8 Stressors of International Travel (And How to Cope)

A recent study conducted by Booking.com surveyed 4,555 global business travelers to find out what stresses them out about international travel and how wide reaching these stressors were.

Those polled have traveled internationally four times or more in the last year, and the study found that 93 percent of them agreed that international travel overall stresses them out.

Travel in general can be stressful—anything that isn’t home is foreign—but take that outside of your home country, and there are so many variables to account for, yet business must be performed as usual.

“While business travel has so many positives, including the opportunity to experience new cultures, broaden horizons and the chance to meet colleagues face-to-face, the logistics of business travel can get in the way,” Ripsy Bandourian, director of product development at Booking.com for Business said in a statement. “Airport queues and delays, the accommodation at your destination lacking home comforts and lack of personal time can add a layer of unnecessary stress.”

The study identified some of the biggest factors that stress out international travelers. We’ve identified some additional tips to cope, prepare for and/or prevent those stressors.

32% — Missing a flight/train

If you’ve missed the first leg of travel (i.e. it’s not due to late arrival of your first flight) it’s likely due to poor timing. There will always be unexpected factors such as bad traffic and long security lines. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport or station. If you’ve never been there before, factor in some extra time for getting familiar with the area and finding your gate.

You should also consider an expedited security plan such as TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or Clear, that will get you into shorter security lines so you can be on your way.

Of course, traffic and delayed flights that ruin your next flight plans happen, and there is no way of preventing them. The best thing you can do is expect the unexpected. These factors are out of your control and something many of your fellow travelers are also dealing with. When possible, leave yourself some wiggle room in your schedule so that your appointment doesn’t fall immediately after you’re expected to land.

26% — Language barriers

Nothing is more stressful than the inability to efficiently communicate. Depending on the amount of notice you’re given, quick preparation is key. The plane ride itself is a great time to brush up on the key phrases you’ll need. Focus on common questions about directions, lodging, and food.

These days there are lots of language translator apps that can help when you’re in a crunch, too. Try iTranslate Voice, which has an AirTranslate feature that connects two users wirelessly so they can communicate in their native languages and conduct a real-time translated conversation. Or iVoice Translator Pro, which acts as a double-sided translation service, allowing the second party to speak back to the app (ideal for when the other person doesn’t have the same app or a device handy).

Trouble reading menus or signs? The Word Lens app can take a photo of written text, menus, and street signs in a foreign country and translate them into the user’s native language.

If you find yourself often traveling to the same foreign-speaking country, it may be worth the investment of taking a course in order to speak more fluently (and each trip will serve as some great practice).

22% — Possible loss of luggage

Standing at an empty baggage claim after all the bags have come through but your own is a dreadful feeling. But there are several things you can do to make it less so. First, always keep your most valuable items in your carry-on, such as medication.

These days, there are several different suitcase companies equipping their luggage with GPS technology—which won’t necessarily prevent it from being lost, but it can definitely help to track it quickly and expedite its return.

21% — Unfamiliar surroundings  / 18% — Getting around the city

I’ve grouped these together, because they often go hand-in-hand. When it comes to getting to the hotel or the office, give yourself plenty of time. It’s much better to be early than to be stressing yourself out when you’re lost and the clock is ticking. When time is on your side, getting lost can actually be a fun part of the experience.

Use downtime to explore, even if just walking around the neighborhood of your hotel or office. As immersive travel becomes a bigger trend, more local tour companies pop up—there are plenty of options to suit your needs, including local, informal guides happy to show you the ropes (and this can make for a great team outing when the work day is done). Check out  tourguides.viator.com or Shiroube.com for guides based on your specific interests.

18% — Losing important documents

Have a specific, consistent place you keep your documents, and be sure it’s an enclosed pocket. Most carry-on bags make zippered front pockets specifically designed for easy access to your passport. Try to stay out of the habit of stuffing documents into your pocket, airplane seat pocket, or leaving them on your hotel nightstand. Getting into the habit of putting them in the same place every time pays dividends.

Many documents including airline boarding passes are now available digitally, too. Facebook just recently allowed select airlines to provide boarding passes via it’s Messenger app. (But that means you musn’t lose track of your phone!)

17% — IT setup/ will devices work?

Research, research, research. Find out what you’ll need where you’re going, and reach out to others who have been there to inquire what you’ll need to be working efficiently. There are lots of international travel adaptors on the market that include USB ports. Three highly acclaimed adapters are the  4-in-1 Universal Travel Adapter, with color-coded pieces that correspond to various regions of the world; Travel Adaptor with USB Ports, which has one universal outlet on top and two charging USB ports; and PowerCube ReWirable USB + 4 Travel Plugs, a compact power strip that comes with three international adapters for use abroad, plus an adapter.

13% — Cultural norms/differences

This is another one that must be researched. There is endless literature on the cultural norms of every region around the world. Now, reading it and understanding it enough to comply are two different things, but remember to be patient, open, and unoffended by things that are new to you.

Pick up a copy of Say Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication by communications and global business etiquette expert Gayle Cotton to learn how to tweak your body language and demeanor while abroad.

Most importantly, give yourself time to recuperate, either by extending your travels for some leisure time or when you return home. Learn how to fight jetlag, schedule some me-time, and stay healthy with plenty of rest and healthy eating. If you’re sick or exhausted after each international trip, you’ll begin resenting them before you’ve left home!

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