Tips & Advice / Travel

Traveling When Sick: 8 Tips to Get Better Quicker

Traveling When Sick: 8 Tips to Get Better Quicker

Have you ever gotten sick right before a vacation or traveling somewhere? If you haven’t, consider yourself lucky. Traveling while you’re sick sucks. Big time. It’s happened to me more than once — usually some kind of sore throat or sinus problem. Even just the tiniest hint of illness right before a trip can send me into a bad mood, feeling cranky and under the weather and totally sorry for myself.

If you have been sick before traveling, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’d venture to guess that most people have experienced it once. Even if there’s no scientific evidence to prove that you run a higher risk of getting sick when you’re about to go on vacation, it’s Murphy’s Law: if something bad can happen, it will, and it will happen at the worst possible moment. #life

I made my way to Los Angeles last week for a bit of a long weekend. About two days before my flight out of SFO, I started to feel less than awesome and noticed my throat was a little sore. The next day, I felt worn out for no reason at all and started noticing some congestion. The day I was scheduled to leave for LA I had a fever and didn’t want to leave my bed. While I wasn’t desperately ill and needing to rush to a hospital, I certainly didn’t feel like my regular, chipper self. To top it off, flights are the absolute devil if you’re having sinus problems — one of my ears had trouble equalizing the pressure when I landed — so the day after I arrived I felt, um, pretty dern cruddy, to put it mildly.

I luckily took a lot of small and smart steps to get better quickly, and the next day I felt like the life had been breathed back into me. Seriously, I was a completely different person from the day before. It was a holiday miracle! And since I know I’m not the only one out there who’s had to battle some sickness on the road (especially around the holidays), here are a few of the things I did to get back to 100%.


1. Relax.

When I start to feel a bit sick, I go into crazy pissed off mode. Kind of along the lines of “OMG I’m getting sick and this is the worst and no offense but everyone go away and I CANNOT BE SICK.” I have to remind myself to relax and take a deep breath. Anxiety will just make it worse.

2. Get lots of rest.

If you’re tired, sleep. During the worst part of being sick I was in and out of napping all day, but if I hadn’t allowed myself the time to recover I would have been worse for way longer. I understand it’s so so hard to not sightsee or not go out and party or even to just not be sociable with your hosts, but your body will thank you later. Remember that you’re working overtime to get better and it’s going to wear you out a bit!

3. Drink Emergen-C and pack it in your luggage.

The second I think something might be going down, I start drinking that vitamin C like nobody’s business. Emergen-C is an excellent option, packed with all the stuffs that will make you stronger and hopefully to ward off any viruses or bugs. Also, it’s easy to pack. If you get better, then at least you were prepared. And if you get worse, then it’s certainly a nice thing to offer travel companions or people you’re staying with so they don’t catch whatever you have.

4. Pound back liquids.

In addition to Emergen-C, chug lots of water and OJ. Yes, you will have to pee an excessive amount but that’s the point — it will help flush toxins out of your system. Also, it will keep you from getting dehydrated on top of everything else going on. I always carry a bottle of water when I’m on the go, and if I’m at home I set a large glass of water by me as a good reminder. Tea is also an excellent choice. I usually drink insane amounts of orange juice right from the carton (to save me from washing a second glass because I’m lazy). Oh, and I suppose it goes without saying but avoid alcohol — boo no fun, I know, but definitely a good idea to get you healthy.

orange juice

5. Use a medical face mask.

Yes, one of those SARS masks. It sounds ridiculous, but I really wish I’d had one on my flight down to LA because I was so congested that I couldn’t breathe through my nose. Repeat after me: nobody likes a mouth breather. You might feel a little strange wearing it, but keep in mind that it’s actually an incredibly courteous gesture towards fellow travelers. Not to mention, if you really can only breathe through your mouth, you won’t be allowing even more germs to enter your body and make you sicker.

6. Wash your hands.

A lot. I’m kind of a germ freak and do that frequently anyway, but it’s especially important when you’re el sick-o. Pack hand sanitizer for those times when you can’t get to a sink.

7. Never underestimate the power of a nice, hot shower.

It’ll relax your muscles, it’ll open your sinuses, and it just feels good. I literally can’t believe how much better I feel after standing in a steamy shower for 5-10 minutes. It might be temporary relief, but it’s a perfect way for a sick and miserable person to wind down before bed.

8. Take meds and see a doctor if you need to.

I don’t know where you stand with over-the-counter medicine or going to the doctor, but when you’re traveling is not the time to will away your illness with burning sage and a cup of hot water with peppermint oil in it. I’m not knocking natural remedies because I prefer them myself depending on the situation, but medications and prescriptions from a doc can help you become functional faster when you’re not at home and in your most familiar setting. I had a little trouble finding a doctor to visit in person in LA and actually ended up doing a virtual doctor’s appointment — *the future!* I was able to consult with a doctor, get advice, and I absolutely attribute my speedy recovery to the meds she recommended.

Have you ever been sick while traveling? Have you had to go to the doctor or emergency room for illness in an unfamiliar setting? What advice do you have for sick travelers to get better quickly and also to be courteous to fellow travelers? 

Photo credits:
Death to the Stock Photo

16 thoughts on “Traveling When Sick: 8 Tips to Get Better Quicker

  1. once I got really sick in Amritsar, India. i had fever, and i thought I had bronchitis. so i took some anti fever medicine, took a hot shower and just slept for hours. and then i got better, suddenly! but i was not able to eat anything except rice and bread for days – just did not feel like it. i still have no idea what was that ))))

  2. Somehow I always manage to get sick before big trips. We had two wedding shoots in California this year and I was sick for BOTH. I cannot emphasize how important sleep is when your sick and traveling. Seriously. Other than that, one hot toddy a night and lots of Dayquil. Ha!

    Glad you recovered quickly!

    • Ugh that sounds awful! But you’re right — sleep is super important. And I’ve never done a hot toddy while sick, but that sounds like a genius idea! Warm and a just a little kick to help you sleep.

      Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. I get sick easily when traveling internationally, I guess because my body isn’t accustomed to foreign strains of bacteria, but some of my best international trips have been tainted by being sicker than a dog on a 24+ hour journey home! Murphy’s Law indeed!

    • Oh wow, and here I am complaining about an hour long flight from San Francisco to LA! If I’d been on the go for 24 hours or more I probably would have been in tears. Well, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger 🙂 Thank you for reading!

  4. Reblogged this on Sights To Sea Travel and commented:
    I would add these tips to avoid getting sick in the first place. It starts on your flight to your destination.

    1. Drink plenty of water
    2. Make sure the air vent is blowing directly on you while on your flight.
    3. Take a small throw or wrap to cover yourself, in case you get cold on your flight.
    4. Try a product like Airborne. It can’t hurt!

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