Travel Research: How Much Travel Stress Do People Experience on Vacation?

travel stress vacation stressMost people plan trips and take vacations to get away from the stress of home and work; however, very few people take travel stress into consideration. While traveling can indeed be an escape or break from the day-to-day routine, planning and taking a trip can also be quite stressful. Where should I go? How do I get a visa? Do I have enough vacation time at work? Do I want to dip into my savings to stay in a nice hotel or find a hostel? How am I going to manage public transportation? How are the children going to handle two weeks of traveling to new places?  Can I survive a week in the car with my parents? Not to mention potential travel hiccups along the way such as bad weather, traffic jams, strikes, cancelled flights, language-related miscommunications, and illness. Some people can plan and take a trip with very little stress, but for many people they encounter at least some travel stress in the process of planning their trip and during the actual vacation. But how stressful is traveling for most people and what factors influence how stressful a particular travel experience may be? Let’s take a look at a research article on travel stress in the research journal Tourism Analysis.

Research Study on Travel Stress

We are going to take a look at the following article on travel stress:

Crotts, J. C., & Zehrer, A. (2012). An exploratory study of vacation stress. Tourism Analysis, 17, 547-552. http://dx.doi.org/10.3727/108354212X13473157390920

An Overview of How the Research was Conducted

The researchers collected online survey data from 110 United States residents who were representative of the U.S. population in terms of age, income, and geographic residence. Each participant was asked to answer a number of questions online about their most recent vacation experience. Vacations were defined as being at least 2 days in length and being at least 100 miles away from home. Among the participants, 75.5% reported on a vacation within the United States and 24.4% reported on an international travel experience.

Research Results and Findings

• The participants reported that the most stressful part of their trip was actually the trip planning stage, followed by traveling to the destination, and finally the actual stay at the destination(s).

• The greatest travel stress associated with the trip planning stage of travel was related to: financial concerns, packing, making travel arrangements, and developing the itinerary.

• The most stressful part of traveling to the destination was coping with weather conditions, traffic jams/flight delays, and route finding.

• The most stressful aspects of actually staying at a destination were coping with weather, food related issues, interactions with travel companions, and transportation within the destination.

• Factors that increased stress were traveling internationally versus domestically and traveling with a spouse/companion or relatives versus alone or with friends. Further, men, those traveling with children, those traveling to a destination for the first time, and those under 50 reported more travel stress in certain stages of the travel.

• Those who experienced greater travel stress were less likely to report wanting to revisit a destination, but were no less likely to recommend it to others than those who reported less travel stress.

What Does This Mean?

Clearly, while many people see taking a vacation as a way to rejuvenate and counter stress they may experience in other aspects of their lives, traveling can also be stressful for a lot of people. Most people in the study reported at least minimal levels of travel stress, and some reported quite a bit of travel stress. The most stressful part, which many people may not anticipate, begins before they even leave their homes in the planning stage. Those traveling internationally with a spouse/companion or relative are particularly likely to experience stress in the travel planning stage, suggesting that planning and negotiating travel arrangements with a close companion or relative can be a difficult experience for many travelers. Anticipating that some stress is often involved in planning and taking a vacation may help reduce the amount of stress experienced if people are prepared for it.

I personally get the most stressed during the travel planning stage as I always feel there is not enough time or money to do all the things I want to do and I have a difficult time narrowing down the list of places I want to go. Then comes making commitments by putting in for time off at work and making financial commitments when buying plane tickets, train tickets, and so forth. Once the tickets are bought and reservations are made though I start feeling better and I can relax more, although I also really hate packing and usually do this very last minute. Ethan always gets annoyed with me because I am always rushing the night before or morning we are leaving for a trip to finish packing. This rushing tends to make me a bit grumpy until we get into the car or arrive at the airport. But then we seem to generally do fairly well together when handling stress related to bumps in the road while traveling (e.g., weather problems, getting lost, government shutdowns, delayed flights).

Everyone travels differently and has a different outlook on taking vacations. Do you find traveling stressful? When do you generally encounter the most travel stress on a vacation or trip?