Managing Anxiety Disorder When Traveling to Walt Disney World

For people that suffer from anxiety disorder even a trip to Walt Disney World can cause the worst kinds of stress. However with a little pre-planning you can turn a vacation from nightmare to the sweetest memories. I am not a professional, but several members of my family struggle with anxiety, and these are tips and tricks I use to help keep us touring smoothly.

Managing Anxiety Disorder When TravelingManaging Anxiety Disorder When Traveling


  • Identify the Triggers - Write down the causes anxiety during travel. Next take a good look at them with your companions. Together, come up with an action plan so you already know how you can take control in the event something happens.
  • Just Breathe - Learn some controlled breathing techniques so that you can refocus. Traveling partners should also learn these techniques to help guide recovery if needed.
  • Pick the Right Time of Year - If crowds trigger anxiety, think about booking a Disney vacation at at a less crowded time of year. Avoid major holidays and school vacations.
  • Preview Maps - Before leaving home, acquaint yourself with the layout of the park. Locate quiet areas that may offer a place to escape to for a bit without having to leave, and set up a meeting point in case companions get lost.
  • Don't Over-Schedule " Create a touring strategy that will hit highlights everyone wants to see, but that can be cut back and pared down on a moments notice if needed.
  • Pack Medications " This is so important. Even if pills aren't needed on a daily basis, it's never known when "as needed" is going to apply. Pack all anxiety medications as prescribed. Don't hesitate to use them, either.

On Location:

  • Disability Access Service Card - Be prepared by stopping at guest services and picking up a Disability Access Service Card. If the party is faced with a panic attack while touring the guest assistance card will help a cast member identify that you're having a problem and may need special care. A brief discussion with the cast members at Guest Services will help them identify which of the assistance programs could help you.
  • Size It Up - If you look at a queue and know that you can't handle the crowd or enclosure, show your disability access service card to the entry cast member. You will be able to wait the length of the regular queue in an more comfortable location, and return after the time is up for the FastPass+ queue.
  • Create a Barrier - Keep in mind how to create a barrier between the person with anxiety and what is troubling them. Travel companions can make great blockades!
  • Bring Along the Medications! - Make sure emergency meds are with while touring, too. The Xanax is of little use if it's back in the hotel room.

Do you travel with anxiety or travel with someone who has anxiety problems? What are your special tricks for making travel friendlier? Head over to the forums and discuss ways to enjoy all Disney has to offer while keeping anxiety under control.

katrina1122 wrote on Tue, 09/27/2011 - 13:05:

katrina1122's picture

I used to LOVE rollercoasters until i developed an anxiety disorder. I suffered through panic attacks at the drop of a hat for year before they found a med that worked and what was triggering me. Crowds, noise, traffic all = bad news.

Today I'm fine with all, I might need to walk away for a few minutes and be in a quiet low crowd spot or pull out of traffic for a few minutes, but no attacks except rollercoasters. I just can't seem to do them, especially those that go upside down. the closest i've been to an attack was when dh convinced me to ride a double looper with him that I had once loved. When we got off I was shaking so bad I had to sit in the stairwell for a minute. I think its the lack of control you have on them.

Anyway, we haven't been back to wdw since this disorder invaded my life without permission. I'm stoked to hit all the coasters, but RnRR does make me nervous just thinking about it even though it used to be my all time fav! Will I even go on BtMRR who knows. This is where your suggestions come into play. They are well written and good advice. I won't know until I'm standing there what will happen. If I get in line and change my mind I know I have the backdoor exit. Never leave home without your meds for sure, you are probably on them daily anyway. Here's one you didn't mention, [b]Don't be embarrased if you just can't do something[/b] if your mind is saying no, don't put yourself in the situation. After that roller coaster incident I couldn't ride anything for over an hour because i was too shaky. DH did it all alone. Had I just stayed on the ground we would have avoided it. He would have been perfectly fine with it, I just didn't want to seem wimpy because I was letting my emotion win out over fun. I now know better.

Kristen K. wrote on Tue, 09/27/2011 - 15:06:

Kristen K.'s picture

Thanks so much for sharing your story! My husband, my daughter and I all suffer with anxiety, each in a little different way. I have the least of the problems so I'm often the "manager" and human blockade when something goes wrong. My daughter does okay, but airport security completely freaks her out, she can't get through without tears.

Lizzy_B wrote on Thu, 09/29/2011 - 15:31:

Lizzy_B's picture

Kristen - thanks for sharing this information. Wow. It really made me think. I don't suffer from an anxiety disorder, but gosh, I think we all have our moments and triggers that can make us feel...not quite right. Very good insight, and good advice.

JMed wrote on Wed, 03/05/2014 - 16:12:

JMed's picture

Awesome thanks! I do love my "out of the way places"! We found nice quiet spots in all the parks last trip and it helped with the kiddo too. Gave her a few to regroup, settle down and get ready for more!

Princess Brandi wrote on Fri, 07/04/2014 - 18:23:

Princess Brandi's picture

So glad I found this!
Me and my boyfriend are going in September, the week before F&W so we're hoping that means the crowds will be light, but if not he's prepared to be my blockade and has been many times the past few years.
Thanks so much!
XOXO Brandi

Michelle V Singh Mohammed wrote on Tue, 01/19/2016 - 16:44:

Michelle V Singh Mohammed's picture

Does anyone experience anxiety from the music gets me really sentimental ..while I am happy to be there it's always bitter sweet cause I want my entire family to experience it ..I think some of them may ever be able to cause of budget I tend to get really panicky sad ...I have lost a lot of loved ones to so I know this contributes to it

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