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Travel Anxiety: What is it and How Can You Combat it?

15 December 2023

Hiking Through The Mountains

Google Trends Data shows that searches for the phrase ‘travel anxiety’ have increased by 165% in the last five years.  

25% of people in the UK are estimated to have some form of travel anxiety (Anxiety UK). This is when a person feels anxious when they travel or may avoid travelling due to fear surrounding this. 

With over 16 million Brits thought to have some form of travel anxiety, we have teamed up with BACP registered counsellor Georgina Sturmer to reveal the symptoms of travel anxiety and ways to help manage the condition. 

Waiting at the airport
Waiting at the airport

What is Travel Anxiety?

Georgina said: “Travel anxiety is a sense of worry or fear that develops when we think about planning travel or travelling itself. It can be a confusing experience, as society often associates travel with a sense of pleasure and excitement. 

“If we experience travel anxiety then that sense of pleasure and excitement is replaced with a sense of dread, worry, fear and even panic.”

Why Might People Feel Anxious About Travel?

Georgina said: “The concept of travel is a broad one, but if we think about it, there are lots of ‘moving parts’ that could induce a sense of anxiety. We might be stressed about booking a trip, worrying about the financial implications, or asking for time off work. We might even be anxious about certain aspects of the journey. We might be worried about the destination, maybe we won’t understand the language or culture, and perhaps we are frightened that we are going somewhere risky.

“We also place a lot of pressure on the idea of travel, that it will be a magical, fulfilling, and relaxing experience. Anxiety can grow when we worry that it might not live up to our expectations, in particular, if we feel that it might be our fault in some way.  

“If we are prone to anxiety more generally in life, then the prospect of travel might add a layer of stress or fear, as it takes us out of our comfort zone. This means that all our established routines and coping strategies might become more difficult to access.”

How Can We Combat Travel Anxiety?

Georgina said: “Face up to your travel anxiety before it hits. If you know that the idea of travel is going to increase your anxiety levels, take it into account when you’re making your plans. Are there ways in which you can make your journey feel easier, less stressful, and less likely to trigger your anxiety?

“Proactively think about your coping mechanisms. I would always suggest that we think about a toolkit of healthy coping strategies. For example, a breathing exercise that you can do anywhere, like ‘five finger breathing’ helps to calm and soothe your nervous system. 

“Also, explore where the anxiety comes from. Be curious about what triggers your anxiety, and if it feels familiar from your past. This might be something worth exploring in more depth with a trained mental health professional.  

“Finally, voice how you’re feeling with your travel companions. It’s tempting to suppress our feelings, for fear of embarrassment, or if we are just trying to pretend to ourselves that they are not there. But if we make other people aware of how we are feeling, then they are better equipped to support us when we are feeling anxious.”

We often get customers coming to us with anxieties around travel. Dave Mills, our Chief Commercial Officer said: 

“Travel anxiety can affect anyone and we often get anxious passengers coming to us with their worries. Health anxieties, especially since COVID-19, have contributed to many people worrying about getting ill while they are abroad. Anxieties around being on a cruise ship are also common, especially for first-time travellers. 

“Some passengers have anxiety about losing something such as their luggage or getting something stolen from them. Whilst many things can contribute to travel anxiety, learning how to cope with these anxieties may enhance your travel experience. If you do feel anxious about any aspect of travelling, please come and speak to us and one of our travel agents who will be able to help.” 

Our Expert Tips to Help with Travel Anxiety: 

Think of Solutions 

Many anxieties are uneasy “what if” scenarios. While no one can plan for things going wrong, it is important to think of solutions to these problems to help ease your mind. 

For example, “What if I get lost?” or “What if I lose my money?”. Both of these problems have simple solutions, such as bringing a paper map or downloading a travel app to help you get around and bringing an emergency credit card and asking friends or relatives if they could transfer your money should anything go wrong. Pre-planning for situations like this will help you feel more comfortable and confident for your trip.  

Distract Yourself 

If you’re anxious about travel, bring some distractions that can take your mind off the situation. Listening to music can help calm your nerves while reading a book or playing a video game could navigate any negative thoughts and help you feel calm. 

You can also distract your brain with your own thoughts. Try and recite a scene from your favourite film or TV show in your head, or run through the times table. These activities can take your mind away from any sudden anxieties you may feel. 

Travel with Someone You Trust

Travelling solo can be daunting, and many of us get comfort in being with someone trustworthy, calm and confident. Bringing along a best friend or partner may help calm your nerves, and knowing you can rely on another person during your trip can make the whole experience much more enjoyable. 

Let the person you’re travelling with know you’re feeling anxious beforehand, as they’ll be able to anticipate how to help you should any anxiety arrive. 

Don’t Let Your Anxiety Hold You Back

It sounds simple, but try not to let your anxieties ruin your travel experience. Even if you’re feeling anxious about a trip and wish to cancel, try and go ahead with the plans. 

It’s important to remember that anxiety is normal, and many others will be feeling similar to you before a holiday. 

Committing to your trip, even if you’re feeling anxious, is the best thing you can do. You’ll see that all the things you thought would go wrong don’t, and even if they do, you manage to work it out. This will leave you feeling much more confident about travelling and wanting to book another adventure!

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