You've worked for months, either on your own or with a travel agent, to plan your perfect vacation. Your bags are packed and you are ready to head to the airport or cruise terminal. Why, then, do you feel so stressed?
Travel stress is real. It can affect you before, during or after your trip. You can proactively deal with travel stress instead of allowing it to spoil your vacation. Let's take a look at factors that contribute to travel stress.
Airport Security Screenings
Airport security screenings are intrusive and stressful, but none of us can fly without going through this process. The best ways to cope with this aspect of travel stress are to understand the TSA regulations, know your rights and pack with screening procedures in mind.
Wear slip-on shoes so that you don't have to spend time retying shoes beyond the security checkpoint. Pack prescription medications, liquids and medical devices so that they are identifiable and accessible. Request a private pat-down if you are told you must undergo this procedure, and have a traveling companion go with you as a witness, as permitted by TSA rules, if that makes you feel more comfortable.
Label your suitcases with your destination hotel address and telephone number. This will make it easier for your airline to deliver lost bags to you. When you pack, put all essential items into your carry-on bag, including a change of clothing, toothbrush and toothpaste, essential toiletries and all medications. Knowing you have all the important items with you will significantly reduce your stress level if one of your checked bags is temporarily lost.
It's easy to stress out when bad weather affects your travel plans. To minimize weather-related stress, carry contact numbers for your airline, cruise line, tour operator, hotels and other travel providers so you can call them and make alternative arrangements. Bring a travel guidebook or a list of indoor attractions so that you can sightsee in the rain or snow. If all else fails, spend a relaxing day in your hotel or bed and breakfast inn, reading a good book, talking with other guests or resting.
When everything that is easy to do at home seems like an insurmountable obstacle on your vacation, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that you planned this trip because you were seeking new experiences. Language barriers, unfamiliar customs and even the simple acts of ordering a meal or finding the restroom can be huge stressors, even if you took the time to learn the customs of your destination country before your trip began.
If culture shock makes you feel tired or irritable, take a few minutes and go for a walk, do some breathing exercises or lay down in a quiet room. Any of these stress-reducing activities will help you relax. Next, decide on a way to take control of the culture shock. For some travelers, turning stressful experiences into a story or journal entry can help them regain a balanced perspective. No, you're not at home, but you will have a hilarious tale to tell when you return. For other travelers, researching the situation in a guidebook or online will help, because information increases understanding.
Jet Lag / Exhaustion
When you are tired, whether from jet lag or a long day of sightseeing, small problems can turn into large ones. Do your best to minimize the effects of jet lag, and include rest time in your daily plans. Remember to eat healthy meals and stay hydrated; you will feel more energized if you eat well and drink plenty of water.
No one can plan for every possible travel problem, and unexpected occurrences can be extremely stressful. Whether you are lost, can't get money or have nowhere to stay, you will need to find a way to focus your energy on the issue at hand. Turn to quick relaxation techniques to push the stress away, then work on getting the information you need to make good decisions and solve your problem.
One of the best ways to minimize health-related stress during your vacation is to review your medical conditions and insurance coverage before you travel. For example, if you live in the US, are on Medicare and plan to leave the United States, you will need to purchase a travel medical insurance policy, because Medicare does not cover expenses incurred outside the country. Consult with your doctor about dosage schedules if you take medications every day. Travelers with chronic health conditions should consider purchasing medical evacuation coverage, so they can fly home to be treated by their own doctors should the need arise.
Remember to research medical treatment options at your destination before your vacation begins. In many countries, your first stop will be the local pharmacy, because the staff is trained to diagnose common medical conditions and prescribe medications. Carry a phrase book so that you can describe your symptoms.
While traveling, be sure to eat regular, healthy meals, do the same amount of exercise you do at home (walking counts) and get plenty of sleep.