By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
November and December are months filled with, even defined by holidays and vacations.
And many of us, in normal years, take this as an opportunity to travel.
In 2021, even more of us feel that we deserve, or even need, a long-overdue vacation.
Nations, and their borders, are opening up like they haven’t for years.
Travel is inherently stressful – with disruptions in sleep, time schedules, food, and, of course, location.
And disruptions to your plans can be even more stressful; Southwest canceled over 2,000 flights the second weekend in October, and American Airlines canceled over 1,000 flights the final weekend in October.
We also mix with all kinds of people we normally would not meet.
Under normal conditions, this is the ideal setting for cultivating diseases from colds to stomach upsets.
I’m one of those people who always seems to acquire a cold or stomach reaction (or seasickness) to my travel experience.
In 2021, we of course, inhabit nothing like “normal” health conditions.
COVID restrictions and guidelines are everywhere – and constantly changing.
And that cough or sore throat has a whole new meaning in the age of COVID.
Any flu-like symptoms can be downright frightening to you – or anyone you encounter, because COVID is still a very real threat, especially if you – or they are not vaccinated.
For better or worse, as the world slowly and cautiously opens back up, more and more people are becoming comfortable with booking a flight or cruise again.
As you consider your travel options, there are a few simple steps you can take to stay healthy on your next adventure.
After all, travel is intense and fairly expensive, and the last thing you want to do is feel miserable or stuck in your room when everyone else in your travel group is out exploring new history, architecture or food.
There’s no surefire way to avoid getting sick, but you can take several steps to minimize your risk.
A good sickness-prevention strategy begins before you leave home.
Those pesky COVID guidelines
The most obvious principle is probably this; be prepared to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Love them or hate them, they will be a near-constant companion as you travel in 2021 and beyond.
If that plane, taxi, hotel or restaurant has COVID guidelines, follow them. If they require masks or vaccination status, be a good guest, make everyone’s day a bit easier and do what they ask.
Don’t be that person who disrupts the process (or flight!) by refusing to do what everyone else is doing.
If you object or disagree, and especially if you make a scene, you won’t convince anyone else, you won’t win any friends and you just might earn yourself a felony and a lifetime ban.
If you want to travel without incident, intestinal or logistical, get the appropriate vaccinations.
You might find this hard to believe, but travel immunizations and getting a range of shots before leaving the country has been routine for decades; just ask anyone in the military.
And be sure to get updated vaccinations (for anything) at least two weeks before your departure, since it takes 14 days for your body to build up a strong immune response.
When possible, try to maintain the recommended six-foot distance between yourself and those around you, especially in indoor settings.
Most places will have them, but be sure to pack plenty of back-up masks and hand sanitizer for your own use.
Few things wear you out more than travel.
Get as much rest as you can before you leave.
Limit the rushing around and the urge to get everything done at work or at home (or more) before you go.
If your vacation involves crossing several time zones, transitioning your sleep schedule to your destination’s time zone may be easier to adopt than suddenly going to bed three hours earlier the day you arrive.
Try to get your body in sync with your destination by going to bed one hour closer to their time for at least a day or two before you go.
Keep as close to your at-home sleep schedule as possible. Your body will thank you.
Keep yourself hydrated – especially when flying.
Alcohol, coffee and flight will dehydrate you, so drink more water than usual as you travel.
Bring your favorite water bottle and keep it close by. And filled.
Watch what you eat when you travel.
For the most part, stick to foods that have been fully cooked and are served hot, since raw and under cooked foods have a higher risk of carrying potentially harmful pathogens.
One of my favorite aspects about travel is encountering new foods. My digestive system, however, is not always so appreciative.
Delicious or not, many of the local speciality menu items you encounter will be new to your system.
Wash your hands
Wash or sanitize your hands frequently (and thoroughly). If you can’t use soap and water, keep that hand sanitizer within reach.
Pack any essentials such as pain relievers, medications, and insect repellent – and keep them handy: not in the bottom of a suitcase.
And keep that paperwork handy – it’s worth carrying any documents (or copies) you might need, such as insurance cards, immunization records, and your list of allergies or food sensitivities if you have them.
The bottom line is that you won’t have a good time if you are sick.
And having a good time is the point of a vacation, isn’t it?