The 5 Stages of Pandemic Travel Anxiety

Pandemic Travel by Airplane

Yes, during the Covid-19 pandemic we are advised not to travel. Also not to eat in restaurants, gather with more than five people, do anything with anyone outside of our household indoors, or any number of things. But some people choose to travel anyway. This post is for you because, make no mistake, traveling in the middle of a pandemic is stressful, even if you decide you’re okay with it.

There’s talk of a “risk budget” that makes sense — everybody has a different level of risk they are willing to endure, as well as different priorities.

My family never has indoor gatherings with other families, we are good mask wearers, and my ten-year-old is our designated hand sanitizer czar. But we decided to travel to Mexico over Thanksgiving. 

If you DO travel, expect anxiety. In fact, I had five distinct stages of it!

So in an effort to prepare you for what you might go through if you decide to travel during all of this craziness, here are the five stages of anxiety for travel during a pandemic:

Seatac Airport during Pandemic
Seatac airport the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Fewer people than usual traveled over Thanksgiving — but people are still flying.

Worry, Worry, Worry

I almost had daily panic attacks the week before our vacation. When we planned the trip, Covid numbers were under control. By the time we left, they were rising, and our state of Washington suddenly announced a “voluntary” quarantine following any travel. We did a lot of hemming and hawing, but eventually decided that it was worth it for us. Sunshine at any cost!


Our trip had to meet certain criteria for me to feel comfortable: I needed a non-stop flight that was short enough that if we wanted to, we could avoid taking our masks off to eat/drink. I wanted to make sure our airline (Alaska) was still keeping middle seats empty (they were, but that’s scheduled to change, so check carefully). I didn’t want to travel to a COVID-19 hotspot (Los Cabos is actually very safe as of this writing). And I wanted to make sure that we would be able to avoid the riskiest activities (indoor anything). 

Risk analysis

After researching our flight, location, and resort, I felt like our trip was much safer than, say, an indoor Thanksgiving dinner with more than five people. 

Traveling during a Pandemic
Empty streets in the gallery district of San Jose del Cabo on Thanksgiving weekend, when they would normally be filled with American tourists. Spending our money in decimated tourist economies was one of our justifications for travel.


Certain industries — restaurants, bars, tourism — have been decimated by the pandemic. Prices are low because tourist spots like Cabo San Lucas are desperate for visitors. So, I get a vacation, they get a jolt to the local economy….yes, this is the same justification I gave my husband when we went shopping for souvenirs. And yes…it worked. 

Fear of Judgement

Caring what other people think may just be my bugaboo, but if it’s yours, too, you’ll have to work your way through this stage. It feels like everybody is judging everybody else right now, but really, it’s a rare perfect person that can be perfectly isolated and avoid all contact with other people. We have to work outside the house, we have to educate our kids, we have to deal with mental health issues and medical issues and all KINDS of stuff. We are all doing our best. Mask up, hand sanitize, stay six feet away from others, and just do your best.

I may not be a psychologist, but I’m pretty sure these are the ACTUAL five stages of pandemic travel anxiety. Feel free to quote me.