Traveling can make people anxious for a variety of reasons! Some people develop anxiety about traveling focused on the safety of how they’re traveling – they may be nervous about flying in a plane, or anxious about the possibility of a car accident. Others are nervous about Covid precautions and the possibility they may get sick. Some people are anxious about the logistics of a trip – what happens if you run out of money or get sick? You may also worry about finding accomodations on your trip, or how to handle a situation you’re not familiar with.
How to Beat Travel Anxiety
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to combat travel anxiety and be prepared ahead of time for anxious thoughts. With a little prep work, you can be ready for your next trip!
What is Travel Anxiety?
Travel anxiety is when the fear of visiting a new place, or the stress of planning a trip, leads to anxious feelings. For some people, these feelings are so intense, that they may avoid traveling altogether. This keeps them from being able to explore new places, or to visit family in other spots because they’re too anxious.
Symptoms of trip anxiety can include a rapid heart rate, chest pain, or trouble breathing. You may develop nausea or diarrhea. You may get restless or agitated. You can have a decreased ability to concentrate or focus. And you can have trouble sleeping. Of course, each of these symptoms can play off of the anxiety you’re already experiencing and make you even more anxious than before in a terrible downward spiral that many of us who live with anxiety are only too familiar with.
How to Get Over Travel Anxiety
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for how to get over travel anxiety. However, there are some tips you can try to lessen the anxious feelings you have while traveling. Sometimes you can get rid of these feelings, and sometimes you can learn how to travel with anxiety. Here are a few ways to deal with trip anxiety:
1.) Identify anxiety triggers
Figure out the situations where you face increased anxiety. These could be things like boarding an airplane, planning a trip, or packing. Also, see if there are any physical reasons that can increase your anxiety. Do you get more anxious when you’re fatigued or if you have low blood sugar? If there are physical reasons you can control, plan for that. For example, travel with a granola bar or trail mix in your bag so you can treat low blood sugar before you get anxious. Plan to go to bed on time or early so that you’re well-rested.
2.) Plan for problems
If you’re worried about what could go wrong while you’re traveling, make a plan ahead of time for the most likely mishaps. Have a friend or family member you can call to help you in an emergency. Make sure you have the money you need for your trip, and bring a credit card for emergencies. Have a physical map and your phone to help you if you get lost. Make sure you have travel insurance or that your health insurance will cover you if you get hurt or sick. You can even look up nearby urgent care centers or hospitals ahead of time. If you’re anxious about leaving pets, arrange for someone to care for them and provide you with updates while you’re gone.
3.) Distract yourself
If your anxiety develops around events like your plane taking off, have something to do instead of focusing on the takeoff. Get a page-turner book to read, or download a podcast you love. Get a great audiobook to listen to while driving or during other times when you need to take your mind off of your surroundings.
4.) Try intentional relaxation
Mindful meditation can help you to relax and let go of your worries. Scope out a spot in your room, or outside, where you can close your eyes and meditate to help relax. If you find comfort in religious practices, bring items you need for prayer, or a religious text or devotional book. If you find yoga helps to calm you, bring clothes and do yoga in your room, or even look up a class to attend while traveling.
5.) Bring a buddy
A friend or loved one who travels with you can often relieve anxiety as well. They can provide a welcome distraction when you’re feeling anxious. They can also bring peace of mind because you know you have someone around to help you make decisions if things go wrong. They can help you find a doctor, or help you find an alternate route if transportation falls through, or help find the way back to the hotel if you get lost.
6.) Seek medical help
There are times when you can’t combat your anxiety on your own. If travel anxiety is keeping you from doing things you long to do, you may want to speak to a therapist or mental health professional. They can give you techniques to help, and may even prescribe medication if that’s what your body needs to fight anxiety.
7.) Consider your “why”
Why are you traveling? Are you headed to see a loved one, or to attend an important event you don’t want to miss? Are you traveling to see places you read about in novels or that you’ve always longed to visit? There are important reasons to travel, and remembering why you’re planning a trip and what you hope to accomplish on it can give you the incentive to fight your anxiety. If you’re not sure whether fighting travel anxiety is worth it, and you’re considering scrapping your trip altogether, remember why you’re doing this in the first place.
8.) Give yourself grace
Like any struggle, you may have some bumps and stumbles while you practice living and traveling with anxiety. It’s possible you’ll end up cutting a trip short, or skipping a day of exploring because you’re too anxious to venture out. Give yourself a break and be gentle. You may want to plan shorter trips to start with and work your way up to a longer vacation. Each time you travel, pay attention to the things that worked well and the things that were anxiety-inducing. You may learn new techniques to help you deal with anxiety and you may learn to work around certain other things so you can enjoy your trip. You’re a work in progress and each time you’ll grow. Traveling teaches us a whole lot about the world…but it teaches us about ourselves as well.
Travel anxiety is a tricky mental health struggle and not everyone will respond to the same treatments for fixing it. Hopefully, some of these suggestions can be helpful in combatting anxiety when you travel. With some preparation ahead of time and thoughtful planning, you may find that you’re on your way to experiencing a world full of adventure!