Anxiety stems from the unknown. We worry when we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. While traveling, we are constantly bombarded with unknown people, places, and scenarios. We are pushed out of our comfort zone. That’s one of the many great things about traveling, but it can also cause travel anxiety.
You can conquer travel anxiety, though. It doesn’t have to stop you from seeing the world! Sure, we’d be a lot more comfortable staying at home and sticking to our well-run routines, but the dream of exploring far-off places still calls to us.
Don’t let travel anxiety kill your dreams.
Having traveled quite a bit, mostly solo, and enduring a panic attack or two, I’ve come to learn what works for me. I’ve learned what I need while traveling to stay calm and anxiety-free. I know my limits, but I also know when to push them. All of this has taken time to figure out, but I feel pretty comfortable traveling now, even if I still get anxious sometimes.
That’s actually the secret to conquer travel anxiety: find a way to travel that works for you. You don’t have to travel a certain way or to a certain place. Listen to yourself and find out what you need while traveling.
Here are a some of my best travel anxiety tips to help you deal with the stress of travel.
Travel Anxiety Tips
Plan as Much as you Can
Some travelers like to wing it, rolling into town without a plan or a place to stay. Even I like to wing it (sort of) now and again with my itinerary, but I always want to know where I’m sleeping before I arrive in a new city or country. The more you have planned out ahead of time, the less you have to worry about. Knowing where you’re going and where you need to be takes a lot of pressure off of you. Some of us just aren’t good at winging it, and that’s okay! Type up a detailed itinerary if it makes you feel better.
Use Maps for Everything
Google Maps, paper maps, airport maps, museum maps, city maps…always look for a map before going somewhere so you know where to go, how to get there, and what to expect. Even knowing the layout of the museum you’re going to might help relieve a bit of anxiety for the day. Get a map from your hostel/hotel front desk and they can give you directions to wherever you’re going.
Always Be Early
If, like me, you get anxious about being late or missing your flight, plan your schedule to insure you arrive early. I often find myself sitting at the airport gate an hour early, and I like it that way. You never know when you’ll be met with delays, traffic, or some crazy situation that stops you from getting somewhere on time, so just leave a little earlier than you think you really need to. This has saved me from a lot of stress over the years. I’d rather be way too early than have to rush to get somewhere on time.
Book the Right Type of Accommodation
I think it’s pretty common that people with travel anxiety are also on the introverted side. That’s not always the case, but getting overstimulated by outside factors often makes you want to hide away and be alone. It’s important to know what kind of accommodation you really need to relax and unwind from a full day of travel and exploration.
As a budget traveler, I generally stay in hostel dorm rooms. However, sometimes I just need my own space, so I book a private room instead (or even a traditional hotel every once in a while). I don’t punish myself for spending a little more on these nights, because I know it will save me from travel anxiety. Give yourself the space you need to be comfortable.
If you try to pack too much into your trip, don’t be surprised if you become overwhelmed and stressed out. Rushing around from place to place and trying to do as much as possible in one trip will quickly lead to burn out. Slow it down, and try to do less while experiencing everything more deeply. Checking off a bunch of cities/countries in a short period of time is not worth the anxiety that comes with it. I often spend a full week in one city before moving on to a new place.
Take Some “Me Time”
Whether you’re traveling alone or with others, carve out a little bit of “me time” during your day. Grab a coffee, read a book, take a walk, get a massage…whatever you can do to relax and spend some time on your own. Once again, being overstimulated is the source of anxiety, so find a way to take a break. Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you have to be doing something new and exciting every second of the day.
Join a Tour Instead of Planning Your Own
Maybe planning the logistics of your trip is the cause of your travel anxiety. In that case, just a join a tour! Instead of planning out your own trip, join one that’s already been created. That way you don’t have to worry about where to go, how to get there, or when. Someone else is in charge of all that and you just have to do what you’re told. This is a more comfortable way for some people to travel, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
You Can’t Control Everything
Honestly, this is the most important travel anxiety tip I can give you, so take note.
Something that has helped me with anxiety in general has been accepting the fact that I can’t control everything. In fact, I can’t control MOST things. This is the exact thing that causes travel anxiety for many people, but embracing it is what got rid of my anxiety. Why spend time worrying about something you have no control over?
This is easier said than done, but remind yourself of this fact when you start to feel anxious about things you can’t control. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, and repeat: “I cannot control this. I will not worry”. Or you know, something along those lines. I’m certainly no meditation guru, but repeating little things like this gives you time to breathe and instill a new thought process.
Remembering this is especially helpful to me when flying.
Quick Tips to Conquer Travel Anxiety
Still looking for more tips to conquer travel anxiety? Below, I’ve listed some quick tips that apply to specific travel anxieties. Hopefully these will help you out with whatever part of travel is giving YOU anxiety.
What are you anxious about?
- Planning your trip: Let someone else plan it! Join a tour or hire a travel agent.
- Being Alone/Lonely: Travel with a friend, join a tour group, or stay in a hostel.
- Being Around People/Big Crowds: Try traveling solo, travel in the off-season, or go to a less popular destination
- Getting Lost/Not Knowing Where to Go: Use maps for everything, download Google maps for offline use, plan your route ahead of time
- Eating Alone: Stay somewhere with a kitchen (hostel or AirBnB), or eat in more casual restaurants
- Missing Out (FOMO): You can’t do or see everything—sorry! Take solace in the fact that there’s always something to see next time
- Can’t Speak the Language: Learn basic words & phrases before you go (use an app like DuoLingo), use Google Translate to read menus & signs
- Missing Your Flight/Bus/etc.: Set up reminders for hours leading up to your flights, leave early, arrive early
- Getting Mugged/Crime: Don’t bring anything too valuable, keep your possessions locked up, don’t walk around alone (especially at night), listen to locals about safety warnings
These are the main things I do to help conquer travel anxiety. Most importantly, the more you travel, the more you will learn to combat your travel anxiety. That’s not to say that it will magically go away, but if you learn to travel in a way that works for you, there won’t be any room for your anxieties to pop up. I hope these tips can help you travel more and travel better!
What are your best travel anxiety tips?