Staying Healthy While Traveling

Whether you are traveling to a single destination, or multiple countries, there are a few things you can do to stay healthy while traveling. Nobody wants to be sick on vacation or a business trip! There are ways to prevent that from happening, as well as lessen the impact of stress and fatigue on your body.

Before the trip

Here are some great tips to help you stay healthy during the trip:

sleeping woman in bed

Get enough sleep

Not everybody can afford to travel business class with the comfort and care of the front cabin. For many travelers, long flights are associated with stress and varying degrees of discomfort in a cramped seat. Sleep does not always come easy in an environment of noise, bright light and your neighbor’s elbow in your side!

With this is mind, you should plan to get enough sleep before you leave. If you manage to rest up before the trip, and get your regular 7-8 hours of shut-eye, you will not be as sleep deprived and suffer from jetlag.

In order for you to actually achieve this pre-trip sleep schedule, the following is smart to do:

Several men's suits hanging in a closet

Pack early!

it’s important to start packing a few days before departure and not wait till last minute  – which will encroach on your sleep hours. If you’re a seasoned traveler and have the packing down, that’s great! But otherwise, a packing list can help you cut down the time you spend.

Another important part of the trip preparation is to plan for the worse and hopefully not needing it:

a couple paragliding

Get travel insurance

To be on the safe side, invest in a travel insurance to protect you against a variety of complications during your time away. Your regular health insurance may not cover you while traveling, and especially not on foreign soil.

In case you should you have to cancel your travel plans before leaving, or miss a connection, lose your luggage, have an accident, get sick, or need to change your return date, travel insurance is designed to cover you for a wide range of reasons that might interfere with your carefully planned trip.

It pays to attentively read the policy before deciding which insurance to go with, there are usually several options available to you depending on how much coverage you need or want. Some insurances will not cover high risk sports, for instance, and the deductible for medical treatments may vary as well as the maximum amount covered.

Consider the safety of your destination(s) and your activities there, and chose your insurance accordingly! Pick a policy that will cover you for medical treatments and transportation, as well as rebooking of your flights should you need to return home earlier. You don’t want to be responsible for thousands of dollars up front in a foreign country.

When traveling with children, it’s always a good idea to have travel insurance in case someone gets sick or have an accident. If you have a medical condition, or if you’re pregnant or elderly, you should look into an insurance that covers you and your travel companion(s) in case of a medical emergency, and make sure you chose one with the amount of coverage and deductible that seems reasonable for your case.

pills and other medications

Bring medications with you

If you are regularly taking medications, it’s important to bring enough of each of your prescription drugs to last for the entire trip. Also, get extra doses in case you are delayed while traveling. Talk with your doctor about it, and ask for a prescription to bring on the trip. This document, and prescription drugs kept in their original packaging showing the doctor’s, pharmacy’s and your info, will prove that this is your prescribed medications.

You will probably have to pay the full cost of the prescription drugs abroad, and file an insurance claim form when you return home. Remember to keep all receipts and other documentation to send in with your insurance claim form.

If you take any over-the-counter drugs, make sure you have enough of them on hand too. Check expiration dates on all meds to ensure they do not expire while traveling.

For most people, the most common illnesses to contract during a trip would be a cold or a stomach upset, and maybe allergies. There are ways to protect yourself and prevent this from happening.

Bring these common over the counter medications

You should have these common over the counter meds with you; they don’t take up much space, they are rather cheap, and it can save you time and energy to have them available whenever you need them on a trip.

When traveling to warmer climates and/or less developed parts of the world, there’s sometimes no escape from constipation and stomach flu despite all the precautions you may have taken. It is not much fun to think about stomach upset, dehydration and exhaustion before the trip, but knowing what to do in these situations will help you get better quickly.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist for the appropriate meds for both constipation and stomach flu/diarrhea. Take some water purification tablets and a reusable bottle with you too just in case you do not have an option for bottled water or you are worried about the local water quality.

Many people will try to boost their immune systems before a trip by taking lots of vitamin C, or a dose of Airborne. It can also help in the beginning stages of a cold to take extra vitamin C.

To help relieve the effects of a cold, buy a combination of decongestants and pain relievers. This will not cure the cold, but can make you feel more comfortable and reduce fevers.

Bring some allergy medication too, there may be some triggers in a new and foreign environment that you react to.

Remember to always read the labels, and talk to your medical provider and pharmacist about the proper use of the medications you’re buying and bringing.

Keep medications in your carry-on or handbag, for easy access when traveling. If you pack them in checked luggage, and it get lost or delayed, you may be without your medication!

Airborne vitamin C tabletsimodium anti diarrhea pillsnasal decongestanttylenolallergy medication benadryl
Be comfortable during travels with a neck pillow for resting

During the trip

Nap if you can on long flights

crying toddler in airplane

Sleeping on a plane can sometimes feel impossible with lack of legroom in a cramped seat, constant noise from the recirculating air and the engine, and crying children. Nevertheless, on a long flight, it’s important to get some rest to avoid a bad jetlag.

Noise can be neutralized by wearing earplugs or headsets. This may make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep, and such contribute to minimizing the jetlag.

The Bose QuietComfort 35 are the best noise cancelling wireless headphones, they are comfortable to wear and even sleep with on a plane. Although pricey, they may prove to be a great investment in comfort, and are also excellent for everyday recreational use and for professional use on conference calls.

You can't beat the noise canceling of the Bose headset
Neck pillows in several colours

A neck pillow can be your best friend during a long haul! Airlines don’t always provide pillows and blankets anymore. Sometimes you can pay for it, but to be on the safe side, bring your own. You can find a variety of inflatable neck pillows and foam neck pillows in different shapes and colors.

Amazon has a big selection of neck pillows that will support your head, neck and chin during the flight.

To really block everything out, buy an eye mask. There are many different eye masks out there, and if possible try them on before buying to make sure you find one that fits you.

Make sure you’re not too cold or too warm during the flight, when you’re comfortable the chances for a good nap increase! You’re not likely to get a blanket for free anymore, so having a jacket or shawl to spread over your lap may help.

pouring water into glass

Stay hydrated

It’s easy to get dehydrated on long flights. Whenever you’re offered drinks, ask for a glass of water! In addition, bring a bottle of water with you to drink in-between. You may have to go to the bathroom more often, but that’s good for two things: you get to stretch your cramped legs and avoid deep vein thrombosis, as well as prevent constipation.

When visiting a hot and tropical country, it’s important to keep drinking water regularly. Always carry a water bottle with you, and wearing a hat can help too.

close up of the bottle neck of a wine bottle

Avoid alcohol on flights

(This may not fit your style of traveling if you like to start the party in the air 🙂 )

We recommend that you do not drink alcohol on flights. Alcohol will increase the flow of fluid through your kidneys and contribute to dehydration. Although alcohol also acts as a sedative and may help you sleep, the danger of its dehydrating effect can harm you. The air in an aircraft is very dry and, coupled with the diuretic effect of drinking alcohol you may become dehydrated much faster than you would on the ground.

washing hands in the sink

Wash hands often

We all know it’s a good habit to wash hands frequently, but even more so when traveling and sharing spaces with strangers. Wash hands before eating, after going to the bathroom and after touching any surface touched by many people.

a pack of wipes

A handy pack of wipes

Travel sized hand cleaner

On trips, it’s handy to keep a small bottle of antibacterial liquid or a pack of wipes in your bag whenever washing with soap and water isn’t possible.

Also, wiping down the tray and the armrests would definitely make your space cleaner.

When traveling with kids, it’s handy to bring a pack of regular diaper wipes for an all-round cleaner. They’re not anti-bacterial but work excellent for all sorts of sticky hands and surfaces! Diaper wipes are really good all-purpose wipes that can be useful in many situations for the whole family in the plane, in the car, in restaurants and on the go.

Anti-bacterial cream a preventive measure?

Another way of avoiding getting a cold that some people swear by, is to apply antibacterial cream in the nose to ward off germs and colds. This may also help avoiding dryness in the nasal passages.

baby wipes has many uses
Neosporin anti bacterial cream

During your stay

You have followed the advice above, and now you want to keep staying healthy the rest of your time at your destination.

pouring water from bottle to glass

Drink bottled water

In warm and humid locations, it’s usually safest to drink bottled water. Ask the concierge, or hotel staff, if tap water is safe to drink. When in doubt, don’t drink it! Other solutions could be to boil the water and let it cool. There are also many portable filtration systems that are popular for backpacking that you could consider bringing on your trip, as well as purification tablets.

The Sawyer Water Filter has a field weight of only 3 oz., and it makes filtering water as simple as filling a pouch and squeezing water into your mouth. No pills, no pumps and no wait time. Great for both backpacking and traveling light!

Sawyer water filtration system great for backpacking and travel light

Taking up virtually no space at all, the Potable Aqua chlorine dioxide water purification tablets are great for all sorts of camping activities and also to take along on trips as a precaution when you’re not sure about the water quality at your destination. It leaves minimal to no aftertaste, but remember to wait at least 30 minutes before drinking (recommended 4 hours).

glass of water with ice cubes and lemon

Be careful with ice cubes

Avoid ice cubes in your drink because they are usually made with tap water and can contain microorganisms. You should probably discard that lemon wedge served on your drink too, there’s no way of knowing how clean the cutting board and knife are at the bar!

A bunch of bananas in a basket

Be careful with fresh salads, seafood

Fresh salads and fruits may have been washed in tap water and as such may not be safe to eat. The best thing is to get whole fruits that you peel yourself, and forego salads for the time being even though you’re craving some fresh food.

Seafood dishes can cause intestinal problems, even when it’s been cooked. Shrimp, crab meat, and shellfish such as clams, mussels and oysters are notorious for spoiling in warm climates and is a common source of food poisoning.

Avoid raw or uncooked seafood, unpasteurized dairy products and foods from street vendors. Hot, well-cooked food is usually safe, as heat eliminates bacteria.

Sometimes even the best precautions don’t protect you against falling ill, and you’ll appreciate having prepared yourself with medications and knowledge about what to do in these cases.

Most stomach upsets end by themselves after 24 hours or more, and the important thing to keep in mind is to stay hydrated. Keep drinking water throughout, and if necessary add electrolytes to aid in replenishing your body with vital nutrients.

A girl in a pink dress with a big hat

Use sun screen, a hat and stay hydrated

We all love a healthy tan, but exposing yourself to too much sun can cause sun damage to your skin, as well as dehydration. Both men and women benefit from wearing a hat to protect the head from sun exposure and risk of a heat stroke. Add a good sunscreen with a high sun protection factor and a bottle of water and you’ll be ready for more adventures!

A hat and a scarf keeps this young woman warm

Cold climate precautions

There are other concerns when traveling to colder climes. Bring a beanie or hat to keep your head warm. In the heat, evaporation of sweat cools us off, but when it’s cold you’ll lose too much body heat, sometimes up to 50% of it, in certain cold-weather conditions. Add a scarf and warm socks as well to your packing list and you’ll see a great improvement in comfort!

If you know you’ll stay for a prolonged time in a colder climate than you’re used to, make sure you bring a warm jacket and suitable footwear too.

There usually isn’t the same risk of bacteria in tap water in cold regions, but it’s always a good idea to ask if it’s safe to drink.

See a doctor if needed

We are sharing our experiences and knowledge with you in this article and on this site, and hope that this can be helpful for our fellow travelers. We are not, however, medical professionals, and can not advise on health issues.

If you need a doctor, ask your hotel receptionist for help, or call your travel insurance for assistance. It’s better to seek help early if you’re not sure about your symptoms.

Please consult a doctor in case of severe abdominal pain, constant diarrhea, and vomiting, high temperature, and if you’re unable to hold down any liquid.

Remember to keep all receipts you receive for expenses occurred to submit to your insurance later!

Woman typing on laptop in bed

After the trip

Hopefully, you’ll return home healthy and happy, with memories of fun adventures and precious moments!

If you did have expenses that your insurance will cover, submit the forms and receipts as soon as possible, sometimes there’s a time limit for doing this.

It’s a good idea to review how your precautions and preparations helped you during this trip, and what was helpful or not. If you used a list, update it to reflect your new experiences. Or answer these few questions for yourself:

  • Did I get sick at all?
  • Which precautions were helpful?
  • Did I bring the right medications, clothing, equipment?
  • What will I bring next time, or do differently next time?
  • Did the travel insurance cover my needs?

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