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Holiday Tips For Highly Sensitive People - Sue Mahony, Ph.D

Holiday tips for Highly Sensitive People

Holidays for highly sensitive people.

Love them or hate them, if you’re going on holiday and you’re highly sensitive, or you have highly sensitive people as your travel companions: get prepared!

HSP flashpoints on holiday typically occur when:

  • your body is out of whack
  • there’s a lot of people-stuff going on around you that’s new to you, or different from what you usually experience
  • you’re in a new place with lots of novel sensory input to process
  • your daily rhythm changes and your regular home-work-life activities aren’t structuring your experience

Holidays can involve all of these AT THE SAME TIME, leading to overload, anxiety, meltdown, and plain old just not having a nice time of it.

As a highly sensitive person, you’re probably looking for coping strategies for your holiday.

Let’s see how you can make your holiday as HSP-friendly as possible.

Physical basics


Avoid the hangries (angry-when-hungry) at all costs! Make sure you have plenty of snacks with you when you’re travelling. Too many is better than too few.

I go zombie when I’m hungry. This is a slow slide into being unable to think straight or quickly – sub-optimal when trying to choose a cafe from the myriad options in the city you’re daytripping in.

Snacks, plenty of.

I also have a ‘rule’ about food: if any of us is hungry, we eat. Even if it’s an overpriced bag of crisps – if we need it and it’s the only thing available (and we’ve run out of snacks, shock horror!), we buy and we eat.

Did I mention the snacks?


Stay hydrated

Dehydration can make you dizzy and uncoordinated. Be sure to carry a water bottle, or cash to buy refreshing drinks when you need them.



Travel throws your sleep routine out of whack. New beds (or no beds), time zone changes, a different daily rhythm to the one you’re used to. All of these can take their toll.

Do what you can to get enough sleep, and keep your sleep pattern close to the one you have at home.



Physical activity

If you’re not usually physically active, and you go on an adventure holiday: rest!

If you’re usually physically active, and you go on a beach holiday: walk, run, swim, play volleyball…

Watch out for getting physically over- or under-tired. If your body says rest, let it rest – even if your companions are pestering you to go out and do something exciting. And if you’re itching to get out and do something, go and do it.


People: Social dynamics

If you’re travelling with friends and/or family, and you don’t usually have so much time with them (e.g. from working full-time), allow yourself some solo time.

Negotiate with your travel companions. You can keep it simple and say something like “I need to have some time by myself every day”


Environment: getting used to everything

Holidays for Highly Sensitive People can be overwhelming – or at the very least, full on. That’s why making sure you have extra time around everything can be super helpful.


New place, new scenery, new food, new climate, new buildings… All of these, for the highly sensitive person, can be demanding on resources.

Keep an eye on how you’re doing with all this new stuff. Pace yourself.

Repeat daytrips and activities you’ve already done so you can avoid taking on any more novelty for a while.


Having a safe base

Whenever you’re somewhere new, knowing that you have a safe base to go back to, whenever you need or want to go there, is so reassuring and valuable.

Your safe base might be your hotel room. Or your tent. Your campervan. Or a favourite bench on the nearby hill.

Somewhere accessible, safe and reliable.

Identify your safe base and make use of it.


Holidays for Highly Sensitive People: Bringing it all together


Processing and down-time

Know how and when you process. I lie on my bed (my safe base) and daydream my way through it all.

You might process more actively: go for a walk, swim, or bike ride.

Social processors need to talk it through with someone – one of your travel companions or someone back home.

Listening to your favourite music or having a good dance also helps you assimilate new experiences, and shake off whatever needs shaking off.

Practice some grounding techniques. You can learn how to ground yourself by following my free eCourse on The Basics: Grounding.



Find – or create – a daily and few-days rhythm that works for you.

With kids, especially small ones, your life is often structured around their wake-up, eating, and bedtimes. Use that rhythm to your advantage to structure your day.

Think in terms of 2-4 day rhythms to help to pace your energy/novelty/processing levels.

Weave days with new activities, people, or places in with quieter days back at base.


Emergency plan

If you and/or your travel companions occasionally have HSP meltdowns or overload-dysfunction-shutdown (hangries, tired, dehydrated, too hot…), make a back-up plan.

The simpler the better.

For example: if it all goes wrong, we’ll head back to the hotel and go to the pool.

Or: if I have a meltdown, you can take the kids for an ice-cream while I have a walk around to settle myself down again.

Or: if this daytrip really doesn’t work, we’ll cut it short and go back to the place we all liked two days ago.

Put snacks everywhere, just in case, and plenty of water, too.

If this seems like a lot of work – it is, and yet it isn’t.

When you compare it to the emotional/mental work of sorting out hangry-meltdowns, social or environmental overload, or getting completely overwhelmed to the point of not enjoying yourself at all, it’s not so much work. Prevention is better than cure, and all that.


Have a great holiday!

Holidays for highly sensitive people require a little extra care and attention in planning and while on holiday. When you factor your high sensitivity in first, you can have a great time away.

And if it sucks – take the lessons you need from it and plan differently next time. It doesn’t have to be perfect – just good enough that you and your travel companions can enjoy it and relax is good enough.

Worried about holidays? Want to talk it through with me? Look at the ways I can help you get prepared.

Want coping strategies for Highly Sensitive People? Check out these articles on High Sensitivity.

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this webpage are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this webpage. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this webpage. Sue Mahony PhD disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this webpage.

Sue Mahony PhD is gifted, autistic, and ADHD. She provides 1:1 specialist support for brains similar to her own, giftedness group programmes, speaking and bespoke support for organisations, and a wealth of articles on this website.

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