Traveling for fun, for work, or just out of necessity can be as exhausting as it can be exciting. With your normal routine disrupted and your body in an unfamiliar place, travel can take a toll on your health. Here are some things to keep in mind to stay healthy while traveling.
Your routine consists of a thousand small actions every day, but here are key parts to consider so you can stay healthy while traveling.
- Sleep schedule. When and how much you sleep dictates your whole day. Your sleep schedule is often interrupted while traveling: both in transit and due to jet lag. Even once you’ve gotten to your destination and are tired out, the unfamiliar environment can make it hard to sleep. Anticipate difficulty sleeping and consider bringing a few things to help: comfortable pillow, eye mask, ear plugs, melatonin, warm socks.
- Hydration. You may forget to drink water amid the chaos of traveling. Dehydration can make you sick and susceptible to other diseases. Keep a reusable water bottle handy if you know the tap water will be good where you’re headed. That way you can hydrate anywhere. If you’re unsure, ask for bottled water instead.
- Medication. A wonky schedule may make you forget to take important medication. Set reminders on your phone, make a note in your calendar, or put a sticky note inside your luggage to remind yourself to take your medication.
- Dental care. Whether you’re on a cross-country road trip or a cross-global flight, pack your toothbrush in a hygienic case and don’t forget to use it. Even if you’ve crossed five time zones and don’t remember what day it is, it can’t hurt to give your teeth a brush every 12 hours at least. Bring your floss, too.
- Exercise. While in transit, you’re likely not getting much exercise. Remember to get up and walk around whenever you can. Getting a little exercise will make your trip go by faster, and it’s safer and healthier, too. Whether you’re going backpacking through Southeast Asia or you’re going to your aunt’s for Thanksgiving will determine how much exercise you get while you’re away from home. If you are stuck in a house with relatives, a few laps around the block gets the blood flowing and even clears your head!
You don’t have to travel to a strange country to be in an unfamiliar climate or physical environment. How you feel at sea level in Connecticut may be different from how you feel at 8,000 feet in Colorado. Traveling abroad may expose you to even more unfamiliar climates, weather, foods, and even some microscopic intruders that the locals are accustomed to. Here are some important factors to consider to stay healthy while traveling:
- Reactions to weather or climate. Don’t underestimate how a particular climate might be a shock to your system. Whether you’re in a desert climate, a humid region, or high in the mountains, take it slow. Do not go on a long hike immediately; don’t go for a big run as soon as you get there. Your body may not have the stamina you’re used to in this new place. Take your time with eating and drinking, especially consuming alcoholic beverages – you don’t know your tolerance in this new environment.
- Local diseases. While there are a variety of region-specific illnesses, you usually have to worry about new diseases in warmer climates, where mosquito-borne diseases are an issue for all, locals and visitors alike. If you are traveling to places where diseases like malaria, dengue fever, zika, or other diseases are transmitted, follow steps to reduce your chances of getting bitten or getting infected. Remember, even in the U.S., mosquitoes can carry disease.
- Reactions to food. If you’re in a new place and unfamiliar with the cuisine, you may have an adverse reaction to it. This could be for a couple of reasons. The first is that your body is just experiencing something new. Make sure you know your food allergies before traveling. Research the cuisine beforehand and see if you can try some out before you leave as a test. Once you’ve arrived, do your best to discern the ingredients. The second reason is you also might’ve run into some bad food. Improper preparation of food, whether hot or cold, can also lead to bacteria building up. If you’re eating out, whether at home or abroad, do your best to make sure food is properly cooked or properly refrigerated.
- Reactions to water. Microorganisms in the water can make you sick if you’re in a new place. Your symptom is usually diarrhea. While millions of locals could be drinking the water and have no issues, you may get sick after a few gulps if your body is not accustomed to those microorganisms. When in doubt, use bottled water.
We don’t want to scare you away from taking a trip, especially if it’s a fun one that might enrich your life. But the key is to travel smart. Do your research. Staying healthy while traveling doesn’t need to be difficult. Remember that taking care of yourself is just as important as anything else on your trip.