Traveling healthy is key for a positive travel experience. That’s why people say “safe travels” when they see you off. The last thing you want is to spend your valuable off-time sick in bed.
I’m frequently asked if I have any tips for staying healthy while traveling. Since I am not a health professional, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview Dr. William Spangler,* global medical director at AIG Travel. The good doctor has a wealth of actionable tips for traveling healthy. He also has some good health tips on what NOT to do. Read on…
A Doctor’s Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling
Stress is debilitating. Don’t try to do too much the first day, especially when traveling across time zones. Your body is not used to traveling. The older you are, the more difficult it is to bounce back. Try to ease into your vacation or business trip. Plan so your first day is an easy one. Stroll the city the first day rather than hike. Don’t schedule a late dinner or a party night on your first day.
Some of the best health tips while traveling include, know your limits. If you have not hiked for 10 years, don’t book a hike to Machu Picchu. Search out alternative transportation.
Dos and Don’ts to Stay Healthy While Traveling
- You’ve heard it before. Depending on the country, stick to bottled water, wash your hands frequently, use antiseptic gel.
- Get a flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control, this is the single best thing you can do to prevent yourself and others from getting sick.
- Break in your shoes before you go on that trip. You will be walking a lot and uncomfortable shoes will cause you pain.
- Bring an extra pair of glasses or at least the prescription.
- Never put your medications in your checked luggage. Always bring them in your carry-on.
Staying Healthy While Traveling on a Long Flight
What actions can people take while on a long-haul flight to promote healthy travel?
To reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) that can result from sitting on a plane for long periods of time, get up and walk as frequently as possible, at least every two hours. Increase your circulation with stretching exercises. You can do these in the areas by the restrooms, by walking up and down the aisle, and even while sitting in your seat.
To clear your ears when landing, hold your nose and blow out VERY gently. Forcing the air can cause damage to the eardrum and will not make the ears clear any faster.
As you’ve probably heard, an airplane is like a flying petri dish. There are likely more germs on your fold-down tray table than in the restroom, so act accordingly. Don’t be afraid to be that guy that wipes down the tray table and armrest.
Airplane air is recycled and since there always seems to be a guy coughing and sneezing a few rows away from you, his germs are also being recycled. Wipe down and close the air vents too. Here is a situation where it can pay to be overcautious.
Needless to say, don’t fly with a cold. Landing will be very painful on your sinuses and you will needlessly jeopardize your fellow passengers.
Tips on Reducing the Effects of Jet Lag
- Drink plenty of fluids, limit alcohol – a glass of wine with dinner is fine.
- Exercise will tire you out and help you sleep.
- Try to get into the daily routine of the new location as soon as you can.
What’s in My First Aid Travel Kit?
What should every traveler have in her first aid kit to ensure they stay healthy while traveling? You may want to ask your healthcare provider about prescription anti-nausea medication and a gastrointestinal antibiotic. As for over-the-counter medication, pain medication such as Tylenol or ibuprofen can be a lifesaver. BAND-AIDs are always good to have and will come in handy in case your shoes were not broken in beforehand. And don’t forget a good quantity of antiseptic wipes.
Your medications are a critically important part of your trip. Follow these key recommendations to stay healthy while traveling abroad:
- Make sure you have enough. Stock up for at least three extra days. You never know when some unforeseen situation will keep you from returning home on time. Who knew a volcano in Iceland would delay flights in Europe?
- Make sure you know the generic name of your medication as well as the trade name, dosage and frequency.
- Keep your medication in the separate, original container if possible. Depending on what countries you travel to, you may need a doctor’s letter stating that your medications were medically prescribed. The last thing customs officials want to see is a bunch of loose pills coming into their country.
Health Myths Debunked
Are there health myths for travelers that you can address and perhaps debunk?
Probably the biggest myth I can think of is that your home health insurance will cover you overseas. Even if it does cover, you will still have to “pay-and-file” on the spot. Meaning you will have to pay for medical expenses upfront and file for insurance after you return home. This can be costly and time-consuming.
Should you have a medical emergency, you’ll want to evacuate as quickly and efficiently as possible. Medical evacuation insurance is recommended with a coverage of at least US$50,000 and preferably US$100,000. In circumstances that meet the terms of the policy, this level of coverage typically will provide for a medical evac jet or a nurse to accompany you home on a commercial flight. Depending on the situation, the cost of a medical evac will likely not be less than five figures – and a quarter of a million dollars is not unheard of.
For “regular” travel medical coverage, including dental, I recommend minimum coverage of US$10,000; US$50,000 would be preferable.
Staying healthy while traveling can make all the difference between a fun trip and a nightmare journey. I think these tips will go a long way to ensuring you minimize any health risks and enjoy your travels.
*Dr. William Spangler is based in Houston, Texas and is the worldwide medical director for AIG Travel, a company that is a global leader in medical, security, and travel assistance. Dr. Spangler completed his undergraduate studies at Albright College in Pennsylvania and received his MD from Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine.
He directs a global team of medical professionals including physicians, nurses and paramedics who assist travelers with medical concerns throughout the world. Assistance services include such activities as medical referrals, monitoring, evacuation and repatriation.
Keep Fit While Traveling: A Travel Nurse’s Guide to Traveling Healthy
Staying fit while traveling is also a serious issue and just as important as working at staying healthy while traveling. If you do your best to stay fit and healthy at home, the routine disruption of several days on the road can wreak havoc on your regular fitness schedule.
I asked Alex McCoy, a health care professional for tips on best ways to stay healthy and fit while traveling and got some simple and effective ideas.
Hello! My name is Alex McCoy and I am a travel nurse and blogger over at FitTravelLife.net. I have a passion for finding ways to prioritize fitness on the road. Whether you are traveling across the country or across the world, frequent exploring can be detrimental to any sort of health and fitness routine. BUT this does not have to be the case. By coming up with a few routines and systems you can still experience new places and enjoy healthy travel along the way.
If you are on a vacation, a lot of these rules can be a little more “relaxed.” However if you are constantly on the move or taking frequent trips, it is even more important that you stick to this advice if you have long term fitness goals. Staying healthy while traveling isn’t overly complicated, it just takes a little more planning and discipline.
Here are some health travel tips to keep you fit while on the road.
Incorporate Movement in Your Destination
Walk rather than ride around cities.
While Uber and Lyft provide a convenient alternative to public transportation, saving cash by walking also allows you to get more exercise in on sightseeing days. By walking between activities you also get the true feel of the place you are visiting and the small details like sights, sounds, and smells aren’t blocked by a car window.
Drop into a local gym or fitness class.
One way to guarantee you are up and working out before a long day of adventuring is to sign up for a class at a local gym. Most places charge a small fee ($15-20 depending on the city) but are very welcoming to visitors trying out a class for a day. The best part about small group training is you can meet some locals and ask for pointers on navigating your destination or finding the best food in the area.
Go for a jog or a walk/run and scout out the area where you are staying.
Whether you are staying for a day or a month, it is nice to have a lay of the land before planning your list of things to see. Set a route on Google maps and take a quick jog in the morning so you have a feel of how the neighborhood or city is laid out. If you aren’t a big runner, set a timer and jog for 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds while you look around.
Don’t Use Travel as an Excuse to Eat Everything
Go big on a few (planned) meals
As a big foodie myself, I like to plan out which restaurants are a must at each destination. At these locations I don’t keep myself from trying their famous dishes even if they are a little more decadent than foods I would normally eat. Part of the beauty of travel is experiencing local cuisine, so allow yourself to indulge on these occasions!
Keep healthy snacks on hand.
Another way to save money and calories is to pack or purchase a few healthy snacks. If you travel light, make a quick stop at a grocery store to pick up some fresh produce or jerky to snack on in between meals. I also like having a few protein bars on hand for breakfast on the go.
Skip the junk that isn’t worth it.
If you make a stop out of necessity to grab food, use it as a time to pick more wholesome, healthy foods. For example, if you are road tripping and fast food is the only convenient option, opt for a grilled chicken sandwich or a to-go salad if they have them. Just because you are on a trip doesn’t mean that food will taste great or make you feel good, so don’t waste extra calories on an “okay” meal.
Get Outside and Keep Fit in the Sunshine
Use apps or Google Maps to find local walking trails or places to hike.
Even if I am not motivated to get a traditional workout in, getting outside to hike or explore doesn’t feel quite as intimidating. I use All Trails a lot to find a hike that fits the timeline I have in mind and look for routes with scenic overlooks or waterfalls. Some of my best travel photos have been thanks to getting out into nature and away from the traditional areas most tourists visit.
Try a new activity.
The beauty of travel is you are often introduced to environments or climates that are different from home. Look for ways to try something unique to the area you are in that also doubles as physical activity. If you are somewhere warm, look for local bike tours or a body of water where you can rent kayaks. In colder locations, try something new like snowshoeing or skiing. This is a great way to get some movement in and also experience local culture.
Use a local park to get a quick workout in.
I am a big fan of interval training on vacation. In 20 to 30 minutes you can get sweaty and work all of your muscle groups, then be ready to move on with the fun stuff you have planned. Parks are a great place to find equipment that can be used to mix up your workout routine. Use a bench for step ups, monkey bars for pull ups, or do lunges on small bleachers. Don’t stress too much about what you are doing, just get moving!
While getting bigger, stronger, and faster doesn’t have to be a priority when you are on a trip, I highly encourage you to keep up some sort of basic routine for health and fitness. Taking a few weeks off of eating right and exercising makes it that much hard to keep fit at home when you finally get back to normal.
Here are a couple of guides to help you get started:
If you travel a lot, these health travel tips are especially important for long term health and longevity, which is the key to being able to continue traveling.
What are your tips for staying fit while traveling? We’d like to know.
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BTW, if you are getting ready for your trip, make sure to take advantage of these useful, money-saving links to book your trip:
- Research and book your flight with Skyscanner. I have found them to be the best because they list all airlines including the budget ones. You are always sure of having researched all options. You can also book your car rental through Skycanner.
- For car rental in Europe that has flexible pickup and drop-off options, I recommend Auto Europe.
- Book your accommodation with Booking.com. I find they have the widest selection and a nice, user-friendly, transparent website.
- If an Airbnb experience is more your style, book Airbnb here and get a $40 credit towards your first stay.
- Protect your trip and, more importantly, protect yourself with travel insurance. I use World Nomads and have been very happy with them.
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- For more general tours to any destination or attraction, book with Viator. Check them out.
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