8 holiday travel tips to stay healthy
By Mary Daly
November 21, 2018, 8:26:04 AM EST
The holiday travel season is full of headaches. And sometimes those headaches can turn into full-blown illnesses. If you’re planning a holiday trip, here are eight tips to keep your body healthy as you enjoy your vacation.
1. Check travel advisories and health information
Sometimes, learning about the place you’re traveling to might involve more than just picking out attractions you want to visit. Monitor travel advisories for any alerts on health and safety that you need to know, and plan accordingly. For instance, if you’ll need vaccinations, make sure you schedule your doctor’s appointment early enough for the shots to be effective.
Furthermore, do a little research on where you can receive health care at your destination just in case you need it. And don’t forget to pack your own first aid and medical items, especially prescriptions. Pharmacies often will allow you to refill a prescription early if it saves you from running out while you’re on vacation.
2. Avoid stressful preparations
Travel can be stressful. And the stress might even start before you leave for your trip. Running around picking up last-minute items, worrying about your packing list and planning your itinerary can take a toll on your body and weaken your immune system.
So it’s important to keep things in perspective. “What’s the worst that could happen if you forget something?” Cleveland Clinic asks. “You may be able to buy the missing item at your destination. Making a list can also help to ease your stress.” The goal is to allow yourself enough time to prepare, so you aren’t up all night packing right before your trip. And don’t sweat the small stuff that really won’t matter once you’re enjoying your vacation.
3. Get enough rest
Getting enough rest is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy. And jet lag, extra physical exertion and sleeping in an unfamiliar bed all can hinder your sleep on vacation. In fact, research has shown on the first night you sleep in a new place, one hemisphere of your brain might stay awake as a sort of defense mechanism. So it’s extra important to allow your body time to relax while you travel.
Don’t cut into sleep hours prior to your trip, thinking you’ll make up for them while you’re on vacation. Instead, go into your vacation well-rested. And if you’ll be traveling to a different time zone, start preparing for that before you leave. “Travelers may be able to avoid jet lag by adjusting sleep schedules a few days before traveling,” according to Mayo Clinic. Try using melatonin or other natural remedies to help you fall asleep and adjust your body clock more easily.
4. Don’t sit for too long
Your vacation might include lots of physical activity, but getting there can keep you sedentary. Sitting for a long time as you travel by car, plane, train, etc. can increase your risk of developing blood clots. But there are ways to mitigate that risk. “Take walking breaks or do exercises such as calf-raises and ankle circles as much as possible,” Harvard Medical School recommends. “Wear compression stockings to help prevent blood clots as well as decrease swelling in your feet.”
According to the American Society of Hematology, flights that last eight to 10 hours pose the most risk. Symptoms of a blood clot include swelling in your leg or ankle, redness or discoloration and increased warmth. And those who have a greater risk of developing a clot — including people who use oral contraceptives, have high blood pressure or have a history of clots — should consult with their doctors before they travel.
5. Practice excellent hygiene
Airplanes and hotels, like most public places, are full of germs. So as you’re traveling, it’s critical to up your hygiene game. Be extra aware of the surfaces you touch, and always wash your hands before eating. Plus, avoid touching your face a lot, as that can give germs easy access to your body.
Furthermore, as you’re on the go, you might not always have access to soap and water. So it’s ideal to keep hand sanitizer or wipes with you as you travel. It might not be the most glamorous item on your packing list, but it could be worth it if it keeps you healthy throughout your trip.
6. Watch what you eat and drink
It’s best not to make too many drastic changes to your diet when you travel, as that can lead to an upset stomach. And avoid anything strange or questionable, which can cause traveler’s diarrhea. “Contaminated food or water, or even excitement, anxiety and jet lag can contribute to traveler’s diarrhea,” Mayo Clinic says. “… The best prevention is good hand hygiene and food and water safety.”
Plus, travel can be dehydrating, so make a point to drink plenty of water. “We typically don’t eat well or drink enough water when we travel, which can decrease our immune system’s efficiency,” according to Cleveland Clinic. Even if you’re busy with vacation activities, make time to stop for a hydration break or healthy snack. It will give your body the support it needs to carry you through your trip with ample energy.
7. Keep up with your fitness
It might tempting to take a vacation from fitness and instead load up on indulgent foods when you’re traveling. And that can be fine for a few days, but eventually the days off will catch up with your body. So it’s important to keep up with your fitness routine, even if you have to adapt it to fit your travel needs.
Choose to walk wherever you can, even if it’s up and down an airplane aisle. And take a walk as soon as you reach your destination to stretch your body. Plus, Mayo Clinic suggests doing body-weight or resistance-band exercises right in your hotel room. But don’t be afraid to take it a little easy, especially if you’re fatigued from traveling. The goal is to get a little movement to boost your energy, reduce stress and help regulate your body.
8. Slow down
Finally, remember this is your vacation. So slow down. For starters, take it slow in the literal sense by safely traveling to your destination. “Injury is the most common cause of preventable death among travelers,” according to Mayo Clinic. “Common-sense safety tips — wearing seat belts, avoiding traveling alone or at night, and moderating alcohol intake — will serve travelers well no matter where they are.”
Also, slow down by not overburdening yourself with vacation activities. Yes, some people like busy trips, and others prefer to simply lounge on a beach for a week. Do what’s right for you, and listen to your body to make sure you stay happy and healthy.
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