Planning ahead will help you stay healthy while on the go.
When you think of taking a vacation, your mind is probably filled with visions of sparkling, sandy beaches; blue water; and ample free time (and maybe a cocktail or two). You don’t anticipate getting sick — after all, you’ll be on vacation. But it’s pivotal to prepare for any health situation that might arise on your holiday, especially if you’re leaving the country.
Check off the following items before you head for the airport, and take along our tips for managing your health abroad. You’ll be ready for anything that comes your way!
BEFORE YOU GO
Bring a first-aid kit. We don’t mean the same tired first-aid kit that’s languished at the back of your bathroom cabinet for years. Check the expiration dates on everything from aspirin to antihistamines, and replace all items that are past their prime.
Along with bandages and pain relievers, your kit should include Neosporin or another antibacterial ointment for small cuts or scrapes; extra prescription medication so you don’t run out if you’re stranded; Imodium; and hydrocortisone cream.
Know your insurance policy. Does your health insurance extend to injury or illness sustained outside of the United States? What number should you call if you’re in a foreign hospital and the bills are piling up? Find out, and keep this information in your carry-on bag at all times.
Make hygiene a snap. Trains and airplanes carry thousands of passengers every day. Some of them are sick; some are getting sick, but don’t know it. Protect yourself from germs by carrying hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes. Wipe down your seat’s armrests and tray table, and avoid touching your face — as you don’t want to transfer bacteria to your eyes or nasal passages.
WHEN YOU ARRIVE
Sleep smart. We all treasure our hard-earned vacation time, but it’s hard to enjoy a new horizon through the haze of jet lag. To adapt to local time as fast as possible, resist the urge to nap as soon as you arrive at your hotel; if you must sleep, don’t rest for more than two hours. Sunlight also helps combat jet lag, according to experts from Scientific American, The New York Times and other sources.
When it’s time for bed, pop a melatonin capsule instead of knocking back a cocktail. This natural hormone helps regulate the body’s sleep/wake schedule, and it won’t dehydrate you or wake you up later, like alcohol.
Pest-proof your pad. Bedbug bites can cause rashes and allergic effects — not to mention completely ruining your carefree vacation mindset. With that in mind, it’s paramount to make sure your temporary digs are bedbug-free, and that you don’t take any unwanted guests home with you.
Pack clothes in vacuum-sealed plastic bags, and place your suitcases in the bathtub while you check your hotel room for signs of bedbugs, including blood spots and the shiny, brown-to-black bugs themselves. Never hang clothes on furniture, and keep luggage on a hard surface to deter bedbugs from nesting in your clothes.
Fend off vacation weight gain. You may feel called to indulge in midnight snacks and extra helpings of dessert during your trip, but sticking to your normal portions and meal timing is the smarter bet to avoid bringing home a few pounds of extra “luggage.” You’ll feel better — and have more energy — if you go for a protein-packed breakfast omelet instead of a Belgian waffle! If you’re planning to drink, be mindful of all the sugary calories hiding in those tropical libations.
Make time for fitness. Going on vacation is no reason to abandon your workout routine. In fact, you’ll feel better if you stick to your regular schedule! Pack a pair of light sneakers, and try using an app like MapMyRun to find local walking or running routes.