Medication, hospitals and doctors, oh my. Unless you’re visiting some historic attraction, these are probably the last things you want to think about when you’re traveling, right? How do you create a healthy travel plan? How do you stay healthy during your trip?
Traveling heals the soul but can also take a toll on your health. An upset stomach, sunburned cheeks and a pound or two more on your hips are often part of the deal. We’re put together a few simple tricks and tips that will help you to stay healthy traveling and make the most of the best time of the year.
A vacation is supposed to be a joyful time out, away from social responsibilities and work. Nothing heals a stressed body and mind better than two weeks on the beach in a tropical dream destination — or hiking through the Andes, depending on what you’re into.
We know that traveling can also be quite challenging at times. Leaving your comfort zone and dipping into the unknown is an adventure with many risks. We’ve all had our fair share of travel-related stress, bumps and bruises, germs and bed bugs, hangovers and upset tummies after too much mysteriously delicious street food.
If you have a chronic medical condition, you’re probably already aware that your trip planning might include a few extra steps. Even if you’re not, and the only medicine you take is your daily vitamin, there are still some issues of concern that you might want to address before you head out to catch your flight. You never know when you might catch a bug or find yourself running to the restroom because of something you ate abroad.
Thankfully, there are ways around the negative experiences! To help you make the most of your trip, we’ve collected 10 smart tips that will help you stay healthy while traveling!
Follow these tips to stay healthy during your trip.
13.) Stick To A Balanced, Healthy Diet
A vacation is no excuse to throw all good intentions overboard. Make sure to stick to the diet you’re used to from home as much as possible. Of course, some foods you’re usually having for breakfast, lunch or dinner might not be available in your vacation destination and you’ll want to try all the delicious local foods. Don’t ignore local health warnings. It’s fun to be adventurous and try new foods when traveling to a new country, but stay smart!
The goal here is to not over-eat on stuff that is not contributing to your good health and makes you feel crappy. Think oven-baked baguette, high-fat cheese, lush red wine, and chocolate-stuffed croissants when visiting France. Treat yourself here and there but don’t overdo it.
Have at least one fresh meal per day and always include fresh veggies and fruit. Consider getting an Airbnb with a kitchen, so you’ll be able to cook your own meals now and then. You can also buy your own veggies or ready-made salad from the grocery store. Grocery stores in different countries can be a fun adventure in itself!
To stay healthy traveling, never ever skip breakfast. You might end up on a day trip with no healthy options around and will hate yourself for not having planned ahead and left with an empty stomach. Which brings us to the next tip.
12.) Always Pack Snacks
To not end up starving on your trip to the museum or an extensive hike, pack nuts, fruits, veggies or protein bars. Take a trip to local farmers markets or grocery stores and explore all the unfamiliar healthy options. Should you end up with an empty stomach but a big appetite and no snacks, make smart choices.
A clever tip to stay healthy traveling that might prevent you from getting food poisoning: When in doubt, if it isn’t boiled, baked or peeled — don’t eat it.
Need some snack-spiration? Check out our ideas for healthy snacks!
11.) Make Sure Your Vaccinations Are Up To Date
The smartest way to stay healthy traveling is to check up with your doc before even leaving the country. Do you need to refresh vaccinations or immunities? Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid Fever, Yellow Fever and Cholera vaccines are a must-have for any trip you’re taking to Central and South America, Africa or Asia.
Vaccines protect travelers from serious diseases. Depending on where you travel, you may come into contact with diseases that are rare in the United States, like yellow fever. Some vaccines may also be required for you to travel to certain places. Getting vaccinated will help keep you safe and help you stay healthy during your trip. It will also help make sure that you don’t bring any serious diseases home to your family, friends, and community.
Depending on where you’re traveling, you might require vaccinations for endemic diseases or malaria preventatives. If you ever have the travel question “should I get shots before I go”, The Center for Disease Control can help you figure out what you need. Start early: some vaccines, such as the one for yellow fever, might only be available from the health department. Malaria prophylaxis generally has to be started before you enter the infected area and vaccinations take some time to kick in.
10.) Prepare Your Meds for Customs
You will probably be tempted to throw your vitamins and medications into convenient little travel containers. Don’t. Keep everything in the original bottles with the original (prescription or not) labels. If you have something that came in a box such as an asthma inhaler, either cut the label off and bring it with you or fold the box down and stick it in your luggage. Along with this, if you’re under the care of a doctor, get a note on official letterhead. This is especially important if you’re carrying anything that requires needles, such as insulin or an Epi-Pen. A doctor’s note will make customs and security easier, and will also help if you somehow lose your medication overseas and need to get it replaced.
Be prepared to answer questions at the airport and border crossings about the medications you are carrying – have a spare prescription on hand and a doctor’s note, if necessary. Unless it requires refrigeration, pack your medication in your carry-on and not your checked bag to minimize loss or theft. If you are traveling with another person, consider splitting the medication for the same reason. Be prepared with a backup plan if your medication is confiscated. Have an original prescription and a letter from your doctor to facilitate the consultation. Make sure you have travel medical insurance and check that it will cover lost, stolen, or confiscated medications.
9.) Check the Laws
Do not assume you can take medicines to certain countries. Make sure the medicines you are taking into countries are legal when you are about to visit. In some places, travelers have been imprisoned for possession of cold medicine and common supplements like melatonin. In most countries, you won’t have much to worry about, but you don’t want any nasty surprises at Customs.
The State Department’s consular information sheets have a lot of detailed information on every country, including where to find their lists of banned medication. If you still have any doubts about something you’re bringing with you, call the country’s embassy. Spending ten minutes on the phone is a hell of a lot easier than spending four years in jail because you didn’t know the laws.
8.) Consider Getting Travel Insurance to Have a Healthy Travel Trip
If you’re unlucky enough to need a hospital while you’re traveling, insurance can help. Of course, in most other countries health care costs infinitely less than it does in America, but it can still add up. Many travel insurance plans do not pay up front: you pay your bill, submit a claim to them and get reimbursed as per their fee schedule.
Still, better late than never, right?
For Americans, an International Student, Youth or Teacher Identity Card offers basic reimbursement insurance for international trips. If you’re not eligible for an ISIC, IYIC or ITIC, membership with Hosteling International USA is open to all and provides similar coverage. You can usually also purchase travel insurance when you purchase your airplane tickets and bundle them in. Just make sure to check what’s covered so it’s worth it.
You might want one of those memberships anyway since they come with perks and discounts that can stretch your travel budget.
7.) Drink Enough Water
Always, always, always carry your own refillable travel water bottle with you. During exciting days in new cities or adventurous trips to remote places, we easily forget to have enough water.
Make sure to rely on filtered water only, avoid tap water and skip iced cubes when you can’t be sure whether they’re made from tap water or not. Remember – ice is often tap water so ask for your drinks without ice. Purification tablets are a great invention and can be purchased online.
We understand your worries. It might not be convenient having to pee in a public restroom or having to ask your way to a toilet in a foreign language. But your body is going to thank you big time. This goes hand in hand with the next tip …
6.) Cut Down on Alcohol and Sweet Drinks
Alcohol and sweet drinks are not just packed with sugar and therefore high in calories. They’ll disrupt your natural sleep pattern — which may already be out of control thanks to the time difference or long nights out.
If you are drinking alcohol, make sure you hydrate. Dehydration happens when the body loses water with more liquid coming out of the body through our cells than what we are taking in. What happens is your body has to work harder to cool off, to ward off infections, and to fight fatigue.
Again, stick to water instead and you’ll be able to make most of your vacation. And yes, you’re on vacation and it’s still ok to treat yourself now and then. The key is, as with so many good things in life: Consumption in moderation.
5.) Protect Your Skin
We get it. You’d like to show up at the office with that post-vacation glow and a jealousy-provoking tan. But don’t take the aftermath of long, unprotected exposure to the sun too lightly.
Wear a hat and cover up under lightweight clothing. Bring travel packs of sunscreen or buy them locally. Don’t be shy to ask the hot guy hanging out in the hotel pool to help you put some sunscreen on your back. It all has its perks.
4.) Walk Everywhere and Exercise Daily
No gym within reach? No worries! Walking is still one of the best exercises. Don’t suddenly be lazy after working hard all year long to get ready for bikini season. Take the stairs whenever possible and take advantage of all the free fitness classes on YouTube.
Try Yoga With Adriene and fall in love with the way your body moves and feels after a fun workout. Then enjoy the rest of your day being lazy on the beach.
3.) Combat The Jetlag
We all hate it, that’s undeniable: Jet-lag is a mood-killer. But there are ways to give your body a little boost and make crossing several time zones less intense. Before boarding your flight, switch to your destination’s local time on your phone or watch.
Once you’ve arrived force yourself to stay awake until it’s really time to go to bed. If you arrive early in the day have a little nap. Just enough to not feel like a train wreck.
Avoid alcohol at all costs. Instead, drink plenty of water or juice to stay hydrated. Avoid coffee, tea and soft drinks and consider fasting on your flight.
Sleep on the flight. Don’t forget to pack a cozy sweater and settle in for a nap. To help, we’ve got a list of items flight attendants recommend bring on your carry on! It does wonders for when you arrive at your destination, well rested and ready to explore!
2.) Create Smart Sleeping Habits
It’s easy to forget or underestimate how important it is to get enough sleep while traveling and exploring new, exciting destinations. You’re crossing time zones, carrying heavy luggage, possibly speaking a foreign language or at least making an effort, walking miles every day and so on.
Once you’re able to get over the jetlag, make sure to get plenty of quality sleep.
Your mind, body and spirit need to recharge on both short and long trips. So be mindful and give yourself enough rest.
1.) Time for a Digital Detox
A quick and easy way to stay healthy traveling is to put the phone away for a minute and take a detox from the digital world. Maybe that’s the perfect moment to try your hand at analog photography. Whatever you choose to fill your new-found time with, it’s going to be a total mental makeover! Less stress = healthy lifestyle!
Enjoy your vacation and try your best to stay healthy traveling!
You’ve got more tips? Feel free to share them with us in the comments below!