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5 Simple Tips for Staying Healthy When Traveling

October 28, 2010 | Permalink

With cool days comes cold and flu season (gotten your shot yet?), and nothing’s more frustrating than to be off on a longed-for vacation or an important business trip, only to cough and drag your way through each day. Traveling does put stresses on the body, so it pays to take a few precautions to keep your body in shape and illness at bay while on the road. Here are five strategies to help you stay healthy but not slow you down or weigh down your baggage. Some may seem obvious on the surface, but we include a few tried and true tricks of the traveling trade.

Sleep
Everyone knows that to stay healthy and happy, humans need sufficient high quality sleep. Yet no matter how intrepid the traveler, evolutionary adaptations often prompt us to be overly vigilant when in unfamiliar surroundings. If you find yourself sleepless or even just waking frequently while traveling, try some of those comfort strategies from childhood: If you have room (e.g., on a road trip), bring your own pillow and perhaps an especially comforting afghan or small blanket. Familiar sensory elements (smell, touch) help us relax. Something as simple as a nightlight (small and easy to tuck into a corner of your bag) can lend a sense of security to a room that has unfamiliar shapes and noises. Sleep music and white noise CDs are especially helpful if you also use them at home (again, the familiarity effect).

Vitamins
People usually remember to pack their medications but often neglect to add their vitamins, probiotics and other non-prescription health aids. These pills tend to be too large to fit into conventional pill cases, but a small pouch will keep them safe and is also easy to slide into a corner of your pack or bag.

Hydration
Keeping hydrated helps you maintain energy and keeps all those handy internal organs functioning smoothly (meaning you can avoid some gastro-intestinal distresses). Instead of buying countless small plastic bottles of water, use a stainless steel water bottle like a Kleen Kanteen, and refill it with tap water. Yes, regular tap water. In the U.S., it’s almost always as safe, healthy and available as most bottled water. Using BPA free stainless steel bottle also lets you avoid adding to landfills across the country. If the “foreign” water tastes odd (as it does to most of us), bring along a pre-cut lime and add a slice each time you refill your water bottle.

Set aside relaxation moments
No matter how wonderful the trip is, no matter how much we love being on the go, our minds and bodies do build stress, and so we need moments of downtime during the day. Try to make time to do deep breathing, yoga, meditation or just eyes-closed daydreaming for 10-15 minutes a couple of times a day. Herbal teas can be helpful to create a sense of quietude and are easy to carry with you. Bring bags rather than loose tea, and you can quickly make a cup of calming chamomile or peppermint tea in the airport waiting area or in the comfort of your hotel room to settle a restless stomach or headache.

Gargle
This last tip may not sound like fun, but the Mayo Clinic reported a recent study showing that gargling with salt-water helps ward off sore throats and bronchial distress and, if a cold strikes, soothes and speeds recovery. The solution is easy to make on the spot (1/2 teaspoon salt in one glass warm water) and only requires that you have salt and warm water.

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