There are SO many reasons why you’d want to avoid getting sick while traveling. First of all, who wants to feel like crud when they’re so far from home? Plus, you don’t want your vacation plans derailed because you’ve been sidelined by something you caught! As someone who lives with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), I’ve spent time researching how to avoid getting sick during cold and flu season travel.
I’ve taken 36 flights in the past year and had ZERO illnesses.
In fact, I usually skip trips between November and March whenever I can. Why? Because that’s peak flu season! When you’re surrounded by people coughing and blowing their nose, it kind of kills the mood anyway, right? No plan is foolproof but here are some suggestions for staying healthy while traveling this time of year.
Don’t Touch Your Face!
One of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. This is recommended by the CDC as a way of protecting yourself against viruses. I don’t touch my face at all unless I’ve sanitized or washed my hands. If I don’t have a way to clean up, I’ll use the inside of my shirt to rub my itchy eyes or nose.
This can be tough when you’re traveling with little ones, but this is something you should encourage them to do in their daily lives. We’ve got six kids, ranging from their 20s down to toddler twins, and they’ve all learned to do this. You don’t have to be a germaphobe (even though I am!), but there’s nothing wrong with taking practical steps to protect your health.
Keep Your Hands Clean
There are plenty of people who have things to say about my hand-washing or sanitizer routine, and I just don’t care. Staying healthy is more important than anyone’s opinion! If I’ve come in contact with common surfaces or before I eat out in public, I make sure I’ve cleaned my hands.
Washing your hands is best, and make sure you scrub for at least 20 seconds (long enough to sing “Happy Birthday” twice). If you can’t get to a sink (or are avoiding an airplane bathroom, like me!), using an alcohol-based sanitizer can be an effective way to avoid getting sick during cold and flu season travel.
My Supplements & Natural Remedies Routine
Whenever I travel, I’ve got a very predictable routine that I follow. In a travel pouch, I’ve got Sambuccol dissolvable tablets (because Elderberry has been shown to fight viruses), DoTERRA OnGuard essential oil, Emergen-C, and Grapeseed Extract (known for its ability to knock a stomach bug out!). In my carry-on bag, I’ve always got a small diffuser (here’s one of my favorites!).
We do this for our whole family, and so far, it’s been pretty effective. This is my exact routine to avoid getting sick while traveling during cold and flu season (and all year round):
- Put a drop of OnGuard under my tongue just before boarding the plane.
- Take one Sambuccol tablet every night.
- Add one drop of Grapeseed Extract to eight ounces of water every night.
- Diffuse three drops of OnGuard on the bedside table of my hotel overnight as I sleep. This is great to give kids a “dose” if they’re too young to ingest it.
- Take Emergen-C if I start feeling sketchy or was surrounded by sick people.
- Drink at least eight glasses of water a day, and take melatonin to sleep, if needed.
Of course, I’m not a physician, so please don’t take my word as medical advice. That being said, I’ve taken nearly 40 flights this year and never got sick — and I’ve got underlying health issues!
Pick the Right Seat
If you must travel by airplane to your destination, one of the best things you can do is pick the right seat. Run into me on a flight and you’re guaranteed to find me in one spot – my beautiful, lovely window seat. Unless I’m traveling with one of my kids, that’s where I prefer to sit. When little people are with me, that’s where I put them. It’s been shown to be the best option to avoid getting sick during cold and flu season travel.
There’s a few great things about the window seat. First, you can turn your face towards the wall and avoid people entirely, including Mr. Sniffles next to you. You can also rest your head on the wall (after wiping it down – I always have these Clorox wipes with me!) if you need to sleep. Plus, studies have shown that people who sit in the aisle seat are much more likely to pick up a virus, especially norovirus. Yuck!
Skip the Plane
Air travel tends to be quickest (unless you’re delayed somewhere due to the winter weather!), but if your destination is less than a day’s drive, you could always take a road trip. Why is that better than boarding a flight? Because you won’t be surrounded by more than a hundred germ-carrying passengers.
When you drive, there are two benefits, really. First is that you won’t have to sit next to someone who is coughing up a lung. The second is that you won’t have to rent a vehicle when you get where you’re doing which saves money and keeps you from touching a well-used steering wheel.
Wear a Mask
One of the things my daughter and I love most about Japan is that no one looks at you funny if you’re wearing a mask (like these!). It’s common in Asian countries where they wear them to protect against germs and pollutants/allergens. We were absolutely thrilled to follow suit and now we do it on flights.
In fact, during peak illness times, we wear them whenever we out in large groups, especially on the train and flights. Of course, we get some stares here in North America, but who cares? It’s much more important that we stay healthy while traveling during cold and flu season. Besides, we feel like pioneers because they are becoming more common. Even celebrities have started doing it!
Wipe Down Your Seat
When you pack your carry-on for your next flight, don’t forget to include wipes and sanitizer. Honestly, the armrests, tray tables and seatbelts are among the germiest things on an airplane. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Want to know how to avoid getting sick while traveling during cold and flu season? Wipe them down!
Again, people might give you some looks but more and more people are doing this. Just pull out a pack of Clorox wipes or something similar, and wipe down the hard surfaces. We even wipes the seats and around the window area where we might rest our heads if we take a nap.
Get Some Sleep
You’ve got to restore your reserves in order to stay healthy. If you are exposed to something during your travels, your body needs to be strong and rested in order to fight it off. Still, it can be get any shuteye when you’re on the road.
There are a lot of tips and tricks out there, but we rely on melatonin if we find ourselves tossing and turning. It can be really tough to deal with time changes, so if you’re on a long-haul flight you might need to take something for jet lag too. Keep to a routine as best as you can, and turn off all devices and the television about an hour before bedtime to let your brain know it’s time.
This is a tough one if you live with travel anxiety, especially if you’re traveling to see relatives for the holidays. This time of year can be so emotional, but one of the best ways to avoid getting sick while traveling during cold and flu season is to manage stress.
- Know the symptoms of travel anxiety and come up with a plan.
- Try deep breathing when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
- Diffuse anxiety-fighting essential oils in your hotel or bedroom.
- Consider trying CBD oil for your anxiety and stress.
- Learn about the ways to support someone with anxiety.
- Get TSA Precheck to skip the stressful lines at the airport!
- Some people follow a keto diet to reduce anxiety.
Yes, it’s normal for things to get extra stressful this time of year, but that doesn’t mean that you are powerless. Experiment with different strategies and come up with a proactive plan to keep things under control.
Stay Away From Sick People
You might feel like a bit of a jerk avoiding sick people, but you shouldn’t. Not all illness is avoidable, but there are real costs associated with getting sick. For example, having to take time off work to recover or missing out on a vacation because you’ve been sidelined is money wasted. That’s why I keep my distance when I can.
If you see people coughing in line at the airport, turn away from them. Planning to meet up with people on your trip? Ask them ahead of time if they are sick. Avoid movie theaters during the busiest showtimes. Before ordering at a restaurant, pay attention to the waitstaff and kitchen crew (if you can see them). Does everyone seem healthy?
If more sick people stayed home or were more courteous towards others, we’d see less spread of disease. While a “few germs” might not be a big deal to some, the flu can kill an infant, elderly person, or someone with a compromised immune system. Taking unnecessary sick days can also get you fired from your job. It’s not something to joke about.
Book Your Trip for Another Time
Unless you absolutely have to travel between November and March, considering booking your trip for another time. Even if it’s just that you pick the very beginning of November or very end of March, this could help you steer clear of the sickies.
Keeping a schedule that has me traveling between April and October is one way to avoid getting sick while traveling during cold and flu season — because I skip that time period entirely! Truth be told, traveling in April/May or September/October is my absolute favorite because crowds and fares are lower, but the weather is still good! Yes, that means I’m traveling a lot during the summer and not at all during the winter, but that works for us. Maybe it could work for you too!
Do you have any tips for how to avoid getting sick during cold and flu season travel? We’d love to hear from you!
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