Top 5 Travel Fears

Published by June 5, 2009

This article was reproduced from MSNBC.

FEAR OF FLYING

Hands down, this is the most common travel-related anxiety. Even though the odds of being killed in a plane crash are said to be 1 in 11 million, air travelers are made to feel they could be unlucky number 11 million every time their plane encounters unexpected turbulence. “While fear of flying makes some sense, because you’re out of control while you are soaring thousands of feet in the air, you are much safer in a plane that you are a car, or even walking,” says psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, who is the author of the upcoming book “The Happiness Prescription.”

BOTTOM LINE: You’re likelier to drown in your bathtub. Worry about something else.

FEAR OF BEING AWAY

That’s the second-biggest phobia that travelers suffer from, according to Bryan Toder, a hypnotherapist based in Lafayette Hill, Pa. “It’s the fear of being away from home. Being away from kids, pets, the job, creates lots of stress,” he says. Full disclosure: I’m afflicted by this particular anxiety. The uncertainty of being on the road keeps me home more than your average travel writer. Which is probably a good thing. Can you imagine what my columns would look like if I traveled all the time?

BOTTOM LINE: This one’s legit. Maybe we could all use a little hypnotherapy to get over it.

FEAR OF ILLNESS

Swine flu is just one of many infectious diseases that can sicken travelers. Our friends at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a more comprehensive list. It’s nothing to sneeze at, especially for travelers like Pablo Solomon, a Lampasas, Texas-based artist, and a confessed “germaphobe.” “We carry hand wipes and wash our hands and walk out of restaurants that look less than clean,” he told me. “After years of finally getting where we were beginning to actually enjoy travel and not worry so much about germs, this swine flu attack occurs. Sort of like the buildup for “Jaws 2″: Just when you thought it was safe …”

BOTTOM LINE: Swine flu fears may be overblown, but some of these other infectious diseases are no joke. Better get all your shots.

FEAR OF A BAD FLIGHT

Beverly Hills, Calif.-based psychiatrist Carole Lieberman describes this as more of an annoyance than a phobia, but who’s counting? “I’m annoyed that traveling has become such a hassle,” she says. “Being jostled through the security lines, poor quality food, delayed flights, dark and dingy terminals, and overcrowded airplanes.” If you suffer from the same phobia — uh, I mean, annoyance — you’re in good company. The U.S. Travel Association, a trade group for the travel industry, last year released a survey that found travelers avoided an estimated 41 million trips over the past 12 months at a cost of more than $26 billion to the U.S. economy.

BOTTOM LINE: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

FEAR OF LOSING YOUR LUGGAGE

According to the latest numbers released by the Transportation Department, there’s a 1 in 285 chance of your luggage getting lost. Not all airlines are equal. Some, like AirTran, track their bags using new scanning technology, dropping the average closer to 1 in 500. Others, like regional carriers American Eagle, Atlantic Southeast and SkyWest, run at twice the industry average. “A lot of my clients travel for business and pleasure, and overwhelmingly their greatest rational fear is lost luggage,” says New York psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert “Many of them have experienced this and as a result the fear is grounded in reality and based on the stress of dealing with recovering the luggage.”

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re flying on a regional carrier, you might want to pack light.

How to get over these anxieties? My vote is for avoidance, but you already know that. Apparently, I’m wrong.

“Yes, avoidance reduces anxiety,” says Tracey Marks, an Atlanta-based psychiatrist. “But it reinforces the fear. Eventually, the avoidance makes the feared situation become a bigger monster that takes on a life of its own.”

In other words, get out and travel. It may be the best cure for your travel phobia.

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