The excitement of travel is second to none, but it can also be stressful for even the savviest, most experienced travelers. From the planning stages of a trip—worrying whether you’ve packed everything—to getting on the plane and wondering if it’s going to fall out the sky, travel anxiety can leave knots in your stomach.
The thought of heading into the great unknown—and exploring new places, cultures, and cuisines—makes some people want to pack it all in and hit the road. For others, the thought of leaving home is frightening.
Anxiety about travel is common. Studies show that more than 18 percent of adults in the United States are affected by anxiety disorders each year. Although it is not an officially diagnosed mental health condition, it can be linked to other anxiety disorders and lead to panic attacks if not kept in check.
Unfortunately, lots of people lose out on the joys of traveling due to their anxieties and fears, which can often be overcome with a few tricks.
General anxiety affects everyone differently and can have many different causes. With symptoms ranging from mild to severe, travel anxiety can arise from thinking about an upcoming trip in negative ways or an inordinate fear of flying.
Symptoms associated with anxiety about traveling include:
a rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, or chest pain
agitation and restlessness
lack of concentration or trouble focusing
nausea and diarrhea
trouble sleeping or insomnia
What Causes Travel Anxiety?
Travel anxiety can stem from a variety of experiences and research shows that it’s a very common and complex issue. Most commonly, travel anxiety is caused by the fear of flying, feelings of doubt about leaving home or family, or even the idea of visiting a strange and exotic new place.
Biological risk factors in many people may also cause an anxiety disorder. Researchers from the University of Freiburg in Germany found that anxiety genetically develops in young adults and continues into old age. Mental health issues and other anxiety disorders may also cause it.
The best way to overcome anxiety about travel is to pinpoint the problem and try to find a solution.
What Helps with Travel Anxiety?
If you suffer from pre-travel stress, several things may help you overcome your fears and worries. You might find that slow breathing or some form of meditation works for you. Taking books to read or items to distract you can especially help while flying. Traveling with friends—instead of going it alone—could drastically improve your anxiety, too.
If your traveling anxiety is severe, you might want to consider therapy or medication to calm your nerves.
Ultimately, it’s best to first find the trigger of your anxiety. This could be anything like whether you have packed everything, are nervous about traveling alone, or are scared of flying. Once you’ve determined your trigger, you can then try to find a solution to ease your fears.
What Can You Take for Travel Anxiety?
There are several anti-anxiety medications on the market that might help to reduce panic symptoms. Benzodiazepines are generally used to treat anxiety disorders and your doctor might prescribe Ativan (lorazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam), or Xanax (alprazolam) to help ease your angst.
Antidepressants and some serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are prescribed for long-term anxiety treatment. It is important to remember to always consult a doctor before taking any medications as they could have side effects.
If you prefer to avoid pharmaceuticals, there are several natural products you can try for relieving anxiety. One option is CBD (cannabidiol) which can drastically help to calm you down before traveling. Research shows that CBD can play a key role in reducing anxiety and stress, as well as increasing serotonin, the neurotransmitter in your brain that controls behavior and moods. CBD comes in a range of forms from oils and capsules to chewable gummies.
Alternatively, chamomile is a flowering herb that is known to reduce anxiety and is usually taken as a tea. Lavender is another aromatic herb that helps to alleviate stress. Sip a cup of lavender tea before you travel or rub some essential oils into your wrists and temples to help calm you down.
Tips to Help You Overcome Travel Anxiety
Traveling with anxiety can be debilitating and can ruin what should otherwise be a happy and fun experience. The last thing you want is to spoil your trip by stressing all the time or having a panic attack.
There are a variety of things you can try to help ease any doubts you have about traveling or fears you have of flying.
Here are some tips and travel tricks that might help you control your jitters.
1. Make a List of All the Positives
Positive thinking works wonders for the mind and soul. Before your trip, make a list of all the positive things about your upcoming adventure. They can be anything from watching the latest movies on the plane and luxuriating in a hot bath when you arrive to trying new foods when you are there.
Keep this list with you throughout your journey and read it when you begin to feel anxious.
2. Practice Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, and focusing on an object that relaxes you can go a long way to calming those nerves. Begin some yoga classes a few weeks before your trip so you can learn all the techniques used to achieve optimum relaxation. You can even do some yoga each morning while you are traveling to keep fit and relaxed.
Learn a few deep breathing techniques and how to take long, slow, deep breaths when disquiet begins to set in. Deep breathing is a great way to slow a racing heart, settle restlessness, and help to focus on calming thoughts.
3. Do Some Meditation
Meditation is another excellent way to relax before a long trip.
Meditation can be practiced in many ways—you don’t necessarily have to sit cross-legged in the middle of the airport with your eyes closed and hum. You can simply close your eyes and focus on your breath. Look at an object that makes you feel at ease and concentrate on the present moment.
You can also use meditation apps like The Mindfulness App, Calm, and Headspace to help guide you through meditation. I use Calm every single morning, whether I’m traveling or not!
4. Try CBD
Studies show that CBD oil has calming properties and helps relieve anxiousness and fear. There is a wide variety of CBD oils and products on the market and it’s a good idea to test it before you travel. I found Stigma Hemp to be an effective product with a range of delivery methods available, from organic CBD oil and gel capsules to tasty, chewable CBD gummies.
Please note that, while you are allowed to travel with CBD oil and products in the United States, it’s best to check with the relevant authorities in the destination you are traveling to that traveling with CBD is allowed.
I reached out to Stigma Hemp to provide 20% off your entire order. Just use the code TRAVELFREAK at checkout and the discount will be automatically applied.
5. Have an Organized Plan
Having a well-organized plan in place for your trip can help alleviate stress. Make a list of the places where you are going to stay, appointments you might have, things you would like to see, and places you want to visit.
Print out all your paperwork such as accommodation bookings and copies of your passport, and keep them together in a folder. If you are very anxious about traveling, create a daily schedule listing your planned activities for each day of the trip.
6. Always Have a Plan B
As with anything in life, things could change, so if your anxiety stems from the “what if” aspect of traveling, it’s a good idea to have a ‘plan B’ should they happen. These could include what to do if you run out of money, get lost in a foreign place, or fall ill on the trip.
Make a list of things that might not go according to plan and possible solutions to the problems. Check that your travel insurance is up to date and write down any emergency numbers that might be helpful. This will help set your mind at ease and allow you to enjoy your trip.
7. Get Organized at Home Before You Go
The thought of leaving home, children, or pets can cause travel anxiety for some people, so make sure you organize all that you need to before you go so you can travel without worrying.
Make a list of things that need to be done before you leave and tick them off as they are completed. Organizing a house/pet/babysitter can take some time, so be sure to begin setting this all up well in advance of your trip.
Keep this list with you and when you begin worrying about it, read it to offer some peace of mind.
8. Travel with Friends
If you are worried about traveling alone, take a friend to share your adventure. Having someone you know with you will help you to feel more at ease.
If you can’t find a travel buddy, join one of the many travel communities and groups online in which other people are also looking for a travel mate and make a new friend! Staying in hostels is another great way to make friends while on the road.
9. Stock Up on Distractions
Everyone has their favorite way of relaxing whether it’s reading a book or magazine, doing a crossword, listening to music with your noise-cancelling headphones, or playing a video game. If you have something you enjoy doing at home that relaxes you, it’s a good idea to take it with you on your trip if you can.
Stock up on great books and magazines to read, download some movies onto your tablet, or write a story. Research shows that creative writing can help manage stress, so start that book you’ve always wanted to write! Enjoyable distractions will give you something positive to focus on and help to keep negative thoughts at bay.
10. Workout Before You Travel
Exercising before you leave on your trip will leave you feeling positive, happy, and relaxed. Any form of exercise, whether its a gentle walk or a hard workout, releases endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in the body.
Getting the blood and endorphins flowing in your body will help to keep anxiety in check. A study done in 2016 showed that exercise can benefit people with anxiety, so a good workout before a long-haul flight might help you to sleep through.
11. Anxiety Therapy
If you suffer from a severe anxiety disorder, it might be a good idea to consult a mental health professional to have a chat about your worries.
You could also have a few sessions with a therapist to help you overcome your greatest fears before you travel. Therapeutic sessions may help you to identify the triggers that set your anxiety off or bring on a panic attack and offer ways to overcome them.
12. Consider Medication
If you have tried everything from meditation to yoga and nothing works, you might consider taking medication to alleviate your anxiety or fear of flying before a trip.
A doctor will usually prescribe benzodiazepines for short-term anxiety, while antidepressants and some serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are found to be more effective for long-term anxiety treatment.
Medication should be your last resort as some drugs have undesirable side effects that could affect you while traveling.
Traveling should be exciting, exhilarating, and fun—the benefits of traveling far outweigh the bad. Whether it’s a short trip to a new city for business or a year-long, round-the-world adventure, the last thing you want is for your journey to be ruined by feelings of anxiety and nerves.
Nip those worries in the bud with some of these great remedies and make your next trip a life-changing, soul-altering experience and one that leaves lasting, happy memories.