Healthy Travel 101

Laura Mitchell's picture
By Laura Mitchell on June 7, 2016

As the school year ends and the weather gets warmer, many people’s thoughts turn to travel. Whether your vacation involves a road trip, a cruise or a long-distance flight, follow these tips to stay healthy while away from home.

Plan Ahead

  • Pack healthy snacks such as fruits, dried fruits and nuts so you’ll be less tempted to fill up on sweets and chips. Choose whole grains and lean proteins whenever they're on the menu.
  • Carry a reusable water bottle so you’ll quench your thirst with water instead of sugary, high-calorie sodas.
  • If you are traveling internationally, Carilion Clinic’s infectious disease specialists recommend scheduling a pre-trip appointment a month or two before your planned departure for region-related recommendations and immunizations or medications.

Keep Moving

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers a long-distance trip anything more than four hours.

“Anyone traveling more than four hours, whether by air, car, bus or train, can be at risk for blood clots,” the agency’s website travel advisory page states.

The potential to develop clots, or deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), is higher for those with certain risk factors, such as a personal or family history of blood clots and older age, obesity and certain health conditions and medications.

Carilion Clinic vascular surgeon Ashish Raju, M.D., recommends preventive measures even for travelers without pre-existing conditions and risk factors. Many of his DVT and varicose vein patients work long hours sitting at a desk or standing in one place. He advises them to wear compression stockings for the same reasons he recommends stockings for all adults traveling long distances—regardless of their fitness level.

"I wear them in the OR, and I have healthy legs," he said. "If you can tolerate them, they're an effective measure to take."

Dr. Raju also recommends increasing the amount of water you drink so that you remain hydrated on the road.

"Alcohol and caffeine have a diuretic effect, and dehydration can contribute to clots," he explained

Dr. Raju says the most important things you can do are stay active and stay hydrated.

"All the things we try to do to stay healthy in general, we should do when we're traveling," he said.

The following tips can help you follow his advice:

  • On the road, take frequent rest breaks to stretch and walk around. Carilion Wellness’s Patrick Dunham has devised a series of stretches that you can download and print to take with you to do just about anywhere. 
  • Take turns driving so no single driver gets too fatigued.
  • Engage in physical movement whenever you find yourself waiting. Dunham’s workouts for small spaces can be done at rest stops, in hotel rooms and when waiting at airline gates.
  • Take advantage of the many activities offered on cruises and at all-inclusive resorts—and don’t take advantage of all the generous second and third helpings they offer at mealtime.

Relax

Sometimes the planning and packing and weather-watching and work-worry that go along with vacation can add stress to your plans to relax. Thomas Milam, M.D., of Carilion Clinic's Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine says to not only plan fun and active things to do, but also schedule some down time as well. Check out "Take the Stress Out of Vacation" for more tips from Dr. Milam on having a stress-free vacation, including setting screen-time limits for both kids and adults. 

In addition to Dr. Milam’s tips, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get where you're going. Plan for the unexpected (traffic, flight delays, long TSA lines) so that you have a buffer and you don’t drive too fast or miss your flight.

For more travel tips, see "Hitting the Road."