There is a confession I need to make.
My name is Helen, I travel as often as I can and I suffer terribly with travel anxiety.
Yep, there you go. I’ve said it. Travelling can be difficult. Each trip has the potential to render me an anxious, irritable mess. This surprises some people, there seems to be an assumption that if you love travel, then you must travel with ease.
For me, that really isn’t so.
It hasn’t always been the case. Younger me was so relaxed about travelling it bordered on reckless. I never really gave too much thought to the what-could-happens, never worried about what was happening at home in my absence. I didn’t stress one bit about travel times, itineraries or budgets.
Nothing really bothered me. I didn’t appreciate at the time, what absolute freedom this state of mind was.
Travel Anxiety: What Does it Feel Like?
The symptoms of anxiety tend to kick in just before I’m due to travel. I’ll feel a bit off kilter; have a bit of a fight-or-flight feeling in my tummy. You know when you’re sat on a roller coaster, buckled in and committed, but waiting for the fun to begin? Yeah, like that. But relentless.
I can get a little irritable and restless too. Tense. I never sleep well the night before I travel. I’ll question why I booked up and if I even want to go. Since I’ve plucked up the courage to be a bit more open about it, I’ve discovered with some relief ...it’s not just me.
Travel anxiety, in one from or another, is actually pretty common. It’s a spectrum. So, I’ve decided to open up a bit more. Having confessed to suffering, what’s the answer? Well here are the things that, from my own personal experiences, have helped me.
It’s a cliché, but a worry shared really is a worry halved. Stewing privately whilst trying to convince yourself it’s all fine isn’t really helpful. Talk it out with someone you trust and remember that the way the anxiety makes you feel isn’t a fact.
Speaking about it diminishes it, I find.
The night before I travel, I almost always into a tailspin of doubt. Do I really want to go to ? Did I make a mistake in booking? I have to remind myself why I booked up in the first place. There must be something I want to see, a reason I feel drawn to a place.
Remembering why you hit ‘confirm’ on the trip in the first place gives you something to quiet the doubts with.
Manage the Basics.
If anxiety might trouble you anyway, don’t create fertile ground for it.
Do as much as you can ahead of time. Lay out your travel outfit.Fuel up the car, double-check documents, have devices fully charged. Bags at the door good to go. Don’t over do the caffeine, alcohol or junk food.
Keep it simple, organised and calm.
Set A Budget (and Stick To It)
Nothing will create anxiety as efficiently as over spending. Figure out what you can afford and build the trip to fit your means. It sounds basic, but it’s easy to get carried away. But its hard to embrace a trip if you know your going to be broke the day after you get home.
Take Hard Copies.
I know its 2023 and electronic is the way. But there’s something really reassuring about having hard copies of confirmations and itineraries. They’ll generally feature check in times, addresses and customer service contact details. Good to have to hand in event of delay, change of plan or emergency.
You don’t have to keep them in a designated travel documents wallet, but it does make you feel reassured and organised. Bonus points for a pretty designated travel documents wallet.
Read the Safety Instructions.
Knowledge is power.
Travel is generally very safe, the chances of anything major going wrong are tiny. But feeling like you’d know what to do if something were to happen is reassuring. So read the safety card, check out the fire escape map on the back of the hotel door. Know where the exits are. It takes seconds and is knowledge you’ll hopefully never need, but it’s reassuring to know.
Use Organised Tours & Transport
There can be an element of snobbery around this one. Some people seem to believe that to really travel you need to figure out all things local, exclusively use public transport and be forever off the beaten track. I call bull on that theory.
If its going to make life a little easier, go for the prepacked option. Use the HoHo tour. Pre book the personal transfers . Take an organised day trip , picked up from the hotel lobby. Particularly on a short break it gives you less to consider and so less to potentially worry about.
Also, you can print off a hard copy and pop it in your aforementioned special document wallet. Win.
Sometimes travelling is about seeking out the unfamiliar. But there is something lovely about creating a thread of familiarity between home and the road. Take your own pillow or pillow spray. A travel candle in a favoured scent. Unpack properly and organise things as close as you can to the way you would at home.
Try and keep to some of the routines you have at home. I always read for ten minutes before bed at home, and take vitamins first thing when I wake up. I stick to that, where ever I am. Small things, but it helps.
Look Back on Successful Trips.
If your feeling a little anxious about an upcoming trip, look back on your past ones. Chances are, most of them went without a hitch. And if you took a trip that went off plan, you adapted the course and figured it out, right? Be inspired and reassured by past success…its likely the trip about to happen is going to be just a successful, if not more so.
Do you have any experience of travel anxiety? Any tips for dealing with it? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s chat in the comments.
Note- I had idea what travel related anxiety looks like, so all the images in this post are from my travels rather than related to the post content. As well as breaking up the text its a gentle reminder to myself … travel is worth the trouble and I’d be missing so much if I didn’t do it.