Is your New Year’s resolution to travel more? The appeal of visiting unknown countries, or returning to a beloved one, is always strong during this time of year. For me, planning spring and summer trips to my native Italy is certainly one of the things that keeps me going during the cold winter months that Boston has to offer.
I have been traveling for many years, mainly to Italy. Growing up, we traveled back to my native land every summer and unfortunately, the first week was usually spent in “recovery’ mode,” either adjusting to the jet lag or healing from a cold that we had inevitably caught on the plane. Or let’s face it, suffering from major constipation. All a traveler’s conundrum, to say the least.
I now own an Italian-based travel business and return trips to Italy occur very often. And since most of the tours I lead are a week in duration, neither myself, nor my travelers, have the luxury of spending that first and only week in recovery mode. Luckily, I have learned to take adequate precautions to prevent any travel-related illness.
Here are some tips I have picked up over the years that have helped my clients and I stay healthy during travels.
Start before departing
Some of the basic things you can do to prevent sickness during your travels start before you ever leave your home. Keep yourself healthy by eating healthy meals, avoid highly processed and salty foods, keep regular by adding fiber to your diet and don’t overexert yourself by adding new exercise routines. If your travels will include time change and jet lag, consider adjusting your internal clock by going to bed an hour early and getting up an hour earlier. If you have a long flight ahead of you, consider taking the travel day off from work, even if it’s a redeye and your departing at night. Keeping your day relaxed and not rushed will better prepare you mentally for the journey ahead.
Also, be sure to pack consciously. I have always been a huge advocate for light packing and have found that a large, heavy suitcase just holds me back, both physically and mentally. That said, there’s nothing worse than arriving at your location and realizing that you forgot your favorite “watchyoumycallit.” It doesn’t matter what it is for you, but we all have our favorite items that we just can’t live without. Whether it’s your favorite lip gloss, your journal, your eye cream, your vitamins or God forbid, your phone, nothing will add more stress than knowing you’ll be spending the next week without it. This is even more important if you are taking any medications. So take some time and prep a list of items you just can’t live without, make copies of this and keep it handy for all your future travels.
While in Flight
Everyone is well aware that planes are germ-filled machines. And the dirtiest part happens to be the tray table used for serving meals. Be sure to wipe down the tray and arm rests with some disinfecting wipes the minute you sit down.
Get up several times during your flight in order to keep the blood circulating. And move your legs around a bit, even while seated. If you have a long flight, be sure to catch some zzzs. Air travel is taxing on the body, so get some rest, if you can.
When it comes to food and drink, be selective and bring your own, if needed. Most meals served in flight are unhealthy, high in sodium and over processed. Considering enjoying a healthy meal at the airport before boarding and skip what is served in flight. Bring some healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, nuts or granola bars. Skip the alcohol and caffeinated drinks and load up on water. It’s not uncommon to experience swollen legs and ankles during long flight, mostly due to inactivity. Drinking extra water and moving your legs can ease this. Compression stockings for flights over 4 hours are a good idea for everyone.
While on Location
Avoid jet lag by adjusting to current time zone as soon as possible. While it’s tempting to hit the hay after a long flight, avoid this at all costs as it will set you up for a few days of crankiness and groggy brain. Upon arrival, remove dirty airplane clothing and take a nice, refreshing shower, and go for a walk. Get to you know your city by mingling with the locals, enjoying a healthy and light meal, and if you must, turn in a little bit earlier than usual, just make sure it’s dark outside.
While on location, maintain your home routine as much as possible. As a leader of culinary tours, I tell my clients to not over do it with the food and wine, not more so than they would at home. While it’s tempting to overindulge, and one larger than usual dinner will not do much to your system, a week’s worth of large meals and excessive wine is a recipe for bloating and constipation.
Get out and explore as much as you can. One of the beauties of traveling is the immersing yourself with the locals, and you can’t do that if you’re worried about getting lost. If you do have a concern of getting lost, which is not an unusual fear if you are traveling to a new location, be sure to write down the full details of your hotel or address of your Air B&B. Chances are, you will find someone along the way who can best direct you back to your starting location.
As much as I advocate for getting out and exploring, I also caution travelers to not try and fit in too much in any given time. Traveling shouldn’t be a list of places you check off your list, but a time in your life where you are taking in the local culture as much as possible. For example, locals in Italy aren’t rushing from one thing to the next, they are enjoying leisurely walks, long meals, visits to museums and enjoying La Dolce Vita. You can’t do any of that if you’re worried about getting from one location to the next. If you’re trying to see too much in too short a time, you will end up missing what traveling is all about.
Be sure to prep a First Aid Kit for your daily needs. One thing to keep in mind is protecting your skin during your travels. It’s likely that you will be walking out and about more during your travels, as such, be sure to pack some sunscreen for outdoor time. In your kit, you should also include any health item that you think you might need. My motto is that it’s better to have it and not need it than the other way around. As much as I advocate light packing, this is not where to skimp. While what you pack depends on where you will be traveling, and yes, perhaps you will find what you need abroad, I happen to be a slave to my preferred products and have my go-to items such as painkillers, allergy medications and vitamins. I don’t like starting new products while abroad.
As you can see, it’s very possible to travel well, have a wonderful time and enjoy local culture without feeling like you are sacrificing any part of your vacation. With some pre-thought and consideration, you’ll be able to enjoy local life while maintaining a healthy mind and body.
Ready to make some Italian dinner memories of your own? Consider joining us in one of our Culinary Adventures! We have three planned for 2019!
TUSCANY: MAY 1 – 8, 2019. Click here for all trip info and to sign up!
PUGLIA: SEPTEMBER 1 – 8, 2019. Click here for all trip info and to sign up!
SICILY: SEPTEMBER 10 – 18, 2019. Click here for all trip info and to sign up!