By Melissa Biggs Bradley
For the past few years, as the founder of travel-planning company Indagare, I have been spending more than 100 days a year away from home, and the only thing worse than being sick at home is being sick on the road. For this reason, I make sure to follow packing, plane and adjustment rituals that I have picked up over the years and have thus far kept me healthy wherever I have traveled.
On the Plane
Numerous studies have shown that you are much more likely to catch a cold on a plane than in daily life, so the first thing I do after stowing my suitcase is to use an antiseptic wipe to clean the surfaces around my seat, including the armrest, seat belt buckle and tray table. I started this habit after a doctor in South Africa told me that many cases of conjunctivitis or pink eye are contracted by people picking up cold germs on planes. I also drink water with a few drops of oregano oil in, as it is purported to have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral effects. And if someone seated near me is clearly suffering from a cold, I will use a nasal spray to keep my mucous membranes moist. Many doctors believe that the low humidity on planes dries out our mucous lining so much that it cannot trap germs properly.
Dress for Comfort
I pack only a carry-on and believe that comfort is key when traveling, so I leave my heels at home and opt for flat shoes like Rothy’s loafers or ballet flats from Maud Frizon. This is especially important, because it can be almost a mile of walking to get to your gate in airports these days. I also wear layers on the plane, as the temperature can vary widely, and I always travel with a big scarf that can serve as a blanket in-flight or a wrap in the evening.
Whenever I travel out of the country, I make sure to take probiotics and Pepto-Bismol pills every day. The probiotics build up healthy bacteria in your gut and the Pepto-Bismol acts as a prophylactic that coats your digestive track and can help filter out organisms in contaminated water or food. Last year in Asia, I met a gastroenterologist from Harvard Medical School, who endorsed my stomach insurance ritual, but also cautioned me against eating dairy products, especially cheeses and yogurts in Third World countries, as they will likely not be pasteurized and have local bacteria unfamiliar to our systems. As a cheese lover, I took that advice as a bitter pill to swallow, but the advice has served me well.
I have a special toiletry bag dedicated to vitamins and supplements. Some are the ones that I take daily at home, such as Omega 3s and Brain Octane (you can buy travel sleeves), but some —like the multivitamin supplement Berocca and oregano oil—I take to boost or protect my immune system. I also bring Super Greens powder to be sure that I get enough vegetable benefits, which can be tough in certain places. In the same “health” pouch, I always carry an eye mask and ear plugs to ensure that wherever I am sleeping, I can block out light and noise.
Meditation and Exercise Routines
It can be hard to keep a routine when traveling, but I make sure to always carve out time for my morning meditation and some exercise, even if it is just a long walk or 25 minutes in the gym. These habits keep mind and body in balance, no matter how unfamiliar the destination or daily schedule is.
I am also zealous about making sure that I have at least seven hours of sleep every night. Sometimes that can be a challenge in countries where dinner isn’t served until 10 p.m. but then I will adjust to have a later start time the next morning or try to fit in a nap in the afternoon. See my tips for adjusting to jet lag.
Melissa Biggs Bradley is the founder of Indagare, a digital travel company that combines curated content with high-touch service.