Pre-travel stress is normal.
Jitters of excitement and stress flitter in most of us before we leave on a solo trip.
Are all bookings made? Have you packed properly? Is the airport a stress point? Do you know how to get to your accommodation once you're at your destination? There are so many details to address.
All of these can cause pre-travel stress and anxiety even in some of the most seasoned travelers.
The Stress Is in the Transitions
Transitions can be exciting, in life and in travel. But transitions, times of significant change, are challenging.
Transitions are times when there are new things to learn. Whether it's a new language or a subway system, patterns are broken and a new social dynamic is at play.
Transitions are inevitably times of stress.
As a solo traveler, you may experience the stress of transitions more than the average traveler. Being totally responsible for yourself, you are alone in navigating the change. But there are things you can do to mitigate the stress.
12 Tips for No Stress Solo Travel
- Do some advance planning. I'm not a big planner but I do make sure I know the basics. Before you leave, be sure to understand the visa requirements and spend a few moments to understand the currency exchange. Make sure your passport doesn't expire for at least three months after your trip as some countries have such a minimum for visitors. Read Solo Travel Planning: Detailed Guide for Planning a Solo Trip. Make sure that you have travel insurance. Read Going Alone? Travel Insurance is a Must.
- Pack well. I'm a firm believer in carry-on luggage. In fact, I only own a carry-on sized suitcase and backpack. But, not everyone is in agreement so I have two posts for you. Bare Minimum Packing: Here’s Your Packing List and Checked Baggage: Top Planning and Packing Tips.
- Book your first night's accommodation in advance. Arriving in a new city, not knowing how it works, and still having to find a place to stay can be stressful. Plus, you can end up spending more than you've budgeted for because you just have to get a place. Book your first night's stay before taking off so that you have a safe place to land when you arrive. Read Save on Hotels? Yes You Can, with These Tips.
- Know how you'll get to your accommodation. Whether you're flying, driving, or taking a bus or train, once at your general destination you'll have to find your hotel, hostel, or rental. I use Rome2Rio to determine how to get to my exact location. They usually show the options such as taxi or public transit, along with the cost and time the trip will take. It's an invaluable resource.
- Study a map. I love maps. They provide a bird's eye view of a new destination. They give you a sense of distance between places and, therefore, what's possible to do in a day. You'll also get a sense of where the areas are that you don't want to go for safety reasons. All of this can reduce stress. Read How to Navigate a New City Solo.
- Get to your departure airport, train, or bus station early. Whether it's traffic congestion or a massive line-up at the airport, many things can slow you down when trying to catch a flight. Who needs the extra stress of possibly not making it? Take something to entertain yourself and arrive early. Read How to Get Through an Airport by Yourself, 6 Ways to Save at The Airport, and Make Flying Easy: 32 Tips.
- Arrive at your destination well before dusk. Arriving in the dark can make it difficult to find your lodging. In daylight, everything is easier and looks better. Plus, if you don't like the accommodations you’ve booked, you'll have time to change them.
- Think about how you'll get around. Perhaps you'll walk everywhere. Maybe public transit will be required for longer distances. Transit saves money over taxis and gets you closer to the real people. That said, a taxi at night may be important. Read Night Safety for Solo Travelers.
- Don't plan much for your first day. Take the time to settle in and get to know the city and how it works. Do people line up for the bus? What's the street food like and where are the busiest stands? What's within walking distance of your lodging? Read Tips for Solo Travel Confidence.
- Ask questions. As you explore a new city, ask questions of taxi drivers, store clerks, and bartenders – anyone who could be of assistance in helping you find the local experience in addition to what the tourism boards are promoting for you.
- Add important numbers to your phone. Research useful apps for your phone and download them with free Wi-Fi. Ask front desk staff to help you add important local numbers to your phone, such as the one for your hotel. And, though you may not want to stay connected with home, have these numbers in your phone as well.
- Stay calm. You think better when you're calm. If you find yourself getting stressed, find a seat, sit down, and think the situation through. The answer is likely right before you or the person to ask is nearby.
Stress Can Actually Be a Good Thing
In this delightful TED Talk about stress we learn that new studies suggest that it is not stress that is bad for our health but rather the belief that our stress is harmful. Carrying around the notion that stress is bad for you is itself dangerous. In fact, the data shows that if it were considered in the ranking of diseases that kill us, the belief that stress is harmful would be number 15, more harmful than skin cancer and HIV/AIDS. This video is quite fun and informative.