Travelling and exploring the world is one of the most fascinating and rewarding things to do. See and explore new destinations, learn more about new cultures, relax on the beach, go on a hike in the mountains or enjoy the local food scene. All this creates memories you will cherish forever.
But travelling can also lead to stressful moments, especially when something unexpected happens or you don’t feel prepared to deal with a particular situation.
Feeling stressed when travelling can have negative impacts on your whole trip.
So what can you do to avoid stress when travelling?
Below, I am listing nine strategies how to deal with stressful situations when you travel.
Plan ahead – and start early with your preparations
Being prepared is essential to avoid stressful situations.
You don’t need to plan every minute of tour trip. In fact, this could easily lead to more stress as you would have to decide everything you want to do before you leave, not have time to do something spontaneously while you travel and feel pressured to tick everything off that you have put on your agenda.
However, you should definitely have a plan for the most important steps of your trip. This includes in particular those parts that can easily be points of disruption including travelling to, between and from your destination, know what travel documents you need and be aware of the local culture and main attractions.
I recommend you put together a list of things you need to know before your trip and also list everything you need to have handy while you travel.
This includes any legal documents like (but not limited to) a valid visa for your destination, valid passport and valid (international) driver licence.
Make sure to have all travel documents like hotel bookings, your car rental and any tickets or additional booking confirmations safely stored in one place. In case you are using a digital device to store your documents, remember to always take a printed paper copy with you as well. Just in case there is an issue accessing your device.
When you are travelling by car, make sure to prepare directions to your destination and have them handy during the drive; including a backup on paper in case you might lose the GPS signal.
Finally, do not leave packing your bags to the last minute either. Coming home from the office, throwing some clothes in your bag and off to the airport? It won’t take long before you start worrying if you haven’t forgotten anything, or packed the wrong stuff.
Instead, start early with you preparations and consider what clothes and toiletries you need based on your destination, time of the year and current weather forecasts.
Allow sufficient time to arrive
Whether you travel by car, train or air, make sure not to leave your home at the last minute.
The last thing you want is a traffic jam on the road to the airport or train station. The last thing you want to happen is to miss your flight and train. Having to re-book a later one means you will have less time at your destination and in most cases additional costs if you don’t have a flex ticket that allows re-booking.
Rather start early to allow plenty of time to arrive, check-in and clear security and customs.
When you travel by car, plan sufficient breaks along the road to recharge. Before you leave, check for eventual road works or deviations on your route before you leave to know if you need to plan additional time for driving.
Finally, make sure to leave early enough to arrive in daylight. Even with a GPS leading you to your destination, driving in an unknown place in the dark for the first time, trying to find your hotel can quickly feel stressful.
Be prepared for delays
Your plane is delayed but your airline still requests you to complete check-in on the original schedule or you find out about the delay only on your arrival at the airport or the train station?
That’s annoying, no question. But unfortunately, it is something that can happen quite frequently.
Thus, be prepared for delays. Pack the latest book you have been planning to read for a long time already, or download your preferred playlist to your phone so you stay entertained while you have to wait.
If your journey includes connecting flights or trains, make sure you allow sufficient time between the connections to make sure when your first flight or train is delayed you still have a chance to get your connecting one.
If you really miss a connection, don’t panic. The airline or train company should handle your re-booking to a later connection and also assist you in case you will need a hotel for the night if the next connection is only on the next day.
Manage your expectations
Not being able to achieve as much as you wanted, or setting your expectations about a destination to high can quickly lead to disappointment and as such stress you out.
Just remember, wherever you go, especially if it is a place you have never been before, you will always find a lot of new exiting things to explore and take away some unique experiences.
However, be realistic how much you can achieve in the time you are there or how extraordinary that hotel you’ve booked can really be.
Hardly any place lives up to the hype created on social media today. There is a high change images posted on Instagram are edited or taken at times when usually no one is around (such as at 6 pm in the morning). Thus when you arrive somewhere, it might not look exactly as you imagined. That secluded beach you dreamed of having all to yourself might be in reality quite crowded and the fantastic restaurant everybody is raving about might have a waiting list for several weeks.
This does not mean you shouldn’t have high expectations. However, always keep in mind that even the most beautiful place will have its downsides too. And as much as your hotel might try to provide the best and perfect service, there can always be something that does not work out or will be as perfect as it could possibly be.
Be prepared to some downsides or mistakes to happen. And if that is the case, take it lightly. Most things won’t be really worth to get upset and thus feel stressed.
Plan sufficient downtime
You are visiting a new destination and want to see and do as much as possible? That’s understandable. But keep in mind, it will be very hard to do and see everything. Especially if you visit a large city.
Have a plan what you want to do and see but don’t take it as a must-do list. Rather, know what places are of interest to you and as long as you enjoy to keep going, than great. But always remember: there is no obligation you do everything on your list.
Instead, plan time to relax too. Go to the Spa or spend a couple of hours at the pool.
Even if you are happy to be out and about, make sure to break down your day. For example, plan an hour or two to have lunch somewhere. Later, break-up your afternoon by sitting down and have a coffee or tea and maybe some snacks.
Avoid situations where you feel unsafe
In recent years, news about terrorist attacks, shootings or other conflicts have notably increased. There are situations no one can anticipate, either at home or when you travel.
However, there are ways to reduce stress due to feeling unsafe when you travel.
First off all, avoid those destinations that are known to be risky. For example, check out travel warnings for certain destinations and if they exist, don’t go.
Most countries will issue travel warnings or alerts on their government website, so check them out before you decide on a destination. For example, both the US Department of State Issues and the UK Government’s foreign travel site are excellent sources to assess if a destination is considered save.
There might be destinations where no official travel warnings exist but you still might feel that destination is not safe. Maybe because you have hear or read something that makes you worry.
Once you’ve done your research on a destination and its safety and you still don’t feel secure even though reports tell you otherwise, don’t feel pressured to put up a straight face and go despite your fear. It’s your vacation and you have only a limited amount of leave days so it’s not worth going somewhere you feel uneasy and be worried all the time. If this is case, chose a different destination.
However, keep in mind, even when you go to a destination that is considered to be safe, no place is 100% risk free.
When you travel, always make sure to observe some safety practices. For example, be aware of your surroundings and what is happening around you.
Each city has corners and neighbourhoods which are less safe than others. Know the places you should avoid as a tourist and be in particular careful where you go out in the evening. Once it is getting dark and you are in an unfamiliar place, rather than walking take a taxi.
Manage different needs and expectations when travelling with a partner, friend or in a group
Travelling with a partner, friend(s) or a group can be a lot of fun and means, you are not alone should something go wrong or you need help when feeling unwell.
However, travelling with others also requires dealing with different needs and expectations. If not managed well, this can quickly lead to a lot of discussion and disagreement, and ultimately to stress.
Thus when travelling with someone else, make sure you understand the different needs and expectations. Have a discussion what everybody wants to achieve, then plan your trip around the various needs. Try to fit in something for everybody. For example, when your partner loves hiking but you prefer visiting a museum, either include both activities in your itinerary or find out which one is better suited for the particular trip and agree which gets priority before you book your travels.
Another alternative to deal with different expectations is to consider doing different activities separately. Just because to travel with someone else, this does not mean you can’t split up for a couple of hours and do what you like best on your own.
Stay connected in a smart way
Unless you travel for business, the main point of travelling is to recharge from your daily routine and experience something new.
That said, I am actually not advocating to completely disconnect from the online world. Your digital devices can be a helpful tool achieving unique and stress-free travel experiences.
Read my post ‘9 free travel apps you should not leave without’ if you want to know more how to leverage smart devices for travelling.
However, when you stay connected to the Internet, it can be tempting to quickly check in on your emails and catch-up with other business-related stuff as well.
Thus, when on vacation you should stay connected in a smart way.
Companies are realizing the benefits there are when their employees disconnect from their business accounts when on vacation. In fact, there are now more and more that even demand you do not log-in when you take a leave. Therefore, consider to connect only for leisure purposes to improve your travel experience but stay away from everything business related. It might feel strange at first, but after a few days you will get the hang of it.
If you really can’t completely ignore your business accounts, set yourself a time limit. For example, give yourself a 15 to 20 minutes frame to check your emails once a day. Once you have done so, keep your business accounts firmly closed for the rest of the day.
Mindfulness seems to be the buzzword of the moment. And there is a good reason for it.
Mindfulness means to focus on the moment, bringing your attention to something simple like the sounds or aromas that surround you or to control your breath.
To reduce stress when travelling, you should include mindfulness into your daily routine and also take the time to do this when you are not travelling. Actually, you don’t need a lot of time, five or ten minutes a day are already sufficient to achieve a positive result.
So why not start to practice mindfulness and include it into your daily routine the next time you are going on a trip.
What is the most stressful thing for you while travelling and how do you try to avoid stress?