My Complete Guide to Reducing Travel Anxiety

my complete guide to reducing travel anxiety
Do you ever hear people say things like, “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”?  


How about, “I would rather spend my money on experiences than material things”?


So how do you become rich with travel experiences and do ALL OF THE THINGS when you suffer from anxiety?


I have struggled with anxiety and worry my whole life.  How’s that for a confession?  Anxiety can cripple you if you let it.


So what’s an anxious girl to do? 


I have done a fair amount of traveling in my life so far, and I get travel anxiety EVERY SINGLE TIME. 


The longer the trip, the more anxious I get. 


The farther from home, the more my anxiety peaks.  My mind likes to go wild with “what if.”


What is the secret to keeping that anxiety at bay and traveling anyway? 


There is no secret. 


There is no eliminating the fear completely. 


First, you gotta recognize that YOU are not your mind.  You cannot let those thoughts run wild and control you.


Next, educate yourself as much as possible about your destination and PLAN PLAN PLAN. 


Think through the different scenarios and outcomes and be as prepared as you can possibly be.  Plan, but be flexible when things go wrong (because something definitely will)!  Know your options.


My years in the classroom have taught me a lot about planning and then being flexible when it all goes to heck haha.



My anxiety comes from fear of the unknown, so I try to learn as much as possible.  Being prepared helps to keep that anxiety in check.



If you suffer from anxiety, you should still travel.  Actually, you absolutely MUST travel! 


Travel teaches you about yourself.  And when you travel alone, that is when you learn the most about who you are and what you are capable of achieving. 


You are smarter and braver than you think.


Travel builds confidence, and confidence in yourself and your abilities is the key to living the life of your dreams.


Each time I travel, I come back a little bit different.  A little bit more of my TRUE self shines through.



Think of your comfort zone (or your anxiety) like a circle.  That circle is closing you in and suffocating you.  It is cutting you off from the life you deserve to enjoy.  It keeps you living in fear and playing it safe.

 reducing travel anxiety 1

Each time you step out of your comfort zone, your circle grows bigger. 


Each time you travel, you conquer your fear, you push past the anxiety, and your circle grows bigger.


You can stay nice and safe in your little bubble and never experience life at all.  Or you can take chances, make mistakes, and get messy 😊

(Thanks Mrs. Frizzle.)



Put the money down on that trip.  JUST DO IT. 

You can always make more money.  You cannot get back lost time. 


It’s a funny thing…time…


We only get so much of it, yet we live our lives as though we have an infinite supply.




The most dangerous thing of all is arriving at the end of your life and realizing that you never really lived at all.



The Anxious Girl’s Guide to Travel


Use this Anxious Girl’s Guide to Travel to help lighten the burden of anxiety you are bearing.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic as well!  Is there something you do before travel that helps reduce your anxiety?  Let me know!


If you do not suffer from travel anxiety, this guide might surprise you and make you say HOLY $!@*. 


This is {almost} everything that goes on in my head before a trip.


What To Do Immediately After Booking


  1. Purchase Travel Insurance. 

I use Travel Guard.  Eliminate all of those pre-travel-what-if-jitters and have some peace of mind.  God Forbid something happen, I have extra protection.  I can be airlifted to a good hospital, and I’m covered medically (more coverage than my normal health care would provide).  Travel insurance also helps out with unexpected delays, lost baggage, etc.



  1. Check your Passport. If you need a passport, get that application in right away!

First of all, make sure that you know where your passport is!  You do NOT want to have a night-before-travel freak out.  Talk about anxiety…  Also, make sure that your passport is up-to-date. 

You will be in trouble if your passport expires too close to your travel dates.  For anxious girls, give yourself a 6-month buffer from the return date of your travel.  You won’t be able to travel if your passport expires in 3 months or less.  You probably will not be able to even board the plane in the US.  Maybe you’ll get lucky, but I have heard of this happening more than once…


Pro Tip:  Make a copy of your passport and give it to your parents or your emergency contact to keep in their safe.  If something happens (like your passport is lost or stolen), you have back up.


If you do not need a passport for your trip, make sure that your state ID is ok for flying.  Requirements have been changing.


reducing travel anxiety 3



  1. Are there any visa requirements? 

Even if you are only stopping in a country for a layover, you may still need a visa.  I know of a few ladies who completely missed their trips (turned away at the departure gate) because of an unknown visa requirement for a layover. 

One gal was not allowed to board her flight departing from the US because of a layover in China.  If I am remembering correctly, it was due to the length of her layover (even if she was not going to leave the airport) that she needed a visa.  She didn’t know, and she wasn’t allowed to board the plane in the US.  Sad sad day.



  1. Think about your health.

Are you required to get any shots before traveling?  Are there any health advisories that you need to prepare for? Zika or Malaria anyone?  Are there any preventative measures or medications that you can take with you and have on hand?  Do you need to refill any prescriptions?  (You don’t want to be calling doctors and pharmacies at the last minute.) 

If you are a diabetic, for example, it is especially important to plan ahead.  What medical supplies do you need to bring?  Do not count on the same supplies you use in your home country being available abroad.  Better to be safe than sorry!



  1. Book your accommodations and your transportation. Also, book any fun tours or excursions you want to do.

The longer you wait, the more the price goes up, and the availability becomes limited.  I learned this the hard way when I went to London and wanted to do a Harry Potter studio tour. 


I almost missed out because I waited so long to book!  I just assumed it was something you could show up and do, but NO.  It is so popular that they limit the number of tickets per session. 


Plan the things that are top priority, but also leave some room to be spontaneous and flexible 😊 Sometimes those unexpected last-minute adventures are the best! 


When I was traveling around the UK & Ireland with my friend Meera, we decided to cancel our B&B in Dingle at the last minute and head to Galway to see the Cliffs of Moher instead!  (We’re both big Harry Potter nerds…obvi.) 


I am sure Dingle is completely lovely and magical.  I would still love to go someday, BUT this last-minute change of plans turned out to be the BEST DECISION EVER. 


Our tour guide Tom was a true gem.  Sometimes booking a guided tour is hands down the way to go.  Sit back, relax, and let someone take care of all the logistics for you…especially for the anxious girl. 


The ferry ride over to the Aran Islands was ROUGH, but we stood at the rail and “WOOOOed” like we were on a roller-coaster every time we went over big waves.  Our fun was only spoiled when we had to move for the pukers. 


We met a mother son travel duo and ended up having a blast with them on the Cliffs and back in Galway.  We got a horse and carriage ride from Kevin Conneely and met his young protégée Keith.  We drank pints of Guinness at the local pub (took a beer for the road/ferry), learned about Bobby Sands and the hunger strike, and strolled through The Shire. 

 reducing travel anxiety


Tom and the tour bus almost left without us when we made a run for the bathrooms after the ferry ride back. 


travel anxiety


As you can see, the stories are endless.  I think Galway and the Cliffs tour ended up being my favorite part of that trip.  Top three moments for sure. 

Pro Tip:  When a drunk Irish person says it’s time for you to go home, you go home.


I am laughing my a$$ off while writing this and reminiscing about all of these great memories.  And you know what? 


I was terrified to take this trip.  I was afraid to fly overseas by myself (even though I was meeting friends).  I was afraid to spend the money. 


I was afraid of many things, but I decided to not let my anxiety get the best of me.  I decided that this was a once in a lifetime kind of trip, and I wasn’t going to miss it. 


I went for it despite my anxiety, and you can too…


Ok, let’s get back on track here. 


If you suffer from travel anxiety, you (especially) need to book things in advance.


Trains, buses, planes, hotels…they all book up.  Again, better to be safe than sorry and book in advance if you can.


Something else to consider…Will you be renting a car? 


Do your research if you are renting a car in a foreign country!  Will you need additional insurance?  Do you know how to drive a stick shift?  There might be a few automatic cars available to rent, but again, you gotta book early! 


Also, thinking of my favorite movie The Holiday here…will you be able to drive on the opposite side of the road on the wrong side of the car?!?!?


Meera and I decided that it wasn’t worth the stress on our trip.  We stuck to the trains, planes, buses, ubers, and cabs.

travel anxiety

Did I mention that I also met Matt Grant in London on this trip?  (Isn’t he dreamy?!?)

He was THE BACHELOR on Season 12 (the one where they had a guy from England).  You never know who you’ll meet while you’re out there adventuring!


  1. Pick up a guidebook.

This is one of the first things I always do.  I can’t go anywhere without my boy Rick.  My heart sings with happiness when I place that Amazon order for one of his guidebooks.  I’m talkin’ about none other than my boy Rick Steves.  He is the GO TO GUY on Europe anyway.  He’s kinda old (sorry Rick), but his books are always packed with valuable information. 


Check out my boy Rick by clicking >>HERE<<  I linked this guidebook because I have my eye on Budapest for this summer 🙂 


When I first started traveling, I would get super stressed about figuring out public transportation. 


I am from the suburbs of Detroit…the motor city.  We don’t have public transportation here.  I mean we technically do, but it’s kind of crappy and it doesn’t get utilized.  Everyone has a car. 


Rick’s books give you all the ins and outs.  Carrying his book gives me peace of mind.  If all else fails, I have a resource in my pocket that does not run on battery. 


He’s got maps, restaurant recs, public transportation options, and how to.  Basically, he’s got it all.  He gives you the low down on the city…where to stay…etc., (just in case you struggle to pick a hotel…like me). 



Indecision and anxiety.  It’s a great combo 😉


Pro Tip:  Guidebooks can be heavy and bulky to lug around in your bag all the time.  Consider ripping out the sections (eekkk I know) you need for the day and JUST carrying those pages.  I hate defiling books, but sometimes it just has to be done.


  1. For international travel, start thinking about your phone service.


Depending on the length of your trip, I recommend getting a SIM card when you land in that country. 


For this to work, you need to contact your service provider ahead of time to make sure your phone is “unlocked.”  When I say unlocked, I am NOT talking about your pass code. 


Some times phones are “locked” to a specific carrier and will not work if the SIM card is changed.  Call your provider to find out.  I ended up using the chat box on Verizon to do this.  Quick, easy, painless. 


Please DO NOT ASSUME that your phone is unlocked!  (You know what happens when you ASS-U-ME right?) 


My iPhone 6 was not unlocked until I spoke with Verizon before my Portugal trip just this past August.  It is three years old and paid off, but it was not unlocked.  Everything I read online told me that it should already be unlocked. 


I have the Verizon travel pass hooked up on my phone too as a backup ($10/day while abroad to keep your regular phone service).  On this last trip to Portugal, I ended up using the travel pass for a few days before I could switch the SIM card. 


The “why” behind that is a whole other story for a whole other day though.  Turns out I could have bought the SIM card at the airport, but I was a bit overwhelmed at the time. 


Then I got to my accommodations which were SKETCHY AF, and I ended up spending days fighting with this company that I had paid and trusted to find me “a beautiful apartment in a good neighborhood.”  Like I said…a story for another time.  If you’re interested, you can check out this post later.


The SIM card I used in Portugal was €20 and lasted for the entire month.  In fact, I think I only used up about half of the 5GB of data I paid for.  Totally worth it.  If I had used Verizon’s Travel Pass, I would have paid over $300 extra to keep my normal cell service.


travel anxiety 


In conclusion, I recommend waiting to get the SIM card until you land.  Make sure your phone is prepped/unlocked.  Practice popping your SIM card slot open ahead of time.  Pack some extra paper clips to get the job done (no need to buy a special tool).  And make sure you have a backup plan like Travel Pass just in case.  Having cell service is important (especially for an anxious girl).


If you’re going to go the SIM card route, download “What’s App” on your phone as well.  Changing the SIM card will change your phone number (while the card is in).  You won’t want to use your phone for texting or calling family and friends back in your home country unless it’s an emergency.  You’ll run out of minutes and texts. 


travel anxiety whatsapp


This is where What’s App comes in!  It does use your original cell number, and you CAN use this app to text and call home (as long as you have data or wifi).  Magic!  You will have way more data than you do international texts and calls when using a SIM card in Europe.  Set up What’s App before you leave home.



One more thought about phones…  Does your battery die quickly?  Invest in an external battery or one of those phone cases with the extra battery built it.  For the girl with travel anxiety, this is a MUST.


Check out my recommendation for an external battery >>HERE<<



  1. Apply for a credit card with no International Fees (if necessary).


Until I started doing some serious travel hacking recently, I only had an American Express SkyMiles Gold Card.  This worked out great for a while, HOWEVER most places overseas won’t accept American Express.  I did not think about this before my trip to Portugal because I had been able to use the card in most places on my trip to the UK.  So I got stuck paying a 3% fee on every transaction.  Rookie mistake.  3% isn’t a lot, but it does add up. 


Stay tuned for a post all about travel hacking and what I am doing now coming soon!



  1. Start asking around for recommendations on where to eat, drink, and what to do.


Put the feelers out on social media.  Connect with family and friends.  Someone always knows someone who has been there before. 


I am in a Facebook Group called Girls Love Travel, and I highly recommend.  Blogs are also a great go to for insider tips.  How do you find blog posts on your destination?  Well, you can use Google, but I always turn to Pinterest myself.  Start a new board and pin your heart out.  Searching hashtags on Instagram is a great way to get ideas and start saving places too!


You can make a spreadsheet with all the data you collect. 

(I never said I wasn’t a nerd.) 


I did this for my London trip last Feb, but guess what?  When I got to London, I never even looked at it once.  Boo. 


On my trip to Portugal, I was introduced to a much BETTER way to store all those food and drink recs!  It involves using Google Maps. 


Check out my guide to creating a list in Google Maps >>HERE<<

travel anxiety Get the How To as a PDF 


  1. Look over your electronics situation.

If you are traveling out of the US you’re going to need outlet (plug) adapters.  An adapter changes the size and shape of your plugs to fit foreign outlets.  What you need varies from country to country…especially across Europe.  Check to see which type you need. 


The next thing you need to check is the voltage on your electronics.


US voltage is around 120V.  European voltage is 220-2240V.  This can cause major problems if your electronics cannot handle the extra voltage.


For example, if you try to take your regular hair dryer and use it in Europe…you’re gonna fry it.  I recommend a dual voltage travel size hair dryer. 


Some appliances can handle the extra voltage, but you MUST check. 


My CHI hair straightener, my laptop, and my phone can all handle the extra voltage…no voltage converter required!  (All of the appliances I listed say something like 120V-240V on the power supply.)  Again, do not make any assumptions.  Check!


I do not recommend buying a voltage converter.  They’re bulky and heavy, and they do not always work.  Take the money you would spend on one and buy that dual voltage travel size blow dryer instead.



I love the Babyliss Pro Travel Dryer.  Cute, durable, good wattage, foldable, light…everything you could hope for!  Check it out by clicking >>HERE<<



*Be sure to check back soon for my complete guide to international travel!*





  1. Start packing


I know this sounds extreme/crazy to start packing so many weeks in advance, BUT when you struggle with anxiety you need to start brainstorming and planning.  Get your suitcase out and start filling it.  You’ll need time to shop or to order online.  Feeling prepared calms my anxiety.   


*I am working on an exhaustive packing guide for you that will be dropping soon as well!  Be sure to put your email in below so that you can be the first to know!*


When I did yacht week, I needed some specific items (like an outfit for the tropical party, bathing suits, and a white outfit for the Riviera Chic party).  I needed a lot of time to plan and shop.  I ended up buying other gadgets too like a waterproof phone case, a floating phone case, motion sickness bracelets, and so on.  I need time to shop and order.


*My tips on surviving (and thriving) Yacht Week will be (you guessed it) dropping soon as well.*


Do yourself a favor and invest in some luggage locks.  You’ll want one for your checked bag (if you are checking one) and for your carry on (even if you’re stashing it under the seat in front of you).  You might even want one for your personal item (backpack/purse).



I have been using luggage locks since my first overseas trip to Paris in 2010.  Make sure yours are TSA approved.  An anxious girl needs that extra peace of mind that no one (besides TSA) will be able to go through your luggage. 


I was just starting to think that maybe luggage locks were a little excessive.  THEN a fellow member of GLT posted that she woke up to someone going through her bag on an international flight.  Yikes!  Those bad people are few and far between, but for an anxious girl luggage locks are the way to go!  I will continue to use mine every time I travel 😊


I have linked the locks that I prefer >> HERE<<



  1. What bag(s) are you taking?


My advice is to pack light.  (I should note that I am also terrible at following my own advice on this.  Every time I talk myself out of packing light, I immediately regret the extra baggage.) 


Taking a carry-on ONLY will reduce the anxiety of checking a bag.  No waiting in extra (long) lines.  No worries about your bag being lost.


Make sure your carry-on will fit into the overhead compartment.  Look up the max sizes on the airline website.  Measure your bag. Some airlines are strict about this and some are not.  If you check and measure ahead of time, then you do not have anything to worry about. 


One other thing to note:  Will you be taking any European (or other) airlines between countries on your trip?  If so, check their carry-on size requirements too.  Their baggage requirements are usually smaller than US sizes. 


I was SO stressed out about this on my flight from Lisbon to Barcelona this past summer.  Turns out I shouldn’t have been because TAP didn’t give a crap about the size of my carry-on (or anyone else’s).  However, Ryanair can be strict.  You just don’t know until you go. 


Get a carry-on that has GOOD wheels.  I like to have the option of pulling or gliding my bag.  Look for bags with four swiveling wheels.


If you are packing light and only taking a carry-on, how are you going to fit all of your liquids without going over the 3oz bottles and quart size bag rule?  (I’m working on a post for that too!  I’ve got you covered!)



  1. Do a dry run of your packing.


There’s not much worse than panicking the morning of your trip because everything you want to take will not fit.  Been there.  Done that. 


Do a dry run (or multiple dry runs) ahead of time.  This way you can adjust.  If you need a new bag, you won’t be buying it at the last minute (aka the night before). 


Also, do yourself a favor and invest in some >> packing cubes <<.  I am addicted. 



Consider your liquid restrictions too.  You get one-quart size bag filled with 3oz bottles max in your carry-on.


If you are taking powders (mineral makeup, dry shampoo) there are limits on those in your carry-on now too ☹  Be aware.  You get 12oz.


If you are checking a bag, be sure to put all important items in your carry-on.  These are items that you will not be able to replace easily if you lose them.  (Think prescription glasses, make-up, phone charger, etc.)



You need to sign up for the email list because I’ll be posting my recs for packing a carry-on very soon too!



  1. Start downloading some travel apps 😊

Trip-It will automatically import any and all bookings that come through your email that you connect.  You will have all addresses, phone numbers, confirmation numbers, and check-in/check-out times in one spot.  You can also share this itinerary with someone.  I like to share it with my parents so they have all the info on where I will be, when I’ll be there, contact info, addresses, etc.




I also like to print out hard copies of my arrangements just in case.  Call me old fashioned, but there is something to be said for having a hard copy.  Phone batteries die, and phones can be lost or stolen.



Travel App Recommendations are in the works as well!




  1. Have a plan for how you are getting to the airport. 


Are you driving or getting a ride?  Do you need to park your car at the airport?  Are you leaving during rush hour?  Have you considered road construction?  (There are two seasons in Michigan:  Winter and Road Construction Season.) 


Give plenty of time.


When I drive myself, I park at a lot called US Park near DTW.  I reserve my spot in advance and prepay.  They shuttle you to and from the airport (included in the price).  They are SUPER quick.  A shuttle is literally waiting for you as you step out of your car.



What is your plan for when you touch down at your destination?  Uber?  Taxi?  Subway?  Use your guidebook, the internet, whatever, and figure it out.  Book it if you need to!








  1. Get your foreign currency.


One week should be enough time, but this also depends on where you are going.  If you’re taking out Euros (€), a day or two should be plenty of time.  Some banks have them on hand.  English Pounds (£) should only take a few days as well.  If you are going somewhere else, you may need more time.  Call your bank and ask to be sure.


  1. Call your bank/credit card companies.


Put a travel alert on all of your accounts.  I can do this by using my bank’s app on my phone now too. 


It is also helpful to know the max you can withdraw from an ATM at one time.  I was blocked from withdrawing money in Greece right before getting on my boat for yacht week.  I ended up having to call my bank because I had forgotten to put the travel alert on my account. 


Turns out, that wasn’t even the problem!  The problem was that I was trying to withdraw more than my daily limit!  Sheesh!  A whole lotta headache and panic for nothing!



  1. Confirm your ride to the airport.

 I know this seems a little excessive, but just make sure your person did not forget!


  1. Confirm your hotel/accommodations.

 Do this especially if you booked through a third party website!


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  1. Lay out your travel clothes.

Pick something loose fitting and comfy. I don’t need to wear a bra, so I wear a bralette instead.  If you do need a bra, try a sports bra or something with no underwire.  Consider investing in some >> compression socks << too, and make sure you wear breathable shoes.


You want shoes that are easy to slip on and off (for getting through security).  You’ll want to wear socks too so that you don’t have to walk on the airport floor barefoot (unless that doesn’t gross you out).


Consider your makeup and hair as well.  Make it easy to manage and easy to sleep in.  Pack some makeup wipes in your carry-on.


Hopefully you have been thinking about your travel clothes since you started packing a few weeks ago and set an outfit aside. 


If you’re in for a long-haul flight, then make sure you check out my survival tips HERE.  You’ll be sleeping in your outfit and hair and makeup.  Make sure that all of the above are fuss free, easy, and comfy.



  1. Be as packed as you can possibly be.

Make sure any items that you will have to pack at the last minute are all out and grouped together so you do not forget to pack them after use.



  1. Check in for your flight.

Check in as soon as you can (24 hours in advance).  Print your boarding passes.  Make sure your passport and ID are packed. Put all of your papers with your confirmation numbers, addresses, and phone numbers into your carry-on too.



  1. Confirm your hotel.

 Yes. Again.


  1. Confirm your travel plans TO the airport the next day.

Decide what time you need to leave.  Allow for crazy traffic back-ups, unexpected road closures, trains, etc.  It has happened to me before. 


On one of my trips to the airport, a truck spilled large chunks of concrete all over the freeway.  We were narrowed down to one lane.  Leaving for the airport with plenty of time to spare is key if you suffer from anxiety.



  1. Make sure your purse is cleaned out and ready to go.

Make sure your passport and ID are easily accessible. Put your hand sanitizer in your liquid bag.



  1. Pack your carry-on so that you can easily remove items to get through security.

You will want to be able to remove your laptop (if it’s going with you) and your liquids. Easy in and easy out helps you get through security quickly. Double check to make sure that all of the important essentials (and necessary in-flight essentials) are safely stowed in your carry-on.



  1. Drink water.

 Flying dehydrates you.  Drink up on your water now especially if you want to indulge in that vino on the plane…


  1. Take a steamy hot shower.

 Wash all your worries away and relax.


  1. Relax.


  1. Read a book.

 Stay off your phone and away from the blue light.  Keep your mind preoccupied.  This is will help you {have a better chance to} fall asleep.


  1. Set your alarm for an hour earlier than you think you will need.

 Knowing that you’re giving yourself plenty of extra time in the morning will help to ease the anxiety.  I always end up needing the extra time anyway.


  1. Go over your checklist(s) one more time.

 Reassure yourself that you are prepared.


  1. Get to bed early.

 Or try to anyway…


Know that all the hard prep is done, and you’re ready to take off and enjoy!





1. After you get through security, call your mom. 


2. Buy a bottle of water (or fill up your reusable bottle). 


3. Get some food. 


4. Charge up your phone. 


5. Go to the bathroom one last time. 


And you’re ready for takeoff!


 You can relax on your flight knowing that all of the details are taken care of 🙂 


What are your next steps?  Put your email in below, and I’ll send you a PDF of this travel prep checklist for the anxious girl.  You’ll also be the first to know when my next travel related article drops!  If you don’t see the email right away, be sure to double check your spam folder and drop the email in your primary inbox!


Then, check out my tips on How To Survive a Long Flight (linked below).


For How To Survive a Long Flight, click >> HERE <<


If you enjoyed this post, please also take a minute to help me out and pin the image below!

 reducing travel anxiety





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