Updated: Jun 27, 2021
Don't Let Health Challenges or Mobility Issues Keep you From Seeing the World, Fearlessly
Note: I originally wrote this blog in early 2020 before the COVID-19 Global Pandemic. I have updated this article to include advice for getting back out in the world post-COVID.
Traveling over the age of 40 is fantastic in so many ways we are often in a better place financially. We should be a little more intentional about a good balance between having a fabulous time and slowing down a bit to allow ourselves time to relax refresh.
Taking care of ourselves while traveling is a must. I was reminded of this as I visited Paris a couple of years ago for an extended marketing consulting gig, and regrettably, I lost my mind a bit when I arrived. While in Paris, I flew to see Erykah Badu in London and participated in Diner en Blanc; I then hung out with some of my dearest friends sightseeing for two full days, went on the Black Paris Tour, and danced my heart out at a bid whist party. The problem is, I did all of this in one week. My body let me know that I had overdone it, and because of this, I ended up losing a week of my time in Paris recovering. I am a frequent traveler, and I should know better, but it seems I needed a refresher on smart, healthy travel, and maybe you do too.
Before the current global pandemic, I talked to my friend, Travel Doctor Yvette McQueen, MD, about staying healthy before, during, and after international travel. She shared great tips and travel advice. I have included our conversation, tips from her blog, along some of my favorite practices and rituals to stay healthy* while traveling.
While checking out the photo gallery on the hotel website and imagining yourself chilling on the beach with a cocktail, you should always spend some research time understanding the environment in which you will be traveling. Dr. McQueen agrees that travelers 40+ should conduct thorough research before heading to any destination. You will want to understand any factors that may impact your ability to “live your best life” while traveling internationally. The research component of trip planning has become THE most essential step in preparing to hit the road again. Check out the US State Department’s website for country-by-country “Before you Go”, travel advice
What you should know before traveling to a new Destination
COVID-19 Restrictions and Recommendations: Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to view travel recommendations and risk levels for global destinations. Be sure to check out this regularly updated COVID 19 travel map for the most up-to-date global travel/health information, including restrictions for entry and exit.
Airlines/Airports - The process of getting there can set you up for an incredible vacation or for days of recovery when you land. Ensure you know the accessibility accommodations available at all of the airports you will encounter on your trip. Airport accessibility information is essential for international connections. Check out the US Department of Transportation’s Guide to Accessible Travel, to understand the available assistance while flying. When booking your flight, choose the right seat and avoid uncomfortable and undesirable seats using the seat review website Seat Guru. Many airports have expanded COVID-19 requirements, and the travel and connection time has increased. If walking and standing might be an issue, check in with both the airport and airline to see how you can avoid lines or long periods of standing. Investing in Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check can help you glide through US airports; otherwise, always seek out an escort to get you to your gate if the walk will be too much.
Healthcare Accessibility and Emergency Numbers: Locate this information online before traveling and storing local emergency numbers on your cell phone’s home screen. When you arrive, make sure you confirm accuracy at your hotel.
You should also ask -
Where is the closest health facility to your accommodations?
Is there an interpreter on staff at your hotel or at the hospital?
How is travel insurance treated at the local medical facilities, is up-front payment required?
Immunization Recommendations: Keep in mind that in addition to COVID-19 vaccinations, there are often other suggested and required immunizations needed for international travel. Determine the immunization requirements early since many vaccines are administered by more than one round of shots.
Walking Conditions: Being unprepared for the terrain or the walking expectations of a city or on a group tour can have a domino effect on your health while traveling. When I am in Paris, I typically clock anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 steps per day, which is a lot even for an avid walker. If you or someone in your party has mobility issues or challenges, always ask:
Are there laws regarding accessibility in public spaces?
Are taxis, ride-sharing (Uber), and private car services readily available, or is public transportation easy to navigate from your hotel?
Travel Insurance: Find a comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes medical coverage. I cannot stress the importance of travel insurance with a medical component enough. Travelers often think that their home policy will cover medical expenses while traveling, but this is rarely the case. With the threat of COVID-19 looming over all international travel, knowing that you have medical insurance that will help defray incurred medical expenses can provide a great deal of peace of mind. Make sure you understand the policy requirements and how claims are processed, travel insurance has changed post-pandemic, educate yourself.
Listen to Your Body
Once you arrive at your destination, listen to your body and adjust your itinerary accordingly. Self-care is an essential part of a beautiful vacation.
Sleep: The most important thing you can do while traveling is rest through proper sleep. Your body needs rest when you’re physically crossing time zones, carrying luggage to and from destinations, walking all day, and so forth. Traveling wreaks havoc on your body, so make sure you get plenty of rest. How much is enough? Listen to your body. After a long day, I try to sleep for a few hours and allow my body to rest before the next one. According to Dr. McQueen, skipping zzzs can have an adverse impact on your trip. Inadequate sleep makes you feel sluggish and nonproductive, which aggravates your psychic. It also increases your cortisol levels, elevating stress; additionally, increased cortisol levels can have long-term health implications.
Avoid Over-Planning: Don’t try to see the entire city all in one day. If you are visiting a large city or traveling with a group, consider coming in a day or two early or staying longer so that you can slow down your pace. Whenever I plan a trip for Pack Light Destinations, I try to schedule at least a few days before or after the trip to relax and recover. For example, after Bali, I spent four additional days in Singapore with absolutely no itinerary, lots of sleep, and a slow pace that provided restful recovery time before I headed home. Permit yourself to do nothing but lounge at the pool or on the beach, or even people watch from a coffee shop.
Try not to over-Indulge: I typically set aside any diets or restrictive eating habits while traveling. However, I am still mindful of the adage “everything in moderation” to prevent any long-term issues. I feel like trying local food is an essential travel experience, and I refuse to skip pasta in Italy or beans and rice in Costa Rica or Ramen in Asia. However, I know that some foods and alcohol in excess can exacerbate existing inflammation challenges accompanying my health challenges. Setting healthy limits while away will help you to have a memorable, refreshing vacation.
There are plenty of ways for you to feel unwell while traveling. After planning and patiently waiting for your vacation, it would be terrible to ruin your trip with something preventable. Always pack these travel products designed to help you feel great and stay healthy while on your journey.
Healthy Packing List
On the Plane
Seat Sitters kit -(Seat covers, face masks, tray table cover)
All of your medications
On the Trip
Flip Flops or Shower shoes
Copies of all prescriptions (medications, glasses, or medical supplies)
Health insurance card and documents/Health care provider(s) at home
Proof of vaccinations (if required for your trip)
Contact card with the street addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of a Family member or close contact in the United States
Hospitals or clinics (including emergency services) in your destination
Travel Fearless, Pack Light
* Always check in with your healthcare provider before travel. The tips and advice in this blog are for informational & educational purposes ONLY; not intended to promote medical treatment or as a substitute for medical advice provided by a qualified medical professional. This is NOT information for direct medical care. Also, I may receive a small fee for providing links to the products I feel will help you have a safe and healthy trip.