There are a lot of things to do when prepping for long term travel, or really travel of any length. I’m a bit of a nut when it comes to planning to keep my family healthy. We’ve had pretty much every vaccination possible, and I travel with a small “pharmacy bag” of all sorts of medications. This all requires lots of pre-work before leaving. Follow these pre-trip steps to stay healthy during long term (and shorter) travel.
I’ll start with the most controversial of the list, but for me this is non-negotiable. For my family, the perceived risk of the vaccination is far outweighed by the consequence of catching many of the life-threatening diseases. To each their own. But, if you are interested in vaccinating, make sure you start to look into it at least 3mo prior to the trip. Many vaccinations require multiple doses spread over a period of time so you need some lead time.
Start by researching the various countries you’ll be visiting, potential diseases and recommended vaccinations on the Centre for Disease Control website. There’s a box you can click for “travel with children” as well as other things that may change the recommendations. Then, make an appointment with the local travel clinic. I like to have an idea of what I’m going to need going into the appointment cuz then I at least feel a little prepared. It also gives the opportunity to check with your health insurance to see what is and isn’t covered.
For our travels I ensure we’re all up to date on Tetanus, MMR, Hep A, Hep B, Typhoid, Meningitis and Rabies. We’ve also had more location-depending shots; Yellow Fever and Japanese Encephalitis, and we’ll take Dukoral right before leaving, and take the appropriate malaria pills for our destination(s).
We recently went in for our Japanese Encephalitis vaccinations. I debated for months about whether to get them or not. When I finally looked up the mortality rate (30%) I decided there was NO way I was risking those odds. When arriving at the pharmacy I was informed that the vaccination was $250per dose. Times that by 4 people, and 2 doses…it would be $2000!! Luckily I have great benefits, and it ended up costing about $120 after insurance. It’s nice to be informed about costs and coverage BEFORE showing up to the appointment. Nobody wants a $2000 vaccination surprise!
If you’re traveling for a short period of time these don’t really matter. But, if you’re traveling long-term, they’re really important. The basics are doctor, dentist and optometrist.
And if you have any food or medical allergies, make sure you’ve got a medical bracelet. Check out this comprehensive list from October Acres if you don’t have one already!
It’s important to have a full physical prior to leaving, including a Pap smear if you’re female. Make sure to have back-ups of any prescription medications you’re taking. Also pack a copy of the prescription with the generic name so you can pick it up overseas if needed.
Chances are you won’t get your teeth checked while traveling. It wouldn’t be high on my list anyways! You should have your teeth checked and cleaned before venturing off. You’ll want those pearly whites picture ready!! Knowing they’re in great shape before you leave, and constant brushing and flossing on the road, should keep your smile healthy.
If you wear eye glasses or contact lenses, visit your eye doctor so you have the most up to date prescription. Pack a back-up pair of glasses, as well as your glasses prescription and contact lens prescription (which are different) so you can refill or replace if needed. Make sure you have a comprehensive eye exam, rather than just a prescription check. You want to be confident your eyes are healthy before you go.
If you don’t wear glasses or contacts, it’s still important to see your eye doctor to check for any signs of disease. Don’t forget to pack a good pair of sunglasses (or two) to protect those eyes from the sun while you’re laying on the beach, hiking the Himalayas or wandering the city.
Travel Medications etc.
This is an area where I probably go overboard. I’m a true GirlGuide (GirlScout) at heart, always remembering to “Be Prepared.” I like to start every trip with a fully stocked first aid kit/portable medicine cabinet. Don’t forget, many medications have different names in different countries. I’ve listed the North American names here.
- Stomach: Tums/Pepto Bismol Tabs/Ex-lax
- Anti-nausea: Gravol (adult & chewable kids tabs)
- Water Purification: Aqua Tabs & LifeStraw
- Anti-Allergy: Benadryl (adult & chewable kids tabs)
- Pain-relief: Tylenol/Paracetamol (adult & chewable kids tabs), Advil (adult & chewable kids tabs)
- Polysporin & Neosporin (antibiotic) ointment
- 1% hydrocortisone (anti-inflammatory) ointment
- Clotrimazole anti fungal cream
- Diaper cream (this has many uses!)
- Bug-bite relief ointment
- Melatonin strips
- Peppermint Essential Oil
- Thieves Essential Oil
- Tweezers & Nail clippers
- Digital Thermometer
- Sunscreen (make sure you’re up to date on the most recent sunscreen bans as this could affect which sunscreen you should pack!)
- Bug Repellant
- Aquatabs & Lifestraw (water purification)
- Sterile Needle Kit
- Antibiotic eye drops – Polytrim & Vigamox (can also be used for an ear infection)
- Combo eye drops – Tobradex drops and ointment
- Anti-inflammatory eye drops – Lotemax
- Kid’s Antibiotics – Bactrim (traveler diarrhea) & Augmentin (UTI, sinus, chest or ear infection)
- Adult Antibiotics – Ciprofloxacin (traveler diarrhea), Augmentin (same use as for kids), Metronidazole (this is used as a secondary antibiotic if the first one doesn’t work, and is helpful against C. diff which is commonly picked up in hospitals. I have Crohn’s disease, so this likely isn’t necessary for the average person!)
*I’m not an MD. I am an optometrist, so I’m able to diagnose and treat my family’s eye-related issues. The average pink-eye will likely respond to Tobradex above, so if you only want to bring one drop, bring that one. With any medical problem, if your condition isn’t improving within 24 hrs of starting your own treatment, seek proper medication attention.
You should also check out this travel first aid kit packing list from Tear Free Travels. It’ll prove I haven’t gone overboard!
I spent a lot of time researching travel insurance, although I’m not really sure why! Almost every travel blogger, worldschooler, and all other long-term travelers right now swear by WorldNomad. I did my due-diligence however, and shopped around. Not only was I comparing pricing, I was also comparing policies.
I mentioned above that I have Crohn’s disease, which definitely counts as a pre-existing condition. My disease has been in remission since I had surgery in 2006 and I’ve been off medication since Kacela was born in 2012. I’m incredibly lucky I’ve been able to maintain control of my Crohn’s, but I need to at least take it into consideration when shopping around for medical insurance. All the options I looked into had a similar pre-existing condition policy. They can be used for complications related to the pre-existing condition as long as it’s been under control for 90 days prior to the start of the coverage.
I started with World Nomad. They provided an easy online quote and required I maintain my provincial health insurance. Their quote included 2-tiers of options which were easily to compared. I could also register and pay for my insurance at any time, and designate a start-date for while we’re on the road. Being able to sign up weeks before leaving meant one less last minute thing to worry about.
The other great thing about World Nomad is that it includes adventure activities like Scuba Diving up to 30m, and trekking up to 3000m. Pretty much any activity I could imagine engaging in was on their “covered” list. And, for those who’re more hard core, there’s the option to upgrade the coverage for more extreme sports.
I have a decent travel Visa that provides out of province/country health insurance for up to 30 days of continuous travel. I called to inquire about extending this for up to a year. The person I spoke with was incredibly helpful, but it ended up being almost 3 times as expensive as the World Nomad quote. I’ll still have coverage for flights, trip cancellation, baggage loss, car rentals, etc as long as I pay for these things with the Visa. It was just to expensive to use for health insurance.
World Nomad also covers a number of the non-health related items mentioned about. It really is an all-encompassing policy!
AMA is big into both travel and insurance, so I figured they’d have a decent long-term travel policy. They did not. Randy went into our local branch to ask about it, and I’m sure glad it was him and not me. It took forever! I guess it’s not every day someone comes in asking for an extended policy, but I can’t imagine it never happens. The first person he spoke with was unable to help, and passed him onto someone else. The next person spent quite a long time on the phone and computer trying to figure it all out. In the end it took him almost 2 hours and the quote came back over $6000. I’m not even sure what it included, cuz unless it included airfare I wasn’t interested.
Local Insurance Broker
I try to support local as much as I possibly can, so I couldn’t leave this out. The local insurance broker whom I have my normal health benefits through, doesn’t actually offer extended travel insurance. She did refer me to someone in a neighbouring community. Again, the quote came back significantly more expensive than World Nomad. Twice as much actually. It also didn’t include any activities. If we wanted coverage for scuba diving, or higher-altitude trekking, it was going to cost even more.
Provincial Health Care
Look into your local healthcare prior to leaving. We live in Alberta, and we can be out of the province for up to 2 years without having it affect our AHC coverage. The only catch is that we have to let them know before we leave. That’s not something we’d want to learn after the fact.
We chose World Nomad. It really was a no-brainer as they’re clearly the experts when it comes to long term travel. There’s a reason everyone uses them. I wish I wouldn’t have wasted my time shopping around!
*I didn’t receive any compensation from World Nomad for this post, I truly just don’t want you to waste time like I did shopping around!
Healthy travel means being healthy before leaving home.
The start of a trip can be exhausting, with jet lag and long travel days, so get lots of sleep the week before you leave. Also, make sure you’re drinking lots and lots of water. Water will help keep you healthy and hydrated before leaving, and can also help combat jet lag. If you get yourself in the habit of drinking lots of water it’ll be easier to keep it up once you’re on your adventure.
Travel typically means you’re not staying put for too long. And, it often involves significantly more walking than you’d normally do at home. Take the time to walk most evenings in the few months leading up to your trip. Especially if you’re traveling with kids! This will build up everyone’s stamina and make you stronger. Strength and stamina will help you cope with whatever your trip throws at you.
Eating new foods is one of the best things about traveling, but it also can be difficult for your gut to handle. New foods, plus dehydration, can lead to constipation! Everyone eats differently, and what works for some might not work for others. My advice is to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible before you leave, and while you’re traveling. The fibre will help keep everything moving which means you’ll likely be more comfortable.
What are your pre-trip steps to stay healthy while traveling?
Thanks for reading! I hope you found it helpful. You might also like Travel Anxiety about our Family RTW.
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