The symptoms? Insomnia, rapid heartbeat and breathing, racing thoughts, and distraction. It must be that my trip to Walt Disney World is approaching. I often experience pre-trip anxiety before vacation. It’s irrational, illogical and irritating. Disney is my home, my safe place that I look forward to. Yet I experience anticipatory anxiety. While common, I have learned over the years to expect it, accept it, and work on it to alleviate the jitters. What am I so worried about anyway?!
Years before the pandemic came lurking, I would lay awake in the night anxious about my trip. I would wonder will one of the kids get sick? Will I have a panic attack from my claustrophobia on the airplane? What should I do if… or what will happen if…? Those racing, random thoughts left me awake at night in a state of panic usually beginning a month or so before my vacation. Now I have added to my thoughts a bit of pre-trip mask anxiety on the airplane, whether or not my family will return home with Covid, stronger isolation fears, and the thoughts of what if someone gets sick while there.
Let’s get a handle on this together, because I know I am not the only one who experiences pre-trip anxiety. It’s so hard to leave your daily routine, your work, your responsibilities, your pets (that’s my top anxiety, by the way). And yet when I arrive at any of my favorite Disney destinations, it all somehow disappears. As if the weeks of worry were all for nothing. How annoying. I have some tips that have worked for me over the years and I was wondering what tips you have to contribute. If so, please comment below so we can alleviate some of our anxieties leading up to our vacations. What helps you?
It’s so important to take care of your own needs leading up to your trip. If you can’t sleep or are losing sleep, rest. Do what makes you feel good and happy to alleviate stress. If you are in therapy, book those appointments. If you take medication for anxiety, keep taking it and consult your doctor about your anxiety. Your physical and mental health should be a priority when stress levels are high. Get back to that meditation practice, yoga practice, walking outside and healthy nutrition (vitamin intake, diet). Enjoy a mani/pedi. My favorite tip for myself is talking it out with family and friends. Text, talk on the phone, and FaceTime your loved ones and socialize. Whether it be about your anxiety, or not, making conversations and discussions with people (or a therapist) you respect and are positive to be around is a wonderful tool that calms the mind.
I find writing things down during these pre-trip weeks helps me to stay focused and identify my issues, and it helps me feel a sense of accomplishment when I spit the details out of my brain and onto paper. It’s a visual of what I can complete or what I am concerned about. I keep a pad and paper next to my bed so if I get the urge to get it out of my thoughts during a panic in the night hours, out it goes. Random thoughts, packing ideas, and emergency issues are all lists I create. I also include planning my Advance Dining Reservations and writing out my daily itinerary in addition to what’s included in My Disney Experience. When I see things in my own handwriting, it helps organize me.
I now accept that this is common for me. When I have acceptance it’s like my own pat on the back of reassurance. And when I accept that I cannot control every single thing in life and I will adapt and survive what is ahead; that is when I take back my control within myself. Yes, someone may get sick. But I have medication I’ve brought along, I have access to health care, I have insurance. Yes, it is okay if my daily itinerary goes kaput due to rain, a cancellation, or someone in our party is just not in the mood. I plan before the trip, but before the trip I need to accept that my planning may go awry.
In addition to my lists, I like to see things around my home that will remind me of my happy place destination. I will start packing early, have my Disney “items” out and ready, like my MagicBands or my Disney planner. I distract myself by putting aside my favorite magazines just for the plane ride. I look at my Disney souvenirs and imagine what I will bring back on the upcoming vacation. One of our friends on the DIS Boards suggested watching Disney videos on YouTube. I also put myself visually in an uncomfortable setting (for me, it’s the airplane), consider all of my concerns and play out in my head what could happen and how to solve it. Unpleasant, but necessary to follow through the ’what ifs’. Another friend of our community recommended actually doing what is uncomfortable and causing anxiety before the trip. For example, finding a crowd at home to practice in if you are feeling anxiety over crowds. Great tip!
Anticipating an upcoming Disney vacation can be very exciting, and I love to plan and pack, but I do join many of you who suffer from pre-trip anxiety. We deserve tranquility!
What do you do to help calm your pre-trip anxiety? I would love to hear how you cope with those anxious thoughts in the comments below. It would be great to have a conversation with each other and help our DIS community when we have those challenges.
Shari Kessler loves the Disunplugged and all things Disney. She has imparted her passion for the parks along with her husband of more than 25 years to their three young adult children. Their family vacations have included Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line and Aulani but their home base is Walt Disney World as she resides from New Jersey. Shari also loves her cats Ricky and Lucy(RIP Lucy 2021). As a former early childhood educator she is now assisting at an animal hospital in NYC. She enjoys the Disunplugged community and hopes her articles connect with the Dis family.
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Thanks for reading!