How To Keep Your Anxiety In Check While Traveling

As fun as traveling can be, let's be real, it's also super stressful. Between dragging around luggage, keeping track of your schedule, and trying to follow ever-changing travel guidelines, there are a lot of logistics to manage. This can feel even more worry-inducing if you have a specific, travel-related anxiety, such as a fear of flying. In fact, travel fear is so common that there's a medical name for it: hodophobia (via WebMD).


But just because taking trips can be stressful, that doesn't mean you should give up and become a homebody. There's a wide and wonderful world out there for you to explore! Plus, your boss may not be too impressed if you keep dodging every business trip that comes your way. So if work trips are a necessity in your life or you have been personally hoping to get out there and travel more, here are ways you can manage your anxiety to better enjoy each journey.

Pack and organize your plans ahead of time

One common anxiety around travel is the worry of forgetting something important, whether that means an important medication or a vital travel document. After all, you don't want to arrive at your destination scrambling for necessities — or, worse, find yourself stranded at an airport or train station because you left behind your passport or ticket information.


To help relieve this concern, try to be as organized and prepared for your trip as possible. Start packing a few days in advance, rather than the morning of your journey, and consider keeping a written packing list you can check off as you go (via USA Today). For things you absolutely cannot leave behind, double-check you have them before leaving the house. If you're an anxious traveler, packing in a rush can exacerbate your feeling of uncertainty, so it helps to have a clear memory of bringing your important items.

As an extra benefit, packing in advance gives you time to recognize if there are any last-minute purchases you need to make before your departure. So if you suddenly realize you meant to pick up Dramamine, a neck pillow, or a new bathing suit, you have time to run those errands without panicking.


Arrive at your departure point early

At some time or another, we've all experienced that mad dash for our gate at the airport. Maybe you thought you'd left plenty of time, but TSA was short-staffed and the security line took forever. Or perhaps you had to double-back to retrieve something forgotten in your home or hotel room, and now you're running late. The point is, unexpected delays and setbacks are common while traveling, and can be highly stressful. So to minimize the potential for disaster, always aim to arrive for your travel itinerary early.


How early, exactly? That depends on how you're traveling. If you're going by plane, train, ship, or bus, check the website for the airport or station you're departing from. They will likely list recommended arrival times. When it comes to air travel, Skyscanner recommends arriving two hours before takeoff for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights. Better to be bored waiting around in the airport than frantically trying to make your boarding call.

Practice calming breathing techniques

Even if you arrive on time and are fully packed, you may have other reasons to feel anxious. In this case, physically calming your body and mind may be necessary. Fortunately, practicing anti-anxiety breathing exercises is easy and possible anywhere — even in the midst of takeoff, turbulence, or a random bag search.


Rather than taking deep breaths, which can trigger your fight-or-flight response, try inhaling normally but slowing down your exhale. Long exhalations can prevent hyperventilating and help you relax by engaging your parasympathetic nervous system (via Yoga International). To help regulate your breathing and lengthen your exhalations evenly, try counting your breaths in so that you're exhaling for twice as long. For example, count to four as you breathe in and to eight as you breathe out.

Visualize the positive aspects of your trip

During stressful travel moments, it can also help to distract your worried brain by focusing on the upsides of your trip. Instead of constantly asking yourself unhelpful what-ifs, think about all the things you're looking forward to. As suggested by a 2016 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy, "Positive ideation can be used to effectively counter worry," even if those positive thoughts aren't directly related to the cause of your anxiety.


For example, if you are afraid of train crashes, you don't have to center your visualization on a safe train journey. Instead, you could preoccupy your mind by envisioning the happiness of meeting up with friends or family, sightseeing in incredible new places, or sleeping in your own bed. By building these positive expectations, you can help quiet your anxieties and promote a more optimistic outlook.

Try anti-anxiety supplements or medications

If all else fails and your travel stress proves difficult to conquer, you may want to resort to certain medications or supplements that can help you manage your anxiety. However, while some travelers turn immediately to sedative substances like Xanax, Ativan, Ambien, or alcohol, these are not necessarily recommended. "Whether or not these pills help depends on the underlying cause of the anxiety that's occurring," Tania Elliott, MD, tells Healthline. "Ambien has been shown to increase people's chances of sleepwalking, so I would avoid that on the airplane. Xanax would be the one to help quell anxiety, but again, it depends on whether or not the anxiety comes from flying itself or is related to another area. I recommend neither Xanax or Ambien for flying."


Instead, there are some gentler substances that may help calm your nerves while traveling. During long trips, taking melatonin can be a useful way to manage your circadian rhythms and encourage sleep, which is good for stress levels. Plus, it may help you fight off jet lag (via Mayo Clinic). 

Other products, like the popular homeopathic stress-reliever Rescue Remedy, claim that their soothing herbal blends can ease your worries. While many of these products rely on anecdotal evidence that's hard to confirm, just the act of having them may provide a reassuring placebo effect to calm your mind while traveling. Of course, if you have any questions about using supplements and medications for your trip, ask your doctor before departure.