Travel Tips from HSPs


Excerpt from the book, The Empowered Highly Sensitive Person, How to Harness Your Sensitivity into Strength in a Chaotic World.

Many of us enjoy the idea of travel but might be hesitant because of how hard it can be on our systems to be away from the comforts of our home.

Find ways of getting rest before the trip because you don’t want to start out too depleted. You want to start out with full energy. Try to fit in bits of nature like when my partner and I visited the Koi pond between visiting friends.

If you’re visiting relatives, try to space out the time in between visits and find out which ones are priority. For example, one weekend I was going to my partner’s family home for a party, and they wanted to get together for breakfast and dinner the day before as well as visit before the party the next day. I knew that would be too much for me, especially since driving down there took almost six hours. I knew I needed to find ways to rest. I found out that the dinner on Friday night was important and seemed to be just as important as the party Saturday night; therefore, I decided to not attend the daytime activities and instead take some rest so that I could fill up my tank for the evening activities.

You have to find ways of being creative. It can be difficult for everyone to understand you, but it is possible for you to understand yourself, know your needs, and express them as best you can to your family. Otherwise, you do it all and go through potential emotional meltdown, high sensitivity, and possibly illness. You get to choose which scenario you want. I finally reached a point where it’s important for me not to have those emotional meltdowns so I take care of myself in the way that makes me feel most balanced.

Tips for traveling by car:

• On long car rides, try renting a larger car for more space so you can lie down or stretch out.

• Take ear plugs, pillows, blankets, an eye mask, headphones, and music and/or meditation recordings.

No matter what kind of family activities, trips, or vacations you are doing I encourage you to make time for yourself. Plan activities in between times of rest. Rest the day before and after busy days if possible. It’s okay to rest in between family activities and gatherings and come later or leave early. Take breaks from the crowds as needed and take little walks around outside if possible. Learn what you need to be your best and advocate for those needs. If you’re happier and more balanced, those around you will benefit, but only you know your limits and boundaries!

Here are some more travel tips from HSPs I polled:

  • Travel solo.

  • Wear sunglasses.

  • Take noise canceling earphones for the plane and in the airport.

  • Take tissues with lavender oil to sniff on the plane.

  • Take puzzle books, books to read, and/or some crafts with you.

  • Drink a ton of water.

  • Hydrate and rest.

  • Listen to music to escape the crowds in airports and to center yourself.

  • Stop to enjoy the view (wherever safe).

  • Do no more than two major “tourist” sites if in a city. Sometimes if one takes too long and is very busy, then one is enough. Maybe consider visiting smaller towns and taking walks in the countryside.

  • Spend money on convenience where possible.

  • Use a car service instead of driving yourself if you can.

  • Choose hotels with room service/in-room dining. When overwhelmed and tired, it’s a relief to know you can order in to eat.

  • Choose higher-end hotels when possible. They are generally quieter and have a concierge.

  • Consider taking advantage of the TSA Precheck service to make going through airport security much less overwhelming. All large airports that are typically overwhelming use TSA pre-check, and if the smaller airports don’t have it, it’s usually okay because the security line is much shorter and the experience is much calmer.

  • Have a “buffer” day before and after the trip. Use the “before” day to pack, check trip details, and relax. Use the “after” day to sleep, rest, unpack, and decompress to gently ease back into daily life.

  • If necessary, make the trip shorter to have buffer days if that extra time is really helpful to you.

  • Being away from home for more than a week is stressful. Take more frequent short trips instead of long trips.

  • Make a pack list that has every single thing you need regularly, with space for trip-specific items. Laminate the list and use a dry- erase marker to add things and check things off.

  • To help you sleep, take a portable noise machine, a small fan or ear plugs and an eye mask.

  • Don’t feel the need to “do everything” while traveling. Choose one or two activities (museum, tour, etc.) and plan time to rest after!

  • Meditation.

  • Go at slightly less busy times of the year (i.e., during the off season).

  • Alternate excursion/busy days with relaxed days.

  • Be to yourself like a mother would be to a child. Schedule plenty of rests. Make sure to always have a snack and water with you.

  • Travel solo or in small groups instead of large groups. 

More tips from professionals who work with HSPs:

  • If it costs extra (and you can afford it) and it will reduce hassle, go for it. Do yourself as many favors as you can while traveling to cut down on overwhelm.

  • Plan for a recovery day off work prior and immediately following the trip. Enjoy the cultural experiences knowing that you don't have to necessarily partake in all of the foods. Sugars when traveling is a recipe for energy depletion. Stay hydrated. If you go with a group make sure they have "free time" scheduled in... you will need it for yourself. Have fun.

  • Noise canceling headphones, favorite essential oils, yoga while waiting in the airport, eye masks, earplugs, a great movie to escape into, lots of walking, water, snacks, and no computer work!

  • Don’t over plan too many activities. Rest if you get tired and eat on a schedule.

  • Have a plan. The more planning I do the more comfortable I feel. Don’t pressure yourself to enjoy every moment - some things are just a drag! Try to eat regularly and hydrate. Have something fun on the horizon for after the trip - I hate post trip let down.

  • If you’re visiting a city, try to find a park for relaxation and beauty.

  • Organisation ahead of trip. Eat clean food, keep well hydrated. Earphones, good book. Anything that worries you about the journey, address it early so that you’re proactive not reactive. Then enjoy!!

Overall, get to know your needs when you travel. Keep a little travel diary to help you develop a life-long template that works for you. Read more from the book, The Empowered Highly Sensitive Person, How to Harness Your Sensitivity into Strength in a Chaotic World

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~Julie Bjelland (pronounced Bee-Yell-And) is a Psychotherapist, Author, and Global HSP Consultant, and has helped thousands of highly sensitive people around the world. As an HSP herself, Julie understands what it is like to live with high sensitivity and strong emotions and is on a mission to get more empowered HSPs living their best lives in the world. Julie teaches an online HSP brain-training course and is the author of several books. She has also been invited to join the faculty of The Shift Network, to create a new course for HSPs and is a Sensitivity Expert for Dr. Rick Hanson. Julie advocates for acceptance of all forms of diversity, including the LGBTQ community and believes everyone should be able to live freely and authentically. She shares her home with her partner, two children and a houseful of pets and plants.