It’s not so easy to stay healthy when you travel, especially in the age of a global pandemic. Being in enclosed spaces for long periods of time, touching contaminated surfaces, breathing in recirculated air during flights, being in high traffic areas, plus changes in eating and sleeping patterns, can all affect our health and make it easier to get sick.
Hand-washing has always been key to protecting your health. Now it’s even more important, so make sure you always carry anti-bacterial gel, alcohol wipes or soap. If you aren’t able to get disinfectant wipes, try to get alcohol wipes to at least clean handles, seatbelts, windows or anything you and your family will be touching. When you arrive to your final destination, whether it’s a hotel or rental, it’s also a good idea to clean or wipe down any surfaces that you will frequently touch, like light switches, remote controls, phones or door knobs.
You should also plan on wearing a mask, not only to protect yourself, but also to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. Many airlines will not allow you to board or remain on a plane unless you are wearing a face covering. Experts recommend wearing a KN95 type of mask if you are concerned about your health.
There are other viruses and illnesses that you should be concerned about. Since I used to be on planes much too often, I learned to take better care of myself so I can be healthy. Although there are some viruses that are too strong, like COVID-19, there are plenty of illnesses that you can prevent with simple steps. Now it’s even more important to be extra careful, because it can be quite a challenge to get the medical care you need, especially if you’re in a city or country you don’t know or if you don’t speak the language. Another important tip: find out before you travel whether you will need to self-isolate or quarantine.
5 Tips to stay healthy when you travel
Here are my top 5 tips to stay healthy when traveling:
- Be proactive. If you or your kids are prone to catching colds, start taking extra vitamin C or zinc a day or two before your trip. You can also eat kiwis, berries and other fruits that are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. Check out 7 foods that boost your immune system. Pro tip: start hydrating before long flights.
- Plan your meals and where you will eat them. It’s always nice to explore new places when you travel, but avoid skipping meals or waiting too long to grab a bite to eat. You might be in an area that doesn’t offer many dining options. That’s why when we travel as a family, I always make sure we have a good breakfast to hold us up until we can stop for lunch. It’s also a great idea to carry snacks with you, like protein bars or trail mix. Keep in mind that each city and state has different mandates, so eating out might be harder than usual.
- Wash your hands! It still surprises me how often we forget this simple tip. When you travel, it’s even more important. Soap and water are still the gold standard, but alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a great second choice. Some people also use wipes to clean their plane armrests, safety belts and trays. Now a new study found airport security bins to be even filthier than public restrooms, so it’s a great idea to wash your hands as soon as you pass the TSA checkpoint.
- Take calculated risks when eating out. Part of the joy of traveling is trying new foods, but instead of eating everything everywhere, be selective. If the temperatures are hot, avoid creamy sauces and mayonnaise, because they spoil easily. Raw vegetables can also be contaminated in certain areas of the world, so prefer veggies that are steamed or peeled. Until the pandemic is over, I personally would avoid enclosed spaces whenever possible.
- Prefer bottled water. This is extremely important unless you’re sure of the water quality at your destination. In certain countries where drinking water might be contaminated, I even brush my teeth using bottled water to avoid gastroenteritis or what’s commonly referred to as “the stomach flu.” Pro tip: beware of beverages served with ice. Always ask whether the ice was made with filtered or bottled water. Or simply skip the ice!
Have a plan in case you do get sick
In any case, always have a plan in case you or your children do get sick while on vacation. Before leaving on your trip, snap pictures with your phone of the front and back of your insurance cards. You might also want to consider travel insurance that covers emergencies when traveling overseas. Finally, check with your credit card companies because some offer assistance and health insurance when you travel. Their customer service can even refer you to a doctor in other countries. Hopefully you will never need that service, but it’s nice to know you have it.