How to Lower Road Trip Anxiety

road trip anxiety

Gearing up for that big road trip, it’s easy to get lost in the romance of it all – the idea of freedom, relaxation, all the great times ahead – but have you ever noticed that as the “leave” day gets closer it can almost feel suffocating as you panic about getting all the last minute items together?

It’s always fun to go on a road trip with friends, family and loved ones. However, the reality is that being in an enclosed automobile for long periods of time can cause back pain, car sickness, boredom, and yes, even anxiety. It doesn’t have to be that way though, nor does traveling anxiety have to ruin your chances of having a good time on your next family vacation.

Being proactive can make a huge impact on your ability to go places without mental or physical distress. Preparing for any trip is essential, so why not include items and activities that can help to reduce the amount of anxiety you feel during the road trip? Do not feel discouraged by your feelings of apprehension; many people feel the same way when traveling for long periods of time in a car.
woman expressing anxiety over planning her vacation
To combat those bothersome emotions, try a few of the following tips and tricks:

Listen to some soothing or uplifting music

Before you head out for your big adventure, put together a road trip playlist. Instead of simply succumbing to whatever the radio stations play or becoming annoyed by the lack of options available, create your own soundtrack which includes songs you enjoy. You’d think road-tunage, as crucial as it is, would be at the top of everyone’s travel checklist but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left the iPod behind!  Keep in mind that the energy level of the songs you choose will directly affect your own. So, if you’re tired, listen to energizing tunes; if you’re feeling anxious, choose something calming instead.

Take a short nap (if you’re not responsible for driving)

Riding in a car for a long time can make a person drowsy, but trying to stay awake when tired can make someone irritable – further exacerbating anxiety. If being alert is causing too many problems, do your best to lay back for a short snooze. Not only will this refresh your senses, but it will also help kill time and charge up your batteries for your next turn at the wheel.


This is another one to incorporate while not driving of course, but seriously, we’re talking to more and more folks who regularly get in some form of meditation on their long trips.  “Mindfulness” is a hot topic now and applies itself well to the notion of being in the moment on your trip and not missing out on the important stuff by worrying needlessly.

Meditation can help you prepare for your travels more peacefully and with better focus, then while either a passenger or in your hotel or campground use it to relax and take it all in.  Guided meditation programs are great in that you don’t have to be super-disciplined to get something out of them – just plug and play and get rejuvenated.

Peer Out the Window

There’s nothing quite like the sight-seeing opportunities afforded to folks who undergo a long journey. The sights and sounds, and even new smells (like ocean air or the desert) can waft around the car can get your endorphins pumping causing your road trip anxiety to take a back seat. Look out for interesting people, places, other vehicles and attractions while journaling your findings. This habit can help keep you focused on something other than your ever-tightening core.

Other Activities

Nobody says you must sit still with hands folded and do nothing during a road trip! It’s perfectly acceptable to start up some group activities such as memory games, playing a Jeopardy-like trivia game, singing or just plain talking. If all else fails, open a good book to read, draw a picture inspired by your thoughts and sight-seeing on the trip, or back to the meditation and mindfulness subject try something like a contemplative labyrinth drawing or mandala coloring book. These activities can keep your anxiety at bay while also giving you inspiration for future travels.

Talk to Your Doctor

If none of the aforementioned methods work to reduce or eliminate your road trip anxiety, speak with a health care provider about the problem. There might be a natural nutritional supplement they can recommend, or there might be a deeper physiological or mental cause to the issue that they’ll want to get to the bottom of.

The point is that your vacation is supposed to be a blast – from planning through execution.  Don’t waste a minute of this precious time saddled with anxiety if you can successfully put it to rest.




One thought on “How to Lower Road Trip Anxiety

  1. Road trips can be a blast, but as you point out, the reality kicks in after a few hours in an often crowded car with some surly passengers. Excellent tips although it can be tough to get people to agree a playlist. I know I have a playlist for road trips and it’s part of the fun. I think another good tip is to agree on how often to take breaks. Some people like the forced march approach where they stop as few times as possible, while others like to take the proverbial scenic route. Make sure you have an understanding to minimize grumpiness.

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