Travel is Stressful But We Love It Anyway: Top 10 Travel Stresses

I love traveling so much that I usually don’t find it stressful. As long as everything is going perfectly accordingly to plan, what’s there to worry about? But if it doesn’t… OK, I guess travel can be a little stressful sometimes, from the trip planning to the packing to returning home and worrying about when and where your next trip will be. Oh, and just about everything to do with flying. It’s easy to forget that when you’re sitting at home. For my Joy of Spa giveaway contest, I asked my readers to tell me what they find most stressful about traveling. There were such great responses that I wanted to share them with you (in addition to the winners) so I decided to make a list along the common themes.

1. Packing

You’d think that with all of the traveling I’ve been doing over the past two years, I’d have become a better packer. Nope! At least it was reassuring to learn that travel editor/writer extraordinaire Ed from Tripatini hates packing too:

The most stressful thing about traveling is packing. How am I supposed to know what the weather will really be like in Traveloggedstan a week from now? Will I be in the valleys (temperate) or in the mountains (chilly)? And what if I run out of Tums and Advil?

Solution: I often pack for trips two weeks in advance, just to get it out of the way.

2. Getting to the airport

I thought that this deserved its own category separate from flying because this is where my husband and I always start arguing. He always wants to leave for the airport before I do, which is probably a good thing because he gets us there with time to spare. I don’t think we’ve ever even had a close call (knock on wood!), unlike Marla:

The most stressful part of any trip for me is getting to the airport on time. The worst was a trip to Italy where I had booked on a European booking engine and so the flight times were listed using the 24-hour clock. My flight at 21.00 was translated by me as 11pm instead of 9pm. At 6pm, I realized my mistake, but my husband wasn't even home yet, and we had to get to JFK from NJ during Friday rush hour. On the way there, I called the airline, which quoted me a price for another flight, which was prohibitively expensive. So if we didn't make it, we weren't going. To make it worse, my parents were going to be meeting us in Rome.

I cried all the way to the airport convinced we weren't going to make it. Luckily, that flight was the only one that airline was checking in that night so there was no one at the counter when we got there and they were able to get us on. It turned out to be an amazing trip. I still haven't learned my lesson about leaving with enough time to spare though I have learned to read a 24-hour clock!

3. Flying

What isn't stressful about flying? OK, maybe sitting in business class with all the champagne and gourmet snacks you can handle. But as for the rest of us… Robin of My Melange put it quite succinctly:

Hands down the most stressful is the air travel. Can't get comfortable, anxious about being delayed, bumped, cancelled or my bag being overweight, no room for my carry-on bag in steerage…etc. The airlines have made travel a nightmare.

4. Making your connection

This one is sort of hybrid of getting to the airport on time and flying, but I thought it deserved its own category because travelers (including me!) often end up paying a premium just to avoid the dreaded connecting flight. As Laurie of Scene by Laurie puts it:

My biggest nightmare is having a flight connection and only a little bit of time to make the connecting flight… trying to figure out the terminal and how to get there the fastest and running through the airport to make it is very stressful.

5. Getting lost

If you decide to drive instead of fly to your destination, you're still bound for some stress. Especially if you get lost, as Jill from Reverse Culture Shock tells it:

Getting lost can be quite stressful. On a road trip to Asheville, North Carolina, last weekend, we took a wrong turn in South Carolina, and ended up miles away from where we wanted to be. It was late, we were all tired, and my kids were crying and yelling in the back of the car that they wanted to go home.

But we got to Asheville in the end, with the help of some friendly local fast food employees who knew the area well. The drive took us five hours (it was supposed to take three and a half), but we had fun once we arrived. So it was a worthwhile trip!

6. Taxi drama

When you're in a strange city, or even worse a foreign city where you don't speak the language, the simple act of taking a cab can become very stressful. Boomergirl of Roadstories shares her stories:

Am I in a legal cab or not? Twice- once in Mexico City, once in Cuba, in a cab, all set to take off from curb and suddenly driver gives the okay to male passenger(s) to join me in the cab. In Mexico City, I was headed to airport from Norta bus station and the driver got off the main route and took back city streets. I was traveling alone and scared. Definitely a better command of Spanish would have been helpful.

7. Your traveling companion

My husband is usually my travel companion, and I'm lucky that we travel well together. But if you don't have an automatic companion, it can be very stressful to choose whom (if anyone) to bring along. Annemarie of Frill Seeker Diary shared what can happen if you pick the wrong person:

For me, the most stressful aspect of travel is who you bring with you! I'm a lover of "girl trips" even though I'm engaged and have really gone through amazing friend lengths to allow my less fortunate friends to come away with me (everything from footing the bill to planning the whole trip).

The last time however, it all went so, so wrong when I caught pneumonia while being in Europe! Even though I had put out extra cash and planned the entire trip- and was the only one in the two of us who did research, my travel partner was less than sympathetic when I couldn't sleep, speak, or move because I was SO sick!

She was so mad that I moved at a slower pace, stopped at a million pharmacies, and generally was ready to collapse that when we got home our friendship dissipated. As punishment she's holding all the photos we took with her camera of the entire trip (I couldn't carry mine because I was so weak). It was ridiculously stressful and I'll keep it in mind forever when choosing a partner.

8. Not looking like tourist

No one wants to look like a tourist, especially when you are a tourist. Trying to play it cool with foreign currency isn't easy as Sarah of Accoutrements explains:

I get most stressed about exchange rates and language barriors. I can never keep track of new coins and values and making sure I don't over pay or look like a tourist trying to figure out how to pay!

9. Dealing with accessibility issues

For those who have to deal with accessibility issues, sightseeing can become very stressful. Jessie of Wandering Educators explains:

Often, there's no wheelchair access. So no seeing things I've longed to. Or, having to walk a bit and then injuring myself so much I have to have surgery when I get home. Or, dealing with more pain from traveling in inaccessible areas (I can't walk more than a block)…UGH. Why do I travel,though? There's nothing like learning about others, and despite the limitations of my body, worth it.

10. Not knowing when your next trip will be

It can be real downer to come home from a trip and not know when the next one will be. I think Craig of Stay Adventurous speaks for all travel addicts here:

To be honest, I am most stressed, when I don't have a next trip in the works / on the books. If I am home and have no next travel plans….it can be quite stressful indeed. I try not to let that happen for any length of time.

Thanks so much for sharing your travel stresses, everyone! I wish I could have given everyone a trip to the spa for their troubles. Traveling is stressful, but we all love it anyway…

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2 Responses to Travel is Stressful But We Love It Anyway: Top 10 Travel Stresses

  1. jessiev
    Twitter: WanderingEds
    May 25, 2010 at 11:27 pm #

    great comments!! travel CAN be stressful…but it is sooo worth it.thanks for including my comment!

  2. Lisa December 28, 2010 at 4:26 am #

    An avid traveler myself, one thing that was not mentioned was security procedures, especially when traveling alone. We have a lot of products that can assist with your personal safety. Visit

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