Nothing challenges even the best immune systems like travel, particularly if flying is involved. With airlines cutting back on flights to keep costs down, you’re more likely than ever to face a packed plane with a sick seatmate.
For years, it seemed as if every time I took a trip I came home with an unwanted souvenir: a terrible virus that left me miserable, which is the last thing anyone should have to deal with after a relaxing vacation. After researching every health tip I could find, I now enjoy traveling without worry. Here’s how to prepare yourself to stay healthy on your trip.
One week before your vacation:
1) Clean up your diet. It’s essential to get plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains so your body will be in its best shape to fight off all the new bacteria you’ll be exposed to during your travels. Get plenty of exercise, too. Not only is exercise good for your immune system, you can enjoy those fancy dinners and margaritas guilt-free during your vacation.
2) Get plenty of rest. Even on the most relaxing vacations you’ll be faced with late nights, early mornings and new adventures. Make sure you get plenty of sleep to prepare yourself and help your body fight off exposure to viruses. Adjusting your sleep schedule to help get used to a new time zone will help you avoid jet lag.
3) Try and avoid things that are detrimental to your immunity: alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, excess sugar and stress. Instead of wine, drink extra water and some green tea. Add some fresh-squeezed lemon juice to your water to avoid airplane bloat.
The night before your departure:
1) Eat a vitamin-rich dinner that includes plenty of garlic. Garlic is full of antioxidants, is a natural immunity booster and helps kill bacteria like E Coli and salmonella. As an added bonus, if you fly Southwest airlines, your garlic breath will practically guarantee you your own row. Other natural immunity boosters include onions, citrus fruits and green tea. Eating natural blood thinners like spinach will also help reduce your risk of getting a blood clot on long drives or flights.
2) Drink a bottle of kombucha, a fermented tea with different cultures known for improving digestion and immunity. Admittedly, kombucha tea tastes like something one would be forced to drink on the show “Fear Factor.” It is vile, yet it contains mass quantities of probiotics, which are essential to a healthy immune system. It also contains B vitamins, amino acids and polyphenols.
3) Get to bed early and relax. Clear your mind of stress and worry and don’t lie awake wondering if you forgot to pack something. Odds are, you didn’t.
The day of your trip:
1) Load up on Vitamin C. Some people swear by Airborne and Emergen-C while others say they don’t work. Nothing beats getting your vitamins from Whole Foods so, if possible, snack on an orange for breakfast.
2) Keep your nose hydrated. If you tend to have a dry nose or sinus issues, spray your nostrils with saline spray to moisten your nostrils during your flight.
3) Remember, airport terminals are breeding grounds for all sorts of bacteria. People are coming from all over the world bringing all kinds of mysterious diseases with them. Wash your hands obsessively … after touching the trays in the security line, after handling anything, and especially before eating. If you can’t get to a sink, carry antibacterial hand sanitizer. Remember not to touch your eyes or mouth.
4) Carry water. Bring your own bottled water onto the plane (airplane ice is known for being unclean) and sip it throughout the flight. Avoid coffee and soda, which can dehydrate you. Stick to hot tea if you need an energy boost.
5) During your trip, try and maintain as normal of a schedule as possible. Try and eat at least one healthy meal a day and get plenty of sleep.
Jessica is full-time freelance writer and frequent traveler. Read more of her writing at http://www.52perfectdays.com/contributors/JessicaLee and http://jessicalee.pnn.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.