10 Dos and Don’ts of Traveling While Sick

Adventure Travel, Extras — By on October 20, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Vomit Bag

By Maggie Parker
Special to Lost Girls
Travel is very unpredictable, especially in terms of health. The exhaustion of flying, sightseeing, and exploring can take a toll on your body. Not only that, you never know who around you could be carrying a virus. So, you might come down with something mid-trip, it happens all the time and it’s not fun. A lot of the sick-travel tips are obvious like drinking water and resting. But there are a few others tips and tricks that I recently learned when I got sick on my Contiki Vacations trip to South America (I was at Machu Picchu when it hit me). Getting sick while traveling can easily ruin a trip, but these dos and don’ts can help you avoid that.

DO carry a change of clothing (specifically underwear): I know this is a little personal, but let’s be honest, sometimes you lose control of your body when you are really sick. You are in a foreign place and are trying to enjoy yourself. Make it easier by not being stuck in gross clothes. And feel free to toss the dirty ones- more room to buy new stuff!

DO have a plastic bag with you at all times: Once again, you never know when it’s going to hit you. If you aren’t feeling well, but are still trekking out to try to enjoy the day, be prepared.

DO rest for at least a full day and night: You may miss a full day’s worth of activities and sight-seeing, but if you don’t rest enough you will just prolong the sickness. Many people on my trip to South America thought a few hours of rest would be enough, then they could hike up Machu Picchu, and take a nap after. That’s not the way it works. You cannot pause a virus. It will just get worse if you push yourself. The travelers who gave themselves a day and night off, woke up feeling better and ready to travel. There is no way around it, you may think a few hours of rest will help and then you will be able to go to the bar, but more often than not this will lead to more extreme sickness, causing you to miss a few full days. I saw it happen. Get the rest over with, and you will be back on your feet before you know it.

DO carry a snack with you at all times: Sickness can come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes you can’t look at food without vomiting, but then all of a sudden you feel weak and faint. That’s when it would be good to have a little sugar in your day-pack. Even the smallest thing; a cough drop helped me on Machu Picchu! As much as you don’t want to puke while sight-seeing, you also don’t want to faint.

DO speak up: Some people don’t like asking for help, or if they are with a group like I was, are embarrassed to be the sick traveler. If you don’t tell anyone or ask for the help you need, it will be harder to get better. If you need help, ask. I was shy when I first got sick but as soon as I told the Contiki staffers, they were more than accommodating and I found out that I wasn’t the only sick one. The sooner you ask, the sooner you will get better, the sooner you will be able to continue your trip, and the sooner everyone will forget you were ever sick.

DON’T ride buses, trains or other modes of bumpy transportation: Especially if they don’t have bathrooms. You will be stuck on this bus or train for however many hours. Not the best place to get sick. I got on a train and after forcing a poor woman out of the only bathroom, spent the entire ride in there. Luckily there was one! Just change your plans and take a later train or a bus tomorrow. The discomfort is not worth it. As I said in point 3, you will need a big stretch of rest, and sitting on a bus going over speed bump after speed bump through tiny towns does not qualify.

Machu Picchu bathroomsDON’T stray far from the bathroom and DO make yourself comfortable: Even if you think you are feeling a bit better, stay close to a bathroom at all times. Public sickness isn’t fun. With every step I took farther and farther away from the Machu Picchu bathroom, I felt sicker and sicker. If you feel so horrible that the only place you feel safe and comfortable is the bathroom, feel free. On the train ride back to Cuzco, I laid out some paper towels on the bathroom floor and made myself comfortable. Do whatever makes you feel better, you can always shower later.

DON’T expect too much sympathy from travel-mates: I hate to say it but it’s true. If you are traveling with other people, they most likely DON’T want to get sick and DO want to experience the trip to the fullest. Meaning, they aren’t going to coddle you and ask you if you are okay every 10 minutes, or tuck you into bed and keep you company when you are to0 sick to join the rest. Don’t get mad at them, this is their trip too. It might not be a great feeling,  you may feel a little lonely, but everyone responds differently. I let that feeling get to me on the trip and it made me feel unnecessarily guilty for being sick. Only worry about yourself, because that is exactly what everyone else is doing.

DON’T forget toilet paper: More essential than a toothbrush. Just as essential as a plastic bag. Depending on where you are traveling, some places require you to provide your own toilet paper or only offer you a very sparse amount. Don’t get stuck without TP. I kissed the pack of tissues I had in my bag when I got sick.

AirportDON’T feel bad: Don’t beat yourself up about being sick. I started getting pretty angry at myself when I saw other sick travelers still very positive and in high spirits. I felt bad that I was the bitter one, and worried I was bringing everyone else down. Once again, only worry about yourself. Who cares what everyone else is doing or thinking? Do what you need to do to get better and don’t feel bad about it. Yes it sucks that you will miss out on some travel fun but all you can do is rest so that you get better.

The last tip was the most important for me, but everyone is different. If this happens to you (I hope it doesn’t), remember these tips and you will be on the road to recovery in no time!

Barf bag photo courtesy of Gadling

Machu Picchu bathroom photo courtesy of Eatmorebooks

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  • Kristin P says:

    “DON’T expect too much sympathy from travel-mates” – this was an unexpected one for me, but true. You can’t expect everyone to “play doctor/nurse” on you when they’re trying to enjoy their trip as much as possible.

  • Anonymous says:

    So true.. some of these would have even helped me while sick at the office yesterday!!