Traveling is fun — until you get sick. There's nothing quite as bad as being in a foreign country and spending the entire time camped out in your hotel room with an upset stomach. As intrepid traveler Shara Kay Johnson says, "Suffering through a severe sickness while abroad is one of the most rotten pieces of luck you can have."
While feeling under the weather on the road may not always be avoidable, there are steps you can take to remain as healthy as possible. Before you depart, Johnson recommends "check[ing] the CDC website for recommended shots and inoculations."
Keep reading for five practical tips that will help you be your healthiest self no matter where you jet off to next.
Avoid Germs On The Plane
Jackie Homan, travel editor for Jetsetter, says that one of the most unsanitary places on an airplane is the tray table, followed by the flush button on the toilet, the seatbelt buckle and the overhead air vent. In order to avoid touching everything, she recommends packing antibacterial wipes.
Dr. Ole Vielemeyer, an Infectious Disease Specialist, says that you should avoid aisle seats, citing a CDC investigation which showed that passengers sitting in the aisle seats of a plane were more likely to be exposed to a virus.
Get Plenty Of Sleep
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Avisheh Forouzesh warns that "you’re more likely to get sick when you’re rundown, so don’t skimp on sleep while you’re traveling."
Dr. Vielemeyer suggests taking the week before your trip to gradually adjust your bedtime and wake-up call to match that of the place where you are traveling. That way, you won't experience as much jet lag or sleep disruption. Homan says it's a good idea to sleep on the plane — just use a travel pillow to help you head stay properly aligned.
Pack The Right Supplies
Chris, a traveler and blogger, suggests packing freeze dried probiotics, which "are essential to keep your immunity up and ensure that vitamins and minerals are absorbed properly."
Dr. Forouzesh advises others to pack first aid kits — which should include ibuprofen, bug spray and anti-diarrheal medications — and sunscreen.
Dr. Vielemeyer explains that exercise is important when you travel because it "bolsters the immune system and releases feel-good endorphins." To make sure you work out, Homan suggests downloading a fitness app before you leave and pack plenty of athleisure wear.
"If the sun is shinin’, get out there and explore!" Chris exclaims.
Watch What You Eat
One of the most common illnesses travelers get is food poisoning. To avoid this, watch how the food you are about to eat is being prepared. Dr. Vielemeyer gives the following tips: "Only eat meat that is thoroughly cooked and served steaming hot, and steer clear of raw vegetables, dairy products sold by small independent vendors and any dairy products that may have been left out in the sun."
He further warns that tap water in some countries is not safe, so it is a good idea to bring bottled water with you — and avoid ice cubes.
Even though traveling comes with some risks, it is still worth it — and if you do catch an illness, it's not the end of the world. "Sick-abroad stories among travelers can become a bit like fishing stories … you’ve always got a better one than the other guy," Johnson reasons.
At the very least, these five tips ought to enhance your recovery time, and they will hopefully help you have a sickness-free adventure.