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Staying Healthy While Traveling

August 12, 2021
If you are concerned about how safe it is to travel, here are steps you can take to minimize your risk of getting sick.

Since the pandemic began, awareness has grown about how diseases can spread through travel. More than ever, people are wondering if travel is safe for their health.

Traveling does tend to increase your risk of getting sick as you might be exposed to different germs. You might try new foods and beverages that you are not used to while on vacation or a business trip. And your immune system may be weaker due to less sleep or additional stress.

Nobody wants to get sick while they are away from home. Being prepared can  minimize your risk of getting sick and help you stay healthy and safe while traveling. Here are some travel tips for before, during, and after your trip.

Before you go

At least one month before your trip, start looking at what you may need to take care of prior to departure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a travel planning site with information based on the zip code of your U.S. destination, including travel restrictions by state. If you are traveling to another country, the U.S. State Department has information about medical considerations by country.

Things to consider include:

  • Check in with your doctor to get recommendations based on your personal medical history and concerns.
  • Schedule any recommended vaccines and pick up medications based on where you are traveling and your doctor’s advice. Plan to get shots at least a month before you go, since some vaccines take two-to-four weeks to become fully effective.
  • Review your healthcare coverage for the places you will be visiting, as well as your access to online care. If you are traveling outside of your home country, find out if your plan covers you while abroad, if you need a supplemental policy, and how to access care.
  • Find out any health-related requirements from your transportation and lodging providers. Also learn what they do for health and sanitation.
  • Pack your health kit for travel:
    • Health plan ID card
    • Medication – prescriptions plus remedies for stomach issues, colds, allergies, and pain relief
    • Medical devices – if you are flying, find out if these can go with you in the passenger compartment or if they need to be checked with your baggage
    • Hygiene supplies – hand sanitizer, soap, wipes, tissues, and face masks

While traveling

Most trips involve activities and environments that are different from life at home. You might be staying up later, consuming alcohol more frequently, or pushing your body physically in new ways. This break from routine can be fun, but it may also add stress.

In addition, many people are asking themselves if it is safe to fly or travel during COVID-19, or when it will be safe to travel again. While that is a decision each person or family must make for themselves, there are steps you can take to be as safe as possible. It is a good idea to start by checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel advisories.

Other simple actions can help you stay healthy while traveling, such as:

  • Maintain healthy habits from home – drink plenty of clean water, eat healthful food, and get enough sleep
  • Avoid high-touch surfaces, clean them before touching, if possible, and use hand sanitizer afterward
  • Wash your hands with soap often for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your face, especially after touching surfaces
  • Minimize your time in crowded spaces, especially indoors, and keep a 6-foot distance from those who are not traveling with you when possible
  • Consider wearing a mask while on planes and other modes of transportation, or if you must be in a crowded indoor space

When you return

Finally, take care of yourself and your travel companions once you have gotten home from your trip:

  • Once back at home, stay especially attuned to any changes in your health
  • Be aware of symptoms for at least a week after your trip
  • Check with your doctor if you think you may have been exposed to people who were sick during your trip
  • Consider limiting your contact with others if you are concerned you may have picked up an illness while traveling

Following these travel tips will make it safer to travel, and will help minimize your risk of getting sick during or after your trip. By planning ahead, you can stay healthy while traveling and return refreshed, rather than drained.