How to avoid stress as you travel

Every year people from all walks of life depart on their travels. Whether it’s a Gap Year, mid-career break, a standard 2 week holiday, or something more… In most cases we all choose to go travelling for similar reasons – we want to get away from everyday life for a while. When people think of travel, they may think of relaxing on a tropical beach, exploring some of the worlds more historic and unique sites, or partying all night long with some new found friends. What many people don’t expect however is that travelling can actually be a stressful event at times. Luggage gets lost, you may miss flights, buses, trains, you have been double booked at the hostel/hotel, or you may loose your passport/have something stolen somewhere along the way. If you have been travelling for any amount of time, chances are something will come up along the way that causes you some stress. All of these things however, can be resolved, or at least made a little less stressful by just following some simple tips.

Get rid of the “to do” list, and travel slow

So many travellers feel they have to jam pack every landmark, activity, and tourist destination into their entire trip or they won’t have made the most out of out of their time travelling. It’s a feeling I can understand, as many people feel they only have one chance or time period to go travelling (this is not true in my opinion, but that’s a whole other post in itself!) In my experience however, giving yourself a large to do list, and hopping from one place to another every few days, waiting in huge queues to see every site, and having to rush around everywhere is no fun at all, and will actually cause you a huge deal of stress throughout your entire trip. If I wanted to run around feeling stressed all day I would have stayed at home in the rat race. Aside from that however, it also leaves you zero flexibility to change plans spontaneously if you make friends, or just really like a place and want to stay a bit longer, or shorten it if you don’t like it. The first thing I always tell first time travellers is to forget any to do list. Obviously, you will want to see and do certain things on your travels, and that’s great, but pick the one’s you really want to do, and make sure you schedule time just to chill out. If you still have time left over, then by all means get out the guide book and check them out, but by giving yourself a strict plan you are putting a lot of needless stress on yourself , and if you don’t manage it all you’ll be left disappointed rather than just enjoying the great times you had. Also, travel is not about ticking boxes. If you’re going travelling just to tell people you’ve been up the Eiffel Tower or where ever else, then you’ve really missed the whole point of travelling. Travel slowly, and actually get to know a place. Enjoy the moment. Travel really allows you to appreciate what’s important in life.

A little preparation goes a long way

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to plan things out well in advance, but a little preparation before you go travelling, can make your life so much easier when you actually hit the road. For instance, you should always make sure you have adequate travel insurance, and copies of all documents such as passport, any pre-booked flights, hostels etc. Should something bad happen while you are away like you loose your passport, get something stolen, get ill, or worse, then you want to have everything in place so that the stress of those things happening is not worsened by the fact you are now out of pocket to replace items, or don’t have all your documents for medical treatment or customs etc. A little preparation before you go can save you a lot of hassle when you get to a destination. It may sound like common sense, but so many travellers leave without doing this. Also, I’d always advise leaving a copy of every document, and an update of your travel plans as you go along with family or friends, in case for whatever reason you need help from back home.

Always over estimate your travel budget

When I first went travelling, I estimated everything to the exact pound, went away, and then found that when things came up that I didn’t expect I was then struggling for cash. This resulted in some really stressful nights where I was wondering how long I could afford to keep travelling for, I would have to miss out on things my travel buddies were doing, or at worst when I thought I may not even be able to get home! Sometimes as travellers we are so eager to hit the road that we can be naïve about what sort of budget we can survive on. For a start, there are always things that come up, or charges at airports etc that we did not expect. It happens every time I go travelling, and it happens to all my travel buddies too. It’s just part of life that things will come up that you have to pay for, or you won’t be able to get the cheapest dorm in the city that night, and you’ll have to pay more. When I budget, I always look at the most expensive price for the type of accommodation, food, or general transport, and assume that I will have to pay that. By that however, I don’t mean budgeting for first class flights or anything, just the most expensive economy seat advertised online, or dorm room at a hostel. This way, when things don’t cost that much, I always have a bit of spare cash to go out with, or spend on a trip, and when they do I know I have enough cash to cover it. Also, even though I am really good on a strict travel budget these days, sometimes it can be annoying always having to scrimp and scrap just to save a dollar or two. You will want to be able to eat out some days, or pay for activities like bungee jumping, or pay for entry to places. Save yourself a whole deal of stress by knowing you can afford to do all the things you want to do while you are travelling, and over estimate your travel budget.

By following the trips mentioned above you should definitely save yourself a lot of stress while travelling, more importantly however, just chill out and relax. Bad things will happen no matter what you do in life. Learn to get over them fast, try to find the funny side, and you will find things go a lot more smoothly, not just in travel, but in life.

5 Responses to “How to avoid stress as you travel”

  1. Gray says:

    Good advice, Jane. Interestingly, I actually get more stressed out if I embark on a trip with a lack of planning or a to do list, but I’m not very good at “winging it”. I do agree that slowing down travel (if you can) will be much more relaxing and you should always overestimate your budget. You don’t want to be left penniless in your travel destination.

  2. Some great tips here – one thing I’d definitely recommend is to do as much visa research/preparation as is possible in advance.

    That said, a lot of visas (especially in Asia where I am now) can only be arranged on the border…but remember that if you have taken the time to ease the border-crossing process in advance you may be tied to a specific date – something we learned the hard way when entering Vietnam recently… (it’s a long story, so search ‘visa’ on our site to avoid a similar fate… or go to http://blogthreesixfive.blogspot.com/2010/07/day-78-how-not-to-enter-vietnam-and.html )

  3. Ivo Stoichev says:

    That’s a lot of good and practical advice, but I like the idea of not having a to-do list most. You have to have basic guidelines , I guess, but if you overdo it you won’t have any free time and it will seem more like work than traveling – having to do with deadlines and all.
    But I guess money is always the biggest issue, as you said 🙂

  4. Great post. A “to-do” list is great for travel preparation and for a preliminary agenda of what you’re going to do when you arrive at your destination. But flexibility is key once you start discovering what there is to see and do. There are never enough days nor enough money to do everything, so enjoy the journey and make the most of each thing that you do … and know that you can always plan to go back another time.
    Carol Margolis
    http://www.smartwomentravelers.com

  5. Jhanella says:

    Nice one. Great advice indeed, especially for those who have not traveled for a long time. Travel expenses is not usually one of the things people think of before they travel, but it becomes a big deal once they get to their destinations if they haven’t planned ahead.

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