After booking a new trip, my initial feelings towards my next adventure are always excitement, joy and eagerness to get away. I waste no time entering the dates into the countdown app on my phone and regularly check how many days, hours and minutes I have to go until my flight. This usually lasts for a few months until I see the number of days slowly going down and I start to feel anxious and nervous instead of excited.
As my departure date gets closer and closer I start to think of worst case scenarios like what if I miss my flight or what if my luggage gets lost or god forbid, what if I get kidnapped!? Obviously very dramatic.
My feelings of anxiety and nervousness tend to disappear once I actually reach my destination, have checked into the hotel and can finally relax but the lead up is always the worst. It even gets to a point where I work myself up so much that I don’t want to go at all.
Pre-travel anxiety can affect SO many people and it’s completely normal to have feelings of uncertainty before going to an unfamiliar place. Below are a few tips that help me deal with my pre-travel jitters and can hopefully help some of you as well.
1. Determine what is making you anxious
One thing I always remind myself when I’m starting to feel anxious about travelling is that it’s completely normal to feel nervous and afraid. A lot of the time I feel anxious about a long flight or that I’ll get lost on my way from the airport to the hotel. I find that the best way to overcome my travel anxiety is to pinpoint exactly what is making me feel anxious and try to overcome it. For example, feeling anxious about a long flight means that I will make sure to have plenty of distractions for the journey. I usually take a book to read or I’ll download a Netflix show that I can watch on the plane. Booking an airport transfer can also help to ease some of my pre-travel anxiety because I know I don’t have to worry about finding my own way to the hotel or wherever it is I am staying when I reach my destination. If you feel anxious about money, set up a daily budget and determine how much you’re going to spend each day. If you’re concerned about your health, make an appointment with your doctor or stock up on any medication you may need before you go. Identifying the source of your travel anxiety can make it SO much easier to find a solution and face it head on. It also helps to talk to others, whether it is a parent, friend or even a psychologist who can help get you into the right mind frame to feel excited about your trip again.
2. Plan ahead
After booking your trip it’s important to start thinking about some of the things you may need to organise before you go. Start putting together a list of all the things you need to do, which may include calling the bank and organising a travel money card, getting toiletries and other necessities, making sure your passport isn’t about to expire and applying for a visa if you need one. Don’t wait until you reach your destination to sort certain things out either. If you need a different kind of electrical output or you want some money exchanged, do it before you go. That way you’re not stressing out about it on the plane ride over and you don’t have to waste time worrying about it when you get there. Tick off the things on your list with enough time to avoid the stress of being unorganised and rushing around at the last minute. I’m super lazy so I like to start planning my to-do list with months in advance so that I can spread out what needs to be done over a longer period of time. I would recommend making sure all of the important stuff is organised at least one week before you go to avoid any complications.
3. Research your destination
Before you go anywhere, it’s common sense to do a little bit of research. I always find that planning out some sort of my itinerary and knowing certain things in advance can help to alleviate some of my anxiety over travelling. I like to write a list of all the places that I want to see or things I’d like to do. I then map out a plan and decide what I’m going to do each day, how I’m going to get there and how much it’s going to cost. I wouldn’t go as far as to plan out my every step but having a rough idea and doing some research beforehand can be super helpful if you’re feeling anxious.
If you’re concerned about safety, research the area that you’re staying in, try to avoid any dodgy spots and find out if there are any scams that are commonly used on tourists. If you’re worried about how you’re going to get around, determine what public transport is available or organise some sort of tour like a hop-on-hop-off bus. If you’re nervous about potential language barriers, take the time to learn a few words or phrases to help you feel a little bit more confident. If you think you might get sick, find out if the tap water is drinkable, if there are certain types of food you should avoid and ask your doctor if they can recommend any vaccinations. Whenever I’m feeling really anxious, I scroll through Instagram using the ‘tags’ and ‘places’ filters. Looking at all the gorgeous photos of my future destination makes me feel excited and reminds me of why I am going there in the first place.
3. Get to the airport with enough time
There is sometimes nothing worse than the feeling of anxiety I get before catching a flight and the fear that I’m going to miss it. Of course I’ve never actually missed a flight before but that still doesn’t stop me from stressing out about the thought of it. To help overcome this, I always make sure I leave for the airport with plenty of time to spare. I usually leave at least four and a half hours before my scheduled flight to ensure that I arrive on time. It takes about an hour and a half to drive to the airport from where I live and it is recommended that you be at the airport at least two hours before checking in for most international flights. Having that extra hour is always nice in case the traffic is bad or it takes a long time to check in. This doesn’t mean that you have to arrive so far in advance that you’re sitting at the airport for hours waiting for your flight but it does help to relive some of the stress you might be feeling to get there a little earlier. If you think you’re going to be late, set multiple alarms, have your ride to the airport organised and make sure you have everything packed and ready to go the night before. Check the traffic and weather conditions and leave a little bit earlier than necessary if you think you need to.
4. Don’t leave packing until the last minute
I absolutely hate packing but I always find that it stresses me out way to much to leave it until the last minute. I like to start packing at least a week before I leave, so then if I’ve forgotten anything I have enough time to get it beforehand. Another thing that stresses me out about packing is the thought of forgetting something, even when I know that I’m not. To help with this, I’ll find a general packing list online and tick off items as I put them into my suitcase. I also like to plan out my outfits for when I’m away and try to avoid clothing items that don’t have a dual purpose or multiple ways to wear. If you’re worried about your suitcase being overweight, invest in a pair of luggage scales and only pack the necessities. For instance, don’t pack your entire makeup bag or straighter if you think you won’t need them. Buy travel sized items that take up less room or packing cubes to help keep things organised.
5. Accept that anxiety is normal
At the end of the day, if you accept that your pre-travel anxiety is completely normal and justified, you should be able to find a way to overcome those nagging feelings. It’s not always easy to switch off anxiety but it can help to make a conscious effort to try and think more positively and to remind yourself that you’re going to have the best time ever! If it gets to the point where you’ve tried everything but your anxiety is still too much, don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone, especially when it’s starting to prevent you from travelling in the first place. Make a list of all the amazing memories from previous trips to help you recall that travelling isn’t dangerous and the situation you were in was safe. It can also help to remind you of the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone or took a risk. Doing this will make you feel better prepared for next time and can help you to learn from past mistakes associated with negative thinking.
Just remember that the world is a beautiful and mysterious place that everyone deserves to explore and we shouldn’t let our fear of the unknown get in the way of that.