Travelling is one of the best parts of life. Being able to discover new cultures, explore new places and meet new people is a great way to experience life in different ways and learn more about yourself in the process. One thing you don’t want to learn, though, is how easily you can get sick while traveling. Between questionable meals, jet lag, and sunburns, you can find out pretty quickly that your immune system is not that immune.
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid travel sickness. Here are 20 smart ways to stay healthy and free of any illnesses when you travel.
Cleaning crews are required to clean the plane after every flight, but it doesn’t hurt to give them a helping hand, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic. Maybe they missed a spot, so that’s where you come in. If you want to avoid a third encounter with the germs left behind by other passengers, sanitize the surfaces you touch like the chair’s arms or seat belt clip.
“When traveling, your hands become ‘fomites,’ which are items that transfer germs picked up from touching surfaces,” says dermatologist Cynthia Bailey, MD, founder of Dr. Bailey Skin Care. Her suggestion? “Travel with hand sanitizer wipes! Always wipe down the arms, remote, seat belt clip, and all hard buttons or structures you touch on your seat. Then discard the wipe.”
Stay hydrated during your flight
You may not realize it but the air inside a plane can be quite stale and leave you dehydrated and tired. Fortunately, there are easy ways to make sure you stay hydrated during your flight like eating high-water-content foods that are refreshing, hydrating, filled with nutrients, and naturally low in calories (your waistline will also thank you for it).
“I suggest eating light and water-filled foods, such as a small salad and a piece of fruit, and drinking plenty of water on the plane as the air humidity is much lower than our normal environment, and it’s so easy to become dehydrated,” says Tara Nayak, ND, a Philadelphia-based naturopathic doctor.
Get your shots
Don’t step foot in an airplane, or better yet, don’t even book your trip, unless you’ve taken all your necessary shots, especially if you plan on visiting a place where you’re at risk for picking up an illness such as malaria. “People should use the CDC website for recommended vaccines with travel or see a travel clinic,” advises Christina Bowen, a board-certified integrative family medicine physician.
Having ice in your drink is not recommended in an area where water quality is an issue. Don’t think freezing the water will do any good; the bacteria and other contaminants can still remain in the water. “Do not order ice if the water’s in question,” says Bowen. “And only drink bottled beverages.”
Get up periodically during your flight
Flights may last for many hours so it’s a good idea to get up periodically and move around to decrease your chance of developing blood clots. “It is important to break up long plane rides or long car rides by getting up frequently to move around and stretch. This can help decrease your risk of blood clots. It can also save your back from aching after you’ve been slouching for hours in the same position in a tiny seat,” says Jasmine Marcus, DPT.
Load up on vitamins
Want to boost your immune system as much as possible? You can do it even before you go on your flight by taking the right vitamins to double down on your immune health and prevent you from getting sick. “I always take a bit of vitamin A and vitamin D before boarding a plane to improve my immune function,” says Nayak.
Add some probiotics to the mix
Probiotics are good bacteria that help you control your gut flora. While you can’t control the environment you’re traveling to, you can control your body and the way it reacts to various illness-causing bacteria. “On vacation, I always up my dose of probiotics to make my body less friendly to invading bacteria,” says Nayak.
Avoid drinking during your flight
A little bit of alcohol to make the flight more pleasant, especially if you’re afraid of flying, might seem tempting but, in reality, it’s not a really good idea. “I advise strongly against drinking alcohol while aboard a plane! I know it’s tempting to get your vacation started, but it only contributes to dehydration,” says Nayak. More than that, alcohol dehydrates you and can extend the jet lag feeling, leaving you sleep-deprived and more vulnerable to illnesses.
Bring some melatonin with you
If you’re traveling for many hours, to a place with a different time-zone, you’re probably going to experience jet lag. However, if you want to adjust as soon as possible, have a good night’s sleep and keep your immune system strong, bring some melatonin with you. “Taking melatonin to help with jet lag will make a difference when adjusting to new time zones,” says Bowen.
Don’t touch your face
People touch their faces more than 16 times in an hour. It was not good before and it certainly is not good now, amid the coronavirus pandemic. It may not be an easy task but avoid touching your face if you’re not wearing a face mask! “Try very hard not to touch surfaces and do NOT put your hands to your eyes, nose or mouth when traveling—that will transfer germs into your ‘portals of entry,’ unless you have freshly washed them in trusted water,” says Bailey. “Carry facial tissues and use them if you need to rub your eye or touch your nose.”
It’s easy to let yourself be taken in by the exotic landscape, summer breeze, sand, and sun. But that’s no reason to forget about your skin! If you want to avoid damaging your skin and ruining your vacation, “wear protective clothing, like long sleeves and pants that have a breathable material, in hot areas,” suggests Bowen.
Drink seltzer instead of soda
Sugary drinks are sweet, cheap and easy to get but they are definitely not healthy. Instead of opting for a sugary drink full of added sugar, go for sparkling water. It will keep you hydrated and ready to eat foods that are usually not part of your menu.
“A nice trick to help digestion while traveling is to have a small glass of room temperature club soda or hot water with lemon about 15 minutes before each meal. This is easily done by ordering one of these beverages first thing when you sit down at a restaurant. By the time your food comes you will have jump-started your digestion and be much less prone to heartburn/indigestion, especially if you’re indulging in rich foods,” says Nayak.
Take regular walks before you leave
If you want to avoid any injuries during your travel, make sure your body is up for any effort. “Travelers who know they’ll be doing a lot of walking on vacation should train for their trips by gradually increasing their walking before they leave,” says Marcus. “This will prevent overuse injuries such as tendonitis.”
Keep your lips moisturized
Lip balm is an important item for your safety and health as you travel as dry and cracked lips can turn into a gateway for infection. “In flight, apply lip balm that you do not dip your fingers into. Airplane air is drying,” says Bailey.
Load up on electrolytes
We’re not saying sugary sports drinks are healthy but electrolytes in these drinks can help you prevent any illnesses while you travel.
“I always travel with powdered electrolytes as well and try to have an electrolyte drink at least once a day. My favorite is Alka Calm. This is a no sugar formula that tastes great,” says Nayak. “As this contains magnesium, it combats a common traveler concern: constipation.”
Increase your fiber intake
Apart from vitamins, make sure you eat plenty of fiber-rich foods during your travel. “I recommend eating as much fresh fruit and vegetables as you can while on vacation unless you are concerned about contamination! A breakfast of fresh fruit with a bit of protein is best as you will be providing your body with vitamin C and other minerals and nutrients that aid immunity,” says Nayak.
Wear your shoes before you go
You might be tempted to show off your new pair of shoes while traveling, but it’s one of the worst ideas ever. You could be traveling for hours with your feet trapped in rigid, vise-like shoes. You don’t want to start your trip on the wrong foot, do you?
“The best thing to do is break in new shoes before traveling,” says Marcus. “Sometimes shoes seem comfortable in a store or for a short period of time, but if worn all day can leave you with blisters. Avoid surprises on vacation by giving shoes a few test runs before vacation.”
Take B vitamins with you
One drink at your hotel bar can easily turn into a few drinks. Luckily, there’s a way to stay in control and maintain good health. “I always travel with an activated B complex supplement. This is my go-to hangover prevention!” says Nayak. “Alcohol depletes these vitamins, so if you’re letting loose on a trip, this can help speed up your recovery!”
Ask for help with your bags
If you have to travel with heavy bags (if you’re a woman, that usually goes without saying!) make sure you don’t hurt yourself trying to lift all of them. You wouldn’t want to injure yourself before you reach your destination. “Ask for help with lifting bags if you need it. Don’t strain yourself by trying to heave a heavy bag into an overhead compartment,” says Marcus.
Bring some tea with you
Passport? Check. Favorite bathing suit? Check. Sun cream? Double-check. But aren’t you forgetting something? If you want to stay healthy and full of energy on your trip, don’t forget to pack a few tea bags in your suitcase.
“Bring a few bags of licorice, marshmallow root, or throat coat tea, which has a combination of herbs. These are demulcent teas, meaning they coat and soothe the mucus membranes,” says Nayak. “If you do have heartburn or indigestion, or if you have a stomachache from alcohol, rich foods, etc., these are an easy food remedy to travel with. You can even purchase real licorice chews called DGL chews or real dried licorice root candies for the same effect.”