9 Tips for Managing and Preparing for Travel Anxiety

Facts: Travel anxiety is not a medical condition on its own. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a real experience.

Noticing red flags is your brain’s way of protecting you from outside dangers. Anxiety occurs when the protect, fight or flight part of your brain goes into overdrive.

Anxiety usually involves a combination of mental and physical reactions to:

  • fear (of flying, for example)
  • stress (raise your hand if you had to run to catch a train/plane/bus 🙋)
  • the unknown (for example, foreign languages ​​or unknown cities)

About 31% of Americans live with a true anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, but everyone’s experience and triggers are different. Travel anxiety is simply anxiety triggered by traveling or thinking about travel.

Symptoms associated with holiday anxiety include:

If your fears are keeping you home while your family vacations abroad or your team gathers for a distant meeting, travel anxiety can be keeping you from being healthier and happier.

Try these tips to help ease anxiety before or during your next trip. Talking with a therapist can also help you discover coping mechanisms specific to your fears and situation.

1. Identify your triggers

If you’ve lived with anxiety, you probably already have some idea of ​​the experiences and situations that trigger your symptoms.

Here are some travel-specific triggers:

  • afraid to fly
  • worry about how to pay for the trip
  • worry about getting lost
  • stress of planning all the details of the trip

But some general stress triggers could exacerbate travel anxiety:

Sometimes a third party can help you identify your triggers. Consider asking your partner, friend, or therapist what they noticed when and why your travel anxiety seems to be skyrocketing.

2. Make a plan

Remember how big a problem fear of the unknown is for the human brain? It is impossible to create an airtight plan for every second of vacation. But you *can* sketch out a plan for your most dreaded scenarios.

  • “What if I get lost? » Bring an extra phone charger, of course, but also take a guidebook and a paper map of your destination. Also write down the address and phone number of your hotel(s). Some travelers even use Google Street View to find landmarks around their hotel before the trip even begins.
  • “What if I get sick away from home?” First of all, it’s always a good idea to purchase travel health insurance before a trip. But also think beyond that. Could you make a list of all your medications in case you need a pharmacy? Could you keep a note about your medical conditions with you at all times?
  • “What if I lose all my money? » There are anti-theft bags, pockets and even scarves to thwart budding pickpockets. But you can also consider an emergency credit card and the contact details of someone who could wire you money in a heartbeat.
  • “What if the airline loses my luggage? » This situation is a real mess. But is it the end of the world? You can pack essential items in your carry-on and ensure you have cash to buy extra clothes and toiletries if needed.

Rather than giving in to a general “what if” fear, identify your top three fears. Then plan those scenarios.

3. Visualize the destination with virtual reality

Yes, we’re going high tech here. But a study from 2007 (Rihanna’s “umbrella” era!) found that people with travel anxiety reported significant relief after taking a virtual tour through their hotel website.

A 2013 study reported the same results when anxious travelers watched video clips of their destinations.

4. Take a deep breath

Research shows that meditation and breathing exercises can help ease anxiety. When you focus on your breath, you feel more grounded. You also turn away from the continuous repetition of worst-case scenarios.

The best part? You can practice breathing techniques before the trip, on the plane or even while walking in a new city for you.

5. Arm yourself with distractions

Does a silly game or a page-turner pass the time? Take it in the car, train, plane or bus. Distractions can help you focus on something enjoyable rather than simmering in your anxiety.

Some ideas :

  • a new book by your favorite author
  • the new album of your favorite musical artist
  • mobile game apps (Wordle fans, unite!)
  • crossword
  • word searches
  • Sudoku
  • meditation apps

6. Buddy

If your heart is racing at the thought of taking a trip alone, why not invite someone? A friend who rolls or dies will not only make things more fun, but it might also push you (gently!) to try new things during the trip.

7. Anticipate the positives

Research shows that looking for positive future events illuminates the part of the brain associated with well-being.

So if you find yourself slipping into negative travel predictions, get out a piece of paper and a pen. Now make a list of all the exciting, fun or relaxing things that might happen during the trip. What are you looking forward to doing? What monuments do you hope to photograph? Who will you be able to see and cuddle on the other side of your journey?

Pro tip: Keep this list. Pull it out and read it whenever you feel a new wave of travel anxiety brewing.

8. Make sure everything is in order at home

Some travel anxieties center around all the things that could go wrong at home while you’re away. So, just as you planned for the worst-case scenarios of your trip, plan for potential mishaps on the home front.

A few suggestions:

  • Choose someone who can check your house or apartment if necessary.
  • Ask a trusted friend to shower your pets (or plants!) with TLC.
  • Share your route with a friend or family member. Make sure they know how to get in touch with you while you’re away.

Sometimes just preparing for an absence will help you feel calmer and in control. You, 1. Travel anxiety, 0.

9. Consider taking medication

If planning and distractions don’t help, consider talking to your doctor about anti-anxiety medication. Just note that it takes time to find the right drug and the right dosage.

Antidepressants may be helpful for general anxiety disorder (GAD) or other chronic anxiety disorders, but can take around 4-6 weeks to be truly beneficial. Even then, people may need to adjust dosages to achieve the right level.

Bezodiazepines can be a more immediate choice to help you through a theft. But, it is recommended to test this before a trip to see how it makes you feel.

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