When travel became a major part of my life about 10 years ago, I’d always get sick either before, during, or after a trip. It was like clockwork; I almost started really believing that catching a cold or feeling like crap at some point was just a normal part of traveling. Can you relate? If so, please keep reading, because it really doesn’t have to be this way (cue some hallelujah music). Turns out, I was being my own worst enemy and doing all the wrong things to keep my body and immune system strong, and you might be too.
Today, after big moves across the United States and the Equator, with lots of travels in between, I can say I’ve learned the hard way (sneezing and sniffling) how to keep myself from getting sick while traveling. Sitting on my sister’s deck this Kansas summer morning, 5,000 miles away from home, I’ve compiled a list of my tried and true ways to keep your body and immune system strong – these tips work whether you’re traveling for a few days or a few weeks.
Bring your good habits with you:
It took you months to consistently eat 4 servings of veggies a day (or mediate, workout, journal, stop binge-drinking, whatever “it” is for you), don’t leave it behind while on vacation. These core habits are part of your lifestyle and they keep your body, mind, and, spirit healthy – all which affect your immunity. Obviously, you have to be flexible in making this work while away from home, but you can so do it. For example, if you’re staying with friends or family and cooking-in, offer to make your favorite veggie dish or buy a veggie tray to snack from throughout the day. Who knows, your good habit might even rub off on others – a win-win all-around.
Don’t overbook yourself right before or after your travel dates (less pre/post vacation stress):
I used to be so bad at this – running around like a crazy woman the day before or planning something important the day after returning from a trip. I know it’s hard with busy schedules, but you have to plan ahead and not book yourself solid at least the day before and the day after a trip (or the day of if you are leaving late at night, you get the point). It will always take you longer than you think to pack, get everything squared away for while you’re gone, and then get back in the groove when you return. Trust me, make this a priority and book pre/post vacation blocks in your calendar and you will reduce your stress levels – keeping your immune system strong.
Take immune boosting herbs and vitamins:
If you regularly take vitamins, don’t forget them (I’ve regrettably done that more than once). It’s also a good idea to bring an extra supplement specifically to help keep your immunity strong. This could be Vitamin C supplements, Echinacea, or my new personal favorite, bee propolis. All of these give you that extra boost that you will need since you are in new surroundings with different germs and bacteria.
Wash your hands (a lot) and carry hand sanitizer:
We all know to wash our hands after using the bathroom and before eating (if you don’t, you need to make that a new habit), but while on vacation you really should wash your hands more than you think is necessary. Your skin is your first line of defense and your hands specifically are always touching things and then touching your own face, mouth, or eyes. My rule of thumb is this: when I see a sink with soap, I wash my hands. I also always have a travel size bottle of hand-sanitizer. It’s the best while on an airplane and running around doing fun, travel activities.
Plan to take it easy sometimes:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it – you’re on vacation so you want every single minute jam packed. It sounds great in theory but awful in practice. It took me years to finally make this a travel priority but once I planned chill time (aka me time) and stuck with it, my vacations were much more stress free, and guess what, I starting getting sick less often. Coincidence, I think not. If you’re traveling with family that loves to keep things jam packed or kids that need constant entertainment, plan a pool day or even just a “free” day that has nothing pre-scheduled. This gives you time to just go with the flow and that’s always super fun too.
Don’t skimp on your sleep:
This is important before, during, and after the trip. Of course, you might have a late night here or there (you are on vacation after all), but make sure you keep getting a healthy 7-9hours per night. I know it can be difficult to sleep well while away from home, but you can always take some natural sleep supplements with you and try to make your sleeping area as comfortable as possible. For me, that means a quiet, dark room with a glass of water by the bed.
Keep healthy snacks around:
While on vacation, it’s normal to try local foods that aren’t exactly considered healthy (last night my sister enthusiastically made one of her favorite deep fried recipes), and that’s OK. However, if you eat unhealthy your whole trip, you will lose energy and increase your chances of getting sick. The best thing to do is bring some healthy snacks with you and/or buy some when you arrive. I don’t travel without some sort of nut mix and I almost always buy fruits, Greek yogurt (if a fridge is available), and protein bars. This gives my immunity a boost and keeps me less tempted to eat something unhealthy on the go when hunger creeps up.
Drink lots (and lots) of water:
When I’m traveling, I take my already high amount of water drinking per day to another level. You won’t see me get on a plane, leave the hotel, or go out to eat without bringing water. Drinking water is a big must while you travel because it flushes your body of toxins, helps your digestion (which is associated with your immune system) and keeps you hydrated. Keep water with you throughout the day and chug a glass before you head out in the morning and before you go to bed.
Follow these tips, and next time you get back from traveling you won’t have say, “I had a great time, but unfortunately, I got sick”. Instead, you can say how awesome it was and start planning your next vacation!
Do you have any other tips to not getting sick while traveling? I’m always down to learn a new trick – share in the comments below.
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