Proactive Steps to Stay Healthy While Traveling
December 5, 2019
By Danielle Owen

Healthy travel doesn’t start at your boarding call. Here are the most important steps to take long before you pack your bags:

1. Start with a Healthy Gut

Yes, I’m talking about the probiotic craze. They can be a lifesaver when you’re traveling to destinations notorious for tummy troubles. But don’t start taking them after your plane touches down. Begin taking them a week or two before your trip to build up the good bacteria in your gut.

You don’t start putting together an army the day you go to war. 

2. Get Jabbed

Certain vaccines are pretty standard in life, let alone prior to international travel (think: Hepatitis AB, MMR, etc.). The CDC offers recommendations for non-routine vaccinations based on your age and your destination. 

The most important to look into are Yellow Fever (some countries won’t even let you in without it), Typhoid, and tDap (should be updated every two years). Your local vaccine clinic will be able to advise you based on your travel plans.

Just like probiotics, vaccines need time to build up in your system. It’s important to get jabbed at least four weeks before your trip.

3. Get a Broad-Spectrum Antibiotic

Get a prescription for a broad-spectrum antibiotic to have on hand just in case. I was recently in the middle of nowhere on a “family-moon” safari when the bride’s little sister spiked a high fever and spent a night vomiting to the sound of baboons outside the bathroom window. I was the only one out of 30 people with Ciproflaxcin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic, on me. After taking one pill she was better by that afternoon. 

Disclaimer: Always discuss with your physician how you should use any antibiotics they prescribe to you.

4. Consider Anti-Malarial Medicines

Anti-Malarial medicines are notoriously harsh medicines, interfering with birth control pills and sometimes causing night terrors, dizziness, and more. Discuss with your doctor whether the risk of malaria in your particular destination warrants taking anti-malarial medication.

5. I Spy a Hospital

Look up the nearest clinic or hospital to where you’re staying. Even hospitals frequently have reviews online, so it’s helpful to have a plan of action and know which facility you would use in case of an emergency.

6. Travel Insurance

Just get it. Travel insurance isn’t in case you get the flu and need to pay $30 to see a doctor. It’s in case of the worst-case scenarios like car accidents, broken bones, emergency surgeries, medical helicopter evacuations, and death. 

They’re called accidents for a reason. No one plans on them. It’s just not worth the risk.

7. Bring a Bandaid

Start taking Airborne or Emergen-C a few days before travel to help boost your immune system against the shock of a long flight and a new climate. Next, pack some just-in-case meds.

A good rule of thumb: If you ever use it at home, you should have it with you on the road. 

As medicines are very easy to pack this is purely to make your life easier. However, there are pharmacies all over the world that have the same medicines you find at home, should you find yourself in a pinch.

A few suggestions on meds to have with you: 

  • DEET or other mosquito repellents (if traveling to mosquito-heavy areas) 
  • Antihistamines (Benadryl or Claritin)
  • Anti-diarrheal (only take in emergencies— it’s good for your body to clear out your system when it has ingested something dangerous)
  • Ibuprofen/Acetaminophen
  • Broad-spectrum Antibiotic (as mentioned above)  
  • Mild laxative (travel can cause constipation)
  • Antibiotic ointment (Neosporin) and bandaids
  • Dramamine (if prone to motion sickness or taking long boat/car rides)
  • Hydrocortisone Cream (for itchy bites)

And, of course, stock up on whatever daily prescription medications you take. I go so far as to keep my emergency meds in two different places, should one of the pill bottles decide to go rolling away under a hotel bed.

8. Pick Your (Anti)-Poison

Carry cliff bars or your favorite prepackaged snack in case you find yourself surrounded by nothing but sketchy street meat and a growling tummy. If your destination is notorious for causing upset stomachs (Mexico’s Montezuma’s Revenge or Bali Belly, anyone?) know the red flag foods. 

Undercooked meats, eggs, and fish are big culprits, along with raw produce that was likely washed in tap water. 

Proper planning can make all the difference. Being proactive and prioritizing your health before your trip even starts can ensure your time away is packed with fun and adventure – not time spent recovering.

About the Author

Danielle Owen
Danie is a full-time traveler and freelance travel writer. She’s been on-the-move since 2015 from Albania to Zambia (and 70+ others in between). She’s developed a very sophisticated algorithm that evaluates countries based on a thorough analysis of their wine, hot sauce, local friendliness, and how hard she happy-cries at their nature. You can find her portfolio at or her photos on Instagram @danieelizabeth