Before my first international trip I was a wreck, and so was my travel companion. My mom and I were going to Paris, and for some reason we were insanely nervous. Everyone told me to calm down. They didn’t understand why we were so worried.
Neither of us are anxious flyers, but as soon as our plane landed in France, my mom and I both felt calm. We made it to Paris, my lifelong dream — nothing bad was going to happen.
Wrong. So wrong. My poor mother got scarily sick on the trip. We spent most of our time in Paris in and out of the hospital. As it turns out, we had every right to feel nervous. Was it some kind of intuition or only the fact we were both inexperienced travelers? Who knows. As difficult as that trip was, it completely shifted my travel perspective.
I now know that even in the worst case scenario, I can handle whatever is thrown at me. (As long as I have a smart phone and a credit card anyways.) That trial tested my ability to stay calm under pressure, problem solve, and taught me a lot about planning for travel emergencies. There are a few other tips I’ve picked up along the way about how to deal with travel anxiety that helps me enjoy my trips.
I feel better when I know exactly what I’m walking into. As fun as it is to plan which restaurants to eat at and what museums to stop by, I focus on planning logistics before a trip. How exactly am I going to get from the airport to my hotel? Have I told my bank I’ll be traveling? Do I need foreign currency or traveler’s insurance? I’ve found that showing up on vacation without taking some of these steps can lead to unneeded stress. Plus, I can sleep easy on the plane knowing when I land that I won’t get lost.
Write it Out
I’m someone who learns from reading and writing, which is why before I take any big trip, I write down everything important in a notebook I keep dedicated to travel. I have an irrational fear that I’ll lose my phone and not know my hotel address or what time my flight is. Before any trip, I spend a few hours getting organized. This is a boring step, but it works. For every new trip, I create a brief summary of all of my trip details. I write down the name, location, and phone number of my hotel. I also include my arriving and departing flight information. Any confirmation numbers for bookings make the list too.
Then I write out very detailed instructions for how to use public transportation to and from the airport if that is how we’ll be getting to our hotel. Similarly, I write out any instructions for any day trips we’ll be taking. For example, I’ll map out the exact steps from how to get from my hotel in Paris to Versailles by train.
Then I add in the American Consulate address and phone number for good measure. If you have a fiancé who has had his passport stolen, you’d want to know this information too. I always save these pages in my notebook because I’ve been able to reuse them when revisiting a city.
If my mom and I learned anything from our trip, make sure you have your travel insurance covered. You think you’ll never need it, but trust me you might and it was a costly mistake we made. Not worrying about medical expenses would have helped decrease some of the stress of that situation. Considering my mom has a complicated health history, we really should have bought her coverage. I generally don’t buy insurance for myself, but I consider depending on where I’m traveling and for how long. I do always buy flight insurance. Usually for $20 or so, you can buy insurance that allows you to cancel your flight in an emergency. Again, my mom and I didn’t have this insurance and almost missed our flights home. Generally, this insurance also covers damaged baggages, so it gives me peace of mind when traveling with anything expensive like a laptop.
My lifelong dream was to go to Paris, but more specifically to visit to palace of Versailles — so much so that I actually had a stress dream that when I went to Paris I wouldn’t be able to make it there no matter how hard I tried. And that is exactly what happened. My mom and I tried to visit when she started to feel better. But 10 minutes after arriving, we had to leave to go back to the hospital. Big learning lesson: plan what you want to do not by convenience (which is what I had done) but by priority of importance. That way if three days into a trip disaster strikes, you know that you at least saw and did what mattered most to you. Checking off my trip bucket list early allows me to relax a little more and go with the flow the rest of the trip!