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Healthy Habits: Safe Holiday Travel

Release Date: November 21, 2019

Healthy Habits: Safe Holiday Travel

Happy holidays written in sand

Traveling for the holidays? Whether you're going to a sandy beach or a snow-capped mountain, make safety a part of your travel plans.

Before you set off...

  • Learn about health concerns at your destination, and make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss potential health risks, as well as any necessary vaccines or medications.
  • Make sure your vaccines, including flu and measles, are up to date. Keep in mind that it takes your body about two weeks to create antibodies against the flu after being vaccinated, so get your flu shot at least two weeks prior to travel.
  • Pack a travel kit that contains over-the-counter and prescription medications (more than enough to last your whole trip), as well as first aid and basic health supplies (sunscreen, insect repellent, etc.).
  • Enroll with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program external link on the U.S. State Department website if you are traveling abroad. This is a free service through which you can receive the latest safety and security information, and it allows the U.S. Embassy or consulate to contact you in an emergency.
  • Find out if your health insurance covers medical care abroad. Also, leave copies of important documents, like your itinerary, credit card information, and passport, with somebody at home in case you lose them while traveling.

During your trip...

  • Buckle up, and choose safe transportation methods. Avoid overcrowded buses and vans. Be alert when crossing the street, especially in countries where people drive on the left side of the road.
  • Prevent bug bites. Ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, and flies can all cause illness. Use an EPA-registered insect repellent made with DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. Learn more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about health risks associated with bug bites external link and how to prevent illness during your trip.
  • Prevent food and water-borne illness by eating only fully cooked foods that are served hot. Do not eat fresh fruits and vegetables unless you can peel them yourself. Drink only bottled and sealed beverages. Avoid ice, as it was likely made with tap water.
  • Wear sunscreen SPF 15 or higher when outdoors, in any temperature. It's important to remember that you can still get sunburned even if it's cold or cloudy out. Sunscreen is not only for the beach.

Road-related accidents are the #1 cause of preventable death in healthy U.S. travelers.

When you get home...

  • Seek medical attention if you do not feel well when you return from your trip, and be sure to discuss where you have traveled with your health care provider.

Learn more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about safe holiday travel: external link

Photos courtesy of