How to Deal with Travel Sickness

While motion or seasickness isn't something that I've ever really had a problem with, I do have a tendency to get a stomach problems while traveling. For some reason my tummy just doesn't do well on long travel days and there have been many flights where the pain is so bad that I just sit curled up in a little ball and hope I'll make it to my final destination without something terrible happening. 

I've also gotten sick while out and about as well. Food poisoning in Hong Kong, the flu in the Philippines.... nothing too major (thank goodness) but all things that make your trip a little inconvenient. 

By now I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve for making sure that no sickness or bout of food poisoning gets out of hand. Of course, if something is seriously wrong and isn’t going away, you need to seek medical attention. This is why you get travel insurance, after all!

I was recovering from a serious bout of food poisoning when this photo was taken! I spent a lot of time that day laying on a bench in the park, just trying to take it easy.

I was recovering from a serious bout of food poisoning when this photo was taken! I spent a lot of time that day laying on a bench in the park, just trying to take it easy.

But if you’ve just eaten something that doesn’t agree with you, or can’t stop sniffling, here are a few tips to get you back on your feet and make sure you still have a great time.

Pack a travel first aid kit

No matter where I go or for how long, I make sure to take my travel first aid kit. It’s come in handy so many times, and I always make sure to keep it stocked with a few basic essentials:

  • Band-Aids

  • Disinfecting wipes

  • Tylenol / Ibuprofen

  • Imodium

  • Melatonin

  • Pepto Bismol tablets

The little kit I use cost me less than $6 at Target, and the travel sized of all these items are usually available in the travel section or pharmacy section of a store.


Do some research

Heading somewhere particularly remote? It’s always a good idea to do a little research and find out what are some common illnesses to foreigners.

Depending on where you go, you may need to be careful about what water you drink, if you eat street food and if there are any major diseases carried by mosquitoes or other bugs.

If I’m going somewhere that I know the water situation might be a little sketchy, then I take some water purification tablets along with me. Mostly places sell drinking water, but it’s always good to have these on hand just in case.

While in Iceland, my sister-in-law got a horrible toothache that was causing so much pain. We didn’t know that they didn’t have any type of oral tooth treatment, and visited several pharmacies to get as many painkillers as possible. Of course, we didn’t know that the tooth problem would come, but it would have been handy to know what kind of medications and medicines were available.


Take proper precautions

Keeping yourself healthy in general and practicing healthy habits will greatly increase your chances of coming down with a cold. This doesn’t mean you have to stick to a strict diet or exercise regimen while on vacation, but there are some things you can do to make sure your body has the best chance at fighting anything off quickly.

  • Drink lots of water. It’s a classic tip, but it works. I’ve warded off many a stomach flu or oncoming cold by making sure to drink lots and lots of liquid. This is especially important in hot climates.

  • Wear sunscreen. You should be doing this every day anyway, but it’s important to keep up the habit when you’re away. Too much sun exposure could lead to some sun stroke (so wear a hat), and that combined with a major sun burn is enough to keep anyone indoors for a day or two.

  • Use bug spray. I learned the hard way that not coming prepared for a place literally called Mosquito Bay would result in a rough remainder of the trip. My legs and arms were entirely covered in bites, and I spent the rest of my trip hunting down calamine lotion and trying to ignore the itch and slight sickness that came from being attacked.


Check your travel insurance

Getting travel insurance should always be something you do for your trips. You never know when you’re going to get stung by a jellyfish, come down with an intense fever or fall off a hill and break your arm. If things get really bad, you need to be able to visit a doctor or hospital and get proper help.

There are a lot of providers of travel insurance, and some specialize for those who are going to participate in high risk activities like bungee jumping, SCUBA diving or rock climbing. Find out which providers are right for you. Travel insurance for a single trip typically doesn’t cost more than about $50, and it is well worth it in an emergency.


Rest if you need it

Ultimately, your body heals and recovers best when you take care of it, listen to it and give it rest. If you’re really just not up to that hike today, or you’re too queasy for another boat ride, then listen to your body and take a day off. It’s much better to take an easy day instead of pushing yourself and just making the problem worse.

If you have no choice and have to get moving, like if you have a plane or train to catch, then do your best and get some rest in your seat as best you can.

You never know what is going to happen when you travel around the world. Honestly, that part of the fun, but sometimes you can run into sticky situations. Getting sick when you’re far away from home and a familiar environment isn’t easy, but if you take precautions and come as prepared as possible, you’ll be more ready for anything that comes your way. And even if you don’t need your first aid kit or travel insurance, at least you have the peace of mind knowing that you are ready to tackle anything.

Have you ever gotten really sick when traveling? What are your trips for staying healthy?

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