starts to show up.
While I love exploring this beautiful planet, I do get particularly anxious anytime I must fly. I usually end up thinking of the worst-case scenario right before my flight and convince myself the plane is going to crash.
If I ever find myself experiencing unpleasant thoughts like this, I bust out my handy, dandy breathing exercises to calm myself down.
For example, the breathing exercise I resort to the most is box breathing (or 4x4x4x4 breathing), simply because it’s easy to remember.
With box breathing, you inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale through your mouth (or nose) for 4 seconds, and then hold your breath for another 4 seconds. Repeat this as much as you need to until you feel more relaxed.
Engaging in breathing exercises not only helps regulate your nervous system, they get you out of your head, and bring you back to the present moment.
From there, you are better able to enjoy yourself and the whole experience.
7. Allow Yourself an Extra Day (or Two) After Your Trip
Whenever I go on a trip, I always try to schedule an extra day for myself to have at home once I get back. I absolutely despise going back to work or jumping into my normal schedule the minute I get home.
I use this extra time to rest from my travels, catch up on laundry if needed, and just mentally prepare myself for the upcoming week.
Also, providing yourself an extra day or two helps you plan for an unexpected trip delay.
We all know that trip delays can happen out of the blue and are completely out of our hands. Trip delays are particularly stressful for those with anxiety simply because we can’t control what’s going on.
But the one thing we can control is to give ourselves extra time to cover these situations.
So, the next time you find yourself planning a vacation, tack on an extra day or two to recover from your trip. By doing this, you also provide yourself with a buffer for any travel delays that may unexpectedly arise.
Vacation can be without question the absolute worst time for anxiety to show up. Your objective is to relax and have a wonderful time, but the dark cloud of anxiety can still loom over you.
Don’t let your travel anxiety ruin your trip. Instead, make a plan to get ahead of your anxiety.
The next time you find yourself planning a holiday, consider implementing these tips. If it’s too much to incorporate all at once, just try one or two until you feel comfortable adding more.
The goal is to make traveling more pleasant, not more of a headache. Happy traveling!