From cars to planes to trains and more, travel really opens so many doors. It helps us grow as we experience more of the world around us. While travel can be fulfilling and life-changing, it can also be exhausting. When you’re go-go-go around the globe, you need to take care of yourself so you’re not sick from traveling! I’ve been there and it’s one of the worst feelings in the world. Lucky for you I’ve been the guinea pig and these methods to help avoid sickness abroad have been tried and tested by yours truly so you’ll stay smiling throughout your adventures!
GET YOUR SLEEP
This may seem like a no-brainer, but let’s be honest – it’s often the first thing to be sacrificed when we travel. Are you someone who’s brain doesn’t seem to shut off from a few days before your trip until a few days after you’re back? If you’re anything like me, you’re running around like a chicken with your head cut off as you pack all the things you need (and probably don’t need – are you really going to wear that jacket that only goes with one outfit?) and in your head, it’s a never-ending to-do list. Then you’re so excited to be at your destination you want to do all the things and then by the time you get home you’re so exhausted you can barely function for 2 weeks. While it can be tempting to say I’ll sleep when I’m dead, try to focus on getting enough sleep. Recent research has shown that those who only sleep 5-6 hours a night have almost double the chance of catching a cold compared to their counterparts who get at least 7 hours. Sleep deprivation suppresses the immune system, so ensuring you catch those zZzZz can prevent you from catching a bug.
What Can I Do if I’m Having Trouble Sleeping?
There are a few ways you can combat insomnia while you travel. If you’ve had some busy days it can be hard to fully wind down, especially if you know there is more to come. While some may opt for the quick and easy way out like sleeping pills, I prefer a more natural route. To signal it’s time for bed, your brain releases a chemical called melatonin. While you can buy a synthetic version over the counter, isn’t the same as the natural one. This can help in the short-term, but its effectiveness will decrease over a few days. Extended use has been said to alter brain chemistry as if the receptors in your brain are exposed too much to the chemical, they become unresponsive. Instead, there are a few natural ways to create more melatonin within your body so you sleep better. Exposure to bright daylight helps with melatonin production at night, so get outside and hit the beach! Also, eating foods that have high levels of melatonin like almonds, walnuts, tomatoes, goji berries, bananas, oranges and pineapples can help increase production. At the end of a long day, taking a hot bath will not only feel awesome but has a relaxing effect on your cortisol levels, meaning as they lower your melatonin levels will increase. If this doesn’t work, valerian root is a flowering grassland plant which can help you not only fall asleep faster but also sleep sounder. It’s honestly my go-to for a good night of sleep!
Let’s face it, there are days where we’re running late or are so busy we forget to eat. While it may not be that big of a deal (other than that hangry temper tantrum you had a while ago, yes you know the one), making a habit of it can really affect you both physically and emotionally. Your brain needs glucose which you get from food, so don’t starve your brain. Otherwise, you’ll be unable to focus, feel sluggish and just downright miserable. We want none of that garbage while we’re on the road!
One of my tricks to try and ensure I’m getting enough vitamins and nutrients is to use the half-plate rule. I make sure half of my plate is veggie-filled each time I eat. On top of that I’ll try to keep it green and leafy so those vitamins get in my belly. That means I’ll often opt for a salad instead of fries, or the half/half route if that’s an option and I’m so hungry I’m about to chew my own leg off. If I feel like I haven’t been a good girl lately, I’ll even opt for a vegan meal to treat my body right (you’ll help the environment too!). It can be tricky especially if you’re somewhere like an all-inclusive where there are so many tempting choices, but when I did this towards the end of my stay I felt so much better than when I hadn’t!
What if I Get Hungry Between Meals?
As I said earlier, never starve yourself. If your clocking 20,000+ steps a day on that Fitbit of yours, chances are you’re going to be hungrier than if you were sitting watching Netflix like a potato. That’s okay! EAT. Just try to be conscious of what you’re eating. Rather than opting for the quick and easy fast food option, try to grab some fruit, vegetables or granola bars that will tide you over until your next meal. I always have a stack of Kind bars hidden throughout my luggage since they’re not only delicious but packed with fibre, protein and more since they’re nut based. If you’re trying to keep your sugar content down, opt for the Strong & Kind variety and get the boost of protein instead!
What if I Don’t Know Where to Go?
To help with this, I often do some research in advance on restaurants and bistros to indulge in. If you look at my Google Maps it literally looks like a horrific version of the Milky Way, but it really helps out while I’m on the go. This way I have an idea of some places to get something to eat if I’m in transit and too busy to think or too exhausted and no energy to decide. There’s a great feature on Google Maps where you can create your own and use different labels to mark places of interest. Just go to Your Places on the menu, select Maps and voila! You can make a separate one for each destination if you like, with different layers for restaurants, points of interest and more. And yes, it works on mobile so you can do all your research at home on your laptop and then have it in your hand while you’re on the go. Not going to lie, I’m a little obsessed with it!
STARTING TO FEEL SICK?
If you can feel your health starting to dip, it’s time to take it back a notch. Go back to the two key elements – eating well and sleeping. I find if I sleep less then I need to eat more and if I don’t eat as much as I should then I need a few extra hours of sleep. Know your body and listen to what it needs. This may mean passing on a wild party or two, but I’d say that’s better than being too sick to really enjoy your adventures for days to come.
To help the healing process along as well as boost your energy, ginseng is my go-to. On trips where the short nights seem to get shorter, this is my best friend! I’ll take it for a few days while I get my sleep back on track and I feel good as new. Not only that, but it’s said to be a great antioxidant – win-win in my books! The only thing is that because it boosts your energy, if you take it late in the day it can keep you up at night so it’s best to take it in the morning.
For the times when an upset stomach starts to appear, ginger is a great natural remedy. Ginger teas or powdered drinks can be great, but not always accessible. If you’re in a foreign country and have no clue where to look, just grab some fresh ginger root. Cut a few pieces off and boil in water for about 20-30 minutes. Add a little bit of lemon or honey if you so desire and voila! You can keep the excess in a fridge or just boil a small amount for that day. It works like a charm!
WHAT ABOUT A HEADACHE?
As I get older, I’m finding that when turbulent weather is brewing, so does a headache. While I always have Advil or ibuprofen on me, sometimes that’s just not enough. Most of the time drinking some water and ensuring I stay hydrated helps keep a headache at bay. For the odd time neither of these work, I use pressure points to help relieve the tension I’m feeling. I take (or when I’m being a total suck, get Robin to do it for me) two fingers and place pressure between my eyebrows, on my temples and on my sinuses, just below my eyes in line with my irises. Doing this regularly is a great preventative measure as well – plus it feels good too!
TRICKS WHILE YOU’RE IN TRANSIT
Some of the easiest spots to catch a bug are while we’re on the move from A to B. Air travel is one of the worst and the germiest (is that a word? Meh, I’m rolling with it) spot is not where you’d expect. While we’re conscious of washing our hands when using the facilities, the dirtiest spot on a plane is actually your tray table. It’s rumoured the reason is due to limited turn around time, and the bathrooms are always a high priority so your seats get neglected. For this reason, I always bring hand sanitizer and baby wipes to wipe the tray table down. I may get the occasional weird look, but I’ll deal if it means I don’t get sick after travel!
While in the air, it’s also a great idea to have the air vent above you pointed downwards. This air is filtered and will help keep any airborne germs away from your pretty little face. It can get a little chilly though, so it doesn’t hurt to pack an extra sweater or small blanket for your flight. It can act as a pillow too!
The air can also get quite dry on an airplane, so staying hydrated is very important! I always carry a reusable water bottle with me that I fill up before I leave, and then try to ration throughout the flight. If it’s a really long one, then I’ll opt for a hot drink like tea as the boiled water should be germ-free and the tea is packaged. Plus I’m a tea granny so I honestly can’t resist a cup or two when it’s a life choice! If tea isn’t your thing, opt for a glass of tomato juice. Its antioxidant properties will help keep the bugs at bay. Also, it’s a good idea to stay away from alcoholic drinks while in the air. While it can be tempting to have a beer or glass of wine (especially on European flights when it’s FREE!), doing so will dehydrate you. This will leave you more susceptible to germs and bacteria, so it’s a good idea to steer clear!
HAD A LITTLE TOO MUCH FUN LAST NIGHT?
We’ve all done it. Out on a pub crawl or did grabbing a drink with friends and go a little too far? While your head may be pounding and your stomach may be out of sorts, there are a few things you can do to remedy the situation. First things first, drink lots of water before you call it a night as well as throughout it. When I feel like I’ve had a bit too much to drink, I’ll keep a bottle of water handy and try to drink half of it each time I get up to use the facilities. While this leads to more trips to the bathroom, 9 times out of 10 I feel 100x better than I would have had I not done this despite being a bit tired. It also never hurts to have something to eat before calling it a night. I often try to have something easy around like bananas that I can quickly shove in my face before passing out.
As I mentioned earlier, a great remedy for an upset stomach is ginger, but sometimes it’s just not enough. While it can be tough to swallow, you might just need some hair of the dog that bit you. Though when this is the case, I try to have something different than what I was drinking the night before. Otherwise, it may trigger a painful memory if you know what I mean! My go-to is honesty a Caesar or Bloody Mary, and I make a mean one even when I’m feeling some pain. I find the clamato/tomato juice masks the liquor well as well as coats your stomach. Plus the saltiness is often what your body craves! A lot of restaurants will have their own rendition, but if you’re lucky you might just be visiting a hotspot for the drink. Also this remedy is best enjoyed with friends in my opinion!
LINDSAY, WHAT SHOULD I TAKE WITH ME WHEN I TRAVEL?
To keep me healthy and happy, there are a few things I never leave without. I’ll often have these items in my carry-on as well as in my luggage just to have a back-up. By putting them all in one bottle, they don’t take up much space and I’d rather have them with me than need them and go “I wish I had of packed those…”
- Advil or Ibuprofen – I find these combat my headaches the best
- Baby Wipes
- Ginger Tablets or Ginger Tea
- Nu-Life Ginseng Tablets – these seriously work the best out of all the ones I’ve tried!
- Hand Sanitizer
- Kind Bars – my favourites are Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt, Vanilla Blueberry & Cashew, and Strong & Kind Honey Smoked BBQ
- Valerian Root Caplets – my go-to for some serious snooze time
HOW DO YOU PREVENT SICKNESS ABROAD?
Travel is said to be good for your health, but what good is travel if you’re feeling too sick to enjoy it? Do you have any tricks you swear by to ensure you don’t succumb to illness while on the road? Have you tried any of the methods I mentioned? Now I have to admit that these are the practices that work for me, so they may not be as effective for you. However, I promise this is what I do to prevent myself from getting sick while traveling abroad so I can be in tip-top shape to take over– I mean, galavant across the world!