Can you give me tips on not getting sick while traveling?

Sure can! 

We’ve only ever gotten sick from travel one time (cough cold flu sick). Yay! And this was on a trip to Massachusetts, almost a year ago. We all came back to Florida and were knocked out for a few days after. Other than that, none of us have ever caught anything while traveling. (I should knock on wood, since I’m sitting on a plane now though).  The reality is that you can get just as sick in your everyday life as you can while traveling. There are germs everywhere in the world! In your office, in your car, on the bottom of your shoes (omg, your shoes are so gross), and more. 

Sure planes are confined spaces filled with loads of strangers, but I’m sure most of you are around people in your daily lives too. You know? Regardless, we definitely try to take extra precautions to not get sick while traveling. We obviously don’t want to get sick while traveling and ruin or slow any part of our trip!

For stomach things, it’s tricky for me. Mostly because my stomach is not at all as strong as it should be since contracting c. diff and dealing with massive amounts of broad spectrum antibiotics. For Marlowe and Alex, stomach concerns are rare (very rare). Theyeve avoided antibiotics for a longgg time and eat loads of fresh foods these days, so they’ve got their stomach bacteria growing strong! Marlowe and I both got some sort of stomach bacteria in this last Nepal trip. You guys know this. We determined it was the leftover water we drank in the water boiler kettle thing. I had this gut feeling while drinking it, but still went for it. Trust your gut guys!

I also got knocked down on our first trip to Guatemala with stomach issues. Marlowe had one day where she rushed to the bathroom with cramping, but a few probiotics and hours later and she was totally fine. But given how much we’ve been out of the country over the past few years, I think this is pretty good. I’ve had loads of other stomach issues while traveling, but all due to my pre-existing issues. Like, from eating corn, nuts, or gluten. Things that wont make most of you guys sick while traveling. Things I knew I shouldn’t eat, but I went for anyway. Waugh waughhh.

Regardless of if you have pre-existing stomach issues (like me) or not, it’s naive to think you can’t or wont get some weird bacteria in your gut while traveling. While it’s not a travelers fate, It’s totally possible.  The reality is that there is bacteria that will be completely and totally harmless to the people living in the country, but will be a new for you. This bacteria can and will affect the rest of your flora. Sometimes positively, sometimes not. While there will never be a guarantee that you wont get sick while traveling, there are totally ways to minimize sickness during travel… so let’s discuss those, yah?

ps. before we start, I should warn you that I don’t follow a lot of my food rules. Like me showing my butt on the internet, my mother would be completely and totally mortified if she traveled with me and saw the raw food I ate while in foreign countries. (Sorry mom). We know that with each raw thing we eat, we’re totally upping our bacteria risks, but we take our chances anyway. Honestly, I’m hoping the more and more bacteria I expose my stomach to, the stronger it’ll grow. It’s been my way of being like, “it’s time to (wo)man up, ya gut!”

So yeah, these are the basics for travel… the more rules you follow, the better off you’ll be 😉

Advice for caring for your stomach while traveling:

1. Be prepared! Bring probiotics for yourself and for your kid too. The more strains the better. I like this one for me (no refrigeration necessary). And for Marlowe I bring two different ones. I like this one because it has more strains. But since she’s a kid, sometimes it can be tricky to get your kid to take anything— especially when they’re stomach is upset, so I like to bring this kind too. It’s only one strain of bacteria, but you can just pour it (maybe sneakily) into water or juice and make your kid drink it.

2. Eat HOT cooked food. Cooking food kills bacteria. Eating fresh food will have more chances of harmful bacteria, parasites, hepatitis, and more.

3. Dont drink sink water. Or even brush your teeth with it. A guide in Nepal told us, “even I wont drink the water out of the sink here. I was born here, lived here my whole life, but it’s not even safe enough for me” — you just never know how the water is treated, or if it’s even treated at all.

4. With that, pack a reusable water bottle. Many hotels will offer a water filtration system within your room. This will save you from creating more trash with plastic bottles. Fill it up before you go, and drink that water. Good for you and good for the planet too.

5. Eat/cook at your hotel/apartment. Cooking your own food guarantees you know how your food was handled, post harvesting and selling anyway.

6. We travel with grapefruit seed extract to wash our market bought fruits and veggies when we travel. It’s strong enough where we are able to put a drop in a bowl of sink water to wash all our produce.

7. Avoid foods like meat and dairy. I mean, if you ask me, you should avoid these in general, haha, but especially while traveling. You don’t know how the dairy was pasteurized or if it was pasteurized— so avoid it. Different countries have different factory farming laws. I mean, the US has AWFUL rules and regulations for factory farmed animals—- there is C. Diff and salmonella in EVERYTHING. But in other countries you have this concern + even more antibiotics, + whatever else they use. YUCK.

8. Wash your hands. Hand sanitizer will kill somethings, but definitely not all. 105 degree water, lots of soap and scrubbing and you’re good.

9. Follow your gut and your better judgement. It’s called a “gut feeling” for a reason. All my food poisoning experiences with the exception of Nepal have been at home in florida– not while traveling the world. There has been three different incidences at home where Marlowe has said, “this gives me a funny feeling, I don’t want to eat it” and she doesn’t, and then I do. And then you know what happened? I got sick.

If something feels off, don’t eat it. And if you feel safe or trust the restaurant host, go for it. You know better than anyone else what you should and should not be eating. Some restaurants I definitely break the rules and eat raw food, many I don’t. Just trust you gut!

Advice on not catching a cold while traveling:

1.  Make sure your immune system is in order. Consider eating super healthy before you travel, taking more probiotics to prep for your trip, and taking all your vitamins before your hit the air. Taking an extra dose of vitamin C travel day wont hurt either!

2. Drink loads of water. This helps dilute any contaminants that do make their way into your system. And remember that air travel with dehydrate the hell out of you so drink double the water in the air! This will also help prevent constipation.

3. Our biggest rule is the obvious and necessary rule: never touch your face! Marlowe knows full and well that if I see her with her hands near her mouth (especially when we’re not home), I’m going to be upset. Want to avoid germs? Then don’t give them a ride to your face!

4. Important enough to list again: Wash your hands. Hand sanitizer will kill somethings, but definitely not all. 105 degree water, lots of soap and scrubbing and you’re good.

5. Vitamin C and ecinechea help. We like this vitamin C for the adults. And this vitamin C and this echinechea for Marlowe.The vitamin C for Marlowe isn’t actually for kids, btw. But it’s easy enough for her to take! And us too, if we need it.

6. Hand sanitizer, duh. Again, it doesn’t kill everything, but a little to go bottle can go a long way! I also like this brand a lot.

7. Sleep! I know you’re excited for your trip, but make sure you get adequate sleep! This is huge! Sleep is your body’s way to recharge and refresh. It’s the time when your body gets to work to fight off any extra germs you got in contact with! Sleeeeeep!

8. Eat well! Again, you’re on vacation, and I know you want to indulge (as you should) but do make sure you’re still taking care of yourself with proper healthy eating too 🙂

9. Like I said, we’ve only ever gotten sick once from travel and it was coming home from Massachusetts, not anywhere exotic haha. Clean food, clean water, clean air, sleep, and you should be good! Taking care of yourself during travel is just as important as taking care of yourself at home!

What things do you like to do for yourself and your family to not get sick when traveling? Do you have preferred supplements you use? TELL MEEEEE! Happy and sick-free traveling friends!

ps. these photos are from our last week in antigua guatemala. I had originally planned to write a post on how to deal with life changes, but these photos seemed fitting for the topic. Other than my pregnancy issues, none of us had any issues at all while being there, not virus or stomach problems and we ate at restaurants, at fruit at markets, and more. Take care of your body while traveling, be smart, and go for it!

pps. see more travel tip posts HERE.

9 Comments

  1. Could you tell a Little bit more about the uses of grapefruit seed extract?

  2. Pingback: Household | Ten Things for the Weekend - Household

  3. Don’t you get sick from traveling a lot? I feel like that is the reason you keep having to go home…

    • No? We’ve only gone home once from getting ill while traveling. In the time I mentioned and linked above.

  4. great post! i want to travel to all of these exotic destinations, but I have an actual fear of me personally getting/my kids or husband getting any type of stomach bug thing. I have a huge fear of throwing up, and yes, it is enough to prevent me from traveling to anywhere lol….but damn it! i want to so bad! this helped a lot! thank you!!

  5. I was wondering if the probiotic you use has any constipation side effects. I see it contains iron and as I’m easily constipated I’m nervous to try it. I have been looking around for a new brand and the reviews seem great.