A well-organized suitcase gives incredible peace of mind. Credit: Anete Lusina/Unsplash

Top Tips for Anxious Travelers

Ease your mind and take care of your mental health while travelling
Published 01/31/2022 by Inés Barús

The way we view and talk about mental health has evolved in the past decade, especially after the pandemic. The long months of isolation, job insecurity, and collective grief made us see the importance of mental wellbeing. Traveling, while always challenging for the estimated 275 million people who suffer from anxiety disorders in the world, has become even trickier in the time of COVID.

Travel has been both an exhilarating and stressful experience for me: from the freedom you feel taking off to the constant buzzing in your ear telling you that something’s gonna go terribly wrong, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “I’m gonna lose my passport, I’m gonna miss my bus, I’m gonna drop my phone in the water, I’m gonna get arrested because some rando put drugs in my luggage…” The list is endless. Here are some useful tips that have helped me get things under control.

How safe is train travel?

When it comes to traveling by train, organization is key. Stations can be neat, but they can also be chaotic and they’re never as well signed as airports, so it’s easy to get confused. Sometimes trains depart from a different platform, diverge into two after a certain stop or miss some stops altogether. To that, add the panic of not being sure which stop is yours and you’re sure to feel incredibly anxious, especially if you don’t know the language.

I’ve found that carrying a notepad with all your travel information and drawing a map of the station and the surrounding area helps. Yes, you can use Google Maps, but if you’re as bad at orientation as I am, sometimes a silly drawing that you’ve created will ease your mind. 

Use the Omio app and make sure you activate the notifications so you can receive live updates of any platform changes and enjoy my favorite feature—it tells you when your stop is coming up so you won’t get lost! Lastly, I find it helps to become friendly with someone else in the train carriage, so I can ask them to check on my stuff while I get up to go to the bathroom or the bistro.

Ease your train anxiety with a good book: “Such a Fun Age” by Kylie Reid

How to travel by bus and actually enjoy it

Buses have long been regarded as the redheaded stepchild of transportation, especially for longer trips. But traveling by road has improved in recent years, with more comfortable seats, personal entertainment systems and power outlets, free Wi-Fi and complimentary drinks. I’ve long feared getting motion sickness and someone stealing my luggage during a stopover. But I have a remedy for both. 

If you suffer from motion sickness, make sure you sit in the middle of the bus, as that’s the most stable part of the vehicle. Also, carry a perfumed handkerchief with you and inhale the scent when you start feeling dizzy—this is a tip from my grandfather, so you can be sure it’s been tested and approved! Bring a few wet wipes and anti bac gel for trips to the toilet. And if you fear luggage thieves: Get off at every stop. This way, you can keep an eye on your property while you stretch your legs. Fresh air also helps with stress! 

Soothe your bus blues with a good listen: “You’re Wrong About” podcast by Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall  

How to get over flight anxiety

When it comes to traveling anxiety, the first thing that comes to mind is the fear of flying. One in six people have a fear of flying and while it can be assuaged by medication for flight anxiety or booze, we recommend a healthier approach.

Some airlines, such as easyJet, have started their own programs to help nervous flyers. The Fearless Flyer course combines psychological techniques with easy-to-digest knowledge (what is the science behind turbulence?) about plane mechanics. Because nothing beats fear like facts! 

If you’re not afraid of flying but find the checkin and boarding ordeal unbearable, there are ways to make the experience more chill. 

Pack your stuff with security in mind: if you’re bringing a computer or toiletries, put them on the top so it’s easy to remove them, and always keep in mind you may be the lucky one who gets chosen for a private inspection. Do some breathing exercises on the way to the airport, as this might be the most stressful part of the journey. Things will look up when you get to your destination. 

Meditate on high with a great app: Check out Headspace 

How to prevent sea sickness

Ferries seem like a lovely and dreamy means of transportation but it can cause anxiety like anything else. Some people are afraid of deep water (thalassophobia), some get sea sickness, some travelers get overwhelmed by the size and noises the boat can make. 

The top tip to get over seasickness: head to the upper deck to get fresh air. Try to always stand in the middle of the boat and if there are seats, always make sure you face forward. Try not to stare at your phone or read a book, as looking down can make things worse. Instead, sit in the sun and listen to some gentle music while you feel the breeze in your face.

Sail away to calmer seas with classical music: “Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons”