While traveling in and of itself could very well be a form of self-care, there are a few ways to avoid burnout, reduce anxiety, and navigate self-care while you’re travel planning and after you’re settled at your final destination.
Plan Your Traveling Self-care in Advance
Whether traveling or hanging out at home, planning your self-care needs before your trip is a reliable way to ensure you don’t neglect or forget them. Once you start putting off self-care for “later,” you unnecessarily think you don’t have time. You stop putting yourself on the back-burner by planning for it in advance.
Planning for self-care while you travel provides a mindset shift that enables your mind, body, and soul to feel prioritized. When you prioritize yourself, you notice feeling more confident with a stronger sense of self-esteem. And when you feel more confident, your mood remains stable and positive, reducing uneasiness, and improving your mental health.
Regularly practicing self-care enhances your overall quality of life, strengthens your relationships, and continues a trend of bringing more blessings into your life. You deserve this, even when you’re traveling – and especially when you’re traveling with kids in tow.
Set Yourself up for Success: Be Intentional With What You Pack
How often have you packed for a trip and realized you forgot something? Then how many times did you use everything you packed? Many families frequently run into this, creating lists of things to bring “just in case” that usually aren’t needed. And often, a day into your travels, you end up joking about how it isn’t a vacation if you didn’t forget something.
During your travel planning phase, take some time to focus on what you will be doing and what you will need to support your physical and mental wellness needs, and use those ideas to help you know what to pack.
Sometimes it takes a few trials and errors to realize the essentials and stick with them. Don’t feel discouraged when you realize the “would be nice” things aren’t needed.
Verify Your Travel Itinerary Before You Go
Review your trip details to minimize plans needing to change, prevent anxiety, and preserve your mental health. Make a few calls. Send a few confirmation emails to ensure your flight reservations, trip itineraries, travel guide needs, and accommodations don’t require any changes.
If your vacation is expensive and takes you far away, you may want to consider travel insurance, just in case something happens and you cannot carry out your trip plan.
Avoid Jet Lag or Time Zone Changes, Naturally
If you are traveling to a different time zone, there are some things you can do to help your body adjust more quickly. You can avoid jet lag or time zone changes by eating right and getting enough exercise. Try to stick to your routine as much as possible, including mealtimes and bedtimes. When you fly or are traveling for more extended periods, drink plenty of water, and avoid alcohol and caffeine. If possible, get some light exercise in the new time zone as soon as you arrive.
There are a few things to consider when eating foods to help your body adjust to a new time zone. The first is that your body’s natural rhythm is vital – you want to maintain eating habits that align with when your body expects to be eating. For example, if you’re traveling east, eat earlier than usual; and if you’re traveling west, eat later than expected. It’s also important to consider the types of foods you’re eating.
Eating foods that help your body adjust to the new time zone doesn’t have to be tricky. Foods high in protein and healthy fats, such as meats, nuts, and seeds, can help your body feel more energized and balanced. Vegetables like carrots and celery contain high levels of vitamin A, which help regulate your body’s internal clock. Additionally, drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine can also be helpful. Finally, getting plenty of rest is essential for helping your body to adjust.
Another way to adjust is exposure to natural light. Try to spend some time outside in the sun each day, especially in the morning hours, or avoid using blackout curtains—sunlight cues your body’s internal clock that it’s time to start the day.
Finally, try to get plenty of rest before your trip to help your body prepare for the schedule change.
Bring Your Getaway Essentials With You in a Self-care Travel Kit
When you’re traveling, the last thing you want to worry about is forgetting something important. That’s why it’s essential to have a self-care travel kit packed and ready to go. Your kit should include everything you need to take care of yourself that will help make life easier for you, based on where you’re going and for how long.
First, you’ll want to list the items you’ll need to keep you healthy. The basics are nontoxic personal care and hygiene products, basic first aid products, translating books or devices (if required), lip balm, sunscreen, insect repellent, supplements, and any medication you may need. Even if you could purchase them while traveling, I recommend bringing these with you because not everywhere has healthy options. So many standard store-bought products contain harmful chemicals that weigh heavily on your body, reducing your energy and overall wellness.
A self-care travel kit should also help you manage your mental and spiritual health while on vacation. Think ahead of time about what you need to help you manage the stress and anxiety you may face during your travels. The kit can include noise-canceling headphones, a book, needed devices and chargers, a journal, a hat, comfortable traveling clothes, a translation device, a translation book, or stress balls.
Ditch Any & All Guilt When Planning for Your Trip
You’re traveling for a reason. And that reason should never be bogged down by someone “raining on your parade.” Leave those energy-draining thoughts and emotions at home.
Allow yourself the space to enjoy being out doing your thing instead of running your mind ragged with feeling bad for those left behind, unable to go, or just being judgmental.
When you’re travel planning, keep in mind that you deserve to check off your bucket-list items without justifying them to anyone else or feeling bad for everyone not in attendance. Create your itinerary based on what you want to do and see.
While Getting Around, Focus On Gratitude
Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation or thankfulness for people, things, and events. Genuine thankfulness is a cornerstone of happiness, and research has shown that people who practice gratitude tend to be happier and healthier than those who don’t.
There are many reasons why gratitude is beneficial. It can help improve physical and mental health. It also helps to reduce stress, fatigue, and depression. Gratitude is a great coping mechanism for many people, helping them cope with stressful thoughts or situations. Thankfulness is a perfect antidote to unavoidable stressful situations, especially when your plans require change at the last minute. Finding the silver linings in icky situations is a great coping mechanism for many people.
Move Your Body – Often
Don’t be shy move your body! Getting up and moving before your day’s planned itinerary helps get your blood flowing and boost your energy.
Show Off Your Dance Moves
There are many benefits to dancing. Dancing can help improve your balance, coordination, and physical flexibility. It can also help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, improve your mood, and strengthen your cardiovascular system. These are essential benefits when you’re traveling, especially when traveling long distances.
So don’t be afraid to dance, even if it’s just in your hotel room while you prepare for the day.
Before starting the day’s adventure, take a few minutes to stretch.
The benefits of stretching are vast. It can improve your posture, increase your range of motion, make you more flexible, and improve circulation. Additionally, stretching helps prevent injuries by preparing your body for physical activity.
When you stretch, you are lengthening your muscles and improving the elasticity of your ligaments and tendons, which increases flexibility and allows you to move more freely and with less pain.
By starting your day with a few stretches, you set yourself up for success for the rest of the day.
There’s no doubting the benefits of walking. After flying or traveling in tight quarters, you’ll be amazed by how good walking feels after a LONG day of traveling.
Walking saves money on cab fare and enables you to spend more time being present and soaking in everything around you.
Ditch the Alarm Clock
If you need to shift your itinerary to start later in the morning, do so. Starting your day off with a jolt of waking up is not the healthiest way to start your day. Without using an alarm clock, your sleep quality improves, and you’ll feel more energized throughout the day.
Stick With a Meaningful Morning Routine
If you have a set morning routine at home that you enjoy, take it with you. If you wake up writing in a journal, continue that while away. If you wake up and enjoy coffee or tea first thing in the morning, keep that routine. Your mind and body will appreciate a customized itinerary planned around your usual lifestyle habits.
Keeping a morning routine while you travel may provide several benefits. It may ease the transition from one environment to another. For example, if you typically wake up at 7 am at home, you may want to try waking up at 6 am on vacation to help them get used to the new time zone. Additionally, a morning routine can help to ensure that you have plenty of time to do everything you need to before your trip.
Plan For Healthy Meals
A perk of traveling is the ability to try local foods. Too many times, travelers stay within a pre-established comfort zone and prioritize convenience foods. Take time to search for good restaurants and food markets around you to provide healthier foods filled with primarily fruits and vegetables, and do not neglect protein options.
Hydration by drinking clean water is essential, especially in the mornings.
The morning water is beneficial for travelers because it is a way to cleanse and energize your body before starting a new day of travel. Water helps with digestion and cleansing any toxins that may have built up overnight, which helps to keep your body energized, supports your immune system, and helps you maintain your mental wellness.
Only Use Healthy Travel Products
Items like hand sanitizer and personal care products are must-haves, especially while traveling. Make sure you’re not being frugal on which items you choose. You’ll want to bring nontoxic options that honor your body’s needs.
Too many travel supplies contain harmful ingredients, many hand sanitizers included. Bringing your healthy options helps maintain your wellness and maximize your immune system.
Monitor Your Self-talk
How you speak to yourself is critical for maintaining a positive mindset and mental health, especially while traveling. You wouldn’t purposefully demean someone you love, so practice not doing it to yourself, especially if you’re one of the millions of people who quietly experience this habit.
Be mindful of how you speak to yourself. Be uplifting and loving towards yourself, especially when your trip doesn’t go according to plan. Mistakes happen. Last-minute plan changes occur and are not a reflection of who you are or you’re capabilities.
Take Photos, But Don’t Forget To Stop & Enjoy
We all love photos to remind us of good times, funny moments, adventures, and extraordinary life experiences. But, don’t let your memory-saving desires get in the way of actually experiencing the locations you visit.
Plan for a Digital Detox
Don’t fall into the trap of pressuring yourself to feel that you always need to be “connected.”
Even if you’re a Digital Nomad, one of the best things about traveling is to disconnect and truly experience what the world offers.
There are many benefits to taking a break from technology, but one of the most notable is the detoxification of the mind. Frequently using electronic devices that emit blue light, such as phones and laptops, stimulates your brain unnecessarily.
When your brain is constantly stimulated, especially with blue light from screens, you’ll experience more difficulty sleeping, headaches, eye strain, exhaustion, and irritability, among other issues. If you’re traveling with kids, they’re more susceptible to these overstimulation issues, causing more meltdowns, stress, and anxiety for the whole family. Taking a break from technology allows your brain to rest and reset, which may lead to improved focus, creativity, and productivity, perfect when you’re away exploring new lands.
By all means, take photos, but don’t allow your electronics to take priority.
Schedule Your Travel Time To Avoid Rushing
Not just making sure you take time every day to rest, but schedule full days between exploring where you can just be and don’t have any expectations of being anywhere or doing anything.
You may choose to take this time to revisit something for a deeper look. Or just play, whether it’s sketching a gorgeous view, kayaking in clear water, napping in the sun, swimming with your family, or wandering around without anything pressing your schedule.
Schedule in Rest
The purpose of scheduling rest while traveling is to ensure that you can reach and enjoy your destination feeling refreshed and energized. By taking a break during your travels, your body has a chance to rejuvenate, which may prevent fatigue and make the trip more enjoyable.
Scheduling too much in terms of sightseeing or activities may create undue stress. Giving your mind and body time to rest is very important too. Even if it is a prolonged lunch or having a relaxing picnic, this gives you time to appreciate everything around you, focus on gratitude, and honor your body and mind.
Scheduling rest in your travel plans may be the most overlooked aspect of taking a vacation. It is easy to want to see everything possible; that rest is an afterthought. Then you return home feeling like you need another break to recover from your vacation.
Memories are great, but you’ll remember the essence of your trip in greater detail and with fonder emotions if you aren’t exhausting yourself through the process.
Be Mentally Present, Avoiding Distractions
While you’re ditching the idea of being buried in electronics and enjoying all there is to experience around you, really make an effort to be present. Taking a digital detox is helpful even if you use social media to distract you from your to-do list at home.
Allow yourself to be present and mindful of your surroundings. Fully indulge in the experience you have at hand. Don’t worry about the article you need to write, how to incorporate your adventure for your career, what you’re missing out on, keeping friends and family back home up to date, or any other distracting thought. Allow those thoughts to move past you, and allow yourself to be present in the here and now.
Set Boundaries With Your Travel Planning – Don’t Do What You Don’t Love Out of Feeling Obligated.
Everyone you talk to will have an opinion on what you “need” to see, especially if you’re venturing to popular travel destinations. Just thinking about all the things you “need” to see but don’t care about may cause undue stress, panic attacks, or anxiety, which is NOT what a vacation or enjoyable trip is supposed to accomplish.
If you decide you wish you would have seen something, look for future opportunities to return. Don’t fret over prioritizing a popular location or event when you have no personal interest in it. Honor your mind by skipping it.
No, you’re not selfish; you just don’t need to feel obligated to plan your trip in a manner that allows other people to live through you. You control your life, not other people who refuse to create the opportunity to live for themselves.
Take Extra Time To Indulge in What You Enjoy
What hobbies do you enjoy the most? Find a way to integrate your interests into your trip.
If you love to paint, take an art class or set yourself up with a means of painting or sketching a local scene. If you love taking photos, take time to photograph the area you’re exploring. If you love needlepoint or quilting, check out some local artisans or shops that provide kits for local designs you can make. If you love DIY or woodworking, look for opportunities to see what the local culture has to offer. If you love history, find a museum to browse.
Don’t get too caught up in all the typical touristy places, and look for something less popular that you will enjoy doing, seeing, or learning.
Check-in With Your Nervous System & Emotions
Some activities are more emotionally involved than others (like if you’re touring historical sites with a lot of negative energy like Holocaust locations, Alcatraz, former war zones, etc.). You may need extra time to sit and digest the emotions and energy around you that may cause you to feel anxious or more tired afterward.
Give yourself that space if your nervous system and emotions tell you that you’ve had enough or have some unexpected healing to do.
Spend Time Outside
Spending time outside has various benefits. One of the most well-known benefits is that spending time outside helps improve moods. Time spent in natural environments allows you to connect with nature, which has calming effects. Additionally, spending time outside can help improve focus and attention due to the natural stimulation provided by being in an outdoor environment.
There are many ways to be creative when you travel. You may choose to sketch or take photographs of the places you visit; write about your experiences; write a fictional story based on where you’re visiting; make jewelry, paintings, or sculptures from the things you see and experience on your trip. Whatever method you choose, the most important thing is to allow yourself to be open to new experiences and allow creativity to flow.
Journal About Your Adventures
Write in an online journal, on a social media page, or start a blog to share online with your friends and loved ones, so you’re not spending a lot of time repeating yourself.
You can print that online journal or social media channel to turn it into a memory book. Or use it for reflective journaling after you return home.
Stick To Your Travel Budget
The idea of traveling is to explore new and exciting places. While not always cheap, there is wisdom in being a spending minimalist. Often vacations become synonymous with spending sprees, which isn’t necessary. Honor your budget by not indulging too much in things you don’t need, and remember you aren’t required to buy stuff for everyone you know who missed out on your adventure.
Take a look at your plans and your schedule, and identify your absolute minimum expenses. Then leave yourself an emergency fund for those just in case something doesn’t go according to plan. Lastly, look at your “would be nice to” ideas. Set aside what funds you will need and some extras for the “would be nice” list. The biggest key here is to not guilt trip yourself into spending unnecessarily.
While honoring your budget, don’t forget to treat yourself. Take an extra moment to pamper yourself, do something you love, or purchase a meaningful souvenir.
Be Ok With Unexpected Changes
Plans change, often unexpectedly. Sites close, planes reschedule, tours cancel, and poor weather rolls in. There are many reasons for your schedule to change, which is ok. Don’t take it personally. Instead, look for the opportunity within the circumstance. What can you do to enjoy the unexpected change?
In conclusion, self-care is an essential part of traveling. You can make your travel experience more enjoyable by taking care of yourself. Here are some travel tips for self-care that will help reduce your travel anxiety:
- Create a flexible trip itinerary
- Stay hydrated
- Eat healthy food
- Get enough sleep
- Eat healthy food
- Stay active
- Take breaks
- Love yourself by honoring your creativity, interests, and physical, spiritual, and emotional needs
Nicole is a military-trained research analyst, homeschooling mom, healthy lifestyle consultant, and author for GracefullyAundant.com. After living through and overcoming a season of homelessness and chronic health, Nicole developed a passion for helping others. She now uses simple lifestyle shifts, self-care, and developing healthier habits to help people move through difficult times.