Snow-capped mountains and white sand beaches all look like the picture of health, so how come you keep coming back from vacation with a hefty case of the sniffles? Chances are you spend so much time focused on enjoying your destination, you wind up wearing your immune system down and making yourself more susceptible to the germs that lurk in communal spaces like the airport. A few pre-trip precautions can keep you happy, healthy, and not feeling like you need a vacation after your vacation.
You might not think to schedule a doctor’s appointment before traveling unless you’re going someplace where scary-sounding diseases like malaria and yellow fever run rampant. But even if your destination lies in Western Europe, where such illnesses aren’t found, you should make sure all your routine vaccinations are up to date. That includes your seasonal flu shot, MMR, and TDAP shots. If you’ll be in a rural area or working with animals, you should also get rabies vaccines as a precaution. Going under the needle is no fun, but the extra boost to your immune system may keep you healthy in unfamiliar territory and high-traffic, high-germ areas like airports and train stations. Check the CDC’s website for what specific vaccines are recommended for your destination.
Combat jet lag
There’s no need for specialty health products like Airborne – scientific research has demonstrated that it doesn’t work. What should make its way into your pre-trip plans is preparing for the shift in time zones, if you’ll be experiencing one. Gradually shifting your eating and sleeping times in the days leading up to your departure will introduce your internal clock to the change naturally, so by the time you touch down, you’ll be fully adjusted.
Check your health insurance
Does your health insurance cover your travel plans? Maybe, maybe not. Before jetting off overseas, read your plan and speak with your provider about whether you’ll be covered abroad at all and if so, what exactly you’ll be covered for on your trip. If you’re the thrill-seeking type, ask about each specific activity you may participate in on your vacation to ensure it’s covered. You may need to purchase additional travel insurance if you find there are gaps in your overseas health coverage.
Wash your hands
It’s the number one way to rid yourself of germs at home – why shouldn’t it be on your mind during vacation? You’re just about guaranteed to find a restroom in your hotel and any restaurants you patronize, so make a point of washing your hands before starting the day, going to sleep, and eating lunch or dinner.
Don’t overdo it
When you only have a week or two to enjoy your travels, it’s tempting to squeeze as much as possible into every waking moment of the day. Maybe you get up earlier and go to bed later than you would at home. Maybe you don’t take time to relax so you can fit a few extra activities in your itinerary. Constantly being on the go will wear you out overseas, just as it would at home. Limit your overall trip itinerary to one to three cities to allow yourself ample time to explore at a pace that works for you. When planning your day, choose only a few activities, preferably within one neighborhood, so you can cut transportation time and fully experience each part of your day. Don’t be afraid to take an afternoon just to relax at a café. You may even find this is a better way to experience the heart of your destination than action-packed sightseeing.
If you take the time before your trip to plan your overseas healthcare, you’ll come back from your vacation refreshed and ready to take on everyday life.