Take that Trip: How to manage anxiety when travelling

tired man lying on bed with suitcases next to him

For most people, the idea of going on a holiday/vacation brings feelings of joy and excitement! Whether it’s a short city break visiting the tourist hotspots, a long-haul trip to a tropical destination or a skiing getaway, holidays can provide the perfect break from the stress and monotony of everyday life.

Yet for many, the idea of going away evokes feelings of dread, fear and anxiety for many reasons – and this is before getting to the airport! But why do we feel this way? In this blog, we look at what travel anxiety really is, and how to manage it effectively so that that dream holiday can become a reality.

What are the symptoms of travel anxiety?

The symptoms of travel anxiety are similar to that of other anxiety disorders. Some symptoms you may experience if you get travel anxiety are:

    • Rapid heart rate/shortness of breath
    • Feeling faint/dizzy
    • Nausea
    • Restlessness and agitation
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Inability to concentrate or focus

The existence of these symptoms and their severity are dependent from person to person. If symptoms are severe, this can result in panic attacks which cause further distress.

tired man lying on bed with suitcases next to him
tired man lying on bed with suitcases next to him

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What causes anxiety when travelling?

Feelings of travel anxiety can be caused by a number of reasons. Below we highlight the top 4 reasons why this can occur.

1. Unfamiliar territory

A key cause of travel anxiety is the fear of travelling to a new, unfamiliar place. This fear of the unknown can sometimes cause stress, in particular with aspects such as new cuisines, accommodation, cultures or animals. The severity of this can depend on the person and is better known as agoraphobia.

2. Holiday planning

We can all agree that planning a holiday can be a stressful job. For some people, this stage of the holiday can be overwhelming, with decisions that may be easy for others, being a trigger for those with travel anxiety. Feelings of pressure on picking the ‘correct’ place or organising a travel itinerary can be made worse when we become overloaded with the reams of information available online!

3. Negative experiences or exposure

Another cause of anxiety when travelling is a poor or unhappy experience that may have previously occurred. This may have caused trauma resulting in negative emotions as an automatic response to travelling. In some cases, even just exposure to possibilities can result in anxiety when travelling. For example, reading about a plane crash on the news, potential tropical diseases or hearing about someone else’s bad experience can cause anxiety to rise.

4. Fear of flying

Fear of flying (also known as aerophobia) is a common phobia impacting over 25 million people in the USA alone. This can manifest during many points throughout a flight and cause irrational thoughts. Often fears are surrounding take off and landing, turbulence, events like fires within the airplane, claustrophobia or fear of crashing.

lady looking outside of airplane window while flying

How can I manage my anxiety when travelling?

1. Understand your triggers

Anxiety triggers are events that cause anxiety symptoms to appear. For example, thinking about the plane landing or taking off may be what initiates these negative feelings. Once you can pinpoint what it is that triggers your anxiety when travelling, it is easier to rationalise them and plan for them in advance.

2. Gain some perspective

It’s easy when we feel anxious to have a stubborn thought towards our trigger. For example, it may be difficult to persuade yourself that the plane won’t crash, despite knowing that air travel is one of the safest methods of transport. Try and spend some time writing down these thoughts and identifying what is true and what is conjured in your head. Our Reframing Negative Thoughts notepads may be able to help!

3. Plan ahead

After any triggers have been identified, be sure to plan ahead for those scenarios. Don’t like the planning phase? Perhaps pass that over to your travel buddy or a travel agent. If you’re worried about catching a sudden illness, why not research medical facilities in the area.

Whatever you are worried about, by having a battle plan for each event you’ll be able to relax more knowing you have a suitable solution.

4. Distract yourself

Whether your vice is music, a good book or magazine, be sure to bring these along with you to keep you distracted. Not only will time go quicker, but your mind will be too distracted to focus on the anxious thoughts in your head while travelling!

5. Think about what you want from the holiday

Another tip before you travel is to focus on what it is you want to gain from the holiday. It may be that you are looking forward to trying new foods or visiting the sights. Whatever it is you’re looking forward to, write it down! This will give you something to look back on whenever you feel your travel anxiety creeping in and reassure you of the purpose of the trip.

Going on a vacation should be a thing to look forward to, so try these tips to overcome any travel anxiety you have!

Let us know what helps you in the comments below and bon voyage!

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