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24 Travel Tips for Going on Vacation With Anxiety

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As children, we wait in anticipation for summer vacation — a break from the days and weeks we spend confined to the four walls of our school. As adults, the warmer weather signals it’s time to take a vacation and break from the monotony of our daily lives.

New surroundings, new food, new people, and new places can be exciting. But for those who struggle with anxiety, newness and change can often cause symptoms to worsen. That is why we asked our mental health community to share some tips for alleviating anxiety for anyone who is nervous about going on vacation this summer.


Here is what they had to say:

1. “Take a comfort item! I know my comfort item would be one of my dad’s t-shirts. It’s something so simple but reminds me of home, where I feel most safe and secure. So if I have an anxiety attack I can hold on to the shirt or smell it and it calms me down.” — Elizabeth C.

2. “Find local parks or walking trails before hand so you can take a “nature break,” if you become overwhelmed. I leave with enough time to take frequent breaks if the driving becomes too much.” — Caley K.

3. “Seeing there’s so much more in this world than the fears you face! Schedule time to get away and be by yourself. It can get overwhelming if you are with a group, but don’t be ashamed to get alone time if you need it.” — Samantha S.

4. “Google and research. What I do before going somewhere new for vacation is look up the things I’m going to want to do, then MapQuest it to look at satellite images of the area to get a feel for things before I even leave home. I’ll go as far as looking up the layout of a place.” — Charne S.

5. “I’m working through SAD that occurs during the summer, and what I do is think about ‘why?’ Why do I need to push through? I think about how my anxiety can prevent me from so many experiences with my three children. Why would I want to take that time away from them? My kids help me work through the summer time sadness so we can go on vacation.” — Christina P.

6. “Let the people you’re going with know you’re going to be dealing with anxiety so they can better support you when it does happen and you won’t have the additional concern of what they are thinking when those feelings do come up. Also to just know that you always have the right to say no to anything that makes you uncomfortable and there is no obligation to be a certain way or do certain things just because you’re on holiday. The vacation should be about what’s going to make you happiest and most comfortable” — Taysia S.

7. “What I would do is plan out my whole trip from day one to the last day, and everything in between. From sun up to sun down. As much as you possibly can. This way you are in total control of everything. This can easily lower stress and anxiety. I get anxiety when I feel like I’m not in control of the situation, but if you plan everything out, you’re in much more control and it might let you have a better vacation.” — Crystal D.

8. “My tips to someone who’s nervous about vacation is to make a list of all the things you’re excited for on your trip. This can help you stay positive and free your mind. Also, do not let anxiety dictate your decisions, [which can sometimes be] much easier said than done. Push yourself out of your comfort zone a little bit.” — Kayla G.

9. “If you’re flying, talk to the people at the gate before boarding. If you explain your anxiety to them, they’ll often let you board the plane in the very first group before the plane gets overly crowded.” — Amanda R.

10. “Start small. Don’t worry if you can’t do all the things. Just get started. If you find yourself panicking in a strange place, focus on something until you feel better, even pretending you are messaging on your phone can help.” — Sheila P.

11. “Take your iPod; music helps calm your heightened senses. [Take] a book; get lost in someone else’s head for a while. [Bring] a comfort from home; a teddy or blanket that has the smell of home on it. If things get too much, take yourself away from people or things, go somewhere quiet, like your hotel room or something and just take a little time out for yourself to regain your senses.” — Becky U.

12. “Breathe. If you’re worried about security, breathe yourself through. Once you’re done with that, sit for a minute and tackle the next thing. Find your gate and ground yourself until you’re ready to board. Once on the plane, make yourself comfortable with music, books, or puzzle games. If you aren’t flying somewhere, still breathe. Tap the steering wheel if your driving, it’s something you can feel. Open a window if the weather is nice, it’s something you can smell. Look at landmarks around you, it’s something you can see. And it’s OK to rest, wherever your vacation is! Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to do everything, it’s OK to have limits.” — Tasha T


13. “I have travel anxiety and the best thing I’ve done is pushed myself to keep going even when I’ve wanted to turn around. I’ve never once regretted pushing through. It helps for me to bring my pillow from home — something that has a familiar smell that way I can at least sleep through my anxiousness.” — Rachel M.

14. “Find what calms you on the way to wherever you’re going. Music is what helps me. Make a playlist, visualize yourself having fun at your destination. Let yourself get carried away in the lyrics and remember that you deserve to be happy and care free.” — Kelcie J.

15. “Don’t force fun. No matter what happens, enjoy every moment of the trip! If I felt anxious on a trip I would take time to enjoy the moment; counting the things in that moment that are priceless, enjoyable, or relaxing. It’s kind of like a grounding exercise.” — Brooke H,

16. “Make sure you have everything you will need, and double check before you leave. Pack a small bag that is easy to get to and keep things that will help you when you get anxious in that bag; it could be some gum, or a stuffed animal or a fidget cube.” — Wendy J.

17. “Make your self little goals. Something like; I want to try every cake at every restaurant we go to, or I want to collect 20 shells of this color for a Pinterest project, or I want to take pictures of every steeple or animal I see. Little fun things that will trick your anxieties into thinking you are in control of the whole thing.” — Brittany H.

18. “One thing that helped me was creating safe places. Wherever we went, I would create a safe place where, if I felt overwhelmed by people or my surroundings, I could get away for five minutes. It helped tremendously.” — Ashley G.

19. “I was taught in therapy to ‘act as if,’ meaning act as you want to feel. So, I kind of fake it and tell myself I’m cool, calm and collected. Then I start to feel it. I have to use a lot of strength to turn off the work mind!”— Tanya S.

20. “Go with the flow. I had to leave our first camp trip early because of my anxiety. Make sure you’re warm and well fed.” — Kayla C.

21. “I don’t plan, I just go, because planning makes my anxiety worse and when I’m in the car I make sure I have bottled water, a pillow from home, a good playlist of songs and I make sure phone is fully charged. And no ‘junk food,’ just fruits and water.” — Mandy A.

22. “Ask yourself why you’re going. If the reasons are important to you, they will fuel your determination to cope with stressors as you move forward.” — Sarah M.

23. “Email the airport. I have Asperger’s and social anxiety disorder and I emailed the airport explaining my problems about going to the airport and going through security and they let me go through the faster business security lane so I would be less anxious and worried.” — Carina M.

24. “Go with someone you love and trust who really knows you and is prepared to be patient and will help with anxieties.” — Lou W.

What would you add? Let us know in the comments below.

Thinkstock image via Pixland.

24 Travel Tips for Going on Vacation With Anxiety
Originally published: June 14, 2017
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