Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling

Stacey Ebert

We’ve all heard the stories or experienced them for ourselves. Bouts of traveler’s diarrhea, endless mosquito bites, the possibility of malaria and the unexpected weight gain – for many, these are par for the course of travel. Whether you’re road tripping across the US, on an African safari, exploring the cities of Europe, hitting the markets of Southeast Asia, or off to a bachelorette party in Vegas – we all want to do our best to keep ourselves healthy on our adventures. What can we do to boost our immunity and help keep the crud away?

When packing, there’s that old adage – take half the stuff and pack twice the money. The same idea goes for staying healthy on the road – cut down on the alcohol and junk, and double down on the rest. Often times the quest for adventure overtakes our need for routine, the search for the best ice cream squelches our regularly eaten kale and quinoa salad, and the desire to stay up late to take in the nightlife overpowers a body’s requirement for sleep. As we would when trying to ward off illness at home, we need to listen to our bodies, trust our instincts and remember a few simple rules: drink more water,  consume less alcohol, practice more mindfulness, reduce stress, consume more fresh foods, and exercise.

For myself, I travel with essential oils to reduce my asthma attacks and cleanse those musty smelling hotel rooms. I carry an Epi-pen (usually a few) and keep the doctor’s note tucked into my passport holder for when the customs agents require it. And, I carry a basic first aid kit.

The must haves in my first aid kit include:

  • Antihistamines (Benadryl)
  • Anti-itch cream (Cortisone)
  • Tylenol/Panadol/Advil
  • Anti-diarrhea
  • Anti-bacterial cream (Savlon)
  • Eye drops (Pataday)
  • Ace bandage
  • Sting relief
  • Band aids

To get the most out of an adventure, we need to work to maintain our health and energy.

Here are a few suggestions to keep you healthy while traveling.

Tips for Eating Healthy While Traveling

When the pizza in Naples or the sachertortes in Austria are calling your name, it’s hard to stick to only the green juices and organic everything . Balance is the name of the game. Know what makes your body feel best and think carefully about food choices. Observe your food sensitivities and allergies, limit the heavy fats and food that would be “treats” at home, and as a safe bet – always travel with snacks.

Snack Attack

If you happen to be road tripping, bring a cooler and some cool packs to keep your healthy treats safe. If you’re in a hotel, add to the mini-fridge from the market around the corner and you’ll have comfort foods no matter where you are.

Travel healthy when you fly by planning your in flight snacks. Yoghurt, string cheese, fruit and veggies, hummus, trail mix, edamame, jerky, avocados, seeds, vegan crackers, dried fruit, bananas, apples, nut/non-nut butters are all great choices. Choose foods that have a high water content, like cucumber or watermelon. These will help you stay hydrated. Think whole, unprocessed foods and go organic when you can.

Meal Choices

Choose meals that work improve travel health, just like at home, make your calories count (think grilled proteins, salads, and maybe even ask for that sauce on the side).

  • Get more protein
  • Try to limit high glycemic and friend foods 
  • If the option is available – cook your own food some of the time
  • Do your best to stick to your normal eating routine when you can
  • Consider alternatives – a simple food swap can make a big difference (salad instead of potato chips, green tea over sugar-loaded juices)
  • Eat local
  • Don’t skip breakfast

Choose Water

Dehydration is a constant threat to travel health – in order to combat those headaches, energy lows, dry skin, hunger pangs, immunity threats and so many other things, drink more water! Life on the road might be different to your normal routine so make an even greater effort to remind yourself to get that water into your routine

  • Bring a reusable bottle and fill it up every chance you get
  • Take the free water offered at your hotel 
  • Limit the alcohol and coffee (these work against hydration)

Workout Tips for Travel Health

Fitness routines are hard to keep away from home. If you can’t keep that same routine – make a new one.

  • Make a deal with yourself that you’ll never miss a workout more than two days in a row
  • Try out a new sport
  • Bring a travel yoga mat
  • Grab five minutes to dance
  • Take the stairs instead of the escalator
  • Walk the blocks instead of grabbing public transport
  • Throw a travel towel on the hotel floor and do your pushups before painting the town
  • Look for gym and class membership freebies in the city you’re visiting
  • Join Class Pass and have access almost everywhere
  • Grab a city bike and see the sights
  • Stream a workout from Youtube in your hotel room
  • Take advantage of workout equipment in parks or at the beach
  • Meditate and breathe

Make your workout work for you.

Try new things. Stretch your comfort zone by taking a circus class, uni-cycling, belly dancing, or experimenting with acro-yoga. Classes and meet up groups in parks can be found in most cities.

Find out what’s local and give it a try – take up surfing in Bondi, learn to skateboard in Venice Beach, hit the mat for yoga in India, try tai chi in China, or take a ski lesson when you’re near the slopes.

Travel Healthy: Get Your Sleep 

Sleep – it’s more important than we think! When you’re exhausted it’s harder to raise your energy level, harder to make good food choices, and, let’s be real – none of us are at our happiest or our best when all we want to do is fall down wherever we are and close our eyes. Sometimes you might have to say no to those late night dance clubs and go home after dinner and get those much needed winks in order to enjoy your next day’s adventures to the fullest.

  • Choose flexibility and spontaneity over full on constant structure – build in that rest day; sometimes the best adventures are ones you never knew were about to happen.
  • Create downtime – either full rest days where there’s down time for whatever relaxing needs to happen or at least find periods in every few days to let yourself slow down, experience the quiet and the calm and reset your body for what comes next.

In-Flight Tips for Travel Health

Fear of flying, anxiety about long flights, circulated air, claustrophobia and airplane meals all have the potential to affect your physical, mental, and emotional health. Plan ahead, take your vitamins, stretch and move, drink water, and if you still worried – grab one of those travel masks and keep your germs to yourself.

Here are some strategies for making your in-flight experience happier and healthier:

  • Read only for fun – keep that stress level down and ditch the work if you can
  • Pack healthy snacks for in flight use and choose the healthy options at the airport
  • Business travelers: give yourself some downtime on the plane to hit the reset button and ready yourself for those meetings ahead
  • Meditate before/during take off and landing
  • Drink water before you leave and throughout the entire flight
  • Stretch and move as often as possible throughout the flight
  • Use what you can for a lumbar support (lacrosse balls/scarves/blankets/jackets)
  • Up your vitamin C intake (many travelers take garlic, ginger and echinacea, too)
  • Compression socks are your friend – use them well
  • Use hand sanitizer or wipes to wipe down the seats, seatbelts, arm rests and tray tables
  • If you have an allergy to peanuts or animals – be sure to let the flight attendants know in advance

Tips for Overall Travel Health

Staying healthy while traveling takes extra effort. Take extra precautions, plan accordingly, do your research, talk to your healthcare professionals, have some semblance of a first aid kit, know your own medications (even the generic names) and travel prepared to take care of you:

  • Take your vitamins/supplements
  • Carry essential oils
  • Say yes to sunscreen
  • Up your game with probiotics
  • De-stress with yoga
  • Make your doctors aware of any mental health issues you might be dealing with
  • Carry all prescriptions with you – many countries question specific needs for medications (including epi-pens/inhalers), have your scripts/generic names of drugs at the ready
  • Let your travel partners know of any allergies to medications/foods (carry a list)
  • Carry a list of all vaccines if you’re traveling internationally
  • Have your travel first aid kit at the ready
  • Practice mindful awareness (check out viable meditation apps that work inflight)
  • Consider a digital detox
  • Always wash your hands
  • Vitamin D is important – get your fill but don’t forget to reapply that sunscreen!

Journaling or blogging your thoughts, experiences and mindful moments can be an almost theraputic health practice. Clarity, calm, and insightfulness are often nurtured through writing and help to maintain your emotional and mental well-being while you travel.

Plan Ahead for Travel Health

While we can’t prevent every illness while traveling, we can prepare ahead and have plans in place if obstacles arise. Do your research, maintain your health at home and always book travel insurance.

  • Get a physical or regular check up before you head off to make sure you’re ship shape and ready for travel
  • Never ignore your teeth; dental emergencies happen while traveling too
  • Check with the CDC/WHO for health warnings, information, and vaccination suggestions or requirements prior to travel
  • Make any travel doctor appointments well in advance
  • Do your research ahead of time – most cities offer some sort of free yoga 
  • Check out ‘meetups’ in your new location to see if you can grab a hike with an already established group
  • Find out whether the water will be safe to drink – if not pick up a purification or filtration water bottle
  • If essential oils work for you – be sure you have enough of what you might need (I carry peppermint, eucalyptus and lemon almost everywhere I travel)
  • Get travel health insurance; I know I said it twice 

TL; DR

Staying healthy while traveling is a top priority for most travelers. Take precautions, plan ahead to begin your trip in good health and maintain it while you travel. Plan ahead, eat healthy, take your vitamins, carry essential oils and hand sanitizer, travel with snacks and always say yes to more water!

  • Do your research before you travel
  • Check with the CDC/WHO for vaccines/warnings
  • See your doctor and dentist before overseas travel
  • Pack snacks; pick up healthy foods at grocery stores and buy/eat local
  • Wear sunscreen and a hat
  • Wash your hands
  • Build in rest and down time
  • Get out and move your body every day
  • Drink more water
  • Buy travel insurance

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