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Traveling can be an adventure. There’s a lot to keep in mind when you want to make sure that you’re traveling safely, while also staying healthy. Whether you’re going one state over or an entire ocean over, there’s preparation that needs to be made to keep you happy and healthy while traveling.
When you’re traveling domestically, there are a few things that you should always keep in mind. You’ll want to make sure that you’re prepared should an emergency arise, and that you’ve got everything you need to stay healthy while traveling.
When traveling, it’s always a good idea to bring along a medicine kit of things you may need. This is especially true if you’re planning on physical activities, like camping or hiking. A well-stocked medicine kit for domestic travel will include:
If your medication needs to be kept cool or cold, ask your doctor if you can bring it in a travel-size cooler.
You’ll always want to travel with your insurance ID card and your license (or a valid form of ID) at all times in case of emergencies. It’s also a good idea to add an in case of emergency (ICE) number to your phone. If you have a medical bracelet, wear it when traveling.
When you travel internationally, there are extra steps that need to be taken to ensure a safe and healthy travel experience. These include a better-stocked medicine kit and vaccinations.
When traveling to other countries — and particularly when traveling to other continents — you’ll want to consult your doctor about the vaccinations you’ll need.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend making an appointment with your doctor or a travel clinic at a minimum of four to six weeks before any international travel. This allows you to complete any vaccination series necessary and gives your body enough time to build up immunity.
Before international travel, make sure you’re up-to-date both with regular vaccines (like tetanus shots) and have all the necessary vaccines for where you’ll be traveling.
When traveling to some countries, it’s recommended to get different vaccines that United States residents would not normally receive. Whether you need them may depend on different factors like your current medical conditions, age, and your risk of infection.
Examples of these additional vaccines include those that prevent:
Some countries require proof of a yellow fever vaccine, which comes in the the form of a stamped certificate. This vaccine can only be given from registered providers, and it is required that the vaccine be given 10 days before travel.
Taking a medicine kit with you during international travel can be incredibly helpful. Medicine kits for international travel should contain everything a medicine kit for domestic travel has, and then some.
When you discuss vaccinations with your doctor, you also want to ask about medications that may be needed for where you’re going. Your doctor may recommend taking certain medications with you, depending on the country. Examples include malaria medication or antibiotics for infection, just in case.
It’s always important to remember that preexisting medical conditions don’t go away just because you’re on vacation. Any restrictions, diets, precautions, or medications that you’re on in your day-to-day life apply when you’re traveling, too. People with asthma might not want to go to areas with a lot of pollution, and people with diabetes shouldn’t be eating pastries for every meal.
When you’re traveling, it’s easy to let a healthy diet slide, whether you’ve got medical restrictions or not. Road trips are often accompanied by brief stops at fast food restaurants and bags of chips for the drive. It also makes sense that travelers will want to indulge in the local cuisine, leading to more "cheat days."
To help keep a healthier diet while traveling, pack healthier snacks like mixed nuts or dried fruit. Drink water instead of soda. Try to plan meals ahead or pack something healthier instead of stopping for fast food.
Once you’re at your destination, try to opt for as many healthy options as you can when dining out, and eat unhealthier foods in moderation. Stick to medically necessary diets as much as possible.
In addition to eating healthfully, it’s also important to get exercise while traveling. Most big name hotels in the United States have gyms you can use. When possible, walk around an area instead of driving or taking a tour bus. This allows you to both explore the area and get plenty of exercise.
Travel insurance seems like an afterthought to many, but it could be really helpful if you need it while traveling. It can cover a variety of costs, including medical expenses.
Some important things travel insurance can cover include:
Travel insurance is not required for travelers, but since medical care outside of the United States can be expensive (with some insurance companies not covering much outside of your state or overseas), it can be a worthwhile investment. It’s a particularly good idea if you’re traveling somewhere where you’re more likely to be injured or fall ill.
Traveling with minors and infants can add an additional layer of stress onto an already stressful situation. Extra precaution and preparations should be made when traveling with infants and minors.
Infants and young children, who have weaker immune systems, may have greater health risks in other countries. According to the CDC, the most common illness children experience from traveling is diarrhea. This can best be prevented in infants by breast-feeding, and children of all ages should follow basic food and water precautions. Food should be cooked and served hot, and children should drink clean water. You can bring bottled water if possible or necessary.
Children should always ride in age-appropriate car seats to prevent injury. Parents should watch children carefully around bodies of water to prevent drowning.
Children may need different vaccinations than adults, so consult your doctor as soon as possible before traveling, with a minimum of four to six weeks before travel.
Traveling is stressful under the best conditions. Being prepared, both in supplies and planning, can help reduce this stress immensely. For example, having a prepared medicine kit and traveler’s insurance provides some peace of mind and a solution if something goes wrong.
The best way to deal with traveling stress is to have a plan that’s ready for things to go a bit awry. Plan extra time in case transportation gets delayed, and know that you might not make every item on your agenda. Have Google maps downloaded on your phone, and have a physical map of your city and country just in case. Make sure you have enough time to rest, and come prepared with sleeping aids if you think you’ll need it. Staying healthy and getting enough rest is crucial to fighting stress and staying alert while traveling.
Traveling can be stressful, but there are steps you can take in order to have a safe and healthy travel experience. By being prepared with medicine kits, the necessary vaccinations, traveler’s insurance, and a plan for traveling healthy and stress-free, you’ll be able to enjoy the experience and stay healthy while you do.
Written by: Ana Gotter
Medically reviewed on: Mar 29, 2016: George Krucik, MD, MBA
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