How to Avoid Pre‐Trip Panic
You’ve dreamed of your upcoming getaway for weeks, if not months. Now that your departure is approaching, you find yourself getting irritable more often and worrying about how you’ll manage in an unfamiliar place. Regardless of how exciting traveling may be, many people experience slight panic when considering all the little details that make up a successful trip. Side-step pre-trip panic by planning smart, implementing strategies that increase your trip’s success, and using techniques to ease anxiety if it does occur.
Being a Smart Planner
Start early.The sooner you being preparing for a trip, the less anxiety you should feel as the date draws near. Many people experience pre-trip panic because they wait until the last minute to pack and finalize their travel plans. Begin brainstorming ways you can prepare for the trip several weeks or even months ahead (depending on the destination and any special processes you need to complete).
Create a list.A solid list can help you feel more in control as you prepare for your trip. It’s a good idea to create several lists based on specific categories. You may want to develop a packing checklist to make sure you bring along all the necessities. This may include items like your clothing, toiletries, reading material, and a phone charger.
- You might also want to create a general to-do list of any tasks you need to complete before the trip like boarding your pet or applying for a passport.
Seek expert advice.Hearing about the first-hand experiences of others and knowing what to expect on your trip can minimize any anxiety you experience. Try reading blogs, watching YouTube videos, or browsing books and magazines that relate to your trip.
- You might peruse topics that relate to the particular destination (e.g. Do you need a visa?) or more general subjects like packing and planning for the trip.
Tie up loose ends.Your chances of enjoying your trip improve when you depart with your to-do list complete. This is why it’s important to begin planning early on and make thorough lists. That way, you’ll have the extra time to handle any unforeseen responsibilities that arise.
- For example, if your trip is extended, you may need to pay your bills in advance or arrange for someone to come over and water your plants. If you are taking a work trip, you might need to communicate with your boss about any tasks that need doing during the trip or delegate any ongoing projects to another team member.
- Loose ends may also apply to the trip itself, such as confirming reservations or paying deposits for excursions.
Preventing Travel Disasters
Nail down the details, but stay flexible.Your panic may be greatly reduced by developing a tentative itinerary for your trip. Knowing what you will be doing and when can help you feel more in control. Plus, having an idea about different events and attractions can help you prepare in terms of clothing choices and/or equipment, too.
- Although it’s nice to have a tentative plan for your trip, trying to fill every waking hour can actually cause even more stress. Most trips always include a few surprises, whether bad or good, so it’s smart to remain flexible. Arrange for your travel and hotel, but try to keep everything else flexible to account for any changes you might have to make.
- For example, you might lock in activities for the first one or two days to help you feel more in control. Leave your itinerary open for the remainder of the trip, though, to free up space for interesting opportunities that come up during your travels.
Devise backup plans.You can’t possibly anticipate every unexpected element of your trip. However, if you plan for common problems, you’ll feel more at ease. Anticipate typical issues like being bored on the plane or getting sick. Have a plan in place to manage such situations.
- For instance, you might pack headphones and a tablet to watch movies on the plane. You might bring along over-the-counter meds to fend off minor illnesses, and identify a physician near your hotel for more serious issues.
- If you are taking a business trip, you might need to figure out if your tech devices will work for a presentation, or try to rent or borrow a device from someone in your network.
Figure out how to stay in contact with loved ones.Feeling isolated from those you love can make a potentially wonderful trip an uphill struggle. Before you leave, pass along the contact info for your accommodations to your closest loved ones.
- Let family and friends know when you are due to arrive and depart. Arrange for regular calls or Skype meetings to ease any homesickness.
Bring along a little bit of home.In addition to keeping in touch with family and friends, it can be comforting to bring a small memento of home along for your trip. Having a little trinket with you can help minimize any anxiety you may feel in a foreign place.
- Pack something sentimental in your bag like a photograph or a hand-woven quilt that reminds you of home.
Treating Travel Anxiety
Label your fears.The best way to deal with travel anxiety is to pinpoint what it is that you're worried about. Take note of the situations or stimuli that worsen your anxiety symptoms and keep a log. You may be able to avoid certain situations by pre-planning, or you can relieve the anxiety with relaxation techniques.
- To spot your triggers, observe your anxiety when you are traveling. Notice what gets you worked up. Is it flying? Traveling to sketchy areas? Or, having to communicate with foreigners?
- Keep in mind that the more aware you are of your fears, the easier it will be to make a plan for dealing with the fear when it comes up. Try coping with your fears by a trusted friend or family member to get an outside perspective and come up with some ideas for dealing with your fears.
Focus on the benefits of your trip.The many details require to plan a successful trip can cause stress and anxiety. Don’t allow yourself to let the planning lessen your excitement about the trip. Regardless if you are traveling for business or pleasure, there are some positives associated with your upcoming trip. Identify these benefits and focus on them instead of all you have to do.
- For example, if you are preparing for a work conference, you might remind yourself of the wonderful opportunity to expand your professional network.
- If planning the trip becomes too overwhelming, then take a break and come back to it. You do not need to plan it all in one sitting.
Repeat a positive mantra.Reciting affirmations has been shown to effectively help you manage anxiety. Determine what’s stressing you out about the impending trip and develop a positive mantra to counteract these thoughts.
- For instance, if you are worried about traveling alone, you might repeat the upsides of solo travel like “I will have the chance to plan all the activities I want to do” or “I will be free to connect with locals and other travelers.”
- Your mantra may also be a travel quote that inspires you.
- Remind yourself that feeling uncomfortable is a sign of growth. If you always feel comfortable, then this is a sign that you are not challenging yourself.
Practice deep breathing.Deep breathing helps kick start the body’s natural stress response. It may be helpful to start a deep breathing practice before your trip so that you can fall back on the technique during moments of anxiety before and during your travels.
- To start, sit comfortably. Place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Inhale slowly through your nose for about 4 counts. You should feel your abdomen expanding while the hand on your chest stays relatively still. Hold the breath for 7 counts. Then, exhale from your mouth for 8 counts, feeling your abdomen deflate beneath your hand. Repeat for several minutes.
Perform a visualization exercise.Some people feel panic due to a fear of flying or worry about some other aspect of traveling. If this describes you, it can help to perform visualization exercises in which you imagine your trip going perfectly. Try this technique in the days leading up to your departure to reduce pre-trip panic.
- Envision your trip with all the details included. Connect to your senses by imagining the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations you will experience. For instance, if you are flying to a beach, you might imagine the waves crashing against the shore, a cool cocktail in your hand, the sun against your skin, and the smell of salt water.
- Bring the details alive as vividly as you can. Take deep breaths. Visualize your trip being completely successful with you trying new foods, meeting new people, and engaging in interesting activities.
- Keep in mind that your mind cannot tell the difference between something that is imagined and something that is real and will usually respond to imagined things as if they are real.
Video: Working Through Travel Anxiety // My Experience + Tips
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