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Tips for Healthy Travel During the Holidays

November 20, 2015

Nearly 47 million Americans will travel this Thanksgiving, the highest number in eight years.

As we head off to spend the holidays with friends and family, it’s important to keep ourselves healthy and to stay safe. Traveling often is stressful, between visiting an unknown place or traveling abroad, the lack of rest and being in close proximity to people on airplanes, trains and cars that may be sick.

Before you pack your bags, keep these things in mind:

Plan ahead

So many times, travelers decide at the last minute that it would be fun to take a trip. From airline tickets to travel vaccines, it’s always better (and cheaper) to make these plans ahead of time. Travel during the holidays usually means crowds and long lines. Be prepared with appropriate vaccinations, emergency medications for traveler’s diarrhea, high altitude illness prevention and/or anti-malaria medications. Check with your travel professional to see what you need at least six weeks before travel.

Travel light

Take what you need and no more. The holiday travel season is hectic enough, and toting extra, unnecessary luggage through the airport can make it even more stressful.

Pack presents in carry-on luggage and leave them unwrapped, as security may have to inspect a wrapped gift. Bring wrapping paper and tape with you to wrap gifts after you land — better yet, give friends and family a gift card!

Leave your valuables at home

Leave your bling at home to reduce the chance of theft. Using disposable cameras also are a better idea than bringing along expensive iPads and digital cameras, especially if you’re traveling abroad. As an American, whether you are wealthy or not, you’ll likely be targeted so be extra cautious about what you pack for your trip.

The same goes for your passport, credit cards and other ID. Make photocopies of these items and leave them with friend or relative at home and keep another copy separate from your originals.

Pack necessary prescriptions

If you have any life-threatening allergies, wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace and bring an Epi-Pen kit. Bring an extra set of glasses or contact lenses as backup to avoid ruining your vacation — and your ability to see — if you lose a pair.

Get adequate medical evacuation insurance

You can purchase this insurance online or through your travel organization, especially if you are planning to do any high-risk adventure travel. Motorcycles, scooters, ziplining and parasailing are all fun activities while overseas. However, in many countries there’s limited oversight and minimal safety rules — if they exist at all. Be careful and make sure that you are dealing with a reputable company and get referrals from your travel group or reputable hotels before you embark on your adventure.

Another important thing to keep in mind: medical care overseas often is less than adequate, depending on where you travel. Check your policy to make sure your medical expenses and emergency evacuations abroad will be covered.

Keep your kids safe

Sometimes families get separated in an airport or at their travel destination. Even if your kids are toddlers, it’s important for them to know their home address and telephone number — or to at least have this information on them (either in their pocket or attached to a lanyard). Show them where to go in the airport if you get separated and review the procedure for dealing with strangers.

Whether you’re traveling by car or plane, staying stateside or going abroad, planning ahead can help you avoid the stress of holiday travel. Follow the six tips I mentioned and you’ll likely have a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.