12 Hacks to Combat Travel Stress

It’s ironic isn’t it? You experience travel stress at the very time you are trying to get away from stresses in your everyday life. It’s not supposed to be that way!

Traveling isn’t all about lying under a palm tree, reading on the beach. Well, sometimes a big part of it is once you are actually settled at your destination.

Generally, there is a lot of stress when you travel, both physically and mentally.

My body really took a toll on me during my first 9 month Round the World trip last year, and it didn’t take long until I realized that I needed to do some serious changes in the way I traveled, if I wanted to continue enjoying it.

Travel Stress 

It’s a vacation, so why is travel stressful? Well, oftentimes there’s a lot to get you from Point A: Your regular life… to Point B: Your vacation. 

Think about planning a vacation. You need to figure time off work and family schedules. Then there is the stress of figuring out how to pay for your vacation. Where to go? There is literally the world from which to choose.

Add to that the deals and better deals that may be out there, and it’s oftentimes difficult to feel confident you are getting the most for your money and that you made the right choices.

There is a lot of pressure to choose the best destination with the amount of time and money you have.

Once you plan your trip, there is additional travel stress in getting ready for your trip. Long before packing and figuring out pet care, stopping your mail, etc., there’s a lot in life you need to finish up before embarking on that trip.

Whew! All of that stress to even before packing and your day of departure.

There’s also the real travel stress of feeling like everything has to be perfect. It’s your holiday after all, you want everything to go as planned. When there is something expected or a setback, it’s easy to feel even more stress when traveling.

Travel stress is real, and it will happen to you. What you can do before you set out on your journey is to learn ways to minimize, and stop it before it derails you.

12 Tips to Stop Stress When You Travel

There are simple things you can do to reduce the amount of stress that comes with traveling. Here are the changes I made to my traveling lifestyle which really helped me to enjoy each moment more.

Stop stress when you travel
Stop stress when you travel

Simplify Your Travel To-Do List

A To-Do List is a list of things you want to do in the place you’re visiting, something that is supposed to be fun, not something you need to do in order to feel content and satisfied with your trip.

But often this list of fun stuff can easily turn into a Must-Do list which normally ends up equaling stress. It’s easy to get caught up with the list, feeling that the trip won’t be “good enough” if you don’t do everything you’ve planned.

All of a sudden I found myself rushing and stressing while obsessively ticking off my To-Do list, not actually enjoying myself at all.

Seeing, doing and experiencing new things is supposed to be something fun, not something you’re stressing out about. If you’re stressed, you won’t enjoy any of ,and it’s just a waste of time, money and effort.

So I started to limit my travel To-Do list, and just chose a few things that I REALLY wanted to do, and that helped me a lot.

If you find that you have lots of time over for other things, then that’s fine. However, take your time and enjoy yourself.  Let there be a gap for spontaneity, because that’s when you really get some memorable experiences on your trip!

Set Up Routines

No matter how much you like adventure, action and uncertainty, we all need some routines in order to feel good. I found that making a routine for small things such as specific times when to eat breakfast and lunch made a big difference.

Your body loves routines. Try to go to bed and wake up the same time everyday. Soon you won’t have to set your alarm, as your body will know naturally when to get up.

Slow Down

Deadlines to get from point A to point B often force you to speed up the tempo of your body. As you know, once you’re in that fast speed you get used to it and that tempo begins to feels normal.

But it’s not until you slow down that you realize how stressful it actually was. When it’s possible, learn how to slow your body down. 

It’s okay if you choose to stay at a place doing nothing for a longer time. Nothing will happen; you’re not going to miss out on anything. Just slow your pace and learn to enjoy the moment — let the stress simply wash away.

Plan – But Don’t Overdo It

Planning can be great for reducing stress. For example, planning a few days before how and when to get to the airport will save you a lot of stress and anxiousness.

Take advantage of the companies out there to help you. For example, Blacklane provides a taxi alternative in more than 180 cities.

By not planning, you might realize the same morning your flight leaves that your hotel doesn’t drive you to the airport, so check those kinds of details so you don’t find yourself at the last minute running to the flight gate.

It’s such an unnecessary thing that creates too much stress, and that extra hour you spend in the city instead of waiting on an airport really isn’t worth the possible stress.

However, by over-planning you can actually create even more stress because you will keep thinking about the future, about what you’re going to do next, and trying to stick with the schedule.

Try to find a nice balance between these two.

Don’t Try to Control the Uncontrollable

There is no use worrying about something you can’t control anyway. Accept whatever happens and deal with it the best way you can. By trying to control something or react to something you can’t do anything about you’re just stressing yourself out for no reason and nothing will get better that way.

Instead ask yourself if there is anything you can do about it, if not, then accept it and let it go. 

This is something I had to practice for a while, but when I started learning how to deal with it, everything suddenly had a complete different flow, and I was actually happier.

Learn to Get Over It and Forgive

Okay you got tricked and paid more than you should have at the street market, or something didn’t quite turn out the way you expected it…. Get over it fast!

Going on and on regretting and complaining about something you can’t change just make things worse. Don’t beat yourself up about things you do, learn to forgive yourself and travel partner for making novice mistakes.

What’s done is done, learn from your mistake and move on. Besides, many things that look dark at the moment, will be a funny memory sooner than you think.

It’s often the mistakes we tend to laugh about the most afterwards, and those are usually the ones people want to hear about as well.

Eat Healthy

Eating whatever food what we want on vacation is something we all look forward to.

Yet, a diet filled with processed foods and fast foods is never good, but especially when traveling. With so many new things around you, your body gets very easily tense and weak.

Eating non-nutritious food gets you clogged up faster, opening you up for sickness. Stress and a bad diet often equals constipation or diarrhea, among other things.

Create Your Own Me Time Space

Make time for your own ‘me-time.’ Take some time and just hang out with yourself.

Traveling in groups or as a couple is a lot of fun, but some quality time with yourself is important; it’s easy to forget about yourself when traveling.

By taking some time to listen to your mind, you’ll find out how you really feel. Often we don’t hear ourselves and don’t understand that we are stressed until our body just collapses on us, or until we take it out on our travel partners.

Be Aware of Changes Within Your Body

In order to ‘heal’ yourself, you first have to be able to recognize problems when they come up. If you notice something different, don’t shake it off right away.

Analyze it a bit, and try to remember when it started and if there are any connections to your traveling.

Find Time to Exercise

Experts say that the best way to manage stress is through exercise. It relaxes the mind and body and increases energy.

It helps you sleep better, gets rid of toxins in your body and can actually make you happier. Exercising causes the release of chemicals called endorphins into your blood stream.

These give you a feeling of happiness and affect your well-being. Exercising when traveling can be tough, but a simple walk can be make you feel better.

Stay by the airport

I know what you’re thinking but wait, I will explain …

I honestly think that it’s worth the extra cash staying somewhere really close to the airport than having to worry about crossing the whole of London at 7am in the morning to get to the airport.

After having tried to reach Stansted Airport early in the morning you will know what kind of stress I’m talking about. The extra money I spent on a taxi there after I found out that no buses go there in time for my flight, I could have spent on one of the Stansted Airport hotels instead.

There are usually airport hotels in every city, and you can get some pretty neat deals and bigger packages like a Gatwick Airport hotel and parking deal. Being woken up by a phone call and having a shuttle bus waiting for you in the lobby was so worth it.

Airport hotels used to have a bad rep because it really was only seen as a purely functional option, but hotel companies are starting to change that now…

Planning Departure Day

Everybody knows that before we can enjoy our holiday we have to grit our teeth and get through the stress, panic, hustle and bustle of the day with the capital D… Departure Day.

It’s not always a pleasant experience but it gets us where we REALLY want to be – on a sunny beach sipping a pina colada.

Another Way To Deal With Departure Day Stress?
Another Way to Deal with Departure Day Stress?

If you don’t have a car, there is always a lot of extra time spent on planning and trying to find a way of getting to the airport in time for the flight.

Once at the airport, finding parking quick and close to the terminal. The inconvenient nightmare that LAX has become due to their new ride sharing policies, you might be better off driving and using LAX parking.

And on the day of departure you run around the apartment making up worst case scenarios of the bus not arriving in time or the taxi not arriving at all.

But there is an easier way to avoid all, or at least most, of the agony associated with pre take-off logistics.

Stress symptoms to be aware of:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Hair-loss
  • Irregular periods
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Suddenly very short tempered
  • Nerve twitches
  • Skin conditions such as acne and eczema
  • Colds and sinus infections
  • Inflammatory illness such as urine infections

In order to reduce stress while traveling you should avoid

  • Having too many belongings; traveling light is less to manage and less to carry
  • Planning too much in one day  
  • Caffeine past noon
  • Tight transportation or tour schedules; leave enough time

How Do We Travel Continuously Without Getting Burnt Out?

A lot of it comes down to how attached you are to having a home. It’s about finding out how much certainty you need in your life.

It seems like the less certainty you need (the more uncertainty you can handle), the longer you can travel and stay happy. One way we found helped a lot when traveling was to create daily routines.

What people really want isn’t a house to call home, but the feeling of structure which that gives them. If your life has some kind of structure, you will feel safer and more certain no matter where in the world you are.

It doesn’t have to be something big, it could be something as small as having a morning routine. To wake up every day at the same time and go for a walk before breakfast, or having your meals at specific times of the day.

Minimize stress when you travel

It also comes down to how you as an individual handle stress and new situations. If you don’t take the time everyday to get into a relaxed state, traveling will burn you out before you know it.

We put A LOT of focus on making sure we do this when we travel. Another important factor is to try and be in the moment and actively be grateful for your life and everything around you.

Maybe on a walk you can take five minutes to think about all the things in your life that you’re grateful for. This usually put things straight if you start to question what the heck you’re doing.

Always worrying about the future can create a lot of stress in your mind. It’s good to think methodically, but not getting attached to the future and what MIGHT happen.

Reduce stress during travel

It is possible to reduce stress when you travel. Rushing through countries and seeing everything doesn’t make the trip any better than staying a bit longer at a place until you feel ready to continue.

Sit back and relax; nothing really is more important than your own personal mental health and safety. Take the world one step at a time, and you will find you can travel for a very long time and STILL enjoy it as much as your first day away. 

Stress from travel is a common problem. Recognizing travel stress symptoms and stopping them early on will make all the difference in your vacation.

International Travel Packing List

(photo credits: gmmail)

39 thoughts on “12 Hacks to Combat Travel Stress”

  1. I always carry a book with me. It's inevitable that you will be stuck in line or waiting for something, and having a book to read can really help keep you from dwelling on how much time you are “wasting”. This goes double when you're at the airport.

  2. Hey Kate – that really is a great mindset to have – thanks for sharing the tip – viewing the WHOLE trip as the holiday (the flights, taxi etc) not just when you get to the destination – a great view for keeping your mind relaxed – by taking away expectations and simply enjoying the moment – everything seems to just flow more 🙂

  3. thanks poi – maybe you should take your bike as part of your trip :p for some reason Sofia has a dream to push-bike all around Europe – so maybe we will be doing that this year! HELP! :p no I think it would be a great way to see the real countryside – dunno how long it would take though?

  4. sounds SO exciting 🙂 we haven't been to the Philippines yet – but would love to go. yeah dec.1st is a while away – but at least you have time now to prepare and save more money :p how long are you planning on traveling for? and no prob. about the rant 😉 we love to hear stories about what people planning to do and doing – it ROCKS! have a great day.

  5. hey – I am glad this blog helped you, its always good in the pre-planning stage to be prepared for everything – but its hard to be ready for everything – I do wish this kind of info was there when I first went traveling – but you live and you learn and then you past it on – which is our mission with this site 🙂 Where and when are you planning on traveling?

  6. Hi dear friends,
    Thanks for sharing most valuable information,
    Can you suggest me on yoga !
    Which one is best for my manage a stress ?

  7. great tip Terri – books are a great way to keep you busy when you gotta wait – now with the iphone etc. also great to keep you occupied during stressful/boring parts of traveling 🙂 I love my mp3 player – put on some calming songs and I can just drift away.

  8. The Philippines is where I'm headed, it's still far off though, December 1st to be precise. This will be my very first 'backpacking' experience, so I want to be as prepared as I can be, without going over the top, of course. I have traveled to a ton of places in the past, but I really want to change the way I travel, I want to see the world in a different way now. So I've been researching and reading up on all kinds of blogs (like this one, which is amazing, btw 🙂 and travel sites and I can't wait to get started, to be honest. I think about it everyday and December just can't get here fast enough. Also, I just want to say that I'm in awe of folk(s) like you, who do what you do. You truly do live life and that's what I want. Apologies for the random ADD rant 🙂

  9. Whenever i travel i always make a point of including the getting to my destination as part of the holiday and start to enjoy it all.

    I make sure that i never have to rush any hwere and that i enjoy the surroundings as much as possible including the bars and game areas. i always arrive at my destination happy and ready to continue with my holiday.

  10. Great tips! The two things I need most in the world are to read decent books and cycle so I'll have to make sure I find time for both of these.

  11. hey brv – yeah I think yoga is a great thing to do in order to relax, and manage personal stress. There are many types of yoga, so it is best to research a bit and see what style works more for you. if you can go you will also be able to search for free yoga videos and test them out 🙂 I carry a small foldout yoga sheet in my wallet when I travel so then can simply stop anywhere – do a few forms and do a bit of yoga before moving on again – have you tried yoga or any other relaxation method before?

  12. I've thought about not bothering with clothes and taking my bike a couple of times. I'm desperate to do a cycle Europe as well, I've got a couple of books on the go about it at the minute that are making me think even more about it. Kirsty is not found of the idea, fancy a swap?

  13. haha yeah we can all go along together :p i also think it would be a great way to see Europe by bike, but only once we have more time and can soon fund our travel 100% from this site then we will have the freedom to spend as long as we want doing anything 🙂 isn't that the dream eh – FREEDOM!

  14. Great list! I so agree with being OK with the fact that you can't control everything and knowing to slow down. I made this mistake last summer — I could only take a 2-week trip, so I crammed in as much as humanly possible (three countries, way too many cities). It was rushed; I didn't get enough time anywhere to really soak up the culture. And we were in such a rush, there was no room for error — when things didn't go to plan, things were awful! Next time, I know to slow down, don't plan as much, and remember that I can't control EVERYTHING 🙂

  15. Great tips and wonderful information for anyone making a big trip. I would say that if you do find yourself in a stressful situation, don't be feel like you are stuck. I was once an au pair in Italy and the family had me living in a hallway. I was so stressed out about having no privacy, that I just decided to leave and travel instead. Some see that as giving up, but if a situation, hostel, hotel, or person are making you uncontrollably stressed, get out. You will feel incredibly released and stress-free, ready to enjoy your travels.

  16. thanks Emily! haha great story you shared there – I can relate to that situation 100% :p it's not fun in the moment but later you can learn from your mistakes and make sure you don't be greedy for seeing and doing everything, instead take your time and enjoy what you can – and be happy with that. 🙂

  17. Hey Suzy – those are some great tips you shared – THANKS! having the ability (guts) to leave a stressful situation is a very powerful mindset to develop and I'm sure has helped you out on many occasions!

  18. Great advice. Exercise is the most important for me- I always make sure there's room for running shoes in my pack!

  19. something that helps me is to think of the previous trips ive had a good time on and that always seems to sooth the anxiety! like now i was travelling to bahrain on business and it was a bumpy flight. so i began to think of my previous business trip when i was in athens greece and we had an absolute blast after the convention i was attending, which was a total success thanks to our good mates over at the convention bureau of athens! kudos to them for trully knowing how to organize a convention

  20. thanks for stopping by – I'm glad you enjoyed this post – and hope you see you around here again! 🙂

  21. yeah that is a great tip – think about another time when you were in a similar situation, and how you made it through without problems by changing your current thought patterns.

  22. thanks josh – yeah exercise is very important – we made sure we worked out for the whole duration of our last 8months on the road – and it keeps you in shape both physically and mentally – which is what you need when you are out there exploring!

  23. Hey, So glad to get tips from someone who has been there and done that! I'm about to embark on a year long round the world trip with my boyfriend and I''ve NEVER done anything like that before! Neither of us have and we really don't know what to expect!! We're gonna be keeping a blog too and have literally just started it – if you've been to any of the countries we're going too would appreciate a few hints/tips about these in particular??

  24. Hey, So glad to get tips from someone who has been there and done that! I'm about to embark on a year long round the world trip with my boyfriend and I''ve NEVER done anything like that before! Neither of us have and we really don't know what to expect!! We're gonna be keeping a blog too and have literally just started it – if you've been to any of the countries we're going too would appreciate a few hints/tips about these in particular?? Aisleen.

  25. great to see you on here – we got your email and will be answering your questions this thursday 🙂 travel together is an amazing adventure, and i am sure you both will have an incredible time!

  26. Hey guys!
    I came to your blog after you just added me on Twitter.
    You have a really great site. Well done. I wish I had the same kind of commitment, hehe
    I've been on the road solo for over 25 months and, after reading a few of your articles, I think you give a lot of good advice for long-term travel.
    Also, I'm happy to hear you're doing it on a low budget.
    Keep up the good work
    much peace, love and light to you both,

  27. Really great advice. I've finally gotten into a routine but I really need more exercise, I think I may be hitting the gym in the future.

  28. These are some really awesome tips! I couldn't agree more. I think having some me time is so key–people think they are supposed to be with other people 24/7, but that can be kind of stifling! I also like the idea of slowing down. I often find myself in such a frenzy to get from one place to another that I forget to slow down and enjoy my surroundings.

  29. Hey Ara, thanks for the wonderful comment – 25 months? wow that sounds amazing! keep it up and look forward to seeing you around here more 🙂

  30. its great you have found a routine – feels good right? 🙂 the gym is a good thing to do, but sorta hard while you are traveling – we are going to be posting a blog soon about working out while on the road.

  31. Hey Emily, thanks for the comment! yeah slowing down is a hard thing to do sometimes when there are so many exciting new things to see, but when you are gone for a long time, there will be a point where life forces us to slow down, by sickness, stress etc. so its nice to know how to provoke it and relax yourself before something goes wrong… makes you stronger as well 🙂

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  33. Travel is enriched with joyful and delighted event.Generally We spend our vacation in the remote area from the city.Your tips are very helpful for the travelers.I most like the point ” Don’t Try To Control The Uncontrollable ” very much.Of course heavy load in vacation made our vacation monotonous like daily life.Vacation is not our daily routine work, it wil be enjoyable and funny.

  34. 5 & 6 are SO true – especially, I've found, in Asia where I am at the moment…

    Great tips here – after a day mooching around in southern cambodia i think I need to work on num 10!

  35. This list (and blog) is awesome!! It’s so true! Why do we do this to ourselves? I went to New Zealand once for three weeks and was determined to see the whole thing! In the end, I felt I didnt see any of it, so I moved there for a year to do it right! haha.

  36. Haha yeah Asia can really give you a hard time if you try the uncontrollable and refuse to get over things, or will at least keep you very busy!
    Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  37. How about including on your list travel insurance especially when you are traveling in developed countries like the US where in health care is very expensive. I assure you if you have one you will be worry free when it comes to financial matters when in case something unpleasant happens.

  38. Love this post! Being early is certainly a good idea, that I need to do better at. I always feel less stress when I’m not worried about making that train on time.
    Love the tip about letting things go to. It’s happened, and you’re best to simply learn from it and move on.
    Thanks you two!

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