Whether it’s for visiting family, a quick business trip or a relaxing vacation, traveling often comes at the cost of our health. Let’s be honest, with no access to your local gym, grocery store and with new foods to be explored while often operating on a tight schedule, staying healthy can be quite challenging. Here are a few tips that could help you stay fit and safe when traveling:
BEFORE YOUR TRIP
1. Strengthen your immune system
One of the biggest challenges of traveling, especially during the winter season, is to protect yourself from colds and flus. Being on an airplane or a train with lots of people, often coughing and sneezing, exposes you to all kinds of germs that could lead to sickness. Taking a good multivitamin and a probiotics supplement are two great ways to strengthen the immune system and prevent yourself from getting ill. Echinacea, a popular American herb, has also been proven to be effective if taken as a daily dose 10 days prior traveling. It usually comes in liquid or pill form and it is considered generally safe although you should consult with your doctor for dosage and use.
2. Prepare a medical kit
Headed somewhere remote this holiday? So exciting! But it’s a good idea to bring an emergency kit for the common cold, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn (or indigestion) insomnia, allergies, fever and sore throat. Keep prescription and over-the-counter medications in their original packaging to avoid problems at customs and consider carrying with you extra doses of any regular medications you take (antibiotics, prescriptions etc).
3. Pack these items in your carry-on
Carry one or two days’ worth of prescription medicine to cover unexpected delays. Also, to keep germs at bay on plane, pack hand sanitizer; disinfecting wipes (in travel form); a shawl or scarf that can be used as a blanket; bandages and a travel neck pillow for longer trips.
4. Pack some healthy snacks
Avoiding unhealthy foods is tough enough during the holidays, but it can seem impossible at airports and on flights. Bring your own healthy snacks from home so you can say no to those unhealthy food options on board (if you must eat on the plane, check out Time Magazine’s analysis on the healthiest airline food).
AT THE AIRPORT/TRAIN STATION
When using restrooms, make sure to use a paper towel between your hand and the flush/lid. Also, make sure to close the lid before flushing and wash your hands thoroughly using paper towel to turn off the faucet. If you brought your hand sanitizer, this is a great time to use it.
6. Buy a bottle of water (or two) before boarding on a plane:
Drinking water while traveling is not only important for hydration also helps your body fight off infection. In fact, the humidity level in an airplane is between 10-20%. Why is this a bad thing? Humidity keeps your nasal passages moist, helping the linings to filter germs before entering the body In such a dry climate for hours on end, you’re very vulnerable to infection. To stay properly hydrated, drink 8 oz of water per each hour of flight. Also, if you anticipate brushing your teeth or splashing your face during your flight, use bottled water instead of the bathroom’s tap water.
7. Stock up on food:
Many airports have begun adding more healthy dining options to their array of fast food so this is your last chance to look for healthy alternatives to bring on the plane if you have not brought anything from home. Look for salads, sandwiches or sushi; skip the fatty fried or highly processed foods (pizza, fast food burgers, donuts, etc).
ON A PLANE OR TRAIN
8. Time to break out the disinfectant wipes:
Clean the back seat tray table, seatbelt buckle, armrests, headphones, digital screens, window shutters and any buttons or handles (such as tray table, remote, air vent, etc). Flight crews don’t often disinfect between flights, and cold and flu viruses can live a few hours to three days on surfaces. Also, use your carry-on as storage instead of your backseat pocket as you never know what the prior passenger has put in before you (used tissues, germ-filled napkins, etc).
9. Point the overhead air vent down in front of your face:
This will help divert potentially infectious germs away from your eyes, nose, and mouth.
10. Skip alcohol when traveling:
Alcohol dehydrates your body and weakens your immune system. This means you’ll have a much greater chance of getting sick, especially when flying. So do yourself a favor and skip alcohol when flying.
11. Don’t use the airplane blankets or pillows:
Unless they are sealed plastic, which means they have been laundered, use your own jacket or sweater for warmth or a head rest.
AT YOUR DESTINATION
12. Get Moving
When you’re in a walkable city or town, walk to appointments, restaurants, or sightseeing rather than taking a cab. If the weather is not favorable, try to get in a workout first thing in the morning so you won’t be tempted to skip it. Even most budget hotels have some kind of workout room, and hotels that don’t usually have an agreement with a nearby gym that will allow you to work out for free or at a discounted rate. Make sure to ask.
13. Commit to one healthy meal a day
Plan for at least one healthy meal a day and try to start your lunch and dinner with a green salad. Especially on indulgent vacations, your body needs key nutrients. Eating a hearty portion of greens daily will have you feeling much better by aiding digestion and curbing your appetite.
14. Keep Snacks & Water Handy
Skip unhealthy fast food options in favor of bringing your own healthy snacks. Head to a grocery store (or even better, a farmer’s market!) when you first arrive stock up on good snacks and water to keep in your bag during the day.
15. Sanitize your hands post public transport
Whether you touched the ticket turnstile, or swiped the screen on the cab, or are just not sure, wipe down your hands.
Rest is especially crucial while traveling. It can be difficult to find downtime, but scheduling a time to take a nap or turn in early will go a long way to keep you healthy during the holidays (and always).
17. Relax! Relax! Relax!
These healthy travel tips are here to help you feel your best while traveling so you can enjoy your trip, but let’s face it: things don’t always go the way we plan when traveling. Don’t get too hung up with things beyond your control, take a deep breath and let things flow. Stress weakens your immune system so find ways to relax and look at sudden changes of plans as opportunities rather than source of frustration.