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1st February, 2020

international living, travel

How to deal with travel anxiety

Spending time in a different country and experiencing different cultures can be a wonderful thing. It can get you out of your comfort zone, take you to places you have never seen before, and teach you things you never knew, as well as make lifelong friends and memories.

However, even the most confident can find being away from home stressful. Whether you’re scared of flying, don’t like the crowds in train stations or are worried about the unknown a holiday far away can bring. For a handful, the anxiety they suffer can even be overwhelming. So, whether you’re a first-time traveller or a veteran explorer, here are some simple travel tips to keep your anxieties at bay.

Plan ahead 

Spontaneity can be brilliant, but a big part of the fun of any trip is in the planning. It adds to the anticipation and can ease your mind! Plan your itinerary – book your hotel, your transport and any excursions well in advance. If the journey itself worries you, talk to your doctor, who will give you relaxation techniques and recommend any medication (e.g. anti-nausea) that can help your journey feel as exciting as it should be.

Be prepared for if something goes wrong 

ne of the best ways to reduce anxiety is to know what to do in advance of what to do if something goes wrong. For example, getting the right travel insurance is an essential way for everyone to have peace-of-mind and to know what to do in a medical emergency. Make sure it covers your destination, planned activities and that you correctly declare any pre-existing conditions. Our article on dealing with emergencies abroad gives lots of helpful tips and hints to help you be prepared.

Planning your finances and budget

While planning your itinerary, it helps to also create a savings plan to help you make the most of your time away. Start by estimating your trip costs, but be prepared to be flexible with where you go, where you stay and what you do. You can often save money in advance by booking anything you can ahead of time rather than at the last minute or once at your destination. Plan your finances and budget, but also have a safety net of cash and keep it separate to your day-to-day money, such as in a hotel safe. That way if you lose your daily money, you have a reserve of cash ready to go.

Knowing what to do if you run short on money abroad can bring peace of mind – downloading the international money transfer app PagoFX by Santander means that you can send money with any UK debit card to bank accounts in the eurozone, the US, Poland, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Czech Republic. So you can pay for any unexpected hotel bills or other expenses quickly, easily and securely, and with transparent costs and the real-time exchange rate (similar to rates found on Google, Reuters and other public sources).

Downloading and opening your account in advance of your trip means you can feel confident you’re prepared should you need to make any quick international payments.

Focus on your destination

Focussing on your destination is a good way to stop you worrying. It will take your mind off what could go wrong and help you focus on the amazing experience you will have when you arrive. Think about what you are looking forward to the most and why you wanted to go abroad in the first place. Have a photo on you to remind you of the fun you are going to have – maybe set it as your phone wallpaper.


Research your destination thoroughly. This will help you to not only identify great places to eat and drink, but also galleries and museums you may wish to visit. Ease any concerns by using Google Maps to check out a location before you get there and help you from getting lost by knowing what you are looking for. Before you head off, have a read of our article for the 27 best travel apps to download to help you plan and prepare for your trip.

Breathing exercises

It’s proven that one of the best ways to staying calm is to breathe. Perhaps the simplest breathing exercise is inhaling and exhaling to a count of four. This not only helps to concentrate the mind, but also slows down your heart rate. Alternatively, breathe in for four seconds, but when you exhale, imagine you are breathing out white smoke. The white smoke acts as a metaphor for any stress or anxiety you may be feeling and allows you to breathe these worries away.

Anxiety calming techniques

Another effective strategy is the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique. First, slow down your breathing. Then, acknowledge five things you can see around you. When flying, this might be the cabin crew, your TV screen, a blanket, a window and your seatbelt. Once you’ve done this, acknowledge four things you can touch. This may be your pillow, your seat, your footrest and your arm rest. Next, identify three things you can hear. This could be the aircraft engine, people talking and music. After this, think about two things you can smell, such as coffee and food. Lastly, identify one thing you can taste. This exercise grounds you in the moment, helping you stop stressing about what might never happen.

Identify what is worrying you and take steps to prevent it

If you have anxiety about being abroad, think of what concerns you the most. If you are worried you will forget something, make a list of what to pack and tick off the items as you pack them, and don’t leave packing until the last minute.  Another simple idea is to put all important documents and items into one place, for example by buying a passport and document holder that you can keep on you at all times. If the journey itself that is worrying you, keep in mind breathing tricks that you can use, and make sure you bring various distractions such as a book, music, snacks or a tablet preloaded with your favourite tv shows. These little tricks will quickly put your mind at ease. 

Make sure friends and family are on board

Have people at home who know where you are and where you are going to be. Set up a schedule to check in regularly, and keep them up to date with your contact details such as local mobile and hotel phone numbers. Making sure they know how to help with essential information such as with embassy details and your insurance details, and are set up with practical support, such as being able to send money abroad with PagoFX, to help out in an emergency.

Talk to somebody and ask for help if you need it 

And finally, it is important to remember that even if you are going on a trip on your own, you are not alone when you are abroad.  

If you have anxiety while on a plane or ship, talk to a member of staff; it is their job to look after you and they deal with nervous passengers every day – they will know how to help. There will always be people in the same shoes as you, so if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed simply talk to someone.  

If anything does go wrong, don’t forget that your Government will have embassies all over the world that can help you – you can find a list of the relevant UK ones here.

Going away can be daunting but it also opens up opportunities for the best experiences and a little forward planning can go a long way to easing any worries.