How to stay healthy when traveling

Follow these travel tips to avoid sickness and maintain energy

Cruising along the Danube River. RVing through America’s national parks. Sipping exotic beverages on Rio’s cobblestone streets.

These are just some of the trips many of us dream about, especially as retirement gets closer and we start imagining the possibilities.

But hitting the road can be taxing at times. Strange places can be disorienting, and jet lag is a challenge as you adjust to a new time zone. Flying, temperature and altitude changes, hours of walking and standing, and driving long distances can stress the body and make you feel anxious.

Good news! Here’s some smart advice to help you stay healthy while traveling so you can make the most of your trip.

It’s even more important to keep your bones strong as you age, since the chances of developing osteoporosis, or weak and brittle bones, rises as you get older. 
You can do this by getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D. Doing so will supplement the calcium your body makes on its own. You’ll find it in calcium-rich drinks and foods, including:
  • Low-fat dairy products, like milk and yogurt
  • Salmon
  • Leafy greens

The last thing you need on vacation is to run out of prescription medication. 

You can avoid this by planning ahead. Make sure you have enough to last – and then some. Travel delays and cancelled flights can add extra days to your trip. A good rule of thumb is to tack on a few days’ supply. You won’t have to worry about going without your medication if you're unexpectedly stuck on the road. Also, keep a list of the generic names of your prescription medications in the language of the country you're visiting, just in case you need to see a doctor.

If you think you may need certain over-the-counter medications, such as Actifed or Sudafed, bring them with you. That’s because they contain pseudoephedrine, and thus not sold there. Vicks inhalers also fall into this category.

If you’re traveling abroad, it’s a good idea to get any vaccinations you may need. Depending on where you're traveling, you may need a shot for: 

  • Hepatitis
  • Typhoid
  • Polio
  • Yellow fever

You can make sure you’re protected by checking the Centers for Disease Control’s destination pages for a list of recommended vaccines by country

Before you travel, see your doctor for a complete medical checkup – especially if you have a chronic condition, such as coronary heart disease or hypertension. If you’ve recently undergone surgery or had a heart attack, ask your doctor if there are any precautions you should take.

Many folks toast their upcoming trip with a glass of bubbly while waiting to board their plane. You may want to choose sparkling water instead. 

That’s because airplane cabins are usually dry due to a lack of humidity in the air. This can cause dehydration – and drinking alcohol can make it worse. 

But even if you avoid alcohol, you may feel dehydrated while flying. This can affect your energy and blood sugar levels. What’s more, dehydration can be an issue throughout your trip. Stay well-hydrated each day by limiting caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, which can strip your body of water and essential minerals. Make sure you're drinking water during and in between meals.

For many travelers, new foods are part of the experience. But if you suffer from certain medical conditions, dietary changes can upset your system. Before your trip, talk to your doctor about your travel plans and which foods you should avoid. 

With the right planning and smart, healthy strategies while on the road, you can enjoy enriching travel experiences and make the most of your trips.

When traveling, the last thing you want is to need a doctor only to discover you’re not covered.

If you’re a Blue Shield member, you have access to emergency services in the United States with the BlueCard® Program, and around the world with Blue Shield Global Core.

To take advantage of this benefit, make sure you bring your Blue Shield member ID card with you when you travel. If you end up needing care, you can find affiliated doctors and hospitals outside California and around the world here:

If you’ll have cell service, save these numbers to your phone:

  • BlueCard in the United States: (800) 810-BLUE
  • Blue Shield Global Core in a foreign country: (804) 673-1177

Locate a doctor outside of California

Search for providers outside of California or outside of the U.S. to get care internationally.