5 Tricks To Keep Yourself From Getting Sick While Traveling

by JR Thorpe
Matt King/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

We all have our own tips and tricks to not get sick when we travel. Stay away from the sneezing family in the airport lounge; carry hand sanitizer; get every recommended vaccination and make sure all the others are up to date — these are obvious, and easy, ways to protect your immune system from an onslaught either while traveling or in a new country. Seasoned travelers, however, know that there are a few less obvious strategies to fend off illness, whether it's from food poisoning, infection, or viruses, when on the way around the world. Because nothing ruins a vacation faster than feeling gross. If you're prone to getting sick while traveling, some of these tricks might help.

The immune system is naturally depressed when you do a lot of traveling because of exhaustion, changing diets and routines, and exposure to other travelers in enclosed spaces. The Center for Disease Control recommends that if you're ill, you go through a set of stringent health criteria before you decide to take that trip, including your history of recent surgery and symptoms you might be experiencing. It's not just for your safety; it's for the health of everybody else around you, who might not exactly be thrilled if they catch something nasty because you don't want to delay your holiday.

If you're otherwise in ship-shape, but want to avoid being laid up with a cold when you get back, check out these tricks for staying healthy while traveling.


Avoid The Seatback Pockets Of Planes

Keeping your hand sanitizer nearby in plane lavatories is a well-known tip to avoid picking up nasties, but have you considered the seatback pocket? You should. "Airplanes are notoriously filthy, and they’re cleaned far less frequently than you might think; certainly there is no deep cleaning going on during the short period of deboarding and reboarding that goes on at most airline gates," writes Ed Hewitt at Smarter Travel. That means that germs and remnants of food bacteria from previous travelers' socks and snacks are still there. "While I do recommend checking out the emergency information at the beginning of your flight, avoid too much rummaging around in the seatback pocket if you can help it," says Hewitt.


Stick To Hard Cheeses

Getting food poisoning when you're trying new foods abroad is so common, it's practically a punchline. While fear of getting ill shouldn't stop you from trying new foods, you should be mindful of your past experiences and how well your stomach adapts to new environments and cuisines. Sticking to bottled water, thoroughly-cooked foods, hard cheeses, and pasteurized dairy are easy ways to avoid some of the most common sources of food-borne bacteria.


Take Supplements

The issue with dietary changes on your holiday is that they can throw your digestion for a loop. Take note of what you're eating and how it differs from what you have at home, and if you think you're not getting the same nutrients, be prepared to stock up. "Supplements and vitamins, including iron pills, can help maintain balance when your diet is insufficient. Also, 'sports bars' such as Balance or Power Bars are excellent, nutrient-packed travel snacks," recommends Smarter Travel. Sticking individual packs of vitamins in your bag can help your digestion stay on track.


Make A Relaxed Travel Schedule

If you're the kind of person who has to see 10 sights per day and 11 cities in a week, you're also much more likely to experience sickness while you're on holiday. This also applies to travelers who don't plan properly and always find themselves in a haze of stress because they're lost or might miss their train. "Stress in general tends to weaken the immune system [...] This means that rushing to catch flights and dealing with hectic travel schedules can also play a role in the body’s susceptibility to infection," notes physician Christopher Sanford at Popular Science. Slow down, make less complicated plans, and get yourself to the airport on time, and you'll likely find yourself feeling better for it. Rome wasn't built in a day, and it won't disappear after one either.


5 . .. And Rest After You Get Home

You may have plotted your holiday impeccably and given yourself the vacation of your life, but what about the aftermath? While it might be tempting to fly back on the last possible day and head to work the next morning, to maximize your holiday time, it's actually a poor idea for your immune system. "Vacationers often have little to no rest between getting home and returning to work," say experts at Cedars-Sinai Hospital. "Try to give yourself a day or two to recover." That way you get all your holiday washing done — and also relax a little before heading back into work.

If you do get ill, make sure you have proper travel insurance, keep hydrated, and know where to go if you need help. It's always valuable to have guidebooks with hospital and emergency numbers in the back — and don't neglect your normal medications just because it's holiday time.