Hotel? Check. Bags? Check. Itinerary? Check. While you've thought about everything from in-flight reads to business meeting agendas, you probably haven't planned on the one thing that could throw a wrench in your plans -- getting sick. We know what you're thinking: "Get sick? Not me." Think again. Experts estimate over 1,000 cases of malaria are acquired abroad and manifest themselves after return to the U.S. Traveler's diarrhea alone affects up to 50 percent of all international tourists. And countless other travelers suffer from less serious annoyances like jet lag or motion sickness. We all know that staying healthy and fit while traveling is a top priority for jetsetters. Read on for the four best tips to guarantee your next trip, whether business or pleasure, is stress-free.
1. Before You Go
The best way to prevent getting sick while traveling is to be prepared. If you're going abroad, schedule an appointment with your doctor or a travel health clinic, suggests William Schaffner, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee. Depending on where you're heading, you might need shots or medications. Plus you can pick up extra information on how to protect yourself while traveling. Headed to a tropical destination? Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website to see if mosquito-transmitted diseases, such as malaria or dengue, are a problem. Before booking a cruise vacation, check out the CDC's Green Tip Sheet for a listing of the top 100 cleanest ships. Whether traveling by car, train, plane or boat, it's always a good idea to pack any prescriptions and over-the-counter medications you might need in a hurry if you do get a bad headache, cold or upset stomach, Schaffner says. If you're flying, stash your kit in your carry-on luggage.
2. On Your Way
Wash your hands, a lot. Scrubbing with soap and water is one of the most important (and easiest) ways to reduce infectious disease transmission while traveling Schaffner explains. Stuck high and dry with no access to a sink? Keep an alcohol-based hand gel on you to use in a pinch. Get up and move around as well. On a plane, boat, or train, walk up and down the aisles and cabin or pre-plan pit stops on a road trip. It's good to stretch, plus you want to maintain good circulation in your legs, especially on a plane where you could be more prone to developing deep vein thrombosis or blood clots.
Don't think you can get away with not being hydrated and well-fueled either. Pack bottled liquids and healthy fare, like sandwiches, granola bars and nuts, to tide you over until you get to your destination. And fellas, we know in flight booze is tempting, especially when you're traveling for business and it's free, but you're better off sipping on water, soda or juice -- alcoholic beverages are dehydrating and will tire you right out.
3. When You Arrive
You already know to drink bottled water when you're abroad, but you should also avoid uncooked and unpeeled foods, warns Schaffner. If you do come down with stomach woes, drink plenty of bottled liquids. When traveling long distances, give your body about one hour a day to get used to the new time zone. The more time you spend outdoors in the first few days, the faster you'll adjust. You might associate getting sick on the road with international travel, but even if you're not going far, long meetings, time-zone changes and heavy food can all work against you. Make it a point to stick to your usual schedule and normal habits. Wake up and turn in at the same time, eat at your usual times, workout -- doing so will help you stay on your "A" game. Guys, just because you're on the road, it doesn't mean you can send your fitness routine packing. Most hotels that cater to business travelers usually offer a fitness facility on site. (You can locate one at www.fitforbusiness.com). So pack your workout gear -- you can still squeeze in cardio and strength sessions on the road.
4. Home Sweet Home
Watch for any signs or symptoms for a few days. If you develop a fever after you arrive, it's a good idea to call your doc, tell them where you've traveled and ask if you could have malaria, according to Schaffner.
Want more information? Check out some of the handy resources to ensure safe travels.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
You'll learn what precautions to take depending on your destination and can get a disease outbreak alert. Plus, get a list of nearby health clinics.
Traveler's Health Automated Information Line
877-FYI-Trip. Powered by the CDC, you can get recorded messages on travel-related health topics.
World Health Organization, International Travel and Health Report
Download the latest reports on international travel and health. Get up-to-date information on vaccines, diseases and general precautions to take.
Transportation Security Administration
Find safety information for traveling by air, highway, sea, mass transit or rail in the TSA Travel Center.
International Health & Racquet Clubs
Use the "Find a Club" feature to locate a gym at your destination
Sign up for this service that offers members over-the-phone 24/7 care from board-certified physicians.