What is Travel Fatigue and How to Avoid It

Written By: author image Kyle Cash
author image Kyle Cash
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.

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Learn what travel fatigue is and how to avoid it! These tips will help you stay energized to avoid jet lag from a long flight and enjoy your trip!

As a seasoned traveler, I’m all too familiar with travel fatigue.

It happens to the best of us, and I’ve had several trips ruined by the sudden lack of motivation and exhaustion that comes with it.

And that’s why I created this post — for others who experience the same thing. So, in this post, I’ll explain what traveler’s fatigue is, how it’s caused, and how to avoid it.

With this information, you can plan your amazing trip without the worry of travel fatigue setting in.

Let’s get to it.

What is travel fatigue?

Travel fatigue is the exhaustion or lack of motivation you feel when traveling a lot.

Author suffering from fatigue on the Salkantay Trek

The feeling of being “on” the entire time you travel wears on you, showing itself through tiredness and a lack of enjoyment from things you’d otherwise find exciting. This can be visiting a museum, seeing a major attraction, or even wandering around a neighborhood.

Once travel fatigue sets in, it’s difficult to overcome, and it’s often a signal from your body telling you to slow down.

Symptoms of travel fatigue

The symptoms of travel fatigue can vary, ranging from mild to severe, depending on the person.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Sleep difficulty
  • Lack of appetite
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Lack of concentration
  • Feelings of lethargy
  • Physical symptoms like headaches/body aches, nausea, dizziness, and more

As you can see, it’s almost like you’ve had an illness!
So, as you’re traveling and crossing time zones, it’s essential to recognize the symptoms when they arrive and then take the proper steps to combat them (which we’ll get to below).
But if you take the proper steps, you can ward off travel fatigue and enjoy your trip to the fullest!

Causes of travel fatigue

Pointing to one reason would be easy, but many contribute.
For example, here are the most common causes.

Causes of travel fatigue

1. Changes to our routine

Humans are creatures of habit.

And when you travel, you throw those habits and routines out the window, which takes your body some time to adjust.

Whether it’s a change in meal times, sleeping schedule, or simply unfamiliarity with your surroundings, it all slowly contributes to your fatigue. Your mind and body are constantly scanning and adjusting while you travel, which is taxing over time.

2. Crossing multiple time zones

We’ve all heard how important getting a regular circadian rhythm is.

But travelers take that and throw it out the window as we jet across the world through different time zones, accumulating travel fatigue and jet lag like souvenirs.

When you end up in a new place and time zone, your body’s internal clock still runs off where you were before. And that takes some time and effort as your body needs to adjust to the time zone of your destination, which means you’ll suffer from tiredness, grogginess, or even burnout.

So, give yourself time and be patient. Your body and mind will thank you.

A quick tip: Your direction of travel can affect your fatigue levels. It’s far more likely your body will feel sluggish on an eastward flight than on a westward flight. And that’s because traveling west has less effect on your body’s natural “home time” and your sleep-wake schedule that comes with it. 

So, if you’re traveling east, give yourself an extra day to promote a regular change in your circadian rhythm.

3. Long-haul flights or excessive sitting

Sitting on a flight for extended periods isn’t fun.

The ache in your legs and back cause significant discomfort, especially as the person in front of us drops their seat back onto your legs, and you feel ready to break. Not to mention the change in cabin air pressure and how it affects your body with the altitude.

This leads to stiffness and overall exhaustion as your body struggles to be comfortable.

Whether it’s a long flight, train, car, or bus, getting up and stretching when you can is essential.

4. Changes in climate and weather

Your body is used to the environment you live in most of the time.

It’s taken time and effort to adjust to it so you can live optimally. Travel comes in and flips all of that on its head.

New weather, humidity levels, and even sounds and sights make you more tired. But it’s hard to recognize because it’s happening at a subconscious level.

So take it slow the first few days in a new place.

5. Stress

Whether it’s planning the trip, traveling, or arriving in a new place — your stress level is naturally higher when you travel.

The process of juggling your responsibilities for a big trip raises your stress levels. Then, going through airports and travel queues continues to pile it on. Finally, you arrive at your destination and figure out how things work there.

Each of these slowly stacks more stress on you, like you’re building a giant stress hamburger (hold the pickles), and your body has to work to get back to normal post-travel.

How to avoid suffering from travel fatigue or recover from it

Lucky for you, you can do a few simple things to help avoid suffering from travel fatigue!

Here are are few common things to help:

How to Avoid Travel Fatigue

1. Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is crucial to daily life, let alone avoiding travel fatigue.

And that’s because it can cause tiredness, headaches, and general bodily discomfort, which makes it hard to enjoy your trip.

So, aim to keep your body hydrated. And avoid alcohol, which will cause dehydration. Instead, choose water, tea, or similar electrolyte drinks to energize you.

It’s all about meeting your body’s needs, and this is especially true for traveling athletes.

2. Get enough sleep

Shocking news here: sleep is essential to reduce the risk and severity of jet lag.

We already knew this, but it’s even more true as you travel. Your body needs time to recover from the long trip, and sleep is a big part.

Take a nap to help get some extra rest. This will allow you to adjust to the time at your destination.

3. Take breaks

Whether during the day or your entire trip, you need time to step back and do nothing.

It sounds opposite to what you do on an exciting vacation. But your body needs it from time to time.

So, if you know you’ll be traveling long term, add some breaks to help your body recoup and de-stress.  Many people find a small break perfect for assisting them in preparing to return to their travel plans.

4. Do enough physical activity

Seems counter to the last two tips, but exercise is a big part of your health and healthy habits.

And if you can be active — no matter how you do it — it’ll go a long way in helping your body stay or get back to normal.

If you’re traveling for months, this is even more important.

5. Get exposure to natural light, not artificial light

This last one is simple but fantastic.

Many travelers love going out for a stroll to get natural light exposure on their skin in the days after arrival.

It gives them something to look forward to each day as they enjoy the sights and sounds, and it helps them overcome the symptoms of jet lag.

This also starts to get your body into the local time after a number of time zones crossed on a trip.

Are you ready to avoid travel fatigue on your next long flight?

Recognizing when you feel travel fatigue setting in becomes second nature.

As you travel from place to place, you’ll get better at handling the symptoms, and you realize how essential to listen to your body.

So, these tips helped you prepare to prevent jet lag and made it easy for you to recognize the factors that sometimes make travel difficult.

If you want more tips and tricks for travel, follow me on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok!

author avatar
Kyle Cash Owner
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.

2 responses to “What is Travel Fatigue and How to Avoid It”

  1. Jay Dollarhide Avatar
    Jay Dollarhide

    I can relate to trying to do too much in too little of time. That’s why I like taking at least a couple of weeks to stay in a place if possible! It’s nice to be semi-retired / retired and be able to live this kind of lifestyle. Keep posting Kyle, you have really good content!

    1. Kyle Cash Avatar
      Kyle Cash

      I applaud you for still traveling as hard as you do, Jay! I’m hoping I still have the enthusiasm and energy that you do when I’m older. Looking forward to meeting up with you again somewhere in the world.

      Thanks for the comment and nice words!