Chances are if you’re reading this blog post, you may suffer or be suffering from pre-trip anxiety, which is something a lot of travelers deal with behind epic adventures and stunning travel photos. Traveling isn’t always glamorous and those hours, days or weeks leading up to your trip can be completely nerve-wracking or filled with excitement, wonder, and thrill. We want the latter (of course). I had been contemplating making this post for a while, and I know with summer coming up and more and more adventures getting planned, that people are going to want to get out there and experience life without looming travel anxiety over their head that prevents them from finally booking that trip they’ve always wanted to take.
Everyone deserves to be able to see the world and it’s beauty (and feel good about it), so I have compiled some of my personal tips that have helped me ease pre-trip anxiety to start my trip off on the right foot.
Traveling soon? Check out my other (awesome) resources!
- Everything You Need To Know About Travel Insurance
- How To Stay Organized While Traveling
- A Quick Step By Step Guide For First Time Flyers
Believe it or not, I almost didn’t go to the Philippines. The night before and the morning of my flight, I became this nervous and anxious wreck and I vaguely remember sobbing as I packed up my things and prepared to leave for the airport. Was I going to come back? I can’t believe I am choosing to travel in a place that puts me in this much danger. I could skip the Philippines and head straight to Japan instead. I could cancel my trip altogether and go somewhere else. It’s not too late, after all. What was I thinking?
Whether you’re a newbie or seasoned traveler, pre-trip anxiety happens to all of us, and just know that it’s okay to feel that way. The unknown is often a terrifying subject for a lot of people (myself included) and traveling is the poster child of the unknown. You’re tossing yourself into a new place with a new culture, new surroundings, new language, new food, new climate, new people, and we aren’t used to it. We are used to our safety nets of home and familiarity. We have this need for complete control over our lives, and the unknown of travel puts us in a position where we seemingly lose all of that.
When I first experienced these feelings, I was confused and I felt like I was letting myself down. “Wait, I’m supposed to be excited about traveling?!”, “I’ve been dying to go here for months and I might back out now?”, I told myself. And you know what I did? I recognized what had been making myself feel that way and I asked fellow travelers about their personal experiences as solo female travelers in the Philippines (they had incredible, safe times by the way), and that came to be one of the main things that pushed me into my decision and choose to go through with the trip. It was one of the best decisions that I’ve made to date.
If you happen to feel a little lost and scared when pre-trip anxiety hits, please remember that it is nothing out of the ordinary, and there are steps you can take to ease these feelings and enjoy your travels. These are the many things that have helped me over the years and I hope they can help at least one of you get out there and have the time of your life.
I am sharing these tips on the basis of my own personal experience with pre-trip anxiety. I do not suffer from anxiety on a day-to-day basis, but I do experience some light spurts before larger events and some travels. I am not a health professional. These are my own personal methods of calming my racing mind and heart in hopes that it can help some of you make more room for the feeling of excitement rather than anxiousness when you think about traveling, or are about to head out on a trip.
Try To Pinpoint The Source Of The Anxiety
Sometimes this can be like finding a needle in a haystack, but when it comes to pre-trip anxiety, it can be quite easy to find what the root of the issue is. Start by making a list of everything you’re worried about, and then go through each one and note if it’s something you’ve read, something you’re telling yourself, or something that someone else has told you. More often than not, people can push their own concerns and fears onto us and we end up spiraling into this sea of self-doubt that has us questioning our entire trip when weeks ago we were stoked about leisuring on a beach and visiting that one place that’s been on our bucket list for so long. When we hear these things, we tend to brush them off, but once that dose of reality hits before you leave for the airport, it’s like everything that anyone has said has become 100% fact. It can be quite overwhelming having all these scenarios replay in our heads, especially when you’re trying to get your things together and prepare.
Once you have created the list, then you can take steps to ease these things and feel more confident. Are you afraid of getting pickpocketed or robbed? Try out an anti-theft bag so that you can walk around care-free. Afraid of being alone? Book a hostel and reach out to other travelers. Use the Girls Love Travel group and see if you can meet up with other women or gather helpful tips for the country that you’re traveling to.
Sometimes, just the simple fact of it being an unknown place is why you’re feeling this way and these next tips will iron out those worries: Researching Your Destination and Planning The First 24 Hours Of Your Trip.
Research Your Destination
This kinda goes without saying, but you want to have a rough idea of what you’re getting yourself into. I am an extremely visual person, so I use Pinterest and Google a ton to look up what certain places look like to get a pretty rough idea. I feel that the glamorous aspects of travel are often highlighted while the realities are not, so knowing what to expect is a big key factor.
Now that you know what the area looks like, let’s dig into the details:
What currency is used? What is the conversion rate?
What language is spoken? What are some key phrases that may be useful to know?
How will you get around? Is there a lot of local transportation or can you walk?
What are the basic customs? Should you wear more conservative clothing?
What are the common tourist scams in the country?
What will the weather be like?
What are the recommended items that you take along? (find these via Pinterest ‘essential items for traveling ______’)
By having a rough idea of these things, it takes you from the unknown to a very basic understanding of what the places in that country are like. You will still experience the curiosity and awe of traveling, except it’ll seem a bit familiar from all the exposure and reading you’ve been doing. The more you read and research, the more you’ll find yourself going through rabbit holes of inspiration and tips that will have you feeling more confident about your destination.
Plan The First 24 Hours Of Your Trip
For most of my trips, I am spontaneous except for the first 24 hours before, during, and after I land. This is a crucial step for helping me feel secure and get into the swing and pace of the country that I go to. If I don’t plan anything, I am a nervous wreck and I will be entirely overwhelmed for where I need to go, what I need to do, etc.. I always try to plan where I am staying, how I am getting there, and who is taking me. That way I know that I have a comfortable place for my things and I don’t have to worry about anything being booked out. I know what type of transportation will get me there and roughly how much it should cost so I can be firm with my price. I know who is getting me there. This is an important one. As a solo female traveler, safety is my main priority, especially when I am first landing somewhere. I will find a driver or a guide through mutual friends or recommendations of other female travelers (you can use the Girls Love Travel Facebook Page for this) so I know I am riding with someone that is trusted. It’s all about what makes you feel safe and secure because that is the most important impression when you first land in a country. Having all these boxes checked really makes me feel comfortable and ready to get into the swing of new routines.
If you’re more into the details than I am, you may want to have a step by step (quite literally) of what you’re going to do: the whole gameplan. So, let’s rewind a little to my trip to the Philippines. I was going to land at the Mactan Airport (CEB). From there, I was going to walk out of customs, get my currency exchanged at the kiosk, purchase a SIM card, and meet up with Lavigna, my guide. Once I met up with Lavigna, I was going to have some lunch at a vegan spot in the city, and from there I was going to drive three hours down to Moalboal, where I would spend the next few nights and possibly have dinner (that’s why you always pack snacks because you never know). Now a lot of this did end up happening, but I ended up going back to her place with her to wait until her uncle was off work so that he could take me to Moalboal, taking a huge nap at her place, eating dinner with her family, and making it to my guesthouse at around 12:30 am after two full travel days. Phew. By already having a plan, it took the guesswork out of the trip entirely and I was more welcoming to things steering a little off course.
While planning isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, if you’re feeling anxious and need even a slice of reassurance and security, this is a great way to feel more relaxed since you’ll have a checklist.
Reach Out To Fellow Travelers
In this day and age, there are always tons of people that will gladly share their personal experiences in certain places if you ask. I am in a travel group on Facebook called Girls Love Travel, and it is your one-stop shop for encouragement, recommendations, personal accounts, and anything else you will need for your trip (all from women of course). If you ever have questions or concerns about a certain destination, you’ll receive dozens, if not hundreds, of comments from women of all ages and backgrounds that will help encourage you and help you feel better about where you’re headed off to. Going through something alone is never fun, and this encouraging group of women has helped boost my confidence and stand taller as a solo female traveler (and make my choice to go through with my Philippines trip)! To me, personal experiences will always outweigh anything that my friends and family say because the media can portray certain places to be absolute no-go’s and cause a huge bandwagon of people to boycott going to a place when they’ve only read news headlines *sips tea*. Which, don’t get me wrong, some places are a tad bit more dangerous for solo female travelers, but in gathering experiences from other women, this can help you make your own decision for what makes you feel safe and comfortable. If you really want to bring out the big guns, check travel advisories, although always pair that with personal experience to make your final decision.
Plan The Right Accommodation
Oh, goodness is this important. When you’re planning for your trip, things are exciting! You’re feelin’ spontaneous! You’re surfing around Airbnb and Hostelworld for the coolest stays when you finally choose to book a hostel that has stunning architecture, a great overall vibe, and a poppin’ nightlife. Fast forward to the night or day before you leave your trip and you’re feeling overwhelmed and you’re really looking forward to laying your stuff down in your own space after being crammed next to people on a flight for x amount of hours, and then it hits you, you’re in a dorm with 8-12 other people… or the opposite happens. You book a room to yourself and you arrive in a place feeling lonely and wishing you had other fellow travelers to talk and explore with. In knowing what makes you feel the most comfortable in terms of accommodation, you can book a place that suits your needs that won’t have you feeling even worse when you arrive. Another huge tip is to check the location of where your accommodation is. Is it in the hub? Is it in the outskirts? Where would you feel the safest?
Keeping this in mind it’s important to remember my next point.
Plan Your Trip For YOU
Remember that this trip is going to be whatever you want it to be. Are you adventurous? Be adventurous and go cliff-jumping. Are you reserved? Book your own room. Would you rather go to all the art museums and learn about history? Go to them. With all these opinions and influences swirling around these days, sometimes we feel like we HAVE to go or do a certain thing because it’s the THING to do, when in reality we may not even like doing it. Sometimes a dream itinerary can be a horrible disaster when we arrive because it’s totally not what we thought it would be. It’s totally okay to leave and take a train or bus to somewhere else. Overwhelmed in Paris, Mykonos, or Rome? Take a train to the countryside or other lesser known parts of those countries. Don’t feel like you have to stay because it’s PARIS or MYKONOS, or ROME. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t make yourself suffer through it to be #travelgoals.
I genuinely enjoy traveling for long periods of time so that I can travel slowly and get a feel for the culture, but some people are ready to be home after a week.
Some people like to rough it out in tents and others like to sip expensive champagne in a five-star hotel.
If you like playing tourist and going to iconic spots and being “typical”. Do it.
Remember that there is no wrong way to travel and if someone else is trying to dictate your trip, hold tight to your personal values and interests and you’re going to have a way better time than if you base your trip off someone else’s personal take. They can travel how they want when they choose to go to that country, you don’t have to compromise for someone else.
Give Yourself A Financial Cushion
I hate to say this, but even if it is an emergency credit card (not ideal but always an option), having it will have you feeling exponentially better while you travel. Ideally, you’ll want some real money set aside, but regardless, you never know what is going to happen and having some money to fall back on is always a good idea. Sometimes there are points in our trip where spending a little more money is a good thing whether it’s tossing a couple of extra dollars into an organized tour rather than one that requires hopscotching around bus routes and trains, or spending a little more on a nicer room in a safer neighborhood, or if you want to join some friends on an excursion.
It’s comforting knowing that you don’t have to penny pinch every day of your trip and you can say yes to more things without worrying about spending the extra money. It’s also important as solo female travelers to invest in our safety and have the money to do so in case we aren’t comfortable with something.
Purchase Travel Insurance
While on the road, sometimes nothing can happen and sometimes shit can hit the fan real quick. Either way, we always want to be covered. I traveled for three years walking on a tightrope since I didn’t have any travel insurance, but now I never ever travel without it. My frugal self really hates forking over the extra cash for something that seems, well, extra, but I know that if anything were to happen, even if it’s just luggage loss or flight cancellation(s), that I have someone I can contact for help if I need it. If you’re new to the travel scene, or if you’ve never traveled with insurance but want to start, this post all about travel insurance will give you all the information you need to buying travel insurance that is right for you. I use World Nomads for insurance on every trip since they have coverage for all my adventurous stunts and activities and they offer incredible rates and customer service. However, I always recommend reading their policies and coverage plans to make sure that their plan(s) are right for you.
Take Care Of Yourself Before You Leave
Self-care looks different for everyone, but these are some of the things that I love doing that help me feel good and reduce my anxious tendencies:
Getting Lots Of Rest
Spending Time With My Loved Ones
Going to my favorite restaurant in town
spending time in nature
getting all my work done
cleaning up my space before I leave
shower + shave the night before my flight
Practice Meditation + Breath Work
I know, I know. It sounds so granola, but trust me, this is the biggest contributor that eases my pre-trip anxiety or any anxieties for that matter. I think that meditation is often times linked to some type of spiritual practice, which it is and it can be, but generally speaking, meditation is a tool to silence the mind and slow the breath. It’s simply you sitting with yourself to learn more about yourself, but in this case, it’s to alleviate the stresses that will come up before you board your flight. Sometimes it can be quite difficult for me to sit in 100% silence without my mind trying to hop from subject to subject, so guided meditations have been extremely transformative for me in the last year. For now, the only person that I have found that has professional level meditation videos with stellar audio is Jason Stephenson on Youtube. What an angel. It really feels like he is sitting in the room with you guiding you through suppressed emotions, fears, anxieties, and anything internal that you’re dealing with. I highly recommend his videos and these are some of my favorites if you want to check them out:
As for breathwork, I generally do the same ‘in 1-2-3-4, out 1-2-3-4’, but there are some other breathing exercises here that you can try out for yourself if you want to try something new/different.
+ On The Other Side Of The Coin… Know If You Should Cancel
If you’re stressing, and I mean STRESSING because you didn’t plan, found out you need to do way more than you thought, the budget wasn’t right, etc., know that it’s okay to cancel (hey, this is why we bought insurance, right?). One of my friends and I almost hiked a portion of the PCT trail and I was in no way ready to conquer such a feat. I didn’t have any experience with bear safety or hiking safety for that matter, there wasn’t much planning done, and both of us really didn’t settle well with going, so we canceled.
Sometimes we see travel as being an escape or something that will solve all of our problems, or we just feel like we HAVE to.
The truth is, a mind in a bad place will not be cured by white sand and a heart that is suffering will not be healed by coconut palms. Surely it might help you be in a more relaxed setting, but if you don’t deal with these things internally and be content exactly as you are, they will live with you until you do.
With all the travel influencers nowadays, it might give you a bad case of FOMO, fear of missing out, but know that you’re on your own journey and sometimes travel isn’t on the agenda right now. Of course, I encourage everyone to go out and see as much as they can with the time that they have, but sometimes it’s not the optimal decision. I have been spending the last six months or so getting my website redesigned, going through old blog posts and optimizing them for SEO, recreating Pinterest images, etc., and I would have had a horrible time traveling if I knew that I had this long list to do for work and I also wanted to spend my time exploring. I’d much rather get these things done ahead of time, and then venture out and not worry about redoing a post and conversing back and forth with my designer through spotty wifi. It is what made sense for me. Of course, I wanted to be out exploring new destinations, but it wasn’t the optimal choice, and I respected that.
To put it simply, if it doesn’t settle well or feel right to be traveling, don’t go.
If it does settle right and it’s a bit of pre-trip anxiety, 99% of the time you’re going to be glad you went, and I am glad I went to the Philippines (and also super proud of myself for pushing past my internal worries). I always have such a beautiful time traveling and you will, too. Trust in that.
Have you ever experienced pre-trip anxiety? How did you conquer it? Share with me in the comments below!
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