Tips For Traveling With Panic Disorder and Anxiety

Travel can trigger panic and anxiety symptoms

man and woman on moving walkway at airport
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If you have panic disorder, panic attacks and anxiety-related symptoms might keep you from traveling. Being in new and strange places, away from the safety of your home, can make you feel insecure. You may also be afraid of others witnessing your fear and nervousness. Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to manage your symptoms while traveling so you can enjoy your trip.

Tips for Managing Travel Anxiety

Try any of these tips or combine several of them to make your next trip more manageable.

Be Prepared

When making your travel plans, also put some effort into planning and preparing how you're going to deal with your symptoms. The anticipation of uneasy travel will often bring on more stress and anxiety about your upcoming trip. Be ready to face your panic attacks by having a plan of coping skills ready beforehand.

For example, deep breathing techniques, visualization, or meditation may be all you need to counter your fears. There is even some research that suggests playing a difficult game of chess on your cell phone may be an effective way to successfully treat panic attacks.

Practice these relaxation techniques and self-help strategies in the weeks before you travel. Regular practice is key to learning to sit with uncomfortable thoughts. As a result, you may find your symptoms stay under control on your next trip.

Use Distractions

When traveling, it's not uncommon to focus more on your symptoms. One way to manage them is to put your focus elsewhere. Instead of concentrating on the sensations in your body, try to bring your attention to other activities. For example, you can bring along a good book, favorite magazines, or enjoyable games.

Turn your negative thoughts around by diverting your attention to happier thoughts or visualize yourself in a serene scene. Use affirmations to center on more calming thoughts, such as repeating to yourself “I am safe” or “These feelings will pass.” You can also bring awareness to your breath. Focusing on your breath can have a calming effect.

Calming Breath Exercise

Start by breathing slowly and purposefully. You can become even more focused by counting each of your breaths, counting on each refreshing inhalation and again on each deep exhalation. Once your breath has steadied, you can also relax your body.

Intense feelings of panic and anxiety can bring tension and tightness throughout your body. To relieve these sensations, try doing some stretches, moving through a few yoga postures, or practicing progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).

It can also be beneficial to focus on what you're looking forward to on your trip. Have an itinerary that will include activities you enjoy. If you’re traveling for business, see if you can schedule some time to check out a new restaurant, get a massage, or fit some exercise in at the hotel or outdoors. By concentrating on fun activities, your excitement for your trip may take over your worry.

Accept Your Symptoms

If your symptoms become too overwhelming to distract yourself from, try to simply allow them to run their course. Panic attacks often heighten within a few minutes and then gradually taper off.

If you resist your panic attacks, you may actually experience increased anxiety and panic-related fears, such as feeling that you're having a medical emergency, losing control of yourself, or going insane.

If you have panic and anxiety while traveling, try to surrender to your symptoms, reminding yourself that they will soon pass. Consistently conceding to your symptoms may reduce your fears around them and strengthen your sense of control.

Go With a Buddy

Many people with panic disorder have one or more loved ones with whom they feel comfortable and safe. If possible, try to enlist a trusted friend or family member to travel with you.

Make sure that your companion is aware of your fears and anxiety. Your loved one may be able to assist you in coping with your symptoms and boost your sense of security while traveling. For some, just having that person there is all that is needed to have a much more relaxing trip.

Consult Your Doctor

Discuss your travel concerns with your doctor or healthcare provider. It's possible you're experiencing other underlying issues or conditions, such as agoraphobia or a fear of flying (aerophobia). Your doctor will be able to determine if a co-occurring condition is contributing to your travel anxiety.

Your health provider may also recommend medication to treat your symptoms. Benzodiazepines are a type of anti-anxiety medication that can quickly reduce panic symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe a benzodiazepine, such as Xanax (alprazolam), Ativan (lorazepam), or Klonopin (clonazepam), to ease the intensity of your panic attacks.

A Word From Verywell

Living with panic disorder can be challenging, but your diagnosis shouldn't hold you back from having a fulfilling life. Follow these easy tips to help you manage your symptoms on your next trip. With practice and preparation, you may be able to travel without taking your panic and anxiety with you.

If you or a loved one are struggling with panic disorder, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. 

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Barzegar K, Barzegar S. Chess therapy: A new approach to curing panic attack. Asian J Psychiatr. 2017;30:118-119. doi:10.1016/j.ajp.2017.08.019

  2. National Institute of Mental Health. When Fear Overwhelms.

  3. National Institute of Mental Health. Mental Health Medications.

By Katharina Star, PhD
Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness.