7 Things About Travel That Stress Me Out

by Gray Cargill on August 13, 2010

Grand Central departure sign

If you’re reading this blog, then it’s no secret to you that I love to travel. I love seeing new places, meeting new people.  I love researching my trips ahead of time, figuring out what I want to do, where I might want to eat.  I even love flying and taking public transportation.  For the most part, I’m a pretty mellow and happy traveler.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t experience some stress surrounding travel, too.  Here’s my list of the travel-related things most likely to cause me to stress out or lose my cool.

Paris to Rome

1. Figuring out multi-city trip logistics. Single-city trips are easy.  But when I started researching a potential multi-city Europe trip, I found myself getting aggravated and frustrated with the process of trying to figure out the best/cheapest way to get from one city to another–and how to book it.  The inexpensive air carriers seem to fly out of remote airports, so I would have to figure out the best way to get from city center to the airport and how much that will cost, and then decide if it’s worth it.  Oh, and figure out their luggage requirements and extra baggage fees.

As difficult as that is, it’s nothing compared to the train system in Europe, with its smorgasbord of choices that seem intent to confuse and paralyze my feeble mind.  We complain about airlines and hotels with their ad hoc fees, but how about this double-dipping practice of making you pay for a ticket and pay for a reservation too in order to take the train?  What is up with that?  Shouldn’t buying the ticket be considered your reservation?

It’s easy to see why so many people allow travel agents to book their arrangements for them.  Who has time to figure all this out?

2. Delays and Cancellations.  Who’s with me on this one?  I live near a regional airport, so almost none of my flights are ever direct flights.  I have to connect at a hub airport to a new flight to my final destination.  So if my first flight is delayed too long, I run the risk of missing the connection.  Over the years, I have had to run for connecting flights many times, and it is no fun at all–especially when the connecting flight is in another terminal altogether.  I’ve learned in the past couple of years that it’s wise to book my flights with a three-hour layover to give myself a good buffer in case of weather-related or mechanical flight delays (although even that’s no guarantee).  Cancellations are even worse.  You and 200 other passengers now have to be booked onto new flights (more, if several flights have been canceled due to weather).  It could take days to get where you’re going. These things stress me out if and when they happen, though my strategy to avoid the stress is to not think about them until they do–since most of the time, my flights go pretty smoothly.

3. Loud People.  I don’t mean to come across as a misanthrope, but I do find the hubbub of humanity around me to be trying at times when I travel.  I mean, Good God, the noise of it all.  Why do public places have to be so loud?  My biggest annoyances are shrill, hyperactive or crying children, who shred my last nerve.  I also can’t stand people who talk very loudly on cell phones or in an enclosed space, like, say, an airplane.  If I’m able to escape to a quiet corner, I do.  But when I’m stuck on a plane or bus with such people, I suffer.

Burger and fries

4. Lack of adequate food, water, and bathrooms.  I’m like a baby, if my three basic needs of eating, drinking, and being able to pee aren’t satisfied on a regular basis, I become a cranky bitch.  Naturally, I try to carry snacks and water on me at all times, but sometimes, the supply runs out.  Then, look out.  Hunger transforms my personality the way anger transformed David Banner into the Incredible Hulk.  Trust me, you wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.

5. Driving in a strange place – I can do it, but I don’t particularly like it, especially when I’m alone. My GPS helps alleviate some stress (by reassuring me it knows where I’m going), but not all. I always need an acclimation period to get used to traffic levels that are higher than Vermont (which is pretty much everywhere).  Once I’m used to it, I’m okay. . .for the most part.  Although roundabouts still confuse the hell out of me.

Canal Street at dusk

6. Walking anywhere after dark – I’m a solo female traveler, and I’m nightblind. Not a good combo.  For one thing, if I get disoriented, I can’t read the street signs.  At home, I know the streets.  I know which ones are well-lit and which one aren’t.  I bring a small flashlight with me to light the sidewalk so I can see where I’m walking.  Still, I’ve occasionally almost walked into people I didn’t know were there until I was almost on top of them.  Even at home, I do get a little stressed sometimes walking home at night.  To avoid the stress of trying to find my way around on darkened city streets when I travel, I tend to take cabs, or I stick very close to my hotel.  This also makes sense for any solo female traveler from a safety perspective.

7. Getting Lost – I know a lot of travelers love getting lost!  You discover the most interesting things that way.  Yeah, well, you can have it.  I’m a bit geographically- and directionally-challenged to begin with, not to mention a bit anal-retentive about schedules, so getting lost leads to a lot of confusion, wasted time, and yes, stress.  If it starts getting dark while I’m still lost, my stress levels go up exponentially.  If I get hungry, too–we’re talking Defcon One level stress.

That’s my list.  What stresses you out about travel?

Gray Cargill February 19, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Oh, that sounds awful Kirstin. I have to applaud you, though, for being brave enough to even try to drive around the UK to begin with.

Kirstin February 19, 2012 at 8:18 pm

I have a terrible sense of direction….. I don’t know my left from my right.. and I HATE getting lost… (a bad combination)

I used GPS to navigate around the UK… I accidentally took a few wrong turns and ended up in the middle of London… Unfortunately when you are travelling alone there is no-one to check the street names and the directions were just too confusing… On top of that I was in a hirecar and I could not find the headlights… So I’m lost in London and driving around in the dark.. I finally found a policeman “Where are you meant to be?” he asks “Suffolk” was my reply… He didn’t know where Suffolk was… By the time I got to Suffolk (about five hours late) my accommodation had shut for the night and I ended up sleeping at an old abandoned air force base…

Gray August 2, 2011 at 7:42 pm

I hear you on the paying to pee thing, Alphonso. It’s like our bladders are being held hostage. 🙂

Alphonso Arter August 2, 2011 at 6:58 pm

I’m glad to hear you find things about travel that stress you out, too. When I get stressed on a trip I feel like a big weenie :). I’m with you on the bathroom thing. I’ve been shocked at some accommodations – visiting San Gimignano in Italy and having to pee over a hole in the ground – and PAY an attendant for the privilege of doing so! One of the most beautiful, civilized places I’ve been in Belgium. But you can’t go to the bathroom without paying ANYWHERE.

Gray July 12, 2011 at 11:31 am

But don’t you have to deal with a-holes at home, too? The only way to avoid them entirely is to be a hermit. That seems like a shame. I’m willing to put up with some stress in order to experience the joys of travel.

traveldud July 12, 2011 at 10:58 am

I think everything about travel stresses me out. The traffic, the noise, the congestion of people, the smells, the transportation arrangements – just trying to get around in a foreign city has my hair standing up and my teeth ground down. All I want to do is relax in my hotel room and not brave all that stress. All the stress robs me of what “fun” I might have had, so I’d rather take my vacation days and be a hermit at home. While I would love to see some of the places I’ve dreamed about for the culture and the history of it, I’m not patient enough to deal with the what truly annoys me about traveling… IMPOLITE PEOPLE. I’ve never traveled or visited anywhere where I didn’t have to deal with some a-hole. I’m just not a traveler and think I’ll be content to go camping instead if I need to get away.

Alicia December 6, 2010 at 5:33 am

Your list is so happening to most travelers. The thing I am afraid of when traveling is getting lost especially when I am alone traveling… I am so weak when it comes to direction so I always bring with me travel guide and do a lot of reading before going on a trip.

SoloFriendly December 6, 2010 at 12:04 pm

I don’t like getting lost when I’m alone, either, but some people love it. Different strokes, I guess.

Sandy October 4, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Great list! I would add one to it: Queuing in airports. People seem to leave their manners at home when they go away. And they encourage their kids to jump queues. But why? To get to the seats in the waiting lounge first? I simply don’t get it.

Anonymous October 4, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Good one! I can’t stand lines, either, especially when people think it’s okay to cut in front of others. Argh.

Cara Lopez Lee September 30, 2010 at 4:26 am

I’m with you on the lack of adequate bathrooms. I remember once I was walking around Venice and had to pee so bad I could barely hold it. The only public toilets were pay toilets, and I didn’t have any coins. I walked into a restaurant that wasn’t yet open for dinner. The owner wouldn’t let me use the restroom OR give me change for the public toilet. He said his bathroom was only for paying customers, but he was closed and I couldn’t buy anything. There was no one in there to see him bend the rule, and I was obviously near tears. What would it have hurt? I wasn’t some teen trying to pull something over on him, but a 36-year-old woman about to pee herself right in front of him.

I ran to a nearby bar, where the guy allowed me to use the bathroom before I bought anything; I just couldn’t wait anymore. When I came out, I was happy to buy a Coke. Sheesh, I think some people are such sticklers for the rules because they enjoy having power over others.

Anonymous September 30, 2010 at 10:56 am

Some people are a little too rigid with the bathroom rules. Thank goodness for the kindness of the bartender, eh?

Eurotrip Tips September 30, 2010 at 3:25 am

You pretty much listed it all. Even though the unknown is exactly what’s appealing about travelling, sometimes it can be pretty scary too, especially in a country where you don’t speak the language.

I agree about the lack of clean bathrooms. I remember breaking down in Barcelona because there was vomit all over the floor. Hence also why I don’t plan to travel to South-Eastern Asia anytime soon. I. just. can’t. do. it.

But getting lost does not scare me at all. I just enter a local shop, or a nearby couple and ask for directions and enjoy my surroundings. But maybe I’m just lucky and naive!

Anonymous September 30, 2010 at 10:54 am

I’m with you on the squat toilets. No. Just…no.

Grrrltraveler September 13, 2010 at 9:07 am

I’d have to say your #1 stresses me out a lot. I’m always trying to find the cheapest and most convenient option. Let me tell you– cheap and convenient are never easy bedpartners and I’ve always got some 5+hour layover. I can spend hours plotting my routes

Anonymous September 30, 2010 at 10:50 am

Yeah, it’s very time-consuming, which in itself is stressful.

a wandering sole August 26, 2010 at 1:53 am

As a solo traveler, I completely agree! I find logistics to be the most stressful, especially if you get lost. I hate when I arrive somewhere and I just want to dump my bags and walk around to find accommodation or information, but I can’t since there’s no one to watch my stuff. I’ve also had to hitchhike solo in the past which would have been much less stressful with a travel buddy!

Megan August 18, 2010 at 9:36 am

I can definitely relate with number 4, too. I get incredibly grumpy when I go without food for too long. Even at home I rarely go anywhere without a snack in my bag! But especially while travelling – after going hungry on unexpectedly long bus trips or day trips when lunch doesn’t seem to happen until late afternoon, I learnt my lesson pretty quickly!

Anonymous August 17, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Yeah, that’s a good one, too. Getting sick on the road is no fun, especially when you’re traveling alone. I got food poisoning in Mexico, too. Most miserable travel experience of my life.

Anonymous August 17, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Wise move, Earl. Yes, the larger the group, the less that actually gets accomplished during travel.

Anonymous August 17, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Oh, I imagine being a vegetarian makes it doubly hard to find adequate food when you travel.

Anonymous August 17, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Number four always gets me stressed – I figured that between fruits and veggies I would be good as a veggie almost anywhere if I looked hard enough…not always true! Now I keep a huge supply of Clif Bars because it stresses me out to be hungry !

Earl August 17, 2010 at 4:03 pm

For me it’s traveling with a large group of other travelers that I might meet along the way. When there’s more than two people, decisions often seem impossible to make, people get grumpy and nobody’s able to do what they had hoped to do…

As soon as tensions start to rise, I take off, back to being on my own again. Solo traveling is the way to go!

Chris @ CAroundTheWorld August 17, 2010 at 3:03 am

For me, it’s getting sick. I’ve seemed to have a string of trips that, for some reason or another, were tainted by illness (high altitude sickness in Aspen, and just this weekend, food poisoning in Mexico). The risks are never enough to make me give up traveling, but I get the feeling that my family is starting to get nervous!

Candicewalsh August 16, 2010 at 7:32 pm

I agree with the lack of bathrooms. Call me prissy, but sometimes there’s no better luxury than a clean toilet, hah!

Anonymous August 16, 2010 at 4:29 pm

I feel that way, too, and unfortunately, it isn’t limited to travel. Any time I go out in public, it seems there are kids running out of control and parents who are completely oblivious.

Trisha August 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm

I can handle pretty much anything when traveling, but the one thing that stresses me out is when parents don’t control their children, or worse, force me into controlling their children……like when a young child is repeatedly kicking the back of my seat on a plane and the parent does nothing – I hate that if I stand up and ask them to stop it makes ME look like the b***ch ….grrrr….Parents PLEASE teach your children to be good, considerate little travelers!

Anonymous August 16, 2010 at 12:54 am

Oh, I can SO relate to this! For me, though, it wasn’t about finding competent sitters–that was never a problem. It was that my cat hated everyone but me. I always felt guilty leaving her (and she knew how to milk that for all it was worth!). She passed away a few years ago, and I haven’t been able to get another cat. I just can’t go through that guilt again every time I travel. I think it helps when you have more than one cat, so they can keep each other company.

Anonymous August 16, 2010 at 12:30 am

Actually, the only thing that stresses me is leaving my cats at home with a competent (or not, as it happens most of the time) cat sitter. And as I’ve learned, unfortunately most cat sitters are not competent, especially when dealing with a special needs pet. Pet hotels are expensive and of murky standards, friends are unreliable, and family members – morons. So yes, you could say that leaving my cats at home stresses me.

Anonymous August 15, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Yes. I think there’s a difference, too, between “not being able to find a place you’re looking for” and “being lost.” The former can be frustrating, but the latter can be frustrating AND scary and make you feel a little helpless.

Anonymous August 15, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Absolutely it is, Marsha.

Anonymous August 15, 2010 at 10:15 pm

I did not know that about the chapels, Melissa! I’m going to remember that.

Anonymous August 15, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Yes! I don’t mind arriving late if I’ve been there before (like Vegas), but I want to arrive in new cities before it gets dark out.

Anonymous August 15, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Thanks Joya! I’m starting to procrastinate more lately. Not sure why.

Anonymous August 15, 2010 at 10:10 pm

LOL! Must be. That’s a good one, too.

Sabina August 15, 2010 at 9:11 pm

I’m with you on the loud people, Gray. Why?! I think people talk loud to be heard over the other people talking loudly. I know I do. It’s annoying. Very. And I don’t like getting lost, but I’ve gotten used to it. Just yesterday I had to ask directions several times to get somewhere. I wasn’t really lost this time – I knew where I was but coudn’t find the place I wanted to go. It ends up being pretty interesting gradually honing in on a spot when you don’t have a clue. But you’re right. It’s not exactly fun or desirable. I always set out with the intent to get where I want to go, not with the intent of meeting ten people along the way because I have to ask directions from them.

Keith Savage August 14, 2010 at 11:16 pm

I just really hate being late, or feeling like I’m going to be late. Stresses me out like nothing else. Must be the German side of my heritage.

Ayngelina August 14, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Arriving late in a city always stresses me out because everything looks so much scarier. In Latin America I try to plan to arrive early afternoon but sometimes the buses just run late. I avoid it as much as I can.

Joya August 14, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I get stressed out about planning. I usually like to do everything at the last minute because I procrastinate and just don’t want to deal with it but I know once I actually get to a place everything will be fun. Great article!

Melissa M. August 14, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Funny list! I must admit that I do enjoy exploring new areas, not so much getting lost. I usually have a printed map though, so I can manage. I think your complaint about noise resonated with me the most. As an introvert, I can get very agitated if I can’t “decompress” regularly. I’m lucky that in the Atlanta airport there is actually an interfaith chapel that provides a quiet zone. I love it and donate to it when I can. Only issue is it’s in the public atrium, so once I’m inside the actual terminal, I’m screwed. Many airports have these chapels, by the way.

SingleOccupancy Blog August 14, 2010 at 4:09 pm

I’m a solo female traveler who’s also fairly short of stature so I freak out about staying safe. I do try not to obsess over it, but sometimes it’s pretty stressful worrying about should I go here? is this person trustworthy? etc. It scares me sometimes, but “they” say courage is being scared but doing it anyway..

Anonymous August 14, 2010 at 11:24 am

Yes, we can definitely add them. I don’t like loud drunks in any language.

Anonymous August 14, 2010 at 9:11 am

Agree with all of them–especially driving in strange places! I pretty much refuse to drive outside of the U.S., because of confusing streets and the fact that I would probably have to drive a stick.
And can we add loud, drunk English-speakers to #3? I just cringe when I see them.

GlobalButterfly August 14, 2010 at 3:22 am

#2 is just awful. Hate it hate it hate it! And yeah, I’m one of those travelers that loves getting lost haha.

Anonymous August 13, 2010 at 9:42 pm

LOL, oh, I can so relate!

Anonymous August 13, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Careful AND spunky! What a combo! 🙂

Anonymous August 13, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Ooh, good one, Michael. I don’t obsess about it, either, but it does annoy me when I realize it has happened.

Anonymous August 13, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Another good one! And that’s why I travel alone. 🙂

Anonymous August 13, 2010 at 9:40 pm

I so envy people who live near major hub airports. Not only do you get the nonstop flights, you get all the good airfare deals!

Becs August 13, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Love that 2 of your stresses are second nature to me: Traffic (I live in LA and it doesn’t get worse then that, so pretty much any place else is cake!) and hub airport (also LA, and if I CAN’T fly direct/non-stop, I almost always just give up and don’t bother with the trip or save it for a longer vacation period)

Though #3 and #4 I am with you on. I HATE loud people (and want to strangle nearly all kids) and re: #4, that pretty much sums up our first family trip to Europe. It seemed like we were always looking for those 3 things!

Michael Hodson August 13, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Glad to see a post that ISN’T all about how “totally wonderful” it is out there. I love, love, love travel — but some of it isn’t wonderful.

Stresses me out (more than it should) ?? Worrying too much about getting ripped off. I don’t obsess over it, but it really bums me out more than it should when a cabbie clips me for a double fare (still cheap) or a food vendor clips me for more money, because I’m a tourist.

Margo M August 13, 2010 at 4:24 pm

great list. I’m with you on many. I would add traveling with uptight people, which is an interesting revelation for a Friday afternoon :0)

Anonymous August 13, 2010 at 4:17 pm

You’ve hit the big ones. I just went through the stress over European railroad tickets thing and have twice shut off my computer rather than deal with the final decision.

SpunkyGirl August 13, 2010 at 1:55 pm

The night thing can stress me out as well. As a solo female on the road, I usually don’t wander the streets in foreign countries at night unless I’m with someone. Who knew I was a so careful?! LOL

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