You might have seen that I'm planning a trip. In fact, you might have seen that I'm planning my very first international trip of my entire life. And if you have, then yes I am going to start every travel piece until March with those sentences so settle in my friends. So look, I am dishing out unsolicited advice on how I think that, maybe, you could go about planning a trip. Since I haven't gone on my trip yet I really can only give advice on the planning portion anyway.
As I sit here, writing this, my countdown on my phone informs me that there are 2 months, 15 days, 10 hours, and 3 minutes until I hop on a plane headed for my first layover of the flight. And wouldn't you know it but my anxiety-riddled heart cannot help but sit here and be incredibly, um, anxious? Like body-vibrating levels of anxiety at times.
Normally this isn't the sort of thing I'd post as travel-related. But I really want to be transparent about this process and what it's like for me. And as a female, traveling alone internationally for the first time (that's also monocular) I feel it's important to advocate for what this is really like. I'm incredibly privileged to be able to go on this trip, but I want to take this opportunity and run with it so if you, reading this, get the chance to do this same thing you can know that hey maybe you too will stay up all night anxious out of your mind and oh god now there are only 2 months 15 days 9 hours 52 minutes and 34 seconds until my flight.
What Causes Travel Anxiety?
That's a pretty dumb question innit? I mean what causes any anxiety in any form really? For me, it's my literal brain that causes me to have anxiety since I have a diagnosed mental illness. For you, it might be a bad case of turbulence you had one time or maybe you've never been on a plane before. Or maybe you don't like being away from your home. Chances are if you travel there is going to be a point in the journey where you experience some level of anxiety. And because I don't have all the perfect answers of what you can do to make that anxiety vanish into thin air, let's talk about how you can lessen the chances of anxiety and what not to do when planning your trip.
Don't Wait Until the Last Minute
Unless it's an urgent situation, and for a vacation, it really shouldn't be, do not wait until the last possible second to book flights, hotels, and other accommodation. For domestic travel, this usually means within 1-6 weeks and for international travel, it means 3-6 months. And if it's the holiday season or another busy vacation time like Summer or the Olympics then double that. Not only do these last-minute decisions double, triple, or sometimes quadruple your prices but they just make things that much more of a hassle. My biggest tip when it comes to a trip you're on the fence about is to use websites such as Booking.com but only when there isn't a flight involved. These websites typically let you cancel up until 72 or 48 hours without fees or charges before so if you're driving to a last-minute vacation and aren't sure if you want to commit, then this would be the only way I can recommend the option.
Don't Go In Ignorant
If you're going somewhere then it, more than likely, isn't a surprise to you. Don't pretend as if you've never heard of the location before you land and take some time to educate yourself on where you're headed. Get the lay of the land for where you're going. This goes double for when you're traveling internationally. Being informed raises your confidence and, even if you aren't an expert, you might find that you know more than enough to get by when you land. Not to mention, being knowledgable (even the slightest bit) about where you are will help prevent you from being the loud, annoying, and ignorant tourist stopping around like you own the place. At the very least you'll be informed enough to make smart decisions once you arrive. I've been stalking Google Street View around my first accommodation so that I can feel comfortable, especially because I'll be arriving at night. I already feel a lot better now that I know how many blocks away a convenience store, coffee shop, and bus station are from my hotel. And who knows, you might discover some cool new things to put on your itinerary like I did when I discovered a restaurant specializing in one of my favorite foods is attached to the back of my hotel!
Find Your Escape
If you're reading this and identifying with any of the parts that read "anxiety" then chances are this section is for you. Maybe you get nervous before you get on the plane, while you're on the plane, on a train, waiting in a park, in a hotel, or just in general. Whatever it is, if you need something to take your mind off things then that is totally okay. Travel will be so much more enjoyable for you if you can find the thing that takes your mind off of the anxiety while you do the activity (or lack of activity) that gives you anxiety. Because I traveled a lot as a kid I quickly learned what worked for me: handheld video games and books. Luckily for me the brand new Animal Crossing: New Horizons comes out 11 days before my trip so I'll be quite literally escaping to my own island in a new game while I try not to think about my anxiety-inducing flight. But whatever calms you, find that thing and do it! You will thank yourself later.
Many years ago when I was working at a large electronics retailer decked out in blue, it was my job to upsell people on insurance for their cameras, computers, and gaming consoles, but it was mostly cameras. I heard every excuse in the book on why they didn't need it, how careful they would be, why it was a waste of money, etc. I was a pretty convincing Digital Imaging Sales Consultant (TM) so I probably attached them at like a 70 or 60 percent rate. And while I didn't work at the Gee -- I mean Nerdy Group? counter, I did notice or see when some of my old customers cashed in on these insurance policies. And I'd say that maybe 4-5 out of 10 customers with the protection plan needed it. But when they needed it? Oh boy, were they grateful.
Now think about the anxiety you have over your upcoming trip. Are you going to have fun? Will you get sick? What happens if you get hurt? What if a war breaks out? What if there is a natural disaster? What if the plane goes down? What if you lose your luggage? What if you get robbed? I mean, just like at home there is an unlimited number of things that could happen to you abroad. The difference is that you will be, well, abroad and so all of your normal insurance policies won't cover you because -- yay corporate greed and all that. So what do you do?
If your trip were a camera and I was selling it to you all those years ago in my blue shirt and black pants, after you'd just handed me anywhere from $2,000-15,000 to go on this grand adventure I would absolutely implore you to get travel insurance. Why on Earth wouldn't you if only for peace of mind?
If I were some big fancy blogger with monetized posts this is where I'd plug some new travel agency I totally want you to use but I'm not so I'll just tell you that I personally got a policy with World Nomads. They were cheap enough that I felt comfortable spending the money yet not so cheap that I felt suspicious, plus I liked the coverage in the event that I need to be evacuated for any reason as that is one legitimate fear of mine.
So how do you feel now? Still anxious about your trip? I mean, yeah same. The truth is nothing is going to cure your anxiety about a trip. Or at least, nothing I or anyone else on the internet can sell you. At least nothing on this side of the internet! As I've been shouting from the rooftops for this blog series so far: planning your trip is the best thing you can do. It really will make a world of difference and that's coming from the girl that is literally a ball of anxiety 25/8, yes you read that right. 2 months 15 days 8 hours 21 minutes and 8 seconds left as I finish this draft.
Do you have any life-saving travel anxiety tips? Tell me below or let me know what else you want me to cover in the lead-up to my trip!