A Q&A on ways to keep healthy when you travel

Surfing

Surfing in San Diego

Samantha and I decided to write a joint post today to give different health tip perspectives when you travel. We’ve had unique experiences, but also some similarities with how we keep healthy on the road. I’ve never been really sick when I’ve traveled, fortunately, but she has, so her experience in that area is valuable. She also has some food allergies, so watching what she eats is key. We decided to do an interview-style post, and Sam’s best friend Carrie asked the questions.

Food-related

Carisma

Sam and Carrie

Question: What kinds of things do you look for when you have to eat out so often?

Aldo: I research ahead of time to see what the healthiest options are where I am going. When I get to any location, I try to structure my day to make breakfast, pack lunch, and go out for dinner so I can explore the local food scene while getting in solid nutrition throughout the day too. If you have the ability to make some of your meals, you can control your choices to help you stay on track while on vacation. Even if you don’t have access to a fridge or a kitchen, you can still find some healthy packaged options like protein or energy bars. They won’t spoil. If you do have a kitchen, make sandwiches or salads with protein that you can eat while you’re out. I wrote some tips in a post that would work for this too, Travel, eat well and not break the bank.

Sam: I’m not much of a researcher. I have to get better at it! I have a lot of food allergies so I have to see which places can accommodate. It’s tough because I have to be careful of gluten, dairy, and seafood. Especially seafood. I tend to stick to salads, dressing on the side with chicken or quinoa. I look for vegan or vegetarian places, so I can steer clear of cross-contamination with seafood. Breakfast’s tough because my choices are usually fruit, potatoes or something like turkey or chicken sausages, which aren’t healthy. So, I carry protein bars with me everywhere I go, but also because I get hangry when I haven’t eaten, this way I can grab one when I’m at the cusp of being too hungry. I bring an Epipen in case of emergency. I can’t stress enough the importance of writing down or learning how to say what you’re allergic to, or can’t eat in the language of the country you’re visiting. Food travel cards help make it easier.

Keeping your fitness

Sicily, Italy

Sicily, Italy

Question: What do you do to stay fit on the road?

Aldo: I check ahead to see if the place I’m staying in has a gym or pool. If not, I pack for it. I’m a big proponent for packing light. So, I prefer to do workouts that don’t need equipment but use my bodyweight, and I bring either a mat or use a towel as one. I also walk or bike everywhere I can. I look for the things that are exciting to do while I’m at my destination. If I’m at a beach, I surf or play water sports. I like the gym and some classes, so I look for a nearby studio or gym. Some fitness places allow free drop-ins or have promotions for travelers. I wrote a post, Ways to keep fit when you travel with all my travel fitness suggestions.

Sam: I don’t have much to add to what Aldo said. I usually stay in a hotel when I go, so as long as the gym or pool is working, I’m good. If it’s not, or I’m staying with family, I bring exercise bands and also walk everywhere I can. Because I work at a desk all day, I’m far more active on vacation because I’m always on the go.

Sickness prevention

orla kiely travel first aid and laundry bag

Question: What steps do you take to try to prevent getting sick?

Aldo: While it can’t help you from getting sick, I get insurance to protect myself in case I do get sick. Costs can be huge if you have to pay out of pocket. I don’t take any, but if you regularly take vitamins, medication or supplements, pack a supply for the duration of your travel so that you can maintain your routine while you are away. Before leaving on a long trip or going to places where there is a risk of contracting a life-threatening disease, I make sure my vaccinations are up to date and take the recommended shots.. Sites like the Center for Disease Control provide a list of health risks and advice for almost every international destination. Lastly, I always apply sunscreen to my face and body, and a balm with sunscreen on my lips, no matter what the weather is, or where I am.

Sam: I agree with everything Aldo mentioned. I just have a quick story to show why you don’t want to be caught off guard without your medication. I had an anaphylactic reaction to some potatoes that I ate at a hotel and had forgotten to pack my Epipen (and it has saved my life before so it was really bad on my part). There had been cross-contamination with salmon. I was fortunate enough to be located right beside a hospital, so it took one minute to get there. I’m not always going to be that lucky. I signed up for the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers. It has a directory of physicians, hospitals, and clinics for any member who needs medical care abroad. I take a travel sized bag with essentials like band aids, Advil, allergy and anti-nausea pills, and antibacterial and hydrocortisone cream.

Note: Target carries travel kits for men, women and children including one from Orla Kiely that’s pictured above.

What to do if you get sick

epipen

Question: What are your best tips if you do get sick while you’re away?

Aldo: I’ve been fortunate to have not been sick when I went away, other than a mild cold. My mother got sick once when we were away and didn’t have her prescription. We had to call her doctor to try to get a prescription. While we were heading to the hospital, we contacted the U.S. Consulate for information about what we could do locally. I suggest getting to a hospital as soon as possible, especially depending on the severity. If you have travel insurance, at least you can get part or all of your medical costs covered.

Sam: I’ve not been as lucky as Aldo! I mentioned already about my anaphylactic reaction at a restaurant. I’ve also had food poisoning from an airport, had a horrible cold, gotten sick from poorly sanitized food, and had heat stroke (I learned the value of drinking extra water if I’m somewhere humid). I think that’s it so far! Travel insurance has saved me lots of money in these cases. If you’ve packed the right medications as a preventive measure, you should be able to get yourself through some of it on your own. If it’s something you can’t handle on your own, it’s key to get yourself to a doctor or pharmacy immediately because you don’t want to ruin the remainder of your trip if you can prevent it. A resource like The International Society of Travel Medicine has a directory of health-care professionals in almost 50 countries that you can contact.

Final tips

water bottle

Question: What’s your top overall health tip?

Aldo: Drink lots of water. Staying well hydrated helps you feel your best. Pack an empty water bottle while flying that you can fill up once you’ve passed through security, and drink plenty of water to avoid getting dehydrated. If you are exercising while traveling, or going somewhere hotter or more humid than where you live, make sure to drink even more water.

Sam: Sleep. I’m saying this even though I never sleep, but it’s critical to health. So this is a “do as I say not as I do,” tip! When adjusting to a new time zone, I try to stay awake on the first day until my normal bedtime and then get a full night’s sleep the next day. I’m a light sleeper, so I bring earplugs and a sleep mask. It helps shut out loud sounds and light if I’m somewhere noisy or the sun comes up earlier than I’d like!

Question: Do you have any final advice?

itranslate

Aldo: I use the iTranslate translation app for iPhone (a language dictionary works too) when I’m somewhere I don’t speak the language. It helps with everything including talking about illnesses, food allergies as Sam mentioned, and I use it to find out about deals at gyms or other things. It works offline too so you don’t need WiFi or to use any data. The Telegraph has an article on the top five translation apps.

Sam: This may be the germaphobe in me, but I frequently wash my hands or wipe them with antibacterial wipes or sanitizers. I also wipe down things where I’m staying, the airplane seat and tray table, and transportation. Think about how many people touch the doorknobs, light switches, and remotes. Things aren’t always cleaned and washed as often as needed.

We hope the question and answer post was helpful. Do you have any tips to stay healthy while you’re away?

64 replies »

  1. Great tips! Like Sam, I also have food allergies and carry benadryl and epipen. Similarly to Aldo, I also do my research in advance. Thank you to both of you for providing medical links for international travellers.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Loved the article and the tips . Appreciated the approach you took on this. I usually don’t get sick when I’m away but I do remember that one time that I did (food poisoning). It was a painful experience. Maybe I really need to look into insurance.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Love the idea of a Question and A! Well done post. I am a bit of a germaphobe too but I haven’t thought of cleaning the airplane area I’m sitting in for some reason. Thanks for sharing the tips.

    Liked by 2 people

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