10 tips for staying healthy ahead of travel

So often in modern life, our cortisol levels are at their highest pre-holiday as we work overtime to get everything done before going away. Once cortisol levels and our defences drop, we’re susceptible to becoming ill, just when we should be enjoying ourselves. To add to the problem, when you’re in a new place, you’re exposed to new viruses and bacteria that your body hasn’t built immunities for. With all of these factors working against you, is it possible to stay healthy during your holiday?

Yes, fortunately, you can take proactive steps to prevent illness before you even step foot on a plane or check into your hotel. While these tips require a bit of foresight and planning, they may be able to help you enjoy your travel to the fullest.


1. Eat well in the days before your trip

If you’re currently not providing your body with the nutrition it needs to sustain a healthy immune system, start making changes to your diet in the weeks leading up to your holiday. An overnight change won’t be enough to build up your reserves, so start early and be consistent.

Your immune system needs good, regular nourishment in order to perform properly, so it’s important to consume a diet that is rich in micronutrients, like zinc, copper, selenium, Vitamin B6 and folic acid.


2. Don’t wait until the last minute

Leaving town for a holiday can be stressful. You may need to put in extra hours at work, catch up on your laundry, make arrangements for pets, plan the details of your itinerary and rearrange meetings and events.

If you wait until the last minute to take care of these preparations, you’ll be overtired at the beginning of your trip. While you sleep, your immune system produces cytokines, which help your body to fight infectious diseases. That’s exactly what you need as you head into your holiday, especially when you’re facing the effects of jet lag.


Female sleeping in bed


3. Keep your life balanced in the weeks before your trip

It’s not uncommon for people to think they can work hard right up until their holiday and then use the holiday to “recover.” If you stay up late to cram in extra work before your trip, your immune system will already be dragging before you get on the plane.

Pace yourself and lead a balanced life in the weeks leading up to your trip. You may need to say no to some requests or make sure you’re in bed at a reasonable hour. You’ll be thanking yourself for it when you’re overseas fully enjoying your time off.


4. Take care of health-related appointments before your holiday

Not only will you reduce your chances of having to visit health practitioners on your trip, but you’ll also be able to address any potential problems before you leave. Pre-holiday appointments also give you a good opportunity to get prescription refills and ask questions about issues that may require extra attention while you’re away from home.

Our policies don't automatically cover pre-existing medical conditions. However, we may be able to offer you cover for your pre-existing medical conditions once you have carried out an online medical assessment. To help you complete this assessment, it may be worth asking your GP for a copy of your medical history so you know the names of any conditions and how long you’ve had them for.


Senior man visiting the doctor for a health check


5. Learn about travel-specific immunisations

Find out which (if any) immunisations you’ll need for your travel destination and acquire them within the recommended time span. Also, ask your doctor if you need any boosters to refresh immunisations you’ve received in the past.

Some countries still have high rates of infection or diseases that are rare in New Zealand. It’s important to remember that health alerts and immunisation recommendations change from time to time, so if you’ve travelled to an area in the past and didn’t need to receive immunisations, it’s still wise to check each time.


6. See your dentist prior to your trip

This is especially important if you’ve had any toothache symptoms. You’ll want to avoid having to take time out of your holiday to see a dentist during your trip. Keep in mind that tooth pain can be worse during flights because of air pressure changes, so take care of those dental problems now.


Weekly medication and pills


7. Acquire enough medication to cover your trip

It can be difficult to refill prescriptions in foreign countries. Therefore, it’s wise to acquire enough medication to cover your entire holiday. It’s important to keep your prescription note from your doctor and store medicines in their original packaging when travelling, especially when moving through airport customs. Do research to see what medications are legal in your destination as rules may differ from home.


8. Locate the closest hospital to your accommodation

No one plans on being sick during their holidays, but it doesn’t hurt to know where to go in the event of an illness or injury. Find the closest hospital and medical clinic to your holiday accommodation, and put the contact information in your phone in case you have questions or an emergency.


Jellyfish in the ocean


9. Spend some time researching possible health hazards

Research the following local information to help you with your pre-holiday planning. As you research, seek out local government websites for periodic updates on these kinds of issues.

  • Weather forecast during your stay (you’ll need to pack appropriate clothing and gear)
  • Unusual health hazards (jellyfish season, extreme weather, etc.)
  • Water sanitation (you may need to be prepared to purchase drinking water)

10. Prepare for food allergies and special diets

If you or a member of your family have an allergy or intolerance, it’s important to prepare early to accommodate these dietary needs by researching the local restaurant options at your destination. If you won’t be able to get some foods that you need, make plans to take some supplies with you (depending on what food you’ll allowed to bring into the country with you).

Additionally, contact your airline before your flight to let them know you need a special diet meal. Some airlines require up to 72 hours’ notice for special meals.


These simple preparations will help you to stay healthy during your holiday. With a stronger immune system and well-rested body, you’ll be able to enjoy your trip to the fullest.


The content of this article is general and provided for information purposes only. It is not intended to be medical advice. Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI) doesn’t guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness or currency of the articles.

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