8 Simple Steps for a Safer Trip

Protect yourself from illness and injury so you can focus on fun

Couple smiling at map

Whether you’re driving to another state for a long weekend or planning an international vacation, staying healthy while you travel is key for a pleasant trip. Follow these steps to avoid illness and injury while you’re away.

1. Know before you go
Check out what’s happening at your destination. Have there been disease outbreaks? Will you be traveling during a time of bad weather like hurricane season? Are there any safety concerns for the area? Before going abroad, view the latest alerts at cdc.gov/travel.

2. See your doctor if needed
If you are pregnant, have recently had surgery, or have a health condition like diabetes, ask your doctor if travel is safe for you. If you’re going to another country, get a pretravel health check four to six weeks before your trip. Your doctor will make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccinations like MMR and get any recommended vaccinations for yellow fever, typhoid, or other diseases.

3. Stock up on medications
Whether you’ll be gone a couple of days or a month, pack an extra week’s worth of prescription medications, says Jennifer Hamilton, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Take all prescription medications in their original bottles. You may also want to bring over-the counter drugs for allergies, pain, or motion sickness, if they’re not restricted. Store any medications and health documents in your carry-on luggage for easy access.

4. Wash your hands often
Travel usually means crowded areas and plenty of germs. To minimize the risk of illness, maximize your hygiene efforts. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often, especially before eating and after using the restroom. For extra protection, double up by washing your hands and then using hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Bonus: if you have alcohol-based wipes, take a swipe at seatback trays and armrests before using them.

5. Stay hydrated
“Dehydration wears away at your immunity and makes it easier to get infections,” Dr. Hamilton says. “It can also cause headaches.” Keep in mind that both caffeine and alcohol dehydrate you. Drink water regularly while you travel to prevent dehydration. Bring or buy a bottle of water, and keep it handy.

6. Move your body
Long periods of sitting can cause tight muscles and stiff joints. For people who smoke, have heart disease, or are pregnant, it can also lead to something more serious. “If you’re not moving every hour or two, you could be setting yourself up for blood clots in your legs,” Dr. Hamilton says. Try this to keep your blood flowing: in a seated position, tighten and relax your leg muscles. If you’re in a car, walk around at rest stops. If you’re on a plane, stand up to stretch when you can. When you arrive at your destination, do some gentle stretches.

7. Tweak healthy habits
Don’t let the vacation mindset lead to vacation pounds, Dr. Hamilton says. Aim for balance. Indulge your taste buds, but stick to healthy portions. Pack sneakers, and explore the city on foot.

8. Make time for rest
You’ll have more fun if you’re not exhausted the whole time. Do your best not to skimp on sleep. If you’re on a longer trip, plan a night you’ll go to bed early or a morning you’ll sleep in.