4 Reasons Traveling is a Nightmare if You Have ADHD
Traveling can be a nightmare if you have ADHD. Oh, so hard to do. Actually, it’s not usually that the traveling is hard for ADHD adults. It’s the getting ready to travel.
The reality is that combining ADHD and travel can lead to a major case of overwhelm. ADHD coaching clients often ask me for help to make traveling easier. Especially with packing!
They wonder if it’s them or if traveling is hard for ADHD adults in general. I’m happy to report that they aren’t alone.
Once, one of my ADHD coaching clients once told me about a travel nightmare she’d had. “Dana, you know how hard packing a suitcase is for me. Well, last night I dreamed I was packing over and over while two of my problem employees argued about what I should take on the vacation.”
Four Reasons Traveling is Hard for ADHD Adults
One of the big culprits in our traveling struggles is packing. It goes against our natural skills.
1. Packing Requires Planning
In case you haven’t noticed, planning isn’t exactly a strength for most Adults with ADHD. Smart packing doesn’t leave a lot of room for impulsivity. You need to think ahead about where you’re going and what you’ll be doing. You need to remember to check the weather forecast.
Will you be lounging by a pool? Hiking? Attending business meetings? All of the above? The options are often endless and sometimes trips combine both business and pleasure activities. Making planning and packing for travel a nightmare for ADHD adults.
2. Packing Requires Decision-Making
Making decisions is hard for ADHD adults. And, even after we manage to make a decision, we start second-guessing what we decided. Packing a suitcase means decisions galore! “What outfit do I wear Saturday night?” and “How much can I fit into my suitcase?” are just two of many decisions you’ll have to make before you leave.
This is why most ADHD adults approach to traveling is to pack their entire wardrobe. Once, when I was much, much younger, my friend JoAnn and I went on a cruise. I packed enough outfits to change my clothes six times a day! Nope, I’m not kidding. (This was way before I knew about ADHD, and how to avoid those kinds of travel nightmares.)
3. Packing Requires Organization
Yes, organization one of the biggest struggles of Attention Deficit. Have you ever arrived at a hotel room, opened up your suitcase and discovered that someone (you) detonated a small bomb inside? You then have to dig for a pair of shorts, find a matching (now wrinkled) top, and… you know you put a pair of socks in there somewhere (didn’t you?)… By the time you’ve found everything your hotel room looks like someone (you) exploded a bomb in it.
This explosion style of packing is neither efficient nor helpful for an ADHD adult. Organizing your suitcase not only eliminates a need to iron while on vacation (or walk out wearing a wrinkled shirt!), but it means less stress while dressing. I’ve become a big fan of packing cubes . I resisted them for years, but they do make traveling easier for me.
4. Trip Packing is Best Done Ahead of Time
Okay, I don’t mean days ahead of time. You won’t ever be that annoying person who’s suitcase is sitting by the door days before you leave. Your ADHD brain needs that deadline of leaving for the airport before it clicks into gear. This is a true testament to Adult ADHD! I have learned, the hard way, to do what I can to move the packing ahead a bit. So, it’s not left to the total last minute.
The trick is finding a balance. My favorite ADHD travel approach is to do the planning and decision-making in advance. Knowing what’s going in the suitcase a few days ahead. So you can push against that deadline without your house of cards falling down. Also, make sure your clothes are washed and dry before you pack them. (Please, tell me I’m not the only one who has packed a suitcase of damp clothes!)
You aren’t alone in this. Packing challenges us. We avoid making decisions and doing things in advance. Organizing isn’t our best skill. Packing is one of the biggest reasons traveling is hard for ADHD adults. But, it doesn’t have to be. Combine awareness with small steps to make packing easier. Living with ADHD doesn’t have to be so hard!