Traveling can be stressful. Planning your travel dates, requesting time off from work, purchasing plane tickets, booking accommodations, booking other necessary modes of travel, ensuring your travel documents are up to date, packing… not to mention being in a new place with potentially a different language and culture… the list goes on.
Luckily the joys of traveling outweigh all of these stressors. Otherwise we wouldn’t travel as much, right?
I’ve always had a passion for seeing new places, so I’ve grown to become familiar with the process of traveling, preparing for traveling, and dealing with stress while traveling. Recently I took an 8-day trip to Europe. This trip didn’t require much planning compared to other trips I’ve been on, but nonetheless I still prepared accordingly and practiced several key strategies to anticipate and manage stress during my travels.
I want to share what I’ve learned from my experiences, and the strategies I’ve learned that have helped me to manage stress while traveling. And maybe you can try out several of these tips during your next adventure and let me know how they work for you.
1. Do your research
This one seems straightforward. Do your research! Your research should start as soon as you decide you want to go on a trip. Whip out a word doc or an excel spreadsheet and open a new Google tab. Research where you want to go and find a place that offers what you’re looking for and fits with both your budget and how far you want to travel. Doing initial research to educate yourself about all of the factors that are important to you for your trip will provide you with insurance and also the confidence that you are making the right decision for you.
2. It’s all about preparation
Prepare, prepare, prepare. Preparation for a trip is one of the best ways to keep stress at bay once you are actually on that trip. This tip goes hand in hand with doing your research, and it will help you to avoid situations that could cause stress. Prepare in terms of researching the weather so you can pack temperature-appropriate clothing, research the currency exchange rate so that you know when and how to exchange your currency, research the safest or most fun or communal (whatever it is you’re looking for!) hostels so you increase your chance that you will be staying at a hostel that you will enjoy. Bring back-ups of essential items like travel documents and credit cards in case of emergencies that you cannot fully prepare for. Preparation for a trip will help to minimize the possibility of stressful situations cropping up and catching you by surprise.
3. Mentally plan out or visualize how your trip will unfold and prepare accordingly
Visualize how the trip is going to go. How do you want the trip to go? How will the trip go in the best case scenario? Not only is it useful to visualize how the trip will go so that you can plan and prepare for each leg or day of your trip, but it will also help you to envision the type of experience you are seeking. Visualizing your trip beforehand will help you to imagine potential stressful situations beforehand, and this will allow you to prepare for, or at least know when to expect them while on your trip.
4. If you forget something, don’t sweat it
Packing for a trip can be very stressful for me because I want to ensure that I don’t forget anything. For some reason while packing I often think, it would be awful if I forgot something like my toothbrush… I cannot forget it! But in reality, wherever you’re traveling there will be stores for you to purchase anything you forget. Take packing seriously, but don’t sweat it. Keep a list of the things you will need, but remind yourself that it will be OKAY if you do forget something. You can likely buy whatever you forgot once you’re at your destination.
5. Get good sleep and hydrate the week before traveling
Getting good rest and hydrating well the week before traveling is important. It’s not always feasible, but if possible, you should try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night during the week leading up to your trip. You should also make sure to drink plenty of water and fluids like coconut water. Traveling takes a lot of energy out of a person and continuing to stay well rested and well hydrated the week before your trip will help you to stay balanced and avoid any immune system weakness while traveling.
6. Hydrate and eat nourishing foods while traveling
Similar to the last tip, it’s beneficial to hydrate and eat nourishing foods while traveling. Traveling, especially flying, is very dehydrating to your body. Skip the alcohol and bread on the flight, and drink plenty of water, tea, and liquids like coconut water. Bring your own snacks and water bottle to the airport. Snacks at the airport are overpriced, and since you can take an empty water bottle through security you can fill it up at a water fountain once you’re past security. Taking these precautions will help you to feel better once you arrive at your destination. Retaining your physical strength will also bolster your mental clarity and ability to manage any unexpected stressful situations.
7. Keep an open mind
While traveling, keep an open mind. Things will not always go according to your plan. When I travel, I like to make a ‘loose’ plan for each day, and one that leaves flexibility in case unexpected opportunities crop up. I also don’t like to make reservations for anything, unless it’s something I absolutely want to do and it requires a reservation. Otherwise, I find reservations to become too stressful. Factors like train delays, language barriers, or getting lost might cause you to take longer than you expected to get to a reservation, and these situations can be very stress inducing. If you plan out your days loosely, and leave plenty of time for whatever might happen, you’ll be better suited if and when a stressful situation presents itself.
8. It’s OK to break away from your plan
In addition to keeping a loose plan, I think it’s also important that you remind yourself that it’s OK to break away from you plan. One of the fun parts of traveling is that you will discover things you didn’t plan for in your research. Perhaps it starts raining unexpectedly and you decide to ditch you plan to head to the park and instead discover a cozy tearoom. Don’t hold yourself to your plan very strictly. Use it rather as a guide of the things you’d like to do. That way, if a situation arises for which you must break away from the plan, you’re less likely to feel stressed by it.
9. Journal through stressful moments
There inevitably will be some stressful moments while you’re traveling. While we can prepare the best we can for whatever stressful situations might come our way, we might still be faced with stressful situations that have been presented to us to challenge us. Accept these moments as situations for learning and growth. Bring a small journal on your trip and write your way through any stressful times (if that’s your preferred method of stress management). Alternatively, take time to meditate, go for a solo walk, treat yourself to a nice meal or cup of tea, or spend time in nature. Release your stress in the healthiest way you prefer, and get back to enjoying your trip.
10. Take the time to reflect
Taking the time to reflect will help you to stay grounded while traveling. Sometimes it is helpful to remind yourself why you wanted to take a trip and what you wanted to get out of it. Take the time to thank yourself for planning out this opportunity for yourself. By choosing to travel, and experience a new place, you are actively committing to your growth as a human being. Reflecting and showing gratefulness to yourself is a natural way to increase levels of feel good hormones, like serotonin and epinephrine, and help you to keep a positive mindset during your travels.