Five Strategies to Relieve a Love Ones' Travel Anxiety

Relieving a loved one's travel anxiety

There was a time when travel was exciting and something I relished. The luster wore off as I grew older and developed chronic health conditions. I found what once was a highlight of my life became something I dreaded. Something strikingly similar to what the loved one you are caring for may experience at the thought of travel. A friend of mine has imposed a two-time zone rule. If it's three or more time zones, forget it!

My Trip to Peru

I recently experienced travel anxiety when preparing for a trip to Peru. Where was no outward reason I should be concerned. Everything was planned. A guide would meet my wife and me at the Lima airport and take us to our hotel For the next fourteen days we would have competent guides and attentive drivers show us the wonders of Peru. So why the anxiety?

I realized it had nothing to do with “loose ends.” After all, this wasn’t a trip where my wife and I were traveling without plans in a strange country filled with hostile people. This was Peru, known for the genuine warmth of its citizens. A highly competent travel company was taking care of everything. Yet, I experienced anxiety I couldn’t understand nor rationally explain to my wife.

I thought about my unease and stories caregivers told me about the travel experiences they had with loved ones for whom they cared. They ranged from cruises with every minute planned from boarding the ship to their return, to traveling with a personal guide who arranged everything and was there if any problems arose.

Yet, there I was, still relatively healthy, experiencing what a wheelchair-bound loved one of a caregiver I counseled felt.

I realized the disconnect between reality and the fear of travel was all about being removed from what was familiar. Granted, once in Peru, I was joyful, but that’s irrelevant to why I felt as I did prior to the visit.

When a loved one experiences travel anxiety we often try to alleviate it by saying things such as, “Don’t worry, everything is taken care of. Relax and just enjoy the trip. You’ll see how carefree everything will be when we arrive.” Unfortunately, telling someone how good the future will be doesn’t alleviate anxiety felt in the present. You are trying to impose a “head” solution for a problem that is emotional.

As we age and develop illnesses that require someone to assist us, there is a growing need for stability. One form of stability is familiar surroundings and activities. With age and illness, people often feel the ground beneath them is shifting in ways defying control. Below are five strategies you can use to reduce your loved one’s anxiety.

1. Avoid Group Tours

Yes, some group tours are inexpensive but most lack the ability to modify the schedule because of a person’s special needs. On a recent river cruise on the Danube, the 200 passengers were divided into groups of thirty for shore excursions.

At one stop, there was a designated bathroom facility for everyone in my group to use. One-by-one we went in and after exiting, met at an area a few yards away gathering around the tour guide as if he was a mother hen counting chicks. One was missing; George, a man in his eighties who moved very, very slowly. Twenty minutes after entering the bathroom he exited.

Every time there was a bathroom break or free time when we reassembled George was the last one to appear. He became the butt of jokes throughout the tour. It wasn’t that the tour company attracted inconsiderate customers. Rather, these people paid a huge sum of money to visit sites along the Danube and didn’t want to spend even a few extra minutes waiting for a person with a disability. I doubt anyone said anything directly to George, but by his expression, I knew he was aware of the animosity some people had for him.

Many tour companies can provide custom tours for you and the person for whom you are caring. The itinerary can be modified in an instant and that knowledge can do much to alleviate anxiety before the trip begins.

2. Require A Detailed, Readable, Simple Itinerary

“A detailed” and “Simple” itinerary sounds contradictory, but it isn’t. When my wife and I explored tours of Peru, I asked for an itinerary before committing any funds. What I received provided 80% of the reasons why we chose the agency we did.

Those that I disqualified immediately were ones with an endless list of activities with few details and contained in a single paragraph running for a full page. My thoughts were their lack of detail in providing me with useful information in “chunk” form would probably reflect their lack of concern for the tour.

The secondary category was companies whose details were more precise but who still didn’t understand that a two or three paragraph description for a 14-day tour was confusing. We settled on a tour group that provided day-by-day information in a readable form.

3. Have Your Loved One Provide Questions for the Tour Company, Hotel, etc.

The concerns of your loved one may not be identical to yours. Sit down with her and together compose questions addressing each of the concerns causing her anxiety. Assure her that the questions are not stupid. "Will they wait for me if I need extra time in the bathroom?" may sound silly to you since no company would knowingly leave a person behind. But it's reassuring when a company simply says "No." The purpose of asking questions is to make the trip as enjoyable as possible. Think of these questions from your loved one's perspective.

4. Bring Along Familiar Objects

It may sound trivial, but bringing along objects from home can reduce anxiety. For me, it’s my computer. Even if I don’t have any writing assignments, I’ll have access to websites I enjoy. For someone who knits, it may be an uncompleted scarf, a ball of yarn and knitting needles. For a person who whittles, it may be a small piece of wood he began carving before starting the trip.

5. Provide an Escape Route

If I feel committed to continuing the trip regardless of the circumstances or I'll lose a substantial amount of money, I’ll be anxious before the journey begins. I simple solution is to buy comprehensive trip insurance. The costs are not great compared to the resulting reduction of anxiety it produces.


Traveling for someone who requires care will usually be stressful. One solution is to stop traveling. Another is to use the five strategies listed above to reduce the stress. On-going care doesn’t mean giving up travel; only learning how to adapt to the health condition.

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