Whether it’s a getaway to warmer weather or an annual holiday visit with family, make sure your winter fun isn’t spoiled by stress or illness. Kelli Clear, FNP-BC, MSN, RN, a family medicine provider at Duke Primary Care Meadowmont in Chapel Hill, shares tips for staying healthy and happy while traveling this winter.
1. Plan ahead.
Make sure every family member aged 6 months or older gets a flu shot—ideally by the end of October, and at least a week or two before you travel (it can take a couple of weeks before you’re protected). Be sure to get enough rest before your journey, especially if you’ll be driving long distances.
2. Keep essentials handy.
Bring the medications you take regularly, including a few days’ extra supply. For air travel, pack medications in your carry-on bag in case of delays or lost luggage. Don’t forget your health insurance ID card. If you’re traveling abroad, check to see if your insurance will cover you outside the country.
3. Stay hydrated.
Dehydration can increase your chances of catching a respiratory infection. Bring a refillable water bottle and drink from it often. If you’re traveling to a country where the tap water may be unhealthy, drink bottled water—and avoid ice, fountain drinks, and flavored ices made with tap water.
4. Pack healthy snacks.
It can be hard to stick to your eating plan while on the road—especially if you have food allergies or dietary restrictions. For car trips, bring a cooler with sandwiches, fresh fruit, and vegetables. When flying, pack portable healthy snacks like fruit, nuts, and whole-grain crackers.
5. Wash your hands and often.
Bacteria and viruses that cause illness can live on surfaces such as door handles, escalator rails, and elevator buttons. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently, especially before eating and after touching any surfaces. Scrub for at least 20 seconds before rinsing. Carry hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes for times when you can’t get to a sink.
6. Stay active.
It’s important to take breaks and move around, especially for adults who are more likely to develop blood clots when sitting for long periods of time. On car trips, stop at rest areas every couple of hours and walk for at least 10 minutes. On long flights, get up and walk the aisle. Exercise helps relieve stress and boost your immune system, so don’t stop moving when you get to your destination. If it’s too cold to go for a walk or run, find a fitness routine you can do in your hotel room.
It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of planning, packing and preparing for travel, particularly during the winter holidays. When the pace gets hectic, take a moment to close your eyes (don’t do this while driving!) and take a few slow, deep breaths. Practicing this kind of relaxation technique can help you let go of stress and better enjoy the people and places your winter travel takes you to.