Reducing Stress When You Travel

With Summer’s arrival, thoughts turn to vacations and travel. While trips can be fun, they also can be quite stressful for folks and hard on relationships. When unexpected problems occur, tempers can flare. Today we’re talking about what makes traveling so stressful and we have some tips to make things go better on your next trip.

Why Traveling is so Stressful

— Human beings are creatures of habit. Vacations can be stressful because they are different from our everyday routines and can be unpredictable. Changes, even small ones, can upset our equilibrium and make us feel out of control when we’re not able to do or have what we are used to. Going somewhere new will mean that things will be different and, even if it is a familiar place, there are always changes.

— Partners often have conflicting personality styles when it comes to travel. One likes to carefully plan in advance while the other may like to “play it by ear”. Resolving conflicts about what to do can be challenging.

— Even though you have an itinerary and you’ve planned carefully, there are always things that are beyond our control, e.g. heavy traffic, flight delays, breakdowns, etc. When unplanned delays and frustrations are combined with our already amped up expectations for our vacation, our patience and tolerance for frustration can be pushed over the top and our stress levels skyrocket.

— Unfortunately, folks often react to unexpected circumstances or conflicts with panic and anger. As frustrating as vacations can be, reacting badly adds to the stress and make things even worse for everyone.

The good news is that with a little thought and preparation, we can dramatically improve our own and everyone else’s experience. While we can’t control if the plane is late or the traffic has come to a stop, we can do a lot to calm our personal sense of distress and prevent the situation from getting worse for ourselves and our traveling companions.

Tips for less Stressful Traveling: Think Ahead

1) Commit to Civil Behavior

— Promise that no matter how stressed you feel you will act in a polite way.

— A good way to do this is to imagine how your best-self would handle difficult situations. Rehearse good responses in bad situation in your head, e.g. with humor.

— Also, realize that everyone has a video camera on their cell phone. If you lose it, you might wind up on YouTube.

2) Be Realistic and Plan When you leave home, things aren’t going to be the same. But many folks expect them to be the same. If you want to travel successfully, you have to accept that some things will be different.

— Examine your expectations. Expect delays and frustrations and acknowledge that there will be times that won’t be fun.

— Think about the details and identify predictable stress points. Recall the specific times when you became the most stressed on previous trips and think about other ways you could handle it better.

— Be prepared like the Boy Scout motto says. Think ahead and bring what you need that might not be available, e.g. an extra pair of glasses, phone number of doctors, a favorite pillow, etc.

3) Employ Coping and Stress Management Techniques

— Don’t forget to breathe. Employ stress management techniques to cope with difficult situations. Remember relaxation and breathing exercises that can calm your agitation. Intercept angry impulses before they are expressed.

— Ask for Help Talk to one another when you are starting to feel stressed. Even though you can’t control some situations like delays or traffic, think and talk about what can make the situations more tolerable, e.g. having your ipod or a book close at hand.

— Have an “Escape” plan. Think in advance what to do if a situation becomes overwhelming, i.e. simply getting away from the situation for just a few minutes can calm things down. Take a walk, let someone else handle it , e.g. do the talking, driving.

It is important to remember that traveling is a complicated undertaking and unexpected delays and frustrations are going to happen. Remember that the problems are only temporary and that they are not worth becoming unkind to others or especially with one’s own family members. Thinking ahead and working together can do a lot to reduce your own stress levels and make everyone else’s travel experience more enjoyable.