Travel Anxiety

For a few weeks before we travel, I always have anxiety.   As the date of departure approaches, the anxiety increases, and only begins to lessen once we have arrived at the airport and are seated waiting to board the plane.  It never completely goes away until we return home.

When our kids were little, the anxiety was increased by having to organize all of the things that were critical to their everyday lives and making sure that every single “i” was dotted and “t” was crossed taking into account all the possible issues that could arise for the kids and their caretaker when we were away.  And of course, I worried while we were away about how everything was being handled in our absence. Now that our children are all grown with kids of their own, my worries are more simple (simple is relative, right?), and centered around the unknowns of the trip itself.  Being on time for planes, trains, or buses is constantly anxiety producing. The prospect of getting lost, having the right clothing, choosing restaurants that will please both my husband and me, planning each day’s activities, language barriers, and so many other unknowns have also become problems for me.  This anxiety has never prevented me from traveling, but it has made travel more difficult for me.  I tend to try to do my homework and have enough information at hand that if something happens, I will know how to handle it.  Below is a list of hints that I have accumulated over the years and that I find helpful in getting me to the boarding gate and through the trip with less anxiety.  I am happy to share them with you.

  1. I take deep breaths.  When I find that I am feeling anxious at the thought of the unknowns of travel and getting ready for the trip, I breathe slowly and deeply, concentrating on the tasks at hand.
  2. I make a list of the tasks that need doing.  I cross off each task as it is accomplished (I love that part).  I try to enjoy the packing, buying needed clothing, finding someone to care for our plants and pick up the mail, etc.  I like to read about the place we will be visiting, which helps me plan for some of the unknowns. 
  3. I like to listen to music because it is soothing and helps with the anxiety.
  4. I try to remind myself why we are going on this trip, and try to imagine the trip without feeling anxiety and noticing how good that feels (I know this can be easier said than done).  
  5. I like to think about how I will feel after we return, and what the experience will add to my life. The idea here is to examine all the positives that will result from taking this trip.
  6. I plan a detailed calendar of events for the first few days.  What, where, when for our activities, even including getting from the airport to our hotel, and then how we will be getting to each of our activities. Sometimes I can ease up on the prescheduling after a few days have been organized, but sometimes I like to plan the whole trip. 
  7. I like to make a list of “what ifs,” and then make a list of solutions for the “what ifs” along with local phone numbers. 
  8. I always carry a business card in my pocket with the name, address, and phone number of the hotel in which we are staying.
  9. I don’t rely on additional medication in order to travel, but anyone who needs extra help should reach out to a doctor and work this out.
  10. I always keep in the back of my mind that I can always return home if, for unanticipated reasons, the anxiety gets to be too overwhelming.

Traveling is an incredibly exciting way to enrich our lives.  As anxious as I get before and during a trip, I would not give up the opportunity to travel.  These above hints have been of help to me.


National Alliance On Mental Illness

National Institute on Mental Health

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