How to Reduce Travel Anxiety

January 5, 2020 George Abitante

Today I want to talk about reducing travel anxiety over the holidays. The holiday season can bring with it a number of positive experiences, but it also involves potentially stressful situations. One that occurs frequently but isn't discussed often is the challenge of planning yours or your family's travels. The planning process can be extensive, convoluted, and just plain frustrating, and ultimately can be a significant source of anxiety. Anxiety can result from the planning process, the time you're actually traveling, or even the disruption to your schedule that results from visiting (or being visited by) family. The demands of holiday travel can be intense and unpredictable, so what can you do to reduce travel anxiety and enjoy yourself? 

Understanding Travel Anxiety Helps to Reduce It

There are several aspects of traveling that may be causing you anxiety, so I'm not going to discuss specifics today. Instead, take a moment to think about the aspects of traveling that caused you the most distress this year. What aspect of the process was the most challenging for you?

It may have been booking your flight or planning a route to drive. Perhaps you struggled to maintain your daily routine while you were with family and this generated additional anxiety. Whatever the cause, think about each of the factors leading to your distress or anxiety. With these factors in mind, let's walk through steps you can take to reduce your travel anxiety. 

How to Reduce Your Travel Anxiety 

  1. Identify what you can control. With travel, there are a lot of factors you don't have control over. Weather can lead to missed flights or dangerous drives, kids getting sick can require a swift change of plan, and transportation costs may necessitate quick improvisation. These are generally things that you won't be able to change, and it's important to identify whether these sorts of issues are part of what cause your anxiety. If your attention is on things outside your control, then planning differently or making concrete changes won't necessarily reduce your travel anxiety. Instead, reframing those potential issues may be more helpful. The factors you can control, on the other hand, can be valuable because they provide you opportunities to develop solutions. 
  2. Identify concrete solutions. Once you've identified the factors that contribute to your travel anxiety that you can control, it's time to start looking for solutions. Developing strategies to limit your exposure to stress can be time-consuming, but will ultimately be worthwhile. For example, if you find yourself worrying frequently about getting to the airport on time, you can identify aspects of your travel plan that can be adapted to reduce that fear. Planning how you'll get to the airport, how long it will take, and what time you'll leave can help you face your travel anxiety head-on. 
  3. Start problem-solving early. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you can plan your travel anxiety-reduction strategy ahead of time. Rather than waiting until the day you leave to consider how you can reduce travel anxiety, instead start the process a few weeks or even a month ahead of time. This will allow you to identify the sources of your anxiety and develop tools to face them well in advance, and as the saying goes: practice makes perfect. The more you practice the solutions you're going to use, the easier it will be to implement them when you actually travel, and this will also make it easier for you to handle any unexpected bumps along the way. 

Traveling can be a genuinely challenging and distressing experience, but the tips above can help you get a handle on your anxieties and prepare for them ahead of time. Use these tips to cultivate greater clarity, calm, and confidence for your next travel experience.

Please share other strategies you use to reduce travel anxiety below. 

APA Reference
Abitante, G. (2020, January 5). How to Reduce Travel Anxiety , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: George Abitante

George received his Master's degree in Clinical Psychology from Northwestern University and is pursuing his PhD in Clinical Psychology at Vanderbilt University. Find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @AbitanteGeorge.

Lizanne Corbit
January, 6 2020 at 7:52 pm

This is something that so many people face, and additional feelings of expectations and obligations during holiday time can make it that much more daunting. I love your suggestions, particularly the one to think about the things you can control. This may seem like a no-brainer but it can make a huge difference, and sometimes you'll find there are more things in your power than you think.

January, 7 2020 at 6:18 am

Hi Lizanne,
Thanks for your comment, you make a great point that when we examine what is actually in our control, there's often much more we can do than it seems at first! Hope you're well,

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