Nine Tips To Make You the Healthiest Traveler

Health Writer
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Getting ready to travel healthy

Your health will benefit if you plan ahead for your vacation. Hotels and destinations now pay attention to wellness and lifestyle needs, but you have to get there first. Plan for food or dietary needs (especially if you’re dieting or have health issues) and physical needs (exercise options or accommodations for disability issues), and identify weather patterns that may pose a challenge to you. Solving problems before they happen and addressing your specific needs ensures a safe, healthy vacation.


Mapping out your journey

Check TSA rules if you’re planning to take food, medications, equipment or liquids through security or on board a flight. Order a wheelchair ahead of time. Apply for the TSA pre-screening program to cut down wait time in the security area. Pack two changes of clothes in case luggage is lost. For travel by car, stock it with nonperishable food, frozen water bottles, a supply of medications (kept cool), a first-aid kit, and a charger for your phone. Accept that “things can go wrong,” so have adequate supplies handy.


More of mapping out your journey

If traveling with a diagnosis of obesity, purchase tickets by phone. Airlines have different rules regarding “seat fit.” You may have to block the seat next to you or buy a second ticket to accommodate size. Order a wheelchair ahead of time. Have prescriptions in marked bottles and a set of written prescriptions as “backup.” Have a set of printed driving directions. Have a list of medications, allergies, and your doctor’s name and contact information in your carry-on.


Best packing strategies

Write a packing list. Use packing cubes or plastic bags to create food, clothing, and medication sectors. Keep toiletries together and extra medication in your checked bag. Take a full set of your medications, important documents and valuables, any special travel gear, healthy snacks and one emergency meal in your carry-on. Pack healthy nutrition bars, small nut and dried-fruit packs, Gatorade powder (in case you develop traveler’s diarrhea), a refillable water bottle, sunblock, and bug repellent.


Move, often

Whether on a plane or in a car, get up and move hourly. Stretch and massage your calves to get circulation moving. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated (especially in high altitudes). Consider bringing (portable) exercise bands so you can stretch in confined spaces and work out anywhere. Walk the airport while waiting, avoid moving sidewalks, and take the stairs to the baggage carousel. Make walking or other daily exercises part of your trip experience. Stay active during your vacation.


Hotel and destination amenities

Check out hotel menus, gym (including in your room), amenities, and spa accommodations online. Investigate local biking, hiking, and boating opportunities. Stake out a grocery store nearby to stock up on healthy snacks – fruit, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, nut butter (keep in the room fridge). Call ahead for “special dining requests or swap outs” if you’re on a special diet or have allergies or special health needs. Check out menus at nearby restaurants so you have a sense of food options on-the-go.


Identify travel needs and goals

Staying healthy, especially if you travel abroad, is goal No. 1. See a travel doctor for necessary vaccinations and any prevention medications (like malaria). Don’t take a vacation from exercise. Try “holding at your weight’ rather than trying to lose weight, if you’re dieting. Deprivation can instigate binge-eating. Be discerning and select small portions of treat foods. Tanning is OUT — avoid sunburn by applying sunblock often (first) and then bug block (should contain DEET) if needed.


Avoid pain and limit health risks

Use support socks (plane or car) for extended sitting. Ask for help lifting heavy carry-ons. If not typically active, sudden movements, sitting in cramped quarters, and more physical activity than usual can result in muscle soreness or low back pain. Bring anti-inflammatory medication, take warm showers, use ice packs, or consider a massage. Avoid too much alcohol. Check if tap water is safe, or use boiled or bottled water (for brushing teeth too). Beware pool and shower water. Be careful with raw food choices.


First-aid plan

Travel with a mini first-aid kit: alcohol wipes, bandages, antibiotic cream, ibuprofen and aspirin, an ace bandage for a sprain. Have a plan for illness in the air. Know where the closest hospital is, and get the name of a local specialist if you have any serious medical conditions. See if there’s a doctor on call. Consider travel insurance if your own insurance doesn’t cover emergency medical evacuation. Request a small fridge for medications that need to stay cool. You will limit stress by making a comprehensive plan ahead of time.