Travel anxiety is not uncommon, but there are effective ways to make travel less stressful both before and during your trip.
Most people love to travel, but it can easily trigger anxiety.
If you dream of traveling the world but are terrified of actually doing it, you may have travel anxiety.
But that does not mean you have to deprive yourself of the joys of travel.
Because, fortunately, there are ways to make the process of travel and travel planning less stressful, reducing your trip anxiety.
What Is Travel Anxiety?
Travel anxiety is a chronic worry or anxiousness that occurs when you step out of your comfort zone to go somewhere beyond your home turf.
It’s not a recognized anxiety disorder, but can be a symptom of other anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder or agoraphobia. (1)
Severe travel anxiety is called hodophobia, the irrational and intense fear of travel. (2)
Some people are anxious only en route, while others feel anxiety the entire time away from home.
Other people have pre-travel anxiety and are most anxious when getting ready to travel, but are fine once they are on the road.
Typical symptoms of travel anxiety include butterflies in your stomach, elevated heart rate, tight muscles, feeling unsafe, and a preoccupation with worrying thoughts.
Common Causes of Travel Anxiety
There is no one specific cause of travel anxiety.
Those with persistent anxiety and panic attacks are more prone to it, but even people who are relaxed in their normal daily lives can suffer from anxiety when they travel.
Here are some of the most common causes of travel anxiety.
Fear of Flying
There are many reasons you may fear flying — lack of control, turbulence, crowds, fear of germs, or fear of being stuck in an enclosed space.
You may worry that you’ll have a panic attack or suffer from motion sickness on the plane.
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You may dread the stress of going through security.
And let’s face it, the “friendly skies” have not lived up to that reputation lately. (3)
Nowadays, airlines’ poor treatment of passengers makes the news disturbingly often.
Previous Bad Travel Experiences
Your trip anxiety may be due to a previous bad travel experience.
If you travel enough, you’re bound to have a vacation horror story or two.
Or, even if you don’t, you almost certainly have heard other people’s stories that could fuel your fear of travel.
An anxious mind doesn’t need much to start a vicious cycle of worry and anxiety.
Trip Planning Worries
Some people can spontaneously take a trip with little planning, but, if you have anxiety, you probably aren’t one of them.
There’s a lot to be done to get ready for a trip — making flight, car, and accommodation arrangements, deciding what to pack, getting someone to watch your dog or water your plants.
The details seem endless.
You may wake up in the night in a cold sweat wondering “What did I forget?”.
You may worry about what’s going to happen while you’re gone.
Will the kids do their homework? Will the dog survive a week in a kennel? Will I have a job when I get back?
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Traveling can also be expensive.
You may worry that your trip is busting your budget or that you’ll run out of money while you’re away from home.
Even returning home can be stressful.
The reality of getting back to routine life and the mountain of tasks and bills awaiting you can make you anxious.
Lack of Familiarity
Waking up in a different place to a day filled with different food, different people, and maybe a different language can all be unsettling.
People prone to anxiety often associate home and a regular routine with familiarity and safety.
Being away from home can therefore be very stressful.
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5 Top Tips to Manage Travel Anxiety
There are two main ways to manage your anxiety symptoms while traveling so that you can enjoy your trip.
First, you can take proactive steps to minimize outside stressors.
And second, because there will be many factors completely outside of your control when you travel, you can learn and use appropriate coping techniques.
Tip #1 Be Prepared
You can’t expect to feel relaxed and confident about your trip if you are unprepared.
Before you take a trip, put time and effort into planning to reduce the chances of unpleasant surprises.
Create a travel checklist.
There are many lists available online to get you started.
TravelsChecklist.com offers interactive checklists that you can customize to your needs.
Create a planning schedule and stick with it — don’t wait until the last minute to get things done.
If you are flying, get familiar with the latest TSA rules and regulations so you can sail through the security checkpoint with confidence.
TSA.gov has a surprising number of excellent travel tips that will have you feeling like a seasoned traveler.
Thoroughly research your destination so you know what to expect there.
There are plenty of travel websites and print guidebooks to tell you everything you need to know before you go.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast where you’re going to know what clothes to pack.
Tip #2 Don’t Travel Alone
Avoid traveling alone if possible.
Ideally, you should travel with someone you trust, a close friend or family member.
Having trusted company along lends emotional support to help with the perceived or actual perils of travel.
You’ll likely feel safer and be less likely to panic or feel anxious.
Make sure that your travel companion is aware of your issues with travel anxiety so that they can help you cope.
Consider going on a guided tour.
On a tour, most of the essential, day-to-day details are handled for you.
You don’t have to worry about where to eat, getting lost, transportation issues, and language barriers.
And you’ll learn a lot more too!
Tip #3 Brush Up on Relaxation Techniques
One of the first things you should put on your travel checklist is to “practice relaxation techniques.”
It’s common to learn and practice anti-anxiety and stress management skills when you feel anxious or stressed, but to forget about them when you feel better.
If you haven’t learned to use any relaxation techniques, now is a good time to start.
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Try deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, or any technique that suits you.
Practice them now to get a handle on any pre-travel anxiety and have them ready when you travel.
Tip #4 Know Yourself
Before you plan your next trip, take some time to reflect on what you really enjoy doing and the type of travel that most suits you.
If you know that you get anxious lying on the beach worrying about work, take a trip that offers some action and adventure.
Physical activities such as bike riding, rafting, or hiking can keep you from ruminating about issues at home.
If you know that crowds stress you out, don’t plan a trip to Rome during the touristy summer months.
If you are terrified of flying, take a trip by car, motor coach, cruise ship, or train.
Recall your happiest vacation memories and plan a trip that is similar in the ways that matter to you.
Tip #5 Change Your Mindset
And lastly, work on changing your mindset about what it means to be anxious.
Use a technique called anxiety reappraisal to reframe your feelings of fear and anxiety as excitement. (4)
Actually, there’s not a lot of difference between the feelings of anxiety and excitement. (5)
Both have similar effects on the body.
Your breathing gets shallow and your heart beats faster while stress hormones surge.
A key difference between them is that, with anxiety, you expect things to go wrong.
With excitement, you expect something wonderful to happen.
So if you start to feel anxious about your travels, practice reminding yourself that traveling is an exciting adventure!
And remember that no trip is perfect.
Use this mindset technique: When things aren’t going your way, think about what a great story you’ll have to tell when you get home.
Travel Anxiety: The Bottom Line
Travel anxiety is not uncommon, especially among people who are anxiety-prone.
But the rewards of travel are great and mustering the courage to get out there is worth the effort.
First, plan your trip carefully to ensure that it goes smoothly; you’ll have less to worry about.
Then, learn and practice some relaxation and mindset techniques that you can draw on as needed during your travels.
About the author
Nisha Badhadia is passionate about writing and loves to share her thoughts with the world. She has written many articles on yoga, fitness, wellness, remedies, and beauty and is a regular contributor to StyleCraze.com and other websites.