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Let me start by saying that I am not a doctor; I am a traveler. A full-time traveler, actually. One of my biggest concerns when we started our globe-trotting adventures in 2014 was how to stay healthy while traveling.
Germs lurk in the spaces where travelers spend most of their time: airplanes, buses, trains, crowded attractions and hotel rooms (among other places!). As we are constantly being exposed to new germs in foreign cities, we have developed healthy habits while traveling to stave off sickness.
In order to stay healthy while traveling, we have implemented several beneficial regimes for our overall well-being. That said, there isn’t an exact science to staying healthy while traveling. You can do everything right and you can still end up getting a cold while traveling – so we talk a little bit about how to cope with being sick while traveling, too.
How To Stay Healthy While Traveling
Our ideas for how to stay healthy when traveling can be used by travelers going on quick weekend trips and by tourists going overseas for a long vacation. The healthy travel tips we share in this post are ones that we use ourselves – and have been using for years!
#1 Use Hand Sanitizer and Anti-Bacterial Wipes
While we believe that soap and water are best, having anti-bacterial hand gel while traveling is a must. It is truly amazing how many things we touch with our hands (and bodies!) while we travel. Wherever we are traveling, unfamiliar germs are hanging out on hand rails, paper tickets and in all the same places as the germ-toting tourists are hanging out.
Hand sanitizer is one of the things that I keep in my day pack all the time. I keep it in a special pocket so that I can easily find it (without having to dig my dirty hands through my bag!). Some hand sanitizers also come with convenient holders that attach to the outside of a bag or purse, so that it is always within easy reach. We use hand gel throughout the day – and whenever we knowingly come into contact with microbe infested items. Sanitizer is helpful in other situations, too – like if we happen to get a cut and clean, running water isn’t available or to take the sting out of bug bites!
Anti-bacterial wipes are something I started carrying when we considered how to stay healthy while flying. Airplanes are notoriously germy – especially in high-touch places like seatbelt buckles, tray tables and bathroom door handles. Before sitting in our seat, we use a wet wipe to clean the entire seat, buckle, arm rests and tray. If we use the restroom during flight, we take a fresh wet wipe for the door handle and sink fixtures, too. The Wet Ones brand makes travel-size packets, too!
Pro Tip: Looking for a good gift for a traveler? The Clean Flight Kit is perfect gift for staying healthy while flying! Find more information about it and other fun gifts in our Unique Travel Gifts article.
#2 Take Immune Boosting Vitamins
Medical professionals have long hailed the incredible benefits of vitamins – and it is one of our tips for staying healthy while traveling, too! The best vitamins to take while traveling are immune boosting vitamins – like Vitamin C, B6 and E. Zinc and Elderberry – both of which are known to help support the immune system – are two other supplements that we use when we travel.
Brand-name Airborne products are specifically designed immune supplements that are packed with vitamins and minerals. We like the Original dissolving tablets best, as they come in a slim 10-tablet pack. We usually start taking the daily supplements a few days before a trip or flight in order to help prevent flu while traveling.
Emergen-C Immune Plus is another supplement that we like. The powder packets pack a punch with immune boosters and other essential vitamins to take while traveling. The individual packets are convenient for travel and can easily be stirred into a glass (or bottle) of water.
Pro Tip: Many travelers use Probiotics to help tame tummy troubles and bloating while traveling. Personally, Probiotic supplements while traveling are not something we have found helpful; however, for travelers who want to use Probiotics, it is recommended to begin taking them at least two weeks prior to travel for the best benefit.
Note: Before using our vitamin and supplement tips for how to stay healthy traveling, you should contact your doctor.
#3 Get Plenty of Rest
Travel sometimes wreaks havoc on our sleeping cycles; stress, jet lag and adrenaline can all disrupt our normal sleep. Moreover, sleeping while traveling can be problematic – as everything (from the pillows to the sheets to the lights and noises) is different. However, not being properly rested can drain our immune systems and leave our bodies vulnerable to illnesses.
Therefore, we do our best to identify – and solve – any sleeping issues we may encounter in advance. Being organized with our travel plans helps to reduce our stress and we build a little downtime into our schedule at night, so that we are relaxed when it is time to go to sleep. Additionally, we use sleep masks and earplugs to combat annoying lights and hotel hallway noises.
Pro Tip: As sleep is so important to how to travel healthy, it may be a good idea to invest in a small travel pillow so that you won’t have to worry about where you will lay your head on your trip.
#4 Practice Good Hygiene
Let’s be honest: it is always a good idea to practice good hygiene, but perhaps even more so when traveling. And, it needs to be said, because we have sadly witnessed an embarrassing negligent approach to hygiene by travelers around the world. (The number of women I have watched leave a bathroom without stopping at the sink for a wash up is downright disgusting.)
Wash your hands – and not just when you use a public bathroom (but especially then!). Seriously though, we wash our hands whenever we can – and always before we eat or touch our faces. When we walk around a city in flip flops, we wash our feet (with soap!) when we get back to our accommodations. It is also important that we keep our nails clean and trimmed, so we don’t collect and keep germs under our fingernails.
Keeping our bodies and faces clean and fresh is also something we consistently strive to do when on the road. For long-haul flights – and even long days of sightseeing – using wet wipes is how we stay clean while traveling. Wet wipes combat any harmful bacteria that we might come into contact with and keep us feeling fresher.
Pro Tip: Another way to stay fresh and healthy while flying is to pack a pair of a clean underwear in carry on luggage. I can change into the clean pair – and feel refreshed! – before I leave the airport. We share more packing tips in our Packing Hacks blog post – coming soon!
#5 Eat Healthy While Traveling
Healthy eating while traveling is essential! Our bodies need to be properly nourished in order to function optimally. How to eat healthy while traveling can be a challenge, but we have found ways to keep our diets full of good food that is necessary for our bodies.
One of our best tips for eating healthy while traveling is to start your day with a good breakfast. In our travels, we usually stay in Airbnb accommodations, which means we have access to a kitchen where we can make healthy breakfasts. I usually start the day with a bowl of oatmeal with apples, raisins and walnuts (all of which pack well and are available around the world!) and Kris likes to eat a healthy breakfast of yogurt and granola.
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We do our best to incorporate fruits and vegetables into our meals and snacks when we travel, too. One place to find healthy food while traveling is at the local markets. We often purchase in-season whole fresh fruit (like apples or peaches) for on-the-go snacks. For healthy meals while traveling, we opt for nutrient-rich local specialties – like grilled fish with a side of fresh vegetables (over heavy meals laden with fatty meats and carbohydrates).
Indulging in local cuisines, however, is one of the best parts of travel…and, as such, eating healthy while traveling sometimes gets pushed aside in favor of local flavors. We find it is best to strike a balance between eating healthy while traveling abroad and delighting in the local food culture.
Pro Tip: Dining on local specialties doesn’t always sit well with your digestive system – and sometimes we end up with a stomach ache while traveling. For minor upset stomach, we use Pepto Bismol while traveling.
#6 Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is one of the best tips to stay healthy while traveling! Flights, long days in the sunshine and drinking more alcohol than normal are all ways that we can become dehydrated on a trip.
How to stay hydrated while traveling is easy: consume more water! Hydration is especially important for how to stay healthy when flying – so start off your trip right and sip water from the get-go. During our travels, we always remember to bring water along – whether going on a walking tour, day trip or just down to the beach.
Be aware, the more liquids you take in, the more you will need to go to the bathroom. Some cities have nicer (and more available) public restrooms than others. I recommend always traveling with your own toilet paper…just in case! It’s one of the tips we share in our blog post, Everyday Items for Traveling.
Pro Tip: If you are in a location where it is safe to drink the water, use an environmentally friendly refillable water bottle – like these collapsible water bottles that are perfect for travelers. In places where tap water is not potable, you can buy bottled water or a purifying system. On our ‘Round the World trip, we found that the best way to purify water while traveling was with a SteriPen – but other travelers swear by LifeStraw.
#7 Exercise While Traveling
Fitness while traveling doesn’t have to be a struggle! Our favorite way to stay fit while traveling is by walking. We usually forego city bus tours and Uber rides in favor of exploring cities on our own two feet. Not only does it help with staying fit while traveling, but by moving at a slower pace, we get to really soak in the foreign atmosphere. (In fact, we share a ton of our self-guided walking tours on our site; you can search for them by Destination!)
Another way to keep fit while traveling is to do exercises in your accommodations. On rainy days when outdoor walking is limited, I use a 20-minute, no-equipment YouTube Video that provides a decent workout! (YouTube videos are also good for doing yoga while traveling.)
Participating in group workouts while traveling out of the country is another great tip for how to stay fit while traveling abroad – and a fun way to meet locals! Search your destination for exercise groups before you set off on your trip. You could also find a gym that offers day passes for a way to get in a workout while traveling.
Pro Tip: Just remember, how to stay fit while traveling is a combination of what you eat and exercising while traveling (so see above #5 about eating and staying healthy while traveling the globe!).
Travel Wellness Tips: When You Get Sick on a Trip
As hard as we try to stay healthy when traveling, there have been occasions when we have fallen ill. Thankfully, we are prepared by packing a travel first aid kit and emergency medical insurance while traveling – both of which we have used.
First Aid Travel Kit
Regardless of destination or purpose of trip, a first aid kit is just one of the good things to have while traveling. My kit is well stocked with travel-size remedies for a variety of maladies. Pain relief, belly meds, allergy pills and cold tabs are all stored in separate small pill boxes (although a weekly pill box would work just as well!). Additionally, I keep an assortment of different size adhesive bandages and a tube of antiseptic in my kit for cuts and scrapes (and to avoid blisters on my heels!).
Although I don’t regularly take any prescribed medications, I do carry a few just in case. For example, I used to be prone to getting sinus infections, so my doctor prescribed a Z-Pak that I could travel with, in the unfortunate instance that I became ill while abroad. That said, I have also had some luck in obtaining prescription medications from foreign pharmacies without having to see a doctor, but it is not something I count on.
Health Insurance While Traveling
Despite our best preparedness and efforts for how to be healthy while traveling, illness and injuries can happen abroad. To ensure we have medical coverage that allows us to see a doctor while traveling, we use World Nomads Travel Insurance.
The insurance not only covers unfortunate circumstances, like lost luggage and flight delays, but it also includes health insurance while traveling abroad. Included in the basic plan, travelers have access to a 24-hour nurse line and emergency care. We think it is vital to have health insurance while traveling overseas – and World Nomads offers an affordable option. Find out more about rates and coverage here.
We Want To Know: Do you have any tips for how to stay healthy while traveling? Give us your best advice and recommendations in the comments below!
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