It’s always fun to travel. However, an illness while you’re on vacation can turn the destination of your dreams into a nightmare trip.
We all know that avoiding germy situations and cleaning our hands frequently are the keys to staying healthy, both at home and away from home. However, often when traveling and away from our familiar environments and routines, it’s easy to forget about all of our normal healthy habits.
The good news is that you don’t have to return from every business trip with a dry cough and head cold. You don’t have to spend part of your vacation in the bathroom with norovirus. You don’t have to dread your long flight overseas because of the man in row 12 seems to be hacking up a lung. Why? Because we’ve put together a list of 19 tips to help you stay healthy while you’re traveling.
Before You Leave for Your Trip
If you take a few extra steps in preparing before you leave for your next excursion, it can help you stay healthy while you’re gone.
- Eat healthily and avoid sugar. A few days before the trip, cut out all sweets and junk food. Foods high in sugar will suppress the body’s immune system. This immune suppression will make it easier for you to contract a virus, develop an infection or suffer from a flare-up of some kind.
If you usually drink soda or sugary drinks, eliminate them for the two days before you head out of town. Make sure you’re getting a few servings of fruit and green vegetables each day. Consider adding a green smoothie to your breakfast for extra nutrition. Steer clear of cookies, cakes and candies before your trip as well.
- Stay hydrated. We’re always encouraging you to drink plenty of water. However, before a vacation or trip, it’s even more important to keep yourself hydrated. Increase your water intake by keeping a reusable water bottle at your desk and making a goal to refill it three or four times throughout the day. Keep one on your bedside table as well so that you can drink it right when you wake each morning. Keeping your body properly hydrated will help your body flush out toxins and fight diseases.
- Keep up on your supplements. Researchers at The Cleveland Clinic recommend vitamin C, vitamin B6 and vitamin E for boosting your immune system. A couple more supplements I recommend are astragalus and zinc. Astragalus is a Chinese herb that can help the body produce immune fighting blood cells. Zinc helps your body fight infections. Consider taking these supplements to boost your immune response each day during the week before you leave. It should help you beef up your body’s natural disease-fighting system.
- Sleep well the night before your trip. While it may be tempting to stay up late packing and doing last-minute housecleaning before you leave on vacation, do your best to get most of your packing done two days before you leave. Complete the final preparations during the day before you go. Then, set a conservative bedtime for yourself the night before your trip and stick to it. The better rested you are, the better your immune system will function.
- Pack healthily. Of course, you have your normal checklist like clothes, socks, toiletries, and so on. However, remember to pack items that you might not be able to find while you’re away. If you don’t want to hunt down a health food store, pack your multivitamins and any supplements you take regularly. Pack some portioned chopped vegetables, trail mix and low-sugar energy bars for your carry-on bag so that you can snack on the plane. You don’t want to be stuck eating tasteless artificially flavored cookie snack packs and pretzels from the flight attendants. Take the best supplies along so that you don’t have to settle for a good enough substitute when you’re on your trip.
- Research restaurants at your destination. A few days before you leave, visit review sites for the city you’re going to visit. Find restaurants that serve healthy options and foods you like. Check out the ratings and make a list of the places that offer quality foods and don’t have scary reviews. The last thing you want is to stop by a cafe on a whim that sent diners home with food poisoning the week before you came.
While You’re Traveling
Whether you’re flying, driving or taking a submarine to your destination, there are a few measures you can take that will ensure you stay healthy on the way.
- If you’re traveling by car, keep a bottle of natural hand sanitizer in the console. On a long road trip, you’ll make stops along the way. Rest stops and gas station bathrooms are breeding spots for germs and bacteria. Don’t rely on the dodgy bathrooms to be stocked with hand soap. Keep some paper towels and a bottle of natural hand sanitizer so that you can make sure and keep your hands clean while you’re traveling.
- When you find your seat on the plane, take a few minutes to disinfect your space. If you’re flying to your vacation spot, it’s important that you use a natural sanitizer to clean the armrests and pull-down tray at your seat on the plane. Flight attendants are not sanitizing these areas of the plane between passengers. You never know if the person seated there before you were healthy or carrying the flu virus.
- If drink service is available, skip the soda and alcoholic beverages. It’s always nice when the flight attendants come by with the drink cart. While it may be tempting to order a stiff drink to relax before takeoff, alcohol is no friend to your immune system. The next choice may be a soda, but we all know that’s not going to help your body fight off germs and pathogens. Order sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon. Lemon juice boosts the body’s immune system by helping us absorb other nutrients better, and water aids every function in the body.
- Ask to switch seats discreetly if you’re seated next to someone who seems symptomatic. This won’t work if the flight is full, and there are no empty seats. However, that’s seldom the case. There are nearly always one or two seats open due to no-shows. If the person on the plane right next to you is very ill and visibly symptomatic, excuse yourself briefly and find the flight attendant. Ask if they will allow you to switch to another open seat on the plane. If there’s no option to switch, keep to yourself as much as possible on the flight. Wash your hands and do your best to minimize contact with your sickly seatmate.
- Deal with motion sickness naturally. If you get nauseous when you’re flying or driving, carry along a little candied ginger for the trip. It will help relieve nausea and discomfort. Other options like Dramamine can depress your body’s immune system and cause dehydration. Stick to natural remedies for this one.
At Your Chosen Place of Lodging
If you’ve ever worked in the housekeeping department of a motel or witnessed the work of the hardworking cleaning staff at a hotel, you know that the housekeepers have to work extremely quickly to clean each room and get it ready for the next guest. With their workload and time constraints, they can’t possibly clean and disinfect every surface area the way you might do at home. These rooms are used and reused all year long. When you check in, there are a few things you should always do to ensure a healthy stay.
- Don’t put your bags on the hotel floor. Recently, my sister checked into a nice hotel for a business trip. Being a wise traveler, she did not sit her suitcase on the bed or the floor. Rather, she employed the fold out luggage rack to hold her bags. When in the middle of the night, she was bitten awake by bedbugs and had to vacate the hotel, her belongings were bug-free. She was able to get situated in a noninfested room and shower without having to discard all of her things.
When you check into your hotel room, do not put your bags on the floor, the bed or into the dresser without first checking the entire room for bedbugs. Bedbugs are nasty little insects that feed on the blood of animals and humans. They don’t pose a huge health risk, but their bites are itchy and can lead to an infection. Be wise and inspect your room upon check-in and definitely before you let yourself or your belongings come in contact with the bed.
- Clean the kitchenette. If you’ve scored a room with a small kitchen or a microwave and refrigerator, clean it before you even think about using it. If it doesn’t look like it’s been used, housekeeping may skip cleaning it to save time. It’s your job to make sure food prep surfaces are sanitized before you use them.
- Sanitize the remote, doorknobs, light switches and surfaces. It will take just a few minutes to use a natural all-purpose cleaner and sanitize the surfaces in your hotel room. If you don’t have any cleaner, even taking a hand towel with hot soapy water and wiping things down will help.
- Pick up a case of water. Many hotels will charge you $4 or $5 to drink the bottled water in the room. You’re better off picking up a case of water at the local market and keeping it in your room to drink throughout your stay. Staying hydrated will help you stay healthy.
- Keep a consistent bedtime. Resist the temptation to stay up later than usual while you’re on your trip. Keep a normal bedtime and sleep cycle so that your immune system is working at its best.
When You Get Back Home
As you arrive home from your trip, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind to make sure you continue to stay healthy.
- Get to bed early. It’s easy to get home and spend hours unpacking, washing laundry and organizing photos from your trip. However, save some of your chores for the next day. Make sure you get into bed at a decent hour so that your body can rest.
- Ease out of jet lag. If you’ve traveled quite a distance, you may have a little jet lag upon your return. First, avoid caffeine consumption the first day you return from your trip. Then, if you find that you aren’t tired at your usual bedtime, take a calcium and magnesium supplement together. It will help your body relax and make it easier for you to fall asleep. Make sure you get up at your usual time the next morning even if you’re groggy.
- Plan for a recovery day (or two). Don’t plan anything the day after your vacation. You’ll need a bit of time to get back into the swing of things. If you’ve been gone for several weeks, you may need more than one day to recover. Take it easy and allow yourself the time you need to ease back into your routine.
Stay Healthy When You Travel
There’s nothing worse than being sick on vacation or returning from a trip with the flu. Take our advice to stay healthy each time you’re away from home. Bon voyage!