Health can be a big issue when you’re abroad. It can stop your trip right in its tracks. In order to make the most of your time, take some precautions while you travel. Here are my top health tips for extended travel:
Go to All Your Appointments: Physician, eye doctor, dentist, you name it. If you go to them for an annual, make sure you have gone in the year before your trip. It helps to give you peace of mind that you know there isn’t anything too crazy going on.
Get Your Prescriptions All Lined Up: This one can be tricky. Insurance companies don’t like to give out medicine at the reduced rates even if you swear up and down that you are leaving the country, won’t have access to the pharmacy you need to go to, and have written proof of your trip. I had this happen to me when I studied abroad in Ireland and for my backpacking trip. Get ready to cough up some extra cash to get your meds. If you’re only going to be out of the country for a few months, it’s worth it to get your medicine in advance. I haven’t ventured into what happens when you’re gone for longer.
Get Extra Prescriptions: Hopefully your doctor will understand your situation like mine did. When I went for my annual physical, I told the doctor that I wanted to bring some antibiotics along with me just in case. She completely agreed and wrote up a prescription for them. I didn’t use them but knowing I had them at the ready gave me peace of mind.
Stock Up on Medicine You Typically Use: Bringing your medicine is a good way to ensure your health. I brought cold medicine that I typically use and was so happy to have it on hand. You shouldn’t bring a whole store with you but bring what you know you’ll need and use. I knew I would need cold medicine, Motrin, Pepto Bismol tablets, and Vitamin C packets so in my bag they went. I used them all.
Know What You’re Getting Into with Medicine Abroad: It’s good to know that you might not be able to easily obtain medicine abroad. It won’t be too difficult but it is different than the USA. Sometimes you can’t just walk up to a shelf and get the cold medicine you need without asking. (On my most recent trip, I asked for them to get contact lens solution for me twice.) In Europe, you’re going to need to go to a pharmacy to get medicine. It’s not like in the states where you can grab something at a supermarket or a gas station. Be prepared that you might have to search. This is where having your medicine already with you comes in handy. The more you travel, the more you’ll pick up on patterns on where you can find things you need.
Stay Hydrated: I would always feel worse when I didn’t have enough water in my system. It definitely is hard to stay hydrated when you travel. You constantly move around and are distracted by other things. Plus, I would drink less on travel days just so I wouldn’t have to use the bathrooms as much. But I found that to be silly after the first few times I did that. I would feel horrible and cranky. I would also occasionally get terrible headaches from it. Keep yourself hydrated. I brought a water bottle with me the whole time. It was a plastic pouch so I could roll it up and save space in my bag. It also had a clip on it so I could save room in my bags even when it was full. You can also just buy water bottles along the way and reuse them which is what my boyfriend did.
Get Exercise: This tip isn’t that difficult. If you walk everywhere like Matt and I did, you’re basically golden. When I’m active I feel much more awake, refreshed, and ready for anything. Plus, I get sick less frequently when I exercise. I did occasionally run while we traveled. I hope to add more exercise into my routine on future trips.
Get a Flu Shot: If you are into getting the flu shot and you’re leaving for a trip during flu season, consider getting this done before you leave. I asked the pharmacist if the strain anticipated in the US would be the same as in Europe. He said he was unsure but suspected not. Then he said it ultimately couldn’t hurt to get it anyway. So I did just in case. I’d rather not have the flu while traveling.
Take Time Off When You’re Sick: When you get sick during your journey, it is really, really easy to just keep going and attempt to ignore your illness. There’s so much to do and see that you just don’t want to miss anything. Don’t do this to yourself. I attempted this in Budapest. I took a day and a half off when I got a cold and then went out the next. I ended up really sick and feverish by the end of that day and had to take about another day and a half off. It wasn’t worth it. I should have just killed the cold in two days and then been able to spend more time in the city rather than effectively wasting a whole day.
Take Preventative Measures: Vitamin C helps me so much. When I feel a cold coming on, I take some. It is particularly useful when you are staying in hostel rooms where there are many other people. Ultimately someone will be sick at some point and you will be exposed to those germs. When I start to feel a tickle in my throat or feel I’ve been exposed to too much to not take preventive measures, I use my Vitamin C packets and it sets me straight. Use your typical preventative routine while you travel.