5 Top Tips for Dealing with Travel Anxiety

Do you find yourself getting anxious in the lead up to travelling? Getting a little apprehensive before traveling or going on a trip is usually pretty normal, there’s often a lot to remember when packing and you’ve got to be on time to the airport or train station. But if your anxiety is sapping the fun out of going away and making it hard to focus on anything else, then your travel anxiety is probably a lot harder to overcome than a good old-fashioned checklist.

Hodophobia is the medical term for an extreme fear of travelling. This could be fear of anything from the stress of planning a journey, worrying about forgetting something important, travelling in enclosed places, meeting new people, or all of the above! Raise your hand if you love that feeling of heat when you step out of an airport in a hot country!  Travel anxiety can suck all the joy of going away and prevent people from experiencing the excitement of going somewhere new and enjoying all the countries, cultures, and cuisine the world has to offer.

If you struggle with travel anxiety, here are a few of Morale’s top tips for managing it and making travelling fun again! But first, let’s understand where travel anxiety can come from. Before we tackle the symptoms we need to understand its causes and triggers.

What causes travel anxiety?

There are a lot of things that can cause travel anxiety. An individual may have had a negative experience travelling in the past which has resulted in some lasting trauma that triggers an anxiety response. There are a lot of moving parts involved with travelling, and any one or all of them can elicit anxiety responses. Travel anxiety isn’t solely reserved for a fear of flying, or driving, for example, being in airports or train stations can trigger a fear of crowds, or going to foreign countries with other languages and new cuisine can trigger a fear of the unknown.

For those who haven’t had a negative experience, travelling can exacerbate any pre-existing anxiety conditions. With the stress often involved with packing, timekeeping, and wayfinding, it’s understandable that your anxiety might be triggered. Following a Health Survey of England, it was concluded that over 25% of people in the UK are suffering from one or more mental health conditions. That’s a lot of people who will be struggling with anxiety around travelling!

Then we have the ultimate catch-22, the people who get anxious about anxiety whilst travelling. Worrying about having a panic attack or getting anxious whilst travelling or in an enclosed or unknown place is often enough of a trigger on its own.

Travel anxiety symptoms to look out for

If you’ve experienced any kind of anxiety in the past, the symptoms of travel anxiety will be pretty easy to spot. Like other anxiety conditions, or generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), the response to stressful and triggering situations will elicit a fight or flight response in the body.

In the past, anxiety was a survival mechanism designed to keep humans alive. The symptoms were supposed to ready to body to either face the danger or run from it. For example, an increased heart rate was actually a survival instinct designed to bring more oxygen to major muscles and get them ready to start moving. Today, when we experience an anxiety response, it’s because our bodies believe we’re about to face something that causes us stress or harm, in this case, that’s travelling.

Travel anxiety symptoms

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Muscle tension
  • Shaking
  • Dizziness
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Trouble sleeping in the lead up to travelling
  • Panic attack

When you experience these symptoms, your body has perceived certain connotations of travelling as a threat and is preparing you to tackle it head-on. Unfortunately, whilst that may have been very effective in the past, in today’s day it’s more of a hinderance than a helping hand.

5 top tips for dealing with travel anxiety

The world is a wonderful place, whether you’re simply travelling to another county or another country, travel anxiety shouldn’t be allowed to prevent you from experiencing everything there is on offer. Whether it’s travel for pleasure or work, anxiety can really put a hamper on the experience and in worst-case scenarios, prevent you from going altogether.

  1. Find out what triggers your travel anxiety

There are a lot of different aspects to travelling that can lead to anxiety, or simply the experience as a whole. Working out which elements are causing you to come out in cold sweats is the first step to establishing some coping mechanisms.

Most anxiety responses originate from a lack of control. For example, if you are fearful of flying, there is little you can do, short of jumping in the cockpit and giving the (trained and very capable) pilot some unsolicited advice, to control the turbulence or keep the bird in the air.

If you’re worried about a language barrier preventing you from communicating, large crowds at airports or train stations, or a fear of flying, it’s important to try to figure out which particular elements of travel it is that causes you anxiety.

  • Plan ahead

Travelling is stressful. Whether you’re gone for just a few days or a whole month, there’s a lot to organise and get ready before you depart. To minimise the anxiety, try to plan in advance for everything within your control. Create checklists for packing and make sure you’ve organised any travel insurance well in advance. Book a taxi to the station or airport a day or two in advance so you aren’t scrambling in the morning. There are lots of ways to make travelling a little easier on yourself and bring a little more control into the equation. You can’t control everything but making sure you’re prepared on what you can control will help to alleviate some of the anxiety around travelling.

  • Bring plenty of distractions

What’s your favourite activity to reduce anxiety when you’re at home? Bring it with you! Remembering to pack your favourite book, download your favourite movies, or finding a relaxing audiobook to listen to can do wonders to reduce your anxiety and take your mind off of travelling. Following step 2, make sure you’re prepared by downloading your movies or tv shows ahead of travelling so you’re not trying to do it whilst you’re queuing at the gate!

  • Travel with company

Travelling alongside other people can help to reduce the stress and pressure of travelling. With two or more people, you’re much less likely to forget something crucial, and there will always be someone there to remind you or keep you focused. By travelling with others, you can divvy up the responsibilities rather than having to shoulder it all yourself. Worried about losing the passports? Give them to someone else for safekeeping and take the pressure off yourself. Travelling is always more fun when you have company and someone to keep your mind off what is going on around you.

  • Practice relaxation techniques

There are tonnes of relaxation techniques you can put into practice when travelling to help keep yourself grounded and reduce your anxiety. By identifying which parts of travelling cause you the most stress in tip 1, you can start practicing the relaxation techniques that work best for you. When you start to notice your heart rate increasing or you’ve got butterflies building in your stomach, focus on your breathing and practice whatever technique you have found that works best. This gives your brain the opportunity to reassess the situation and conclude that travelling, in fact, is not a threat that needs an immediate attack. If you find your anxiety spiralling out of control, the 3-3-3 rule for anxiety is a great way to centre yourself and refocus your mind and body.

Or why not download the Morale app? By downloading our app, you can send and receive daily affirmations to boost your confidence and self esteem. By getting everyone involved you can create a support network designed to keep your mental health in check and your anxiety at bay, perfect for your upcoming travels! Simply download the app from Google Play or Apple’s App Store today.

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Got some feedback or want to know more about the science behind what we do? Just send us an email to contact@moraleapp.co and we’ll be in touch.