Seven Tips for Dealing with Illness When Traveling

Today’s post is a guest post by Anya Clowers, the well-known travel and health expert. I am so pleased that Anya agreed to offer these tips on fighting illness while traveling, an especially important message as we enter the holiday travel season. I learned a lot from reading her article and I know you will too.

Nobody PLANS to get sick when traveling., so what do you do when it happens to you?

Far away from the comforts of the couch and the curled up fetal position, our illness is a much bigger hassle to deal with when on the road. Matt posted earlier about the importance of staying healthy when traveling and tips to avoid illness. His tips were a great foundation, but what happens if illness strikes?

Often aches and pains and general malaise are our body’s alarm system going off. It is telling us there has been an invader or a malfunction and further investigation is needed. It’s important to recognize that our body has a defense team ready to go when needed. It works quietly most days, but when run down or facing a challenge, our attention is drawn to it. I have found it easiest to understand this by viewing the body as having an internal military designed and built specifically for us!

So back to the alarm going off…

Many travelers at this point pump their body full of drugs to “shut the alarm off” and push on. No time to be sick on vacation. By shutting the initial alarms off, we miss the best opportunity to get better faster. What may then happen is an increase in symptoms as the weakened body half-heartedly participates in the daily activities all the while trying to activate all forces to investigate and fight the body’s intruder.

Here are seven tips to deal with these unplanned changes to the itinerary!

1. Stop. Look. Listen.

Our bodies are incredible and often will communicate what is needed. Are you tired? Are you thirsty?  Are you cold? Has your digestive team kicked into high gear to rid your body of a perceived toxin? Our instincts are often right and very powerful when tuned into.

2. Evaluate surroundings and itinerary.

Are you able to rest quietly? Can you skip out on one days activities to give your body the much needed “time out” it’s asking for? Start with one full day.

3. Make the call for backup troops.

Give your body permission to proceed with investigation/battle. Mentally and physically accept this mission.

4. Provide nutritional support.

Hydrate the soldiers (cells) and feed them only the good stuff. Your military is only as good as you train and treat it.  Water and tea are best.

5. Find comfort in your surroundings.

Treat the symptoms to allow greater rest. If you can sleep, your body can quiet down the majority of the body and focus on the important areas. Comfort with pillows, hot tea or broth, a shower, etc. helps mentally as well as physically!

6. Avoid anger, depression, or frustration

Travel is fantastic – but it doesn’t take us out of reality. Illness is part of reality. Yes, it’s frustrating to be sick, but a positive attitude can make a world of difference in recovery time. The sooner we allow our body to fight the intruder, the sooner we will be ready to resume the trip.

7. Avoid relapse.

It can be easy to overdo it when feeling better. Take it slow and remember to replenish (and thank) your troops for a job well done!

Many people leave for vacation exhausted from the stresses of daily life. Last minute planning, airport chaos, and exhausting days of travel can leave us susceptible to illness. Often we could use a day of rest just to get our bodies ready for the demands of travel.  Due to short vacations, this is not reality.

The best we can do is train our troops to be strong and fit in daily life before our travels. That way if an intruder infiltrates the itinerary, the interruption may be just a blip on the screen.

By: Anya Clowers

Anya Clowers is a nurse consultant and travel expert passionately educating travelers of all ages about the importance of travel preparation. She can be found on Twitter @JetWithAnya, @JetWithKids @EarPopperNurse or at,, Her practical travel advice has been praised by the NY Times, MSNBC, ABC News, Rick Steves, and People Magazine. Anya researches travel with her frequent-flier-in-training 6-year-old son, who visited 17 countries on 4 continents before finishing kindergarten.

7 thoughts on “Seven Tips for Dealing with Illness When Traveling”

  1. I have promised myself that even though I’m a budget backpacker, the second I feel I’m getting sick I’m checking myself into a nice hotel. There’s nothing worse than being sick in a dorm.

  2. Some very good advice – drugs usually only mask the symptoms, they don’t fix the underlying problem. Solid R&R and plenty of fluids is the only solution and I agree with what Ayngelina said that checking into a nice hotel is a great idea while you recover.

  3. I ended up in hospital in Russia, really ill due to condition building for a year that had not been diagnosed properly. Had two really extreme experiences. My Canadian medical insurance company was not recognised by American Medical Clinic (who works with US insurance companies), and so denied ability to pay by insurance. My credit card had zero balance and thousands in available credit, yet some cleric declined $1000 just since they saw Russia (yet earlier, had accepted thousands from a hotel earlier!).

    Further complicated when ambulance and hospital would not take insurance or credit cards, so had to hand over $5000 USD in Russian Rubbles in cash. Took a month for insurance to pay me back.

    The other extreme, was that the doctors and staff were fantastic (at a private hospital). We used technology to email my videos of scopes home to Canadian doctors, who could see what was happening. Then a Russian doctor at Sunnybrook in Toronto, called my Russian doctor in my room on his cell, and chatted about my case. Handed cell to me, and said “you are in good hands” so I did not have to leave client and come home. The doctors were fantastic.

    The other very positive experience was that the hotel staff at Swissotel Krasnye Holmy, took such amazing care of me, researching on the web what I was allowed to eat while healing; cared and helped me heal. They were wonderful.

    Bottom line: go and travel, be prepared and have access to funds in different forms. Be kind to your care givers and they will treat you like family. Wishing you safe and healthy travelling.

    1. Wow, what a story! That must have been terrifying on so many different levels. Thank goodness they took such great care of you though. While the credit card/insurance confusion was horrible, at least you had good people around you! Thank you so much for sharing.

      1. Thanks Matt for the Tweet and Reply. Good people are everywhere, which makes travelling the treasure that it is. Hope that you get other stories with great endings too! Sharon

  4. Great article! I have definitely been frustrated while sick abroad. I agree with taking a day to relax if you need it- a lot of the time it is the difference between being sick the whole trip and getting over it quickly.

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