Stay Well on the Go

How to Avoid Getting Sick on Vacation

Grocery stores and shopping malls can be havens for microbes, and the kids who pile into your backseat after school – as cute as they may be - are all little germ-carriers.

You’ve accepted these facts and learned how to deal with them in order to avoid getting sick, but when it comes to traveling, you have more questions than answers.

Don't let food poisoning, a bad sunburn, or a poor sleep schedule make you feel run down while traveling. You should feel your best on vacation.


Follow these easy tips for staying well while traveling:

  • Watch your water. In uncertain circumstances, heed the source of your water and stick to what’s bottled or properly boiled. Be careful about ice cubes and brushing your teeth as well – even a little bit of contaminated water can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Trying new and exotic food is what it’s all about, but do your best to choose items that have been properly cooked and cleaned. If you’re unsure of their origins, it’s usually best to avoid shellfish, raw fruits and vegetables that can’t be peeled, and unpasteurized milk.

  • When in Rome. If you’re out and about and can’t resist the temptation of tasting a street vendor’s wares, be smart by going where the locals go. If it’s a happening place with lots of regular customers, chances are they’re serving something safe (and delicious).

  • Bring your own. If you want to take a few extra precautions it’s always wise to speak to your doctor first, but many travelers find it helpful to bring along a supply of medicine cabinet stand-bys (Pepto-Bismol, Immodium, etc). There’s no need to travel with a mini-pharmacy in your purse, but keep taking your vitamins while on the road, have a few band aids on hand in case of blisters, and if you’ll be doing much flying or boating, Dramamine is a must.

  • Plan ahead. Keeping your immune system in top form and being prepared for various minor inconveniences are also good ideas. Flying, jet lag, and generally adjusting to a new set of circumstances can send our delicate bodies into a tailspin. Start out on the right track and finish strong by embracing a few beneficial behaviors before your trip: Eat well, get enough sleep and stick to an exercise routine.
  • Cover up. Sunscreen. Enough said.

  • Get up to date. Being up to date on all vaccines is another precaution to consider. You’ll probably never be exposed to tetanus, tuberculosis or hepatitis A, but it’ll make you feel better knowing that your body is ready to take on anything, just in case.

  • Take it easy. By all means have fun, but remember that overdoing it on alcohol, missing out on sleep and running yourself ragged by trying to do too much are all recipes for losing your verve. Treat yourself right!

The most likely scenario is that you’ll enjoy a vacation that’s relaxing and free of sickness, but it doesn’t hurt to be aware of a few misfortunes that tend to befall hapless world wanderers.  Whether you’re traveling solo, with a group of your best friends or as the woman in charge of the family, keeping yourself healthy means you’ll be better able to help others do the same.

Don’t let a few amateur mistakes keep you from realizing your potential as a competent and savvy globetrotter – this is your vacation, after all, and there’s no room for uninvited guests.

Find more vacation tips, like Staying Fit on Vacation or How to Beat Jet Lag .