This is not a question. I want to start a new category of helpful tips and "tourist scams" is the closest category to place this topic. Things can happen when traveling. Feel free to add your own tips for stress management. Attitude and health is a big factor. Let's face it, if we are tired and in a new location - stress is higher and harder to deal with. Here's some tips; remember other options are available. If a hotel or train schedule doesn't work out exactly - you can find another place or take a later train. Yes, this takes time and can cost extra money. But, you can work things out and still have a great trip. Poor meal at a restaurant - so what? Your trip is so much more than that. Shrug it off and move on. The point is - fix the problem, remember that it is not a tragedy (unless involving serious medical issues or death or serious crime) and move on mentally as soon as possible. Keep your trip moving along as soon as possible. "BUMPS" happen.
I'm glad to see this post, Travel Stress is the dirty little secret often ignored on this site. And travelers on trips, or after trips, try to ignore it as well.
Of course people here want to share their trip successes, not the things that were stressful.
But discussion of Travel Stress will benefit the uninitiated.
Not sleeping well the first few days, different food, different routine, more walking than you might be used to--these are negatives that are going to affect your European travel experience, whether you want them to or not.
Probably better for travelers to be aware of Travel Stress ahead of time and honestly acknowledge it, rather than be blindsided by it in the first few days of their trip and vaguely wonder what's going wrong.
I used to get sick during my European vacations. Now I spend a lot more time resting. I limit my activities to several hours a day. I eat well and take all my usual vitamins and other pills. I think my relaxed schedule relieves any stress I might experience. It has been 10 years since I've been sick while traveling.
I think Swan just gave the definitive answer: Know your stressors and avoid them, if possible.
For me, arriving in a town without reservations and having to look for a place to stay is a stressor. Therefore I plan my trips a little more tightly than the 'free-wheeling' types do. I don't plan sightseeing down to the minute (or even the day sometimes) but I do always have a planned itinerary, with reservations for overnight accommodations and transportation between locales.
Things don't always work out as planned though, so I do know how to "pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again".
Excellent suggestions by Swan and Nancy!
Should be heeded by more travelers who post here.
i do my stressing at home. IE, i do my planning where i have the resources and time. Its like having my own travel agent (me) and all i need to do is to show up and fork out the $$$.
If something goes wrong on my trip, unless its something major, most of my stuff is taken care of.
Lodging. If the place i were to have a reservation was filled up, i would ask if they knew of anyone that could put me up for the time i needed and go from there. Some places are paid for in advance. So if they have screwed up, there better be a good reason and alot of kissing my A$$ to make up for any troubles.
Transportation. I would be asking for whens the next available and go from there. If im going to be late, let the lodging know so they dont give my room away.
Lost/Theft. hopefully all they will get is my clothes. That is replaceable and i will get a new travel wardrobe out of it. If they get my wallet. No problemo, i just got my 2nd credit card. It will be kept separate. If they try to get that too, they have something else coming.
Body damage. Life sucks and no one gave any guarantees for living. So i will just have to deal with it. Ive been thinking about it since i like to pick up a horseback ride on my travels. If i were to get something damaged, it wouldnt be the best thing, but i would have to go with it and make it work out.
Unforeseen health issues. Life sucks again and if its something that requires hospitalization i will just have to wing it. Hopefully the healthcare system there is better than our and i can afford to pay for what i need. If i miss my trip or some of it there isnt much that can be done. I may have to get some "travel" insurance and see how that goes.
Plane gets shot down. Again life sucks.
Just like in non travel life, finances can be a big stressor. So I am realistic with my budget. If I can't easily afford the trip, I don't go and keep saving my money. This is true whether I am doing a cheaper trip or more of a luxury trip. And if I am trying to do a cheaper trip, I don't expect luxury accommodations.
It is no fun traveling while feeling guilty about spending money or racking up a credit card bill you won't be able to pay.
I think the plane getting shot-down would fall into the tragedy category. However, at this point - there is absolutely nothing more for you to do whatsoever and you will not be stressed or anything else!
List of Travel Problems to tackle: jet-lag, discovering your travel partners have a different style and are pains, sickness, missed connections, credit card overcharges, horrible weather, hotel turns out seedy, Inn is locked up upon arrival, hotel overbooked and you are bumped, injury, lost luggage, theft. Add your own to this list. Then, maybe we can create a solution guide for travelers. Also, a problem prevention guide. Maybe RS can give us some perks for creating a new travel manual for him.
Good posts from Barb and the others.
Rick has covered many of the preventatives to Travel Stress in his "How To Travel to Europe" book, otherwise known as "Europe Through the Back Door."
Sadly, the one subject Rick has not sufficiently discussed in his book is, Women's Travel Shoes, The Agonizing Choice.
The word on the street is that he's going to add an entire chapter to his next edition, collected from the 4,298 posts here on Women's Shoes and edited by The Women of Rick Steves Europe.
Hey Kent! I never thought of shoes as a stressor. But boy, they can be! I think criteria for selection would be most helpful with shoes since everyone has different feet and participate in different activities.
Yep. Know your comfort zone. Have a plan B. Don't make mountains out of mole hills. Yes, you can show up in a different country and find accommodations but why waste time. At a minimum have your first night's lodging arranged. That's a must for me as I want a good nights sleep following my long flight from the City of Angels. I travel most often in Fall or Winter months and seem to be a magnet for a cold virus. I take Airborne and vitamins, stay hydrated but cold viruses always seem to find me a good host when I travel no matter what I do. Instead of being miffed, I deal with it. It's a cold. It will pass. Yes, a bit of discomfort but it's not a broken bone. So instead of going to the theatre, seeing city lights, etc at night I'll stay in and rest. Or sleep in. Or both. Don't pressure myself. So true about a bad meal. Not a big deal at all unless it's food poisoning, That's a whole other ball game. Otherwise, move on. As I like to drive in other countries I make certain I have a good map. Not a big user of GPS. Prefer the old school map way for directions, that and using Google Maps satellite view to look at my route before I begin my journey. EXCELLENT travel tool. I then do a screen capture and upload to my iPad for referral. Never gotten lost this way AND I make it a rule to be done driving by 4pm at the latest. Don't like driving in the dark so find my accommodations before sunset. As my travel is in "off" months never had a problem finding a room for the night. Being fearful of scammers, pick pockets, etc can wear on you. Being cautious is fine. Learning how to smile and utter a firm "NO" helpful. However, there has to be a semblance of trust in your fellow man. Years ago when I was taking my friend's ashes to her mother's birthplace in a little town in Italy I made the mistake of believing the regional train had a station there. It did not. The town was 15 miles from the train station. I found a cabbie who spoke perfunctory English and by showing on a map where I wanted to go and agreeing on a price I had to trust him to get me to the town. He did but when we arrived we discovered virtually everything was closed. Even the one hotel. It was getting dark. He saw my predicament. Called a cousin, who called another relative and then drove me to a lovely house above the town where I was welcomed and afforded a private room and bath for the evening in the home of an elderly couple. A simple act of kindness. Best home cooked meal ever as well! Lastly, I don't book tours or purchase tickets in advance to save money. Would stress over the fact I'd miss the train, etc so I buy what I need when I need it. I've budgeted for the higher costs and am a firm believer in the adage "you can't take it with you," so I spend it. In all honesty, when I travel the only stress I experience is when the flight crew announces, "Welcome to Los Angeles."
These are some excellent suggestions about how to reduce stress and increase enjoyment on your European trip.
And Claudia, it's ok to be concerned about getting a cold on a trip involving airplane flight. I've broken an eardrum with a cold on a plane, a painful experience that I recommend be avoided if possible. Now if we could just figure out how to avoid getting colds on trips, right? (sigh)
Oh no! I take it back, now we'll be back to 300 posts about airplane trays and toilets. To be followed by 200 more posts on the Agony of Choosing Women's Travel Shoes.
Love this topic and agree that the fact that travel can be stressful is the 'little secret'
1) multiple copies of iterneray and tickets -one for each traveler and one in suitcase
2) carry on bathing suit and bra ( 2 hardest things for me to buy)
3) minimize one night stays
4) include a down day where you don't have to be anywhere or see anything. This last trip we did an overnight at a beach (not a famous one) .Last year we stayed an extra day in a small town just to enjoy the area.
5) Expect to have at least one fight with your travel partners and plan to let it go and laugh about it later
My way of managing stress is to not stress over what you can't control but deal with it. And learn from it. When I got in late to Zurich because of train engine troubles (a 4 hour trip became 8) I learned I needed to get exact directions to the hotel I was booked into instead of taking a 20EU taxi for 1/2 mile. I can't blame the taxi driver ...I didn't get the directions prior to arriving.
All flights cancelled due to volcano eruption? Oh well, just a valid reason to stay in Europe for 4 more days and I learned I should have purchased travel insurance.
It seems like many US travelers go to Europe expecting US hotels/food/people/etc. If that is what you want, stay in the US.
This is supposed to be a vacation...relax! Don't plan every minute of every day. Have a plan but be willing to change the plan. I can only take a few churches/old art/ architecture. I've learned not to try to get to all the "important" sites. Meanwhile, I could sit for hours in a cafe and people watch.
Have fun trying to learn the language. You may massacre the accent but you will be keeping your mind active.
The topic "Best Shoes for Travel" contains several subtopics regarding women's shoes. One thing is for sure -- there is not one shoe that stands out. What one woman may like another would not be caught dead in. (Subject closed)
JET LAG . . .It took me three trips to Europe to figure out how to handle this. The former me would stay awake most of the flight. Now I stay up the better part of the 24 hrs before departure. I eat dinner either on the way to or at the airport. Once I am settled on the plane after takeoff, the sleeping mask & the earphones come out of my tote bag stowed under the seat in front of me. I do not want to be bothered until breakfast is served. (The first time I did this I threatened my husband within an inch of his life if he allowed the steward to wake me one more time). I wake up from an 8-hr sleep refreshed & ready to go on the tour when I land.
STAMINA . . . I found I would get sick (cold symptoms) about 3/4 of the way through the trip. The weather is cooler in Europe than where I live, and the walking was draining me. I missed seeing the pope on my visit to Rome b/c I did not feel well. Fellow travelers helped me on that trip providing me OTC medication to help with the symptoms. On the next trip I am taking a DayQuil before landing & will be packing honey & lemon crystals so it is easier for my husband to make me a tea hot toddy without the hard liquor.
I admit I have not been "in shape" to deal with the rigors of constant walking. For my trip next year I have begun a walking routine, am purchasing comfortable clothing NOW, & am putting together "little things" I may need. These items in include OTC meds, & items for washing in the sink. Because of an experience on my last trip I now pack a one time ice pack as I am a clutz. (Example - I fell on the last trip & bruised the elbow that took the brunt of the fall. It swelled & an ice pack on it immediately would have reduced the swelling.)
TRAVEL COMPANIONS . . . On our first trip hubby & I began fighting. To avoid a European divorce or the group finding one of us dead in the morning, we started to split up during the walks & get to know others in the group .
First of all, forget a chapter in RS's next book, I think the Webmaster ought to be collecting posts about shoes, etc. and publish his own book.
Secondly, the more travel hiccups we survive, the lower my stress level the next trip. If you wish to predict transportation strikes, check when we're traveling. Ditto volcano activity. We've never actually been tackled to the ground by the friendship bracleteers or the ringer finders and since I rarely sign petitions outside my grocery store, I'm not signing them anywhere else. I'm hoping we've peaked with our overnight ( well, part of the night) accommodations at ORD concourse K ( tripadvisor review?), and subsequently being dropped off at the wrong Premier Inn at midnight and having to walk, in the dark and drizzle to the correct one. But, life being what it is, I'm sure there are more fun storis for the future.
I see some travel plans that are positively stress-inducing. Trying to see too many places in too narrow a time window, travelling between places without realizing how distant they are, planning to visit sights with an hourly cadence, not leaving time and place for resting will induce stress. But it will self-induced stress.
One stressor we discovered was HUNGER -- one person gets hungry or thirsty and the bickering begins. Solution: we each take responsibility for carrying our owm snack food / water bottle so we're never looking for emergency meals (which will always be more expensive and/or lower quality) We pack granola bars for the first few days and pick up replacement food at grocery stores (or breakfast buffet)
One of the things I really appreciate about this forum is the diversity of travellers and how they take their trips. I look at Ed's pithy and highly entertaining posts and think, 'If I only I could travel like that', but the reality is, I can't. A couple of my personal tactics to avoid stress as much as possible is to (1) book first night's accommodation (2) arrive at departure points with plenty of time to spare (3) if making connecting flights have a minimum of 2 1/2 - 3 hours in between . (4) Give myself a couple of hours 'feet up time' at the end of the day when ever possible. As long as the problem that arises doesn't endanger your life, it's usually surmountable.
I quit stressing over anything years ago! I have no use for it and it serves no purpose - life is too short & too precious to waste any time being stressed. I am one of those "wing it" travelers - having a set schedule and to be somewhere at a certain time - that would stress me!
I have to agree - making sure you have down time is paramount - the longer the trip the more you need it. In a 30 day trip we took two days "off"! One Sunday we ended up getting an apartment at a hotel where we booked a regular room but the apartment was all they had available "would that be OK?" Yes - it had a washer! We chilled all day, did laundry, ate at the hotels restaurant and thoroughly enjoyed it. The 2nd day we were in Ulm, Germany, again a Sunday. It was very cold & rainy, almost freezing even though it was late May. We ventured out long enough to visit the Cathedral and eat. Here's a tip - the ONLY place in Ulm to eat on a Sunday is the train station! So we had a burger, bought a few overpriced beers & a bottle of wine and hunkered down in our hotel for the rest of the day.
The hungry thing is also important, there's a saying - HALT - Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired - any one of those conditions will cause most folks distress and crankiness! Deal with them immediately.
If something goes wrong or is not exactly what you planned just roll with it and do what you can.
We recently had a vacation planned - some time in San Antonio & the Texas hill country to visit some wineries (yes Texas has wineries), a long weekend family reunion in Nebraska in the motor home then 5 days at the beach. Sounds lovely right? Well two weeks, a mad dash 16 hour drive in the car after 4 hours sleep and $8,000 later the only thing we managed to salvage was the family reunion! Had a great time, would not have missed it for anything!
I agree with all the posts about finding out what stresses you and dealing with it. I have to have all of my rooms reserved and know what my transportation connections will be or I would be really stressed. I also bring good information on how to get to each hotel and how to use the public transportation in each area. Other than this planning, the two biggest things I can do are to plan a few relaxing days between busier days, and to try to have a positive attitude about any little glitches that come up. I try to see the adventure in small problems rather than stressing about it. I also really agree with the one about trying to address the things that can cause stress like hunger, fatigue, loneliness. When I travel alone it sometimes helps to make a 5 minute phone call home. In addition, one thing I have found personally is that it is easier for me to not get stressed over the small problems when I am on a trip than it is at home because my general attitude is so much more relaxed than normal. I always try to bring that vacation attitude home with me.
How in the flying crap can goofing off be stressful?
If you don't have a plan, nothing can mess it up. If you don't have a reservation, you don't have to be anywhere. If you travel on the cheap, you can't bust your wallet. If you don't give a rat's rear bumper, nothing can go wrong.
You decide to go somewhere, throw some junk in a sack and head for the airport. Get there, kick boxes and turn over stones to see what crawls out.
Real stress: Heading out on a solo trip before the adult leader gets home from one of hers. You have to go through the whole stinking house picking up every bit of evidence of having eaten lard and stash it in some remote garbage can.
Stressed while in Rome? Spend some time in the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary with the Gatti di Roma.
I do a fair amount of planning and reading before I go. Additionally, in big cities, I usually have a map with some idea about the location of my hotel, major sites, transportation hubs etc. That helps me manage some stress as I feel somewhat prepared. Usually the "biggies" for me (after a fair number of trips) are pre-booked such as transportation and a place to stay. Given who I am, some of the small stuff is done as well......for example, I almost always avoid less than a 2 hour layover if possible. I've traveled enough to have some confidence in my packing, security, finances, having the house taken care of, staying in touch etc. However, even given preparation, things have gone wrong or I worry they will. Hey, I'm human....anxiety is one of the 4 basic emotions, it happens. So I remind myself "I'm not the first traveler who.........." I also recall that in the past, when things have gone wrong I survived and eventually got where I was going. For me, anyway, much of my travel stress occurs before I leave. That's when I often worry about things. While I am on the road I may stress a bit about getting off on the right stop or finding the hotel....but not much. A lot of my stress dissipates when I step out my door to get started on the journey itself.
Ed, I agree. Although I usually have an idea of places I will be visiting and the rooms I will be staying in I definitely play it by ear. I really do not want to tie myself into train schedules, etc. Therefore, I rarely, if ever, buy my ticket ahead of time. Obviously if I am traveling to a destination were the train travel is limited I have to pay attention, but generally I show up at the train station and take the next available train. I don't worry about seeing every site. If i missed it there will be another time. I definitely emphasize relaxing and wandering and exploring where my feet take me. It is the way I like to travel.
- I discovered on our first trip to Europe that my husband gets really cranky when he is hungry and starts yelling at me for no reason. Now I make sure to take snack packs with us to ensure a better mood from him.
- And speaking of shoes......We went on a fabulous guided tour of Scandinavia this year, but I neglected to bring my tried & true walking shoes and sandals. It was very stressful for me on the second day of the trip to buy a pair of Nike's at Sweden prices and then a new pair of Fit Flop's at London prices. Glad I now have an extra pair of Fit Flop's, but I'll never get my money's worth from the Nike's. Plus I gave away the pair of Skechers I took on the trip! When my feet hurt, I'm more than stressed. This was an expensive lesson to learn the hard way!
- Being flexible is a major factor in reducing stress. Usually whatever we are stressing over can be fairly easily solved and with minor inconvenience. Try not to sweat the small stuff. We've had some good laughs over the screwups along the way. Try to relax and enjoy the adventure you're on.
I'm reading this discussion topic/thread with interest. Because it applies to every trip to every location.
I definitely fall into the "stress before you leave" category. The weeks leading up to departure I get panicky, thinking about what I could forget, do I have my paperwork, have we reserved this or that.... And I make my husband check the passports every few days leading up to it. In fact I have a phobia where I check my bag for my passports multiple times once in the car on the way to the airport (and not having even opened the car door I don't know where I think they went). But I check over and over, and DH now laughs with me about it rather than cursing me.
I was freaking out a bit on the day of departure for last year's trip to the UK, and asked myself "what would Ed do", of course regulars on the boards know Ed doesn't do much before departure. It worked - I calmed down. I figure if we have the passports and credit cards, we can overcome anything.
I also don't get in a lather over little things. I admit I've occasionally been ripped off by unscrupulous service providers. I generally tell myself "into every vacation a little hosing must happen", and get on with it. And small mistakes are not worth stressing over! I once ordered a lovely bottle of wine to go with my.... what turned out to be a hot dog. No biggie. We just laughed and chowed down.
Mind you, we've improved over our years of traveling. I'd have a different response to the question if I was answering it after my first trip outside of North American/Caribbean.
Perhaps this might be helpful. I travel two to three times a year to Europe. Sometime ago I made a list of all the things that needed to be done--what to pack, what to take, whom to notify about my trip, the house-sitter, the driver to the airport, print-outs of electronic tickets, hotel reservations, train tickets--everything that could possibly be needed.
That list is stored in my computer and before each trip, I simply print it out and then I can check off each thing as I prepare to get ready to leave.
It's a good feeling to look at that list as I prepare to walk out the door and see all those black check marks beside each item.
I'm glad I'm not the only one with passport panic who checks my passport multiple times even while in the car on the way to the airport! Next time I'll have to try the strategy of thinking What Would Ed Do :)
On passport panic -- a number of years ago, a friend's husband left for a full summer teaching at a University in Germany and called her in a panic ... he had picked up HER passport and the guys on the first flight hadn't noticed. Luckily the University that was sponsoring his visit was able to vouch for him so he could enter Germany, and she FedExed his passport so he was able to get back home. She held that over him for years until they arrived at the airport for a trip to Italy and found that HER passport had expired so nobody went anyplace (non-refundable hotel costs, change fees for the airplane tickets, substantial rush fees to get a new passport)
My closest panic was pulling out my Schwab ATM card which I use ONLY on foreign trips -- it lives in my money belt -- and finding that it had expired months earlier ... and we were leaving in less than a week. New card arrived just in time thanks to Schwab and FedEx. So now we look at expiration dates as we photocopy front and back of credit cards -- several weeks in advance of the trip.
Great thread, thanks for starting it, Barb!
Same as some of the rest of you, we've found that longer versus shorter stays are great for upping the relax factor, as is having a general list of things we want to do but no set itinerary. Sure, there will be the occasional attraction which demands a reservation but we keep them to a minimum. The trusty Pacsafe and following the usual safety rules eliminates any anxiety about pickpockets, and we've both gotten pretty good at putting on our New York Face when necessary.
I'd never plan a big location move on the day of a departure flight, and almost always schedule moves from one location to another earlier rather than later in the day in case of a snag: having time to figure out a Plan B can be helpful.
In general, just accepting the fact there are things we can't control - unexpected closures, strikes, weather, the occasional bad tummy - and giving ourselves the time to work around some of those things has been the best approach for us. We all do it differently but a move every day or two and rigid sightseeing schedule would give me an ulcer before I ever left home!
Anyone for a pint of something dark from the tap or cask. Perhaps, some vino? Depends on location for which libation is best remedy.
Re: passport paranoia: On a trip to Paris with a small group of friends several years ago, we all gave our passports to the check-in clerk at our hotel, she processed our rooms and then handed them back two at a time (for roommates). I put mine away in my luggage and didn't look at it again. Later that week, my roommate and some of our group left a few days before I and others did, then I left the hotel to run errands. When I returned later that day, the desk clerk said my friend had called earlier from the airport, asking if I had my passport. "Of course," I said, "It's up in my luggage." But when I checked, I had my friend's passport so she obviously had mine (we look nothing alike). The end result was that she was denied boarding her plane with my passport (of course), had to return to the hotel for an additional (costly) night, and we ended up with some great pix for our scrapbooks of us holding each others' passport. Lesson - when I'm traveling with others and staying in a hotel, I ALWAYS check my passport to make sure it's mine!
Great thread! Kent and Ed you both make me laugh:) Had to read my husband the post about the "women's travel shoe dilemma" so he knows I'm not the only one who stresses over what shoes to bring:)
I do my stressing before the trip. I'm a planner. I stress until the plane is in the air. Then I have the attitude that I'm on a great adventure, and if I have a few hiccups and bumps along the way, well that's just part of the adventure!
I do my research and have a pretty good idea of what I'm going to do every day while on vacation, with room to change things around, add others and time to just relax, whether in my room or on a bench where I can people-watch.
The only stress I experienced on my recent trip to Vienna and Budapest was foot-related. I generally take two pairs of comfy, broken-in boots on my trips, since I know wearing socks is the key to happy feet. This trip it seemed I'd be too hot in boots so took as my second pair some fairly newly broken-in comfy mary jane flats and then made the idiotic mistake of wearing without socks. Huge blister within an hour of boarding the train for a day trip, me sitting by the side of the road bandaging and taping feet, generally hideous cranky mood until the next day when I could buy A. a ton of blister band-aids and B. a pair of lovely soft leather sneaker-style shoes in Vienna at Humanic. That was 75 euro I should not have had to spend, but those shoes saved my trip. They'll certainly be going on other trips.
Christa - don't feel guilty about the 75 euro shoes. It 's money well spent. I learned that sometimes you need to throw money at a problem to fix it. Plus, you still have the prolonged benefit of a great pair of shoes. Think of them as a practical souvenir. 75 euro won't break your bank account either.
The title of this thread: Managing Travel Stress
Philosophical question: Can you ever really manage stress? Or does the stress occur and you just have to try to get around it?
Just a thought. International travel is inherently stressful, and you just hope the benefits outweigh the stress. When they don't, you stop traveling internationally? (and does that coincide with death?) (otherwise known as, the only thing worse than international travel is, not traveling)
New Title: Alleviate Stress
Extra Money seems to be a helpful tool, along with food/water and rest.
Semantics, shemantics. Call it alleviating, managing, or avoiding stress, it's all just learning and applying our own ways of 'dealing' with it. And hopefully this thread has given some people some good ideas about how to do just that.
It seems to me this "No Grumps Policy" thread should also be here.
Just My 2-cents Worth.
I drink ........
Don't drink wine?
Schnapps, butter, chocolate, pasta, prayer, deliberately slow breathing...
I usually have a teeny-tiny meltdown at some point - then all is good :-)
Then I have a glass of...
Texans think alike