Most travelers are excited to jump on a plane and head somewhere new, but that isn’t the case for everyone. Before I started traveling more regularly, I would often wake up with a sense of dread before a flight and regret my decision to make a journey. A lot of this had to do with the fact that I would be leaving for long stretches at a time—sometimes up to six months. But another had to do with the fact that I was experiencing the unknown.
Pre-travel anxiety isn’t talked about much because most people automatically assume that you’re going to enjoy every aspect of your adventure. However, there can be that initial excitement of booking a ticket and hotel rooms, only to question whether you really want to leave the safety of your own environment.
Some fellow travelers might not have pre-travel anxiety, but as someone who has traveled the world and taken hundreds of flights, I still get anxiety about traveling somewhere new and leaving behind my life at home.
What are some symptoms of pre-travel anxiety?
Pre-travel anxiety can be a little bit different for everyone. It can manifest itself in ways that might vary from one person to another. For me, I start thinking about the journey itself and the things that could go wrong—I feel like I don’t have any control. For others, some symptoms might include:
- Upset stomach
- Panicked thoughts/worrying
- Tightness in chest/labored breathing
Panic attacks are also something that often comes along with pre-travel anxiety. It’s a good idea to try and breathe deeply. Think about why you chose to book this trip to begin with—you wanted to go away, remember?
Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful when I’m headed out on a new adventure and I’m experiencing some anxiety about going.
1. Do your research
Having a basic idea of what your chosen destination is like can go a long way toward easing your mind. I usually spend some time on travel blogs researching the main facts of where I’m going: what type of food is available, exchange rates, and any cultural differences I should keep in mind. There’s a whole host of free information available, and it can be nice to have recommendations from those who have already been to the country you’re going to.
2. But don’t do too much
On the other hand, I’ve gone overboard sometimes researching how to make the “perfect” trip. There’s no such thing, and you can give yourself a lot of anxiety by trying to recreate the ideal vision you had in your head. The best thing to do is know the basics enough so you can get around, but not enough to keep you locked into a particular schedule—you can stress yourself out trying to meet those expectations!
3. Have a clear emergency plan
If you’re worried about what could happen if there’s an emergency, then it can help to put together a list of addresses, phone numbers, and other information that can be useful if something goes wrong. This might include the location of your country’s consulate, the name of your hotel, and the number to call if your credit card is stolen. Knowing you have this info available can ease your mind a bit if you’re having pre-travel anxiety about any problems you might encounter on your journey.
Here’s some information you might want to have on hand:
- Hotel name, number, and address
- Consulate number and address
- Your home doctor’s telephone number
- Health insurance information
- Travel insurance information
- Emergency contact phone number and email
4. Have a way to contact home
It’s always a good idea to give someone your itinerary in case something going awry. When I was younger, I often avoided getting a phone plan because of the cost. However, now when I go abroad I tend to get one so I can talk to my family while abroad. Not only does to make it simpler to get a hold of them if I’m experiencing some difficulties and I need some help, but I have an easier time getting around with a GPS and local phone number—which can definitely relieve some anxiety!
5. Prepare in advance
I like to put together a checklist of what I need to do before I leave for a trip. This way I know I’m not missing anything important, like calling my bank and letting them know I’m going to be out of the country. It also gives me time to pick up any last-minute items that I might need before my trip. Packing a few days before your trip and putting together a comprehensive list can help to keep you focused.
6. Travel with a friend…at least at first
I had never been so nervous as the night right before I left to study abroad in Venice. I was a mess. What saved me was the fact that I knew I wouldn’t be alone—there was another person on the program flying with me and I would be with others during the course of the semester. While I have loved traveling solo afterward, I never would have wanted to without first having some companions with me.
7. Book a tour
If the planning is part of what is giving you anxiety, then booking a tour that handles the major details can allow you to relax and enjoy your trip more. I recently journeyed to China with a tour group because I felt so out of my element getting around in a country where very few people speak a similar language. Not only did a tour allow me to maximize my time there, but I avoided the part of travel that still gives me the most anxiety—arranging pickup from the airport.
8. Have a plan for your flight
Flight anxiety is a problem that many travelers face no matter how many times they have been on a plane. After talking to some friends, I’ve received some mixed advice on how to deal with it. This guide has some great tips to help you make it through your time in the air. Here are some other things you might want to do to distract you up in the air:
- Have plenty of media available to distract you
- Dress loosely so you feel as comfortable as possible
- Avoid alcohol
- Sleep if you can—it’s the best way to pass the time
9. Use your anxiety for good
Along with feelings of anxiety, you’re probably experiencing some excitement, as well. I have a hard time telling the difference between these two emotions sometimes since they are often conflated. It can take some introspection, but beating your anxiety can give you a lot of confidence for future trips. The more you do it, the better you will be able to handle pre-travel anxiety.
Do you have any tips that have helped you with your pre-travel anxiety?