How To Travel Stress Free, Advice From 13 Pro Travelers
Travel, in the world of Instagram, looks like a cake walk.
Every photo showcases someone without a care in the world, sitting in the most beautiful areas on Earth, while listening to the birds chirping around them, like a new age Snow White.
In reality, no one sees the endless lines they stand in at the airport, the long red-eye flights, the 5am wake up call to capture the perfect photo without a tourist in site.
Regardless of the type of traveler you are, adventurous or laid back, there will always be some sort of stress that accompanies you along the way. Some of us handle it better than others, but it’s inevitable. Our plans are left to the mercy of weather, traffic, and cultural differences.
After an abundance of travel experience, near and abroad, I’ve gotten my stress kit down to a science. It comes in various forms like packing light, holistic remedies, and yoga. I often think I’m a little high maintenance but my sanity is what comes first. I know what I need to keep myself calm, cool, and collected.
Now I’m curious… do others do the same? So I asked 13 travel bloggers, “what’s your favorite go-to item to keep yourself stress free when traveling?” Their responses fell into these 5 common stress-related categories…. Which one do you fall in?
KEEP THE MIND FOCUSED
Whether it’s boredom or anxiety, we need to allow our minds to step away from a situation. Sometimes it’s not that easy when traveling so having items to help you refocus can be a lifesaver. These four bloggers have two items that calm the brain and cultivate the mind.
A FAVORITE BOOK: SHAMBALA POCKET CLASSIC SERIES
Wise words are often the best way for me to calm down and regain a sense of perspective, and I love being able to read them on actual paper. E-readers are great, but there’s something about looking at a physical page that feels completely different. The only problem is, how can I possibly justify the space and weight that real books take up in my backpack? My answer is the Shambala Pocket Classics series. One book will fit in my tiniest pocket and weighs almost nothing, yet there’s so much in it that I want to read it several times. Awakening Loving Kindness by Pema Chödrön is my current companion, and it’s followed me to eight countries on three continents so far. When things get overwhelming, it reminds me how to live. Tigers above, tigers below.
– Elani Wales
Don’t tell anyone, but I have a fear of flying! It’s hard to believe, after traveling all over the world for the past 15 years on countless planes. But it is real. I used to take medication, but now we bring our young kids along so I have had to learn some more natural anti-anxiety techniques that still allow me to be fully alert if needed. One thing I always pack that helps me to overcome my flying anxiety is my Kindle. We travel with 4 little kids, and they definitely keep me busy on the plane. But once they are distracted or asleep I can easily start to panic. However, I simply flick open my kindle and get into the story right where I left off when I last found myself with a few minutes spare. This calms me and helps pass the time and is so much better than sitting there white knuckled and jumping at every noise, willing the flight to be over!
When traveling abroad with my kids, the one item I would never leave home without is an ipad loaded with (more or less) educational games and their favorite TV shows.
Before I was a parent, I expect I may well have thought judgemental thoughts about parents who let their young kids watch TV or play games for hours on ipads. Now I realize what a total life-saver they are, not just for my own stress levels but also for anyone around me.
When you’re on a long flight or wanting to have a calm, relaxed meal in a nice restaurant, an ipad is a great way to help ensure your kids aren’t bored and you (and those nearby) can enjoy themselves. Just make sure you remember the headphones.
What I really wonder is, what did people do before ipads?!
For knitters, one of the best things to pack is a small project. During long flights it does wonders for me. Knitting is one of the best stress-relieving activity, and a small project is one of the most important things I pack in my purse. When I can’t read (or write) on the plane, or they dim the lights and I can’t sleep, it is soothing to work on a project.
Over the years I found that the best projects to take are those that require little thinking, like a scarf, headband or hat, using an easy pattern. You can find tons of patterns for beginners if you prefer to follow one. Or just start a scarf using garter stitch (knit each row), and you don’t have to think about it. Knitting needles never caused me a problem at the security in an airport. But I don’t bring scissors. If I finish my project, I can wait to get to my destination to cut the yarn.
A SENSE OF SECURITY
These two very different items provide a sense of security to these bloggers in unique ways.
You would be surprised how an item can make you feel safe and on top of things.
PORTABLE PHONE CHARGER:
Often, travel anxiety is caused by being unprepared. You feel stress because you’re in a situation you can’t control, or where you don’t have all the answers. I think that’s actually a really good thing. A huge benefit of travel, from a personal development perspective, is being forced into those situations and realizing that you’re totally capable of dealing with them.
However, you can also relieve unnecessary anxiety when you travel by being prepared. These days, your phone is usually one of your most important travel planning, preparation, problem solving and even safety tools. It holds your maps, your hotel address and emergency phone numbers. It provides access to information, an app to move extra cash onto your prepaid travel card, a taxi app to get you home safely if you get lost or run out of cash. So having your phone battery die when you’re out sightseeing, or even just the possibility of that happening, can be a huge cause of unnecessary stress. That’s why a small portable phone charger you can pop in your bag before heading out for the day can set your mind at ease and give you one less thing to worry about. It was one of the most useful items I packed for my big solo trip to Southeast Asia.
An atypical but totally practical accessory that I always carry while traveling is my titanium spork. This fork & spoon hybrid utensil is ready for anything, anytime. Honestly, always having this with me helps me every day in my travels. I can say no to single use plastic utensils on the go. I can use my own utensil when the cleanliness of a particular establishment is in question. Lightweight and durable, carrying the spork is hardly a burden. As a major foodie, always having the spork means no missed opportunities to try something new! Additionally, titanium is incredibly strong. I’ve used the spork as a makeshift knife to open packaging, cans, beer bottles and more on the go. In a pinch, the spork would even serve as a decent defense weapon! Of course, I would be remiss not to mention how useful these things are on a backpacking & camping trip. The titanium spork is my campfire spatula, tongs, fire stick, pot-mover and lid-lifter. Introduce a titanium spork into your travels and you’ll be happy, helpful to our Earth, and never hungry!
NEAT & ORGANIZED
I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time functioning in a messy space. I need everything in order for my thoughts to run smoothly and this same situation carries out when traveling. Just because I have my things condensed to a suitcase does not mean that I like to toss things in there without care. I get why these two bloggers find comfort in these simple items.
One of the most annoying things about traveling is to have to dig through your bag and take everything out to find the one item you are looking for! That is why the first thing I always add to my packing list for any trip is a set of compression packing cubes.
Packing cubes are an absolute life saver for keeping your backpack or suitcase organized as you can easily fit a large amount of clothes or accessories into a small packing cube. This means that you can cut down on your bag size while still being able to carry all your essential items. This is particularly useful if trying to squeeze a bag into a budget airline’s strict cabin baggage dimensions.
Finally, packing cubes are also great for keeping your clothes clean and wrinkle free. They ensure that your clothes are protected from any unexpected leaks and help you avoid using a large amount of unnecessary plastic bags.
Carrying a pen while traveling changed my life. I never feel stressed because I cannot fill the immigration card on the plane or because I may not remember the direction this person just told me. I don't have to take my phone out to write a few notes or wonder if the battery will last long enough. I can quickly scribble on my map as people give me advice or details about my destination. And I also use it to write my own tips and experience to share with future travelers. I appreciate taking away the need of remembering it all. My brain likes having a break too!
THE BODY NEEDS MOVEMENT
As someone who exercises regularly, travel can really throw my body off. We lose track of our schedules and often indulge more than we do at home. The more my body is thrown off the more stress and guilt I add to it. These two bloggers have very specific items that help them move more and explore their destination differently. I can see why they hold a special place in their heart when traveling.
When travelling and exploring a new place, sometimes I just need to get away from everything and clear my head. With so much often going on, and new experiences left right and centre, it's good to be able to have a quiet moment to myself. For this reason, one of the first things I always pack into my suitcase - no matter where I'm heading - is my running shoes.
It may seem odd to some but running for me is just such an important part of my life and a big help towards my mental well being. It gives me a boost in the mornings, and it helps me to wind down after long and tough days. There's always the added bonus that you get to explore the local area and get familiarised with what's close by. It's definitely my favourite way to begin a trip and get myself comfortable from the get go."
I’ve taken up tango a year ago (Sep, 2017) and fell in love. Badly. Now, I travel with my tango shoes and look up practicas and milongas in the cities I visit. I got my Regina Tango Shoes at a tango event early this year.
Dancing tango has many benefits for the body, including relieving stress and anxiety. Aside from loving how it feels to dance and how my body reacts to movement, I also enjoy another benefit of tango: mindfulness meditation.
Although quite a luxury item (Regina Tango Shoes cost at least 140 euros), they travel well in your bag and don’t require too much special attention (wet wipes to clean the inside part and a normal napkin to clean the sole). And even though I travel carry-on only, I always put them at the top of the backpack so they don’t get squeezed.
When we travel we are put in a lot of unique situations, crowded environments, lack of sleep, not eating healthy, or exercising regularly. It’s easy to lose track of your health so it’s important to be prepared. I get why these three bloggers find these specific items helpful in removing the stress related to health.
LAVENDER ESSENTIAL OIL:
Whether I’m going across town or halfway around the world, I never leave home without these three essential oils. And when it comes to relieving the stress and anxiety of travel, one essential oil stands out from the rest. Lavender.
Although I do it, a lot, I hate flying. I’m terrified of heights. I can’t be anywhere near an airplane window once we’re airborne. And if there is even the slightest bit of turbulence, my heart starts racing at a “fight or flight” rate.
Enter lavender essential oil.
Distilled from the soft, purple buds of the lavender plant, inhaling this essential oil or applying a few drops to my temples or wrists immediately helps calm me down. Once at my destination, lavender essential oil also aides for relaxation at bedtime. Whether I’m traveling for business or for pleasure, it can be hard to turn off my brain at bedtime. A few drops of lavender essential oil on my pillow or in a travel diffuser help me turn off the chatter in my head and be rested the next day.
One of my must-pack accessories to relieve stress and anxiety when traveling is my medical kit. At the beginning of my travels, I had a very small one and brought with me only a few pills for fever, painkillers, and patches. But at that time I traveled only for maximum 10-14 days. When I started to travel on a long-term basis, for more than a month, the range of possible unexpected things that could happen increased rapidly. So, I had to add pills for food-poisoning (three kinds, depending on how severe my intoxication would have been). I added sleeping pills to take when I am over-exhausted by moving from one place to another and need to slow down, rest, and sleep and eat (on a long-term travel you have to do that too). Then, of course, I had to add pills for allergies (never know in what part of the world you discover you are allergic to something new), sinusitis, and even anti-inflammatory cream for the event of a sprained ankle or tense muscles.
ULTIMATE HEALTH TRAVEL KIT:
Wherever I travel, I bring with me some version of what I call my Ultimate Healthy Travel Kit. It’s a first aid kit for the body and mind, and it’s full of tools to keep me healthy and anxiety-free while I travel.
I often have anxiety about getting sick on the road, so my kit is stocked with essential remedies to help me feel better fast. I pack 2-3 doses of the typical remedies for digestive issues and common colds. It's just enough to get me through the night until I can get to a local pharmacy to buy more.
Also included in my kit is a cozy blanket scarf to keep me warm and comfortable, headphones to listen to my favorite playlist or audiobook, and a hoodie that reminds me of home. When I’m wrapped up in the scarf with my earbuds in, I feel protected and distanced from situations that cause anxiety, like traveling on planes and buses. My old high school hoodie is almost unsightly but great to wear in transit because I use the hood to cover my face when I sleep. When used with my earbuds and scarf I almost forget where I am!
TRANSFORMED THROUGH TRAVEL | INSTAGRAM
Which of these categories do you worry about when traveling?
Maybe it’s all of them, maybe it’s one. Share below.
As an anxious traveler, I know how difficult it can be to do minor things like packing, getting on a plane, or preparing for a new experience. That is why I created free courses to help aid in the process. Through my personal experiences of traveling the globe, I have found these techniques to be hugely helpful. Head on over to the LEARN FROM US tab to download for free.