It’s never fun getting sick, but it’s even less fun if you’re traveling when it happens. Fortunately, though, feeling a bit off isn’t necessarily a vacation-killer; there are still plenty of ways to enjoy your vacation if you get sick while traveling. You might need to be a little flexible with your plans, but rolling with the punches is rarely the end of the world — even if it seems like it might be at first.
Of course, all of this is dependent on exactly how sick you are. If you’re severely ill, your first priority should be getting treatment. In the United States, urgent care clinics have proved to be a boon for travelers more than once — a quick Google search or a chat with your hotel concierge or a local friend should help you find one. If you're traveling internationally, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for some pointers on how to get health care when you’re traveling abroad; if you have health insurance, you’ll also want to get in touch with your insurer to see whether they’ll cover treatment outside the United States. Some international destinations may also have urgent care options — and speaking from experience, they can be a godsend.
If, however, you’re just dealing with a mild cold or some aches and pains, there’s still plenty you can do even when you’re not feeling 100 percent. From fun activities to self-care strategies, here are a few ideas to keep in mind:
1. Take A Bus Tour
If your travel destination has hop-on, hop-off options, those are ideal; that way, you can feel free to jump off and head back to your room whenever you feel your energy starting to flag.
2. Stay Hydrated
While it’s true that there hasn’t actually been a ton of research done on the efficacy of fluids when it comes to lessening infections, it’s still a good idea to stay hydrated. Some illnesses cause us to lose fluids more rapidly than we typically would, so keeping a water bottle nearby will obviously help counteract that issue; plus, if you’re suffering from something like a stuffy nose, staying hydrated can go a long way towards helping your body thin out — and subsequently either blow or cough out — mucus. What's more, it’s worth remembering that flying can be super dehydrating; replacing those fluids is extra important when you’re sick.
3. Take A Really Long And Relaxing Bath
During one memorable trip I took with my parents when I was ateenager, the bathroom of our hotel room was equipped with a tub that was quite literally big enough for me to swim in. So, one night, my folks went out for the evening, I ordered takeout, and I took the most exciting bath I’ve ever taken.
It was awesome.
Obviously not all vacation accommodations have bathing situations that are this notable — but if you’re in a position where you’ve got access to a usable tub, give yourself the gift of delightful soak. Get some bubble bath, essential oils, or bath salts, grab a good book, and just relax.
4. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Local Pharmacy
When I was in my early 20s and living in London, I came down with the worst flu I have ever had in my life. Eventually it got so bad that I was literally unable to get out of bed for two days and eventually required a trip to an urgent care clinic — but before it got to quite that point, I managed to get through a few days with some over-the-counter medication from the chemist down the road.
I won't lie: The shop was mildly terrifying to me in my illness-addled state, full of brands and drug names that I didn’t know (and a dose of social anxiety on my end didn’t help matters much, either). But the chemist ended up being incredibly helpful, locating exactly what I need to treat my symptoms; what's more, the over-the-counter medication they recommended remains the only over-the-counter cold remedy that has ever actually made me feel better after taking it.
Moral of the story: Even if you’re somewhere unfamiliar, you’ll probably still be able to get a hold of what you need. Don’t resign yourself to a week of not being able to breathe through your nose just because you’re traveling somewhere far from home.
5. Plan Some Sitting-Down Activities
If you’re not feeling up to traipsing around at high speeds, there are likely still plenty of less physically taxing activities you’ll be able to do. Movies and local shows are one option, although I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t feel like trapping yourself in a darkened performance space with loads of other people for an extended amount of time when your nose is constantly running. You might also try a museum — galleries often have benches and places to rest you can take advantage of whenever you need a break — or even just settling yourself on the beach, by the pool, in a café, or at a bar. Do some people watching. Sketch or write, if that’s your thing. Read a good book.
6. Rest Up
I don’t know about you, but for all the activities I like to pack into my vacations, I also like to set aside a little time to, y’know, go to bed early, sleep in a little later than usual, and/or nap. Those aren’t things I often get to do during my regular daily grind, so having the chance to get a little more shuteye than usual is something I jump at when I’m on vacation. Bonus: Giant hotel beds with huge pillows and super soft comforters make plain ol’ sleep feel downright luxurious.
7. Visit The Hotel Spa
This one is definitely a splurge, but if you’ve got the means to do it, do it. A massage might be just what the doctor ordered. Literally.
8. Don’t Beat Yourself Up For Getting Sick
This might be easier said than done, but seriously: Don’t be too hard on yourself about it. It’s not like you planned to get sick; nor did you “ruin everything” by coming down with something while you were away. Some things just can’t be helped. What’s more, staying positive should help keep your stress levels down, too — which, given that stress can exacerbate illness, might help you get better faster. Take care of yourself by not blaming yourself.
Being sick while you're on vacation obviously isn't ideal, but it doesn't have to be a disaster. Think outside the box a little, make sure you get plenty of R&R, and you should still be able to have a blast. Enjoy it!