Overcoming Travel Anxiety: Your Guide to Pre-Trip Stress Relief

    Dealing with anxiety or even fear for your big next trip? This practical guide explains the main reasons for this feeling and what to do about it. Whether it’s planning activities to the minute on your first day or physical exercises - we got you covered!

    Key Takeaways

    • Identify Triggers: Recognize your specific anxiety triggers and address them directly with tailored strategies. Understanding the root cause helps alleviate anxiety.

    • Plan and Prepare: Plan the essentials of your trip, such as accommodation, activities, and budget. Flexibility and preparation minimize stress.

    • Practice Relaxation: Incorporate relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and exercise. Regular practice can reduce pre-trip and travel-induced stress.

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    Understanding Travel Anxiety

    You’ve applied for time off work and booked the plane ticket? Or have you quit your job and hired the movers? Whether it’s a short trip or a longer stay abroad, managing travel anxiety is a common challenge during the preparation stage. Are you fretting about missing events your friends and family are talking about? Are you worried about finances? Did someone make a negative comment about safety at your destination?

    Then you are probably experiencing pre-travel anxiety. Travel anxiety is a spectrum of symptoms that can be triggered by different aspects of travel. It can be mild, like feeling a little uneasy in a crowded airport terminal, or severe, like experiencing intense physical symptoms such as shaking hands, dizziness, or a racing heart. In some more serious cases, it may even lead to reconsidering your travel plans.

    Is It Normal to Have Travel Anxiety?

    Travel anxiety is common, and a certain amount of it is normal and even beneficial. A little anxiety can keep us focused and on top of things. However, it becomes a problem when it escalates into severe anxiety that hampers your ability to enjoy your trip or even stops you from traveling altogether.

    Symptoms of Travel Anxiety

    Symptoms can vary, but typical signs include:

    • Checking travel documents or packing lists excessively

    • Difficulty concentrating on tasks due to worry

    • Physical symptoms like clammy hands, dizziness, or rapid heartbeat

    • Feelings of fear or dread when considering travel plans

    • Social anxiety in crowded places like airports

    If these symptoms sound familiar and impact your ability to travel, you're not alone, and there are strategies to help.

    Causes of Pre-Travel Anxiety

    While the triggers for travel anxiety are unique to each person, common concerns include:

    • Fear of flying: This fear is a significant hurdle for many travelers and can lead to avoiding air travel altogether.

    • Safety concerns: Concerns about personal safety in unfamiliar destinations can cause stress before and during travel.

    • Financial worries: Budgeting for a trip can trigger anxiety, especially when the financial impact of unexpected expenses is unknown.

    • Communication barriers: Fear of navigating a foreign language can make traveling to an unfamiliar place more daunting.

    • Navigating transportation systems: Using unfamiliar transportation methods or routes can trigger anxiety.

    • Social anxiety: Interacting with strangers or being in unfamiliar social settings can make people with social anxiety feel even more stressed.

    • Dietary concerns: Dietary restrictions or health conditions can lead to worry about food choices in new places.

    • Fear of loneliness: Being away from loved ones for an extended period can trigger feelings of isolation.

    • FOMO (Fear of missing out): Missing out on events back home can be a major source of travel anxiety.

    How to Manage Pre-Travel Anxiety?

    Understanding the root cause of your anxiety is the first step to managing it. By identifying the triggers, you can implement effective strategies tailored to your needs.

    Strategies to Overcome Travel Anxiety

    Physical Exercise

    Physical exercise can be a nature’s magic solution to many of our physical and mental challenges. And it doesn't necessarily require engaging in intense sports. Even a simple walk outdoors can stimulate the release of endorphins, promoting a more positive outlook on life.

    Avoid Behaviors that Increase Anxiety

    Not sleeping enough, eating junk food high in sugar, drinking too much caffeine or alcohol – all of these can increase anxiety. Therefore, the best thing you can do for yourself is to try and live as healthily as possible before your trip.


    Meditating is not for everyone but many people swear by it. If you find that meditation helps quieten your mind, then be sure to incorporate a meditation session into your daily routine. If you are new to meditation but would like to give it a whirl, there are quite a few guided meditations on Youtube or apps that support you in your meditation journey like Headspace.

    Walking or Hiking

    Nothing gets your spirits up as much as just being in nature. Indeed, just half an hour looking at fresh greens can do wonders for your mental state. For those who do not want to do a full-on cardio routine as well as those who do not feel meditation is any help to calm their anxiety, walks or hiking are a great option.

    Get creative

    Find a creative outlet that helps you express your inner thoughts and turmoil. This may be journaling, singing along at the top of your voice to some of your favorite tunes or painting; for most of us there is a creative activity that brings us release from negative thought loops and obsessive worrying. Find yours and really get stuck in. You’ll be amazed at how effective it is.

    Spending Time with Loved Ones

    Especially if you are relocating more permanently, you want to use as much as you can of the time you have left with the people you love and are leaving behind – either temporarily or for a longer period of time. Make sure you meet up with them as much as you can before your trip.

    Plan your first 24 hours down to the minute

    Often our anxiety comes from facing the unknown. Try and eliminate the unknown as much as you can from your first day in the new location by envisioning and writing down your first 24 hours.

    Things to consider when planning your first 24 hours at your destination:

    How will you get to your accommodation?

    Plan the route and mode of transport in advance.

    What places will you visit?

    Make your first exciting sightseeing plan. Even if you are permanently relocating, this is a great thing to do on your first day to really get you excited about your new city of residence!

    What will you eat?

    Pick the restaurants and embark on a flavorful adventure at your destination

    Addressing Specific Pre-Trip Fears

    Once you have identified what exactly is causing your anxiety, you can also find strategies to alleviate it. Here are some scenarios and suggestions of how to deal with them.

    Fear of Flying

    There are a whole host of strategies to deal with fear of flying, find some detailed suggestions here: How to overcome a fear of flying.

    Quick tips include avoiding caffeine, distracting yourself with games and technology as well as sleeping as much as possible.

    Fears for your safety

    Do research on your destination especially with regards to safety

    You can find all location-specific safety information as well as emergency contacts in your Vigilios app

    Accommodation selection

    Invest in your sense of safety by going for the more expensive accommodation in the better district

    Research and pre-plan your trips

    Do research on the public transportation system at your destination. In the Vigilios app you can find the most reliable ways of commuting.

    Worries you won't enjoy yourself

    Plan activities that relax you, whether that is sitting in a cafe reading a book or working out at a gym. Remind yourself that you hold the reins on this trip and that you can be flexible if you decide you do not like any activity.

    Worries about food

    Especially for those of us with sensitive stomachs or digestive health conditions going to a new location with unfamiliar food can be nerve-wracking. Learn about the food at your destination in advance to figure out which dishes will most likely agree with you. Look up highly rated restaurants on review platforms to ensure a certain standard of hygiene. For emergencies, look up international restaurant chains with familiar foods.

    For a short trip, take some of your favorite, stomach-calming foods with you (as long as they are allowed past customs). For a long-term relocation find out where to buy your favorite, stomach-calming foods; look for international supermarkets or check out online stores that ship internationally. Have medications on hand that can calm your stomach such as charcoal tablets or medication to alleviate IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

    When to Seek Professional Help

    If your anxiety persists or is severe enough to prevent you from enjoying your trip, consider seeking professional help. Anxiety disorders can significantly impact your mental health, and getting help from a psychologist or therapist can offer the coping tools you need.

    Understanding your triggers and adopting strategies to overcome travel anxiety will allow you to travel confidently. With the right mindset and preparation, you can enjoy your adventure without the burden of stress. Safe travels!

    Practical Tips for Managing Travel Anxiety

    Develop a Relaxation Routine

    Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery before and during your trip to help you stay calm and centered.

    Prepare for the Unexpected

    Expect the unexpected and be flexible with your travel plans. This will help you manage unexpected changes or disruptions, reducing the chances of feeling overwhelmed.

    Plan Your Budget

    To alleviate financial worries, create a travel budget that accounts for transportation, accommodation, food, and activities. Set aside extra funds for emergencies to avoid unexpected stress.

    Seek Support from Loved Ones

    Let friends and family know about your travel plans and your concerns. Their encouragement and support can help you feel more confident and reduce anxiety.

    Break Down Tasks

    Break down travel preparations into smaller, manageable tasks. This will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and make the process more enjoyable.

    Focus on Positive Experiences

    Instead of focusing on the things that could go wrong, remind yourself of the positive aspects of travel, like exploring new places and creating memorable experiences.

    Prepare a "Comfort Kit"

    Pack a small bag with items that provide comfort and help you relax during your trip, such as headphones, snacks, a book, or a stress ball.

A profile picture of Ana-Marija Autischer
by Ana-Marija Autischer
The visionary Founder & CEO of Vigilios, where her extensive research into travel safety over the past two years has positioned her at the forefront of the industry. With a keen eye for innovation, she translates complex safety concepts into practical advice for travelers worldwide.

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