Traveling can be a fun and exciting experience, but nothing will ruin a trip faster than getting sick. Here are a few tips to help you remain healthy while traveling.
- Get enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation reports that healthy adults require 7-9 hours of sleep a day. Unfortunately, most of us are in constant sleep debt. Existing on 5 hours of sleep the week before traveling means not only beginning a trip exhausted but also being more susceptible to sickness. Make sure to begin your trip well rested with sufficient sleep the week before traveling.
- Have a strategy for rest on the plane. Set your watch to the destination time and then act accordingly. On long flights the lights are usually turned off so people can sleep and not disturb the flight attendants. However, if it is daytime at your destination it’s best to stay awake. Watch movies or read. Move around every hour or two. If it is night time at your destination, sleep. An eye mask, ear plugs, and a small neck pillow can be helpful. Regardless of the time at your destination, it’s best to avoid drinking coffee or alcohol.
- Once at your destination, stay awake during the day and sleep at night. Daytime naps may adversely affect your night sleep. Stay active, exercise, or take brisk walks. At night make sure the bedroom is dark and quiet with a comfortable temperature.
- Hydrate. Due to low humidity levels in the plane’s cabin and the increase in altitude and cabin pressure, it’s easy to become dehydrated, which can lead to headaches as well as dry skin, eyes, throat, and nose. Drink 8 ounces of water each hour of travel. Bring a water bottle that can be filled after going through security. Be sure to drink water before boarding as well as during the flight. Once you have landed, carrying a water bottle will help you to continue to drink water regularly. Remember that coffee, tea, cola drinks, and alcohol are all diuretics that negatively affect hydration.
- Eat healthy. Part of the fun of traveling is eating new foods but it’s important to eat foods that are hygienically prepared. Eating irregularly while traveling is easy to do, so remember to eat a balanced diet that contains fruits and vegetables. Carrying healthy snacks, such as nuts or dried fruit, will help when you need a boost of energy.
- Be prepared. Use sunscreen of at least 30 SPF to prevent sunburn. An EPA-registered insect repellent that contains at least 20% DEET will help protect against major health problems caused by mosquitoes, ticks, and other bugs. Many travelers take pro-biotics daily for a protective layer against bad bacteria. Packing an over-the-counter anti-diarrhea drug is wise to combat traveler diarrhea, and an over-the-counter pain medication will help with headaches and minor muscle pain. Plan to carry all your medication—even vitamins and supplements—in their original, clearly marked containers or packaging in a clear plastic bag in carry-on luggage.
- Check with the U.S. State Department’s “Your Health Abroad” website to get more information about staying healthy while traveling. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/your-health-abroad.html
Staying healthy is one way to make sure that traveling is a pleasant experience. Following these simple suggestions will help make your trip more enjoyable.
About the Author: Scott is the IDEAS Director of Operations for Asia. He also works as the co-Manager of the IDEAS Crisis Preparedness Team. Check out Scott's other blog posts, including: Crisis Preparation - Peace in the Midst of the Storm.