Learn To Enjoy The Ride: Overcoming Travel Anxiety

Updated March 7, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Traveling the world can be a rewarding and enriching experience. It can also seem very intimidating if you wrestle with anxiety. The prospect of navigating unfamiliar situations and dealing with logistics can be stressful, and you might worry that your fears will keep you from enjoying your trip. How can you manage your travel anxiety so that your journey is a success?

You can boost your confidence by planning out strategies for handling the complications of travel without getting overwhelmed. It may also be a good idea to build in time for relaxation and self-care throughout the trip, and to practice some simple methods for centering yourself when you’re feeling anxious. We’ll discuss these techniques below to ensure you’re well-equipped to deal with your anxiety while traveling.

Travel Anxiety Doesn’t Have To Ruin Your Journey

What Is Travel Anxiety?

We’ll be using the term “travel anxiety” a lot throughout this article, but it’s worth noting that this is not a diagnosable mental health condition. It’s simply a way to describe the common phenomenon of feeling greater-than-usual stress, worry, or fear when traveling.

For people who are already living with anxiety, the stress of traveling (or planning to travel) may be a trigger that causes their symptoms to worsen. After all, travel almost always means confronting unfamiliar scenarios while far from your usual networks of support. Many different anxiety disorders can exacerbate difficulties with travel, including:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

This condition is characterized by disproportionate levels of worry and anxiety about many different concerns. It could lead you to feel more stress than usual about the details of your travel arrangements, or spark unreasonable fears about the things that might go wrong.

Panic Disorder (PD)

People with this disorder experience upsetting panic attacks, along with potentially disruptive fears about how these attacks may manifest in the future. They might find it hard to stop worrying about what would happen if they had a panic attack while stuck in an airport or in a place where they don’t speak the language.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

Also known as social phobia, SAD involves an intense fear of being watched, judged, humiliated, or rejected by other people. Since traveling virtually always means interacting with strangers and being around large groups, it can be a trigger for those with SAD.


Someone with agoraphobia has an irrational and excessive fear of public spaces, unfamiliar surroundings, or open areas. It’s hard to avoid being in public when traveling, so this condition can make the process feel very intimidating.

Managing Travel Anxiety

So how can you avoid letting anxiety ruin your travel experience? The following strategies should make it easier.

Identify Your Triggers

Even if you feel anxious about the entire idea of the trip you’re planning, chances are that there are some particular aspects of travel that are particularly stressful for you. Many people with anxiety disorders have specific triggers that tend to provoke their worst symptoms. Recognizing these triggers and thinking ahead about how to deal with them can be very helpful in managing your emotions about travel.

What parts of the journey are you most anxious about? Is it the thought of looking foolish because of cultural norms you don’t know? Do you worry a lot about something going wrong with your flight? Are you concerned you might have a panic attack and be unable to get help?

Journaling — writing down your thoughts and feelings about traveling — could be an effective way to identify travel-related triggers. In addition to helping you figure out which elements of the journey are causing you the most stress, studies show it could reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression all by itself.

Have A Detailed Plan

You might be tempted to avoid thinking about what could go wrong during your travels, but this approach may only increase your fear. Instead, it might be best to confront the possible negative scenarios and create a plan for how to deal with them. For instance, if you’re worried about missing your connecting flight, you could research alternate travel arrangements and deliberately leave some wiggle room in your planned arrival time. This type of planning can help make the sources of your anxiety seem more manageable. 

In addition to planning for the worst, you may also want to create a detailed itinerary to help you organize your travels. Research indicates that proactive planning can lower stress by reducing uncertainty. However, you may also want to remind yourself that it’s okay if some things don’t go according to plan.

Pack For Self-Care

It can be easier to manage travel anxiety if you have some small sources of comfort to fall back on. You may want to pack things that you can use to create little rituals of relaxation and calm no matter where you are. Possible examples include:

  • Scented sachets or pillows — aromatherapy can be an effective way to reduce anxiety

  • An eye mask to help you nap

  • Noise-canceling headphones to shut out distractions

  • Books, crossword puzzles, handheld games, or other ways to keep your mind occupied

  • Travel-friendly hygiene supplies to help you feel fresh

  • Workout clothes — a little exercise in your hotel room could decrease your anxiety

  • A scalp massager to reduce stress by helping release physical tension

  • Music, podcasts, white noise, or other soothing sounds that you’ve downloaded and can listen to without an internet connection

Plan And Budget For Relaxation

Travel Anxiety Doesn’t Have To Ruin Your Journey

In addition to bringing items that can help you calm down, it could be helpful to set aside some time and money for self-care during your trip. Even if you’re traveling for work or simply trying to avoid spending a lot, it might be a good idea to sneak in a little bit of stress relief and self-indulgence along the way. You could try to find time for a massage, take one night in a fancy hotel room, or sneak away from your colleagues to dine by yourself at a fancy restaurant.

Learn Some Anxiety Reduction Techniques

Exercises for mental and physical relaxation may help you reduce your symptoms of travel anxiety in the moment. Learning and practicing some of these methods before your trip can prepare you to cope better with any difficulties that arise.

  • Sensory grounding.Grounding techniques redirect your attention to the world around you instead of your own anxiety, potentially short-circuiting panic attacks. A common method is to take notice of 5 things you can perceive with each of your senses. As a bonus, this can also help you take note of the novel sights and sounds of your travel destination.

  • Meditation. Mindfulness meditation has shown considerable effectiveness in reducing anxiety. You can practice it for 10-20 minutes per day by sitting still, taking slow, deep breaths, and noticing the thoughts and feelings that arise without judging them or trying to control them. 

  • Earthing.Some studies suggest that being in contact with the ground may lessen symptoms of anxiety, perhaps by conveying a sense of stability and comfort. This is known as “earthing.” You can try it for yourself by sitting, lying down, or planting your feet firmly and paying attention to the sensation of touching the ground.

  • Expressive journaling. As we noted above, journaling can help with worry and anxiety. Writing about what’s making you anxious instead of bottling it up could provide a constructive outlet for your emotions. And recording the positive and interesting things about your travels could help cement the happy memories that you’ll want to look back on later.

Talk To The People You Care About

In the internet age, going to a new place doesn’t mean you can’t still lean on your support networks for help. When your anxiety gets particularly strong, you may want to reach out to an understanding friend, romantic partner, or family to let them know what you’re feeling. You may not be able to talk with them over the phone right at that moment, but writing out a text message or email may be comforting on its own, and you could try to check in via video chat when you have WiFi. This may go a long way toward helping you feel less alone.

Get Help From A Therapist

Talk therapy can be an effective way to manage and treat anxiety. If you’re getting ready for a trip and feeling anxious about it, reaching out to a therapist beforehand to discuss your worries could be a good way to mentally prepare for travel. And if you connect with a therapist online, you may be able to continue your sessions during travel! The ability to talk with a mental health professional from anywhere with an internet connection is a major benefit of online therapy platforms.

Research into online therapy supports the idea that it can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms. Studies of its effectiveness have found no difference between attending therapy online or in person. This appears to be true for a wide range of anxiety-related conditions, from generalized anxiety to panic disorder. BetterHelp can get you started with online therapy so you can be ready to deal with your travel anxiety.


The stress associated with travel may exacerbate symptoms of most anxiety disorders. Reducing uncertainty by planning ahead for difficult, potentially triggering situations may help you feel less anxious. You can also incorporate techniques for relaxation and mental grounding into your journey. Staying in contact with supportive friends and mental health professionals may provide additional relief when your travel anxiety feels most severe. 

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