How to Stay Healthy While Traveling

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Written by: Sarah Sherren | Best Company Editorial Team

Last Updated: June 26th, 2020

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Since the shutdown in travel caused by the coronavirus outbreak, consumers are more aware than ever about how easily germs spread. Rising positive case counts showed everyone that there are a lot of germs hiding on common surfaces and in all public places. In a world that is more self-aware, how can we travel in a healthy, safe way?

Hydrate and eat healthy foods

An important aspect to avoiding sickness and fatigue is making sure your body is in the best possible shape it can be. If flying on a plane, be sure to drink plenty of water. Flying is extremely dehydrating, and you may need more water than the bottle given to you before a long flight. Take a refillable bottle on your trip, that way you can fill it up after passing through security and be sipping it all the time. 

When taking road trips, it may be inconvenient to stop several times for bathroom breaks, but staying hydrated outweighs the risk. It’s also a good idea to give yourself stretch breaks to walk around and get a little bit of walking in to help you feel better.

It’s also important to have healthy travel snacks when going on vacation. Having nutrient dense foods will better equip your body with what it needs to fight off any virus or bacteria you come in contact with. Carolyn Scott-Hamilton, The Healthy Voyager, also recommends avoiding caffeine, alcohol, salt, and sugar before and during any flights. These foods and beverages contribute to dehydration and prevent getting restful sleep. Travelers should also be aware that alcohol also has 2.5 times the effect while flying.

Buy travel insurance

Booking vacations can already be expensive, so why pay more for travel insurance? Everyone who had a trip affected by the coronavirus will probably attest to the benefits of having a travel insurance policy. It may not cover everything, but having a good policy for the type of vacation you want to take will definitely be worth the extra cost, even if it just gives peace of mind. 

The price of each travel insurance policy depends on what it covers. The cheapest plans will only cover the basics while more expensive plans can cover more. According to VisaGuide, most basic plans will cover medical expenses, trip cancellation, stolen items, and missed flights through no fault of your own. More expensive plans can cover rental cars, natural disasters, and cancellation for any reason. Cancellation coverage will definitely give you some peace of mind when dealing with things like COVID-19. 

It’s important to keep in mind that travel insurance usually will not cover pre-existing medical conditions, expenses related to pregnancy, and any harm or injury brought on by your own actions. Travelers should also check for travel advisories and make sure their insurance plan covers the country or destination they want to visit.

Have a health emergency plan

In addition to having travel insurance coverage, travelers should also have a plan in case a health emergency arises. Whether it be pre-existing conditions or a new sickness that develops, vacation planners should take into account what healthcare is available in the areas they’ll be traveling to. 

It may also be helpful to research the medical facilities around to know what to expect. Domestic travel might not have health care much different than what a traveler is used to, but going outside the country could yield different results.

Every country’s healthcare system is different. Travelers can check the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers website for information on healthcare around the world. Some important things to consider when looking at a country’s healthcare system include the availability of facilities in the cities you’ll be visiting, including hospitals, emergency rooms, and pharmacies. 

You should also know how hospitals take payment in the country you’re visiting. Some countries will require upfront payment, even if a traveler has health insurance. If you get sick on your trip, call your travel insurance provider first and the provider can assist you on protocols for the country you’re in. Travelers may have to pay the bill and receive a reimbursement later. 

Bring your own travel essentials

These days, bringing your own disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer is always a good idea. When it comes to hotel rooms, rental cars, restaurants, and other locations throughout your vacation, you can never really know how clean any surface is. It’s best to keep some disinfecting wipes with you in a carry-on or personal item. On an airplane or in a rental car, a quick wipe down of any touch screens, arm rests, trays, or other common surfaces could prevent coming into contact with a lot of germs. 

Hotels should be stepping up their cleaning game, but you can never be too sure how clean your room will be. In the case of an Airbnb or Vrbo rental, you can’t really request new sheets. If you want to be sure your sheets are clean, Raymond, The Travelling Foodie, recommends bringing your own set of sheets. This might seem inconvenient when it comes to luggage space, but having a dedicated set of clean travel sheets, even if you’re in a hotel, could protect you from contact with all sorts of germs. 

If you prefer a certain type of sheet or pillow over another, bringing your favorites could also help you get a better night’s sleep!

Get enough sleep

Similar to staying hydrated, getting enough sleep is another measure to take when trying to prevent disease and sickness. Traveling often disrupts our sleep cycles, leaving us fatigued and our immune system compromised. 

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Highlight: Sleep can help your immune system

"Many body systems don't function very well on low sleep; among other things, the restorative nature of sleep is necessary to keep pain management, cognitive functioning, and the immune system running. This is why adequate sleep is beneficial to boost the immune system to fight off infections. Studies show that getting more than seven hours of sleep makes people four times less likely to catch a cold compared to people sleeping less than six hours. While poor sleep leads to a weakened immune system, being well-rested enhances the response of the microscopic cells that are vital to fighting viruses, bacteria, and other sources of disease," says Dr. Patricia Celan, M.D.

Working around your sleep schedule can be difficult when you’re traveling, but it’s definitely worth it. If you’re changing time zones on your trip, start adjusting your sleep schedule a few days prior to leaving. This will help adjust your circadian rhythm, the internal clock that tells our body when to sleep. 

The Sleep Foundation studies the effects of sleep on our bodies and notes that our circadian rhythms crave consistency. Starting to adjust your internal clock before you leave will help you better adjust to the new time zone and get good, quality sleep while you’re traveling.

Stay healthy

It’s not easy to avoid germs and sickness while traveling, but there are a few things you can do. Keeping your body in the best shape possible will maximize your chances of fighting off any disease or sickness you encounter. It’s important to hydrate, watch what you eat, and get enough good sleep. You can also be prepared by bringing your own sheets, blankets, and pillows when you travel to give you peace of mind about the surfaces you’re touching. 

As always, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer are travel musts in any carry-on or personal bag and can be used to clean common surfaces. Travel insurance is also a great investment and can give peace of mind to any traveler and be a great part of an emergency health plan while abroad.

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