We are currently living in a daily state of health and travel updates. For those with travel plans on the books, each day brings new information and challenges. Trips, conferences, and festivals are being cancelled. Airlines are cutting flights. Museums and other public places are shutting their doors.
Yet, despite all of this, someday (hopefully soon), this crisis will pass, and we will choose to travel again. We will book new flights, take out good travel insurance, and make big plans. For those of us who love to travel, we will go on experiencing the world.
As we move into a new travel future, it’s helpful to remember how to prepare for your own health and safety. Perhaps you’ve always been a diligent and ultra-prepared traveler, or perhaps you’ve been more relaxed in your planning. Regardless, we owe it to ourselves and our fellow travelers to be responsible.
Know Your Emergency Plan
No matter whether you are going to a developed country or a more remote part of the world, you should always make an emergency plan.
- Check out the State Department’s Traveler’s Checklist before you go.
- Where is the nearest consulate and/or embassy? Write down the address and phone number and keep them accessible on your phone or printed in your bag.
- Stay informed on any travel advisories and warnings. Check the US State Department and the CDC to understand the state of the countries/region where you’ll travel.
- Get all the immunizations to keep yourself healthy. Some will be good for years, so you’ll be covered for multiple trips.
- Make a list of all your travel plans, including locations and contact info where you will be staying, and leave them with a partner, friend, and/or family member in case they need to reach you. Make yourself an emergency contact list with phone numbers in case you need to contact people back home; if you lose your phone or can’t use it, or don’t have access to email, this old-school printout will be useful.
- If traveling to a country where English is not the primary language, write down a few phrases to help in case you need them: I need a doctor, where is the hospital, I need to make a phone call, do you speak English, etc. Google translate and other apps can help with this. Be prepared that you might not find someone to speak English when you need it.
Pack like a Professional
In today’s travel climate, baggage fees are a reality, but don’t sacrifice health for a free bag. Travel can be unpredictable, as the Coronavirus has taught us. We need to be prepared in case plans change, we get sick, or we find ourselves in a health emergency. Here are some reminders about items to pack.
- Buy an emergency medical kit. They aren’t large and won’t take up much room in your luggage. This kit will include many essentials if you get sick, have a mild injury, a small cut or blisters, and they will help temporarily while you see out more help. Before each trip, make sure that the items in your medical kit haven’t expired and that you’ve restocked on items you used last trip.
- Buy wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and small packs of Kleenex. Wherever you travel, you will be around other people. You may come across less than sanitary restrooms or public spaces. You want to stay healthy while enjoying your vacation. Taking simple precautions like having the hand sanitizer with you, or wiping down surfaces, are easy steps to take.
- Bring Medicines you use when sick at home. If you’re away from home, especially in a foreign country, you may find yourself coming down with a cold, allergies, or flu. There’s nothing that’ll make you feel worse than trying to tell a foreign pharmacist what you need in a different language or with hand gestures, or having to google translate items on a shelf. It’s comforting to find the meds you need right in your bag and to just curl up in your hotel/hostel bed and sleep. Remember to pack the medicines in their original containers.
Take Care of Your Health
Traveling gives us a chance to vacate our normal responsibilities and enjoy ourselves. However, it’s easy to forget that you are just as susceptible to getting sick away from home if you don’t take care of yourself. Life is stressful, and travel can be stressful, too.
- Eat Well. Traveling lets us eat new foods and splurge in ways we might not at home. That being said, sometimes your body needs a break from new foods, fried foods, or heavy/rich foods. Know your body. When you start to feel lethargic from too much of a good thing, take a break for a meal or two. Eat simple. Find a salad or a light sandwich. Eat some yogurt and fruit. Yes, eat healthy on vacation! All things in moderation!
- Drink More Water & Ease Up on the Caffeine and Alcohol. Your body likes water, and it needs it to replenish itself. If you find yourself losing energy, take a look at what you’ve been drinking. Have you had enough water? Have you been drinking more caffeine or alcohol than you’re used to? Listen to your body and take care of it.
- Build in Quality Sleep Time. If you’re like me, you tend to pack in too much on vacation and forget to rest. Or you might be like my husband and have trouble sleeping. Think about this ahead of your trip and bring items to help you get your best sleep: eye mask, melatonin or other sleeping aid, earplugs. The more rest you get, the stronger your immune system will be.
- Prepare for Jetlag. To combat jetlag, do research as to how you can combat it. I took an herbal supplement the last time I traveled that helped me recover faster. I also watched fewer movies on the long haul flight and listened to calming music.
- Take Your Vitamins. Make sure you pack enough vitamins (in their original container) and bring some extra immune boosters like Vitamin C. You should consider bringing probiotics, especially if you’ll be in a country with foods your stomach isn’t used to digesting. You don’t know if your body will get all the supplements it needs while you travel, and vitamins can help keep you balanced.
I’m not a medical expert, but as I think towards my next trip, I want to make sure I’m responsible and prepared. While I can’t predict everything, I can have some tricks in my bags to get through the bumps in the road. By being prepared, I can enjoy vacation and deal with those bumps when they appear. For me, the hardest thing will be deciding where to go next! Happy Travels!