You spend months planning the perfect vacation. You pick a destination, save your pennies, and remember to update your passports — seriously, check those passports — only to fall sick five days into your trip. What a drag. I’ve been on a lot of trips and I’ve been sick on a few of them when I ignored my own advice. Avoid spending days holed up in a hotel room while your family has all the fun and eats all the food by following these tips to stay healthy while travelling.
Drink, drink, and then drink some more. This isn’t carte blanche to indulge in every bottle of wine uncorked during a wine tour, and don’t think the three cups of coffee you drink every morning qualify as adequate hydration. What every traveller needs is a source of clean water.
Staying hydrated is especially important during flights when we can easily become dehydrated from the recycled airplane air, making us prone to catching every illness within sneezing range. But don’t stop drinking water once you’ve arrived at your destination; the change in schedule, eating more and different foods, and loosey-goosey sleep times can wreak havoc on your health. This simple tip can do a lot to keep you going strong.
Depending on the country you’re visiting the best options for safe drinking water are clean tap water (check with local health officials for water safety), bottled water from a trusted company, or by using a UV light water purifier.
Clean Your Pipes
There’s no delicate way to put this and it’s not a topic for polite company, but a large part of our good health is tied to functioning pipes. Clean pipes = a happy holiday.
Our gastrointestinal system is responsible for digestion, elimination, and is an important part of our immune system. GI disorders are common and can range from diarrhea, leaky gut, constipation, IBS, and a bunch more that sound about as fun as a leaky gut can. While fighting a bout of diarrhea isn’t a vacation-wrecker — except if you’re trying to relax on the beach and the closest facility is a 15-minute hike over dunes and then nobody’s having any fun — some disorders are no joke and can cause long-term health challenges.
Not everything is within our power to control, but taking simple precautions while travelling can prevent unplanned stops on the side of the road. If you’re prone to constipation or its equally fun opposite – diarrhea – travel with a supply of herbal teas, up your fibre intake, and don’t forget your probiotics! Drink plenty of clean water, and eat healthy foods.
Depending on your destination you may need to update your immunizations. Check with a knowledgeable health professional from a travel health clinic — that does not mean Dr. Google — to inquire about recommended vaccinations. Once you’ve done your research and had a consult you’ll be equipped to make the best decision for your family.
If eating greasy burgers and Cheezies and processed crap every day are bad for you at home, why would eating like that on the road be any different? I’m all for the occasional stop at a local diner to taste the most amazing milkshake this side of the Colorado River – which is made at Moon’s Kitchen Cafe in Boise, Idaho by the way – but eating three meals every day of the types of food you only rarely indulge in will make you sick. Your body will rebel and good luck navigating mountain roads once that happens.
There’s not much I won’t taste when travelling overseas, with the exception of food seasoned with monosodium glutamate or anything still crawling across my plate, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Make smart food choices and use your best judgement when selecting a restaurant. That doesn’t mean avoiding food trucks, street food, or tiny hole-in-the-wall establishments; some of the best food to be had comes from those places. Your best option, if you’re someplace unfamiliar, is to ask a local where to eat or sleuth out where the locals are heading during mealtime.
Get Your Zzzz
I know you’re on holidays, but now is not the time to test that ill-conceived theory you had in university that humans can function on two hours of sleep. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Health professionals recommend 7-8 hours of sleep a night for adults, which is funny because most of us can’t remember the last time we slept more than six hours straight and that probably explains why coffee is our very best friend. The point is to get to bed at a reasonable hour and if six hours is your thing don’t try for four.
Your holiday will be more fun if you can stay upright, and a sleep-deprived body is a sick body.
Move Your Assets
Unless your holiday is spent stuck on a 62-city bus tour, a vacation is an ideal time to work in those walking shoes. You can keep to a fitness routine while travelling, although you’ll likely have to adjust it to suit the country you’re visiting. Bring running shoes, comfortable workout gear, a bathing suit, and hiking boots, and look for opportunities to work in some exercise.
I’ll be the first to admit that I rarely go for an actual run when I’m visiting family in France, but I walk everywhere and I start or end my days with stretches and core work. These can be done in the privacy of your room. Exercise can simply be a matter of choosing activities that get you moving enough so that you’re not the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man by the time you get home.
A final word: Don’t hang with the sickos, people. Avoid close contact with sneezing, coughing people — even if it’s a family member you’re visiting — unless you’re on a plane in which case you’re out of luck. Sorry. Your best bet to avoid getting sick while on a trip is to clean your hands often, wipe down surfaces that harbour germs, and follow the steps outlined above. And remember to be kind and sneeze or cough into your sleeve if you’re the sick one; nobody likes a sharer.