The summer travel season is just kicking off. Scores of tourists are excitedly packing their luggage and consulting websites or glossy brochures as they anticipate their upcoming vacations. While the idea of seeing new places or relaxing in cozy, familiar locations is appealing to most people, there are those who find the whole idea of travel frightening. It’s hard to get excited about new adventures when the mere thought of taking a trip brings up travel anxiety.

Here’s How to Help Your Travel Anxiety

For some, just being out of their home and familiar surroundings can be enough to bring on travel anxiety, especially if you suffer from panic attacks. Meeting new people or experiencing new foods can also make people feel insecure, plus worrying about how you’ll react emotionally may trigger anxiety. If you have travel anxiety these tips should help you feel more in control:
  • Plan for your anxiety. Brush up on your coping skills and bring along items you know will help you stay calm. For example, you might check to be sure your favorite music is downloaded to your phone or you might tuck your favorite pillow into your suitcase so you’ll be sure to get some restful sleep.
  • Practice relaxation techniques before your trip, so you can use them the minute you start to feel anxious.
    • Focus on a calming image in your mind or on an object you can physically see to take your mind off your fears. Concentrating on a book or watching a movie is distracting and can keep you from stressing over the unfamiliar.
    • Use affirmations, such as “I am safe,” to calm your thoughts.
    • Long, slow breaths have been proven to reduce anxiety and it’s worth it to learn deep breathing techniques. Breathing in slowly through your nose, then exhaling gradually through your mouth helps keep you from taking the short, hurried breaths that can trigger a panic attack.
    • Learn to meditate, which has been proven to reduce stress and boost overall health. Meditation can be done in so many ways – did you know that getting lost in music or even daydreaming are forms of meditation? Regular meditation practice can build long-term resilience.
  • Remind yourself of why you’re traveling. Picture your life a year from now – will you regret not having gone to your destination?
  • Because anxiety often stems from a feeling that you’re not in control, plan the first few days of your trip in detail. Look for photos of the airport and its terminals, explore the city’s subway system or figure out local transportation, look for your hotel on a maps website, and check out nearby restaurant and read their reviews. Having the details handy helps to keep your from worrying about the unexpected.
  • Join a community. There are many online forums or local support groups for anxiety sufferers where you can talk about your travel fears and find support.
If you’re scared of flying (also called aerophobia), these tips can help make your next flight the best you’ve ever taken:
  • Travel with a companion who is an experienced flyer. Having someone there to explain what the various sounds of flying mean or to walk you through the procedures associated with flying (security checks, boarding passes, terminals, etc), can go a long way toward calming nervousness. If they can sit next to you, they can help distract you with conversation, play games to keep your mind off of flying, or give your encouragement.
  • Be sure to talk with your travel companion before you board so they are aware of your fears and they know what you need. For example, if you don’t like to be touched, they should be told they shouldn’t try to hold your hand during a tense moment, which could increase your anxiety.
  • Avoid alcohol, which can alter the way your brain reacts and may increase your travel anxiety.
  • Practice relaxation techniques before your flight, then keep using them from the minute you reach the airport.
    • Focus on an object you can see or on a calming image in your mind.
    • Take in slow, long breaths through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth.
    • Try tensing each part of your body for ten seconds, then slowly relax it and move on to another body part (example: tense your right hand for ten seconds, then relax and tense your right arm for ten more seconds. Repeat on your left side, then move to your legs, etc.).
  • Listen to your favorite, calming music on your phone or other device or watch a movie or television show.
  • Try the SOAR app for Android or iOS. Part of the SOAR fear of flying program, developed by Capt. Tom Bunn, a former U. S. Air Force pilot and commercial jet pilot, the app has reassuring features like a built-in G-force meter that reads your plane’s current turbulence so you’ll know the jet can sustain it. It also links to weather and turbulence forecasts and allows you to download videos of Capt. Bunn walking you through each step of the flight process so you know what’s happening in the cockpit and on the plane.
  • Exercise before you fly. The endorphins from exercise are calming and will help dissipate your nervous energy. If you can’t exercise before your trip, try walking around the terminal to distract yourself and to keep your muscles loose, which helps reduce travel anxiety.
  • Consider booking a seat towards the front of the plane and along the aisle, so you don’t feel hemmed in or like you’re in a tunnel. Seats toward the front may cost more, but the additional expense can be worth it for more leg room, making it easier to relax.
If you’ve tried some of these tips on previous trips and they haven’t worked for you, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. They may prescribe medications to help ease your travel anxiety and often have programs that teach coping techniques you can use when you’re scared of flying. Some even offer virtual reality sessions that simulate the flying experience in manageable doses in a safe office setting, so you can conquer your fears before even setting foot on a plane.

Get Help for Travel Anxiety

If you’re still facing travel anxiety after trying our tips to reduce your stress over an upcoming trip, the mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida can help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

Dr. Andrew Rosen PHD, ABPP, FAACP is a Board-Certified Psychologist and the Founder and Director of The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders, as well as, the Founder of The Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services.

38 Responses

  1. I like your tip about taking in slow, long breaths. That makes sense considering it can help you calm down. I’ll have to consider your tips so that I can stay calm.

  2. I am taking a British isles Cruise in 2 months and my anxiety is building already. I have trouble leaving my comfort zone and all I think about is things that can go wrong. I am really looking forward to going and have wanted to do this for a while with my husband but it’s like there’s a brick wall in front of me.

    1. I totally understand that brick wall feeling. Unfortunately, grounding and distraction techniques don’t work too well for me. I have learned that a lot of anti-histamines (allergy pills) have an anti-anxiety effect as well. I take Zyrtec in the spring and have noticed that I have less generalized anxiety during those months. Planning and looking at pictures of where I’m going helps a lot, too. For a cruise, make sure you have something for motion sickness.

    2. How did your trip go? I am about to take a trip and I am very worried about almost everything! Just curious how it feels now that you have taken the trip!
      I bet you are glad you did it:)!
      I’m hoping to feel that way;)

    3. hello Jean, I totally related to you…i have the same problem. Leaving my comfort zone..everyone envies me for travelling, if only they knew what I am going through. its terrible. I wake at 4 am with a tight stomach wondering why the heck this is happening. I am travelling, going to my loved one, its exciting, yet I have this jitters about leaving my home. I try to take deep breathes and do yoga…but 4 am up I am. all the best. Hope you enjoyed your trip.

  3. I have a chance to visit California for a few days for the first time in my life. A place I’ve always wanted to go to. Just thinking about the trip is giving me generalized anxiety. I read through all the tips on how to alleviate travel anxiety, but I’m just so nervous that they want take effect when I need them too. I am tired of missing out on life and traveling because of this anxiety.

    1. I feel the same way I want to travel but I have never really traveled outside of my comfort zone and my anxiety ruins so many opportunities for me. I get so nervous and worry about everything which then causes me to get sick and hyper ventilate. I just need a solution

      1. Dear Macie, me too 🙁 i hate to leave my comfort zone and have this anxiety about travelling although i keep telling myself I will be back, but it wakes me up at 4 am days before I travel. But once I am on the place, its good and no jitters.

    2. Try to limit your time driving. Many of the freeways are congested which can increase frustration and stress.
      And when the freeways aren’t congested, they can be even more intimidating because they are so large (many have 5 or 6 lanes).
      I grew up near San Francisco and spent many hours on the freeways. I moved away and recently visited after 20 years. I hate driving in California now. Too much traffic!!

    3. Don’t forget to walk the beaches in San Francisco–Ocean Beach, Baker Beach, Crissy Field. Very soothing. Also, Golden Gate park. Find places that are soothing and less hectic. Get out into some of the smaller neighborhoods, and take a trip up to Sonoma. I live here and am recently retired and find that I tend to go out and do things between 10 and 3pm to avoid traffic, especially the after-work commute which honestly begins around 3:30. I’m glad I found this website because we’re contemplating cycling in Vietnam. It’s a guided tour and safe I’m sure, but I’m hitting a brick wall on this one. ALSO, I swear by the app “Headspace.” It’s a guided meditation one. You can choose a woman or man’s voice & I like the british man’s voice. It’s soothes me. I do it almost daily. 10 minutes to start, now I’m doing 20.

  4. I am leaving for Hawaii in 5 days and my anxiety is making me ill. Every time I travel, I have a hard time, especially in the days before I go. But I’m determined not to let it stop me. My biggest symptom is nausea and then vomiting and diarrhea. It’s one of the first things I feel before going into a full on panic attack. I’ve learned that if I take a Dramamine about an hour before getting on the plane, I do great flying. My doctor has now prescribed an anti-nausea pill that won’t make me drowsy for the days leading up to the vacation that I’m picking up today. Crossing my fingers that this with ease some of my pre-vacation anxiety!

    1. I get the same symptoms. Last trip I had to rush to the airport bathroom, and didn’t have enough time to deal with the vomiting part so that happened in a trash can at security…very loudly in front of tons of people. I’m worried it’s going to happen again on an upcoming trip. Never had flying anxiety before. It stinks! How do you deal with these nasty side effects?

  5. Same for me and the California trip. Was going to be an all expense paid trip to Universal Studios with my fiancé and his family. Loading up the car to leave it all hit me at once and panic attack took over. I ended up not going with them. Anxiety ruins so much for me.

    1. Me too. How do I fix this. Its starting to affect my relationship with my husband and I hate it. I hate that it is such a big part of my life. I go to acupuncture every week. I take calm gen, ZEN, Tranquiline. All these natural medicines that are supposed to help. They do to a point with daily life than when my hubby wants to go somewhere it doesnt matter where, my anxiety takes over and I cant go. I literally feel like Im having a heart attack and like my body is losing control. I hate it so bad. I have traveled in the past and always been a little anxious but these last 2 years it has literally stopped me in my tracks. I dont know what to do anymore.

      1. Hi Amanda, Please contact us through the contact page for the options and support available.

  6. I am so glad to read that I am not the only one who suffers from travel anxiety. Just knowing I am one of many helps. I have found not only making a packing list helps, but also making a prep list helps such as stop mail, reserve airport shuttle, confirm flight, print boarding pass, set light timers, etc.
    My doctor is also keenly aware of my anxiety and has prescribed Xanex for use at these times.

  7. My family and I are planning a trip to California soon to go to a close friends funeral. May he rest in peace. I am really looking forward to seeing my close friends though. For some reason, I keep getting a quesy feeling when I think about the 6 hour drive. I have a bad feeling in my stomach and I start to get paranoid. Thinking about my family dying and disaster striking. They tell me it will be fine, but I can’t shake off this feeling. It scares me and I worry about what could happen. I don’t know if it’s anxiety or paranoia but it doesn’t help at all.

    1. We are together in this situation. I usually thing about what might go wrong in almost everything. When one of my family members travel, I just feel like stopping them because am always like, “what if they are involved in an accident?” “What if this is the last time am seeing them?” What if this or that happens… And these “what ifs” are getting the best of me

  8. I thought I was alone in this situation. Usually I am anxious abour everything, travelling, life, etc and it’s really affecting me. I smile and laugh with people but nobody knows what am going through. I just refrain from sharing my problems with anyone because I don’t know if anyone will understand me plus I dont want anyone especially my mum to worry about me

  9. I am 57 and for most of my life I have struggled to travel alone, this has caused me shame and embarrassment. Finding someone with useful tips who feels the same is such a relief, thank you so much for having the courage to share it.

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