Ear plugs, emergency tissues and yoga, our top travel health tips

Before we became perpetual travellers, I used to imagine that life on the road would be so relaxing. No more alarm clocks, winter colds or pasty skin, and all the time in the world to eat healthily and exercise. How wrong was I! Last week we arrived back in the UK jet-lagged, sunburnt, mosquito-bitten and exhausted, marked with trekking blisters, and haunted by Nepalese stomach bugs. So, how do you stay sane and healthy while you travel? Here are a few of our top travel health tips.

Hiking to Ella Rock, Sri LankaSleeping and travel

Travel can play havoc with your sleep quality as you’re constantly moving through different time zones, changing beds every few nights, dealing with jet lag and trying to adjust to wildly different temperatures. With no regular routine and days crammed with activity, it can also be hard to switch off and fall asleep. Oh, did I mention the pesky mosquito and bed bugs that could keep you awake at night too? Here are some of the ways we try to manage our sleep quality while we’re on the move:

  • Avoid overnight buses and trains – it may sound like a great way to save money on a night’s accommodation, but we rarely ever sleep well on overnight journeys because of the noise, cramped conditions and blasting air con.
  • Watch out for bed bugs – my worst nightmare. We’ve got a whole post about how to spot and deal with bed bugs, but my top tip is to always check review websites before you book accommodation to see if anyone mentions mysterious bites.
  • Stick to set bedtimes – wherever we are in the world, we try to go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day to keep our sleep patterns in tact.
  • Don’t forget your ear plugs! – I wouldn’t be able to survive travel without my ear plugs to block out snorers, animal sounds and noisy travellers. I never go anywhere without an eye mask either.
Zipped into a sleeping bag in Dingboche on the Everest Base Camp Trek

All tucked up on the Everest Base Camp Trek

Travel food tips

If, like me, you’re not one of those lucky or gutsy people who can literally eat anything, there might be times when you struggle with unfamiliar foods while you travel. When we first left the UK I was a notoriously fussy eater and while four years of travel has made me more adventurous, I’ve still had to develop tactics like these to eat healthily on the road:

  • Search before you go – whenever we arrive in a new place we use Tripadvisor to search out restaurants rather than go traipsing through the streets when we’re starving. As vegetarians who are slowly transitioning to veganism, this takes the stress out of the food search.
  • Follow your gut instincts – if you think a restaurant seems dodgy, or the food you’re served doesn’t look right, follow your instincts and go somewhere else. A perfect example would be the cheap, re-heated street food in Laos that Andrew should have avoided but didn’t, with disastrous consequences.
  • Always carry snacks – don’t end up stuck on a ten-hour bus journey with no nourishment. We tend to take some light snacks such as crackers, nuts or fruit and plenty of water with us wherever we go.
Warm Brie Salad from Rustic and Blue restaurant in Chiang Mai

We always use Tripadvisor to find great meals like this one in Chiang Mai

Exercising on the road

Travel has definitely made us more active as we walk and swim far more than we ever did when we lived in the UK. However we also work online, which means long hours in front of our laptops, so we have to make an effort to build exercise into our daily routine, here’s how we do it:

  • Find something you can do anywhere – this year while living in Thailand, Andrew and I took up yoga and we absolutely love it! Yoga is great for our ‘computer-chair backs’, mental health and flexibility. We can also join classes and practise alone wherever we are in the world.
  • Take comfy shoes – always make sure you have some good walking or sports shoes with you while you travel. We just bought Merrell hiking shoes for our trek to Everest Base Camp, but we also have trainers for city walks and the gym.
  • Establish a routine – no matter where you are, try to get into an exercise routine. When we lived in our Chiang Mai apartment we’d do some yoga stretches every morning, go to classes twice a week and try to swim every day.

Us practising yoga in Chiang Mai

Dealing with illnesses

Oh, the intestinal trouble we’ve just had in Nepal! When you visit countries with poor food hygiene standards you’re bound to end up with gut issues. Then there’s potential viruses like Dengue Fever to watch out for, as well as general colds, flu and illnesses which you can become more susceptible to when suffering from travel exhaustion. Here are some ways we deal with illnesses while travelling:

  • Watch what you drink – always make sure your water is clean and sterile. To be eco-friendly you could buy a steri-pen or fill up reusable bottles from filtered water dispensers. We usually avoid ice unless we’re in really touristy areas.
  • Stock up on medicines – we carry a small supply of medicines with us including painkillers, my migraine tablets, rehydration salts and plasters. If you need prescription drugs, get a signed copy of your script from a doctor to take with you when you travel.
  • Get vaccinated – don’t forget to have your travel vaccinations, find out what you might need in our guide.
  • Emergency supplies – after some extreme toilet emergencies in Nepal, we always carry plenty of tissue and hand sanitiser with us, you never know when you might need it!

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  • Sarah
    Posted at 15:23h, 14 June Reply

    Oh you guys that sucks about being ill in Nepal! I think we’re going to be in for quite a shock to the system getting back on the road again next week. I’ve been so lazy because my knee has been hurting, definitely need to get back into a better routine and try & stick to it Mexico. We’ve never expereinced bed bugs so hopefully we can continue to avoid them! Eeeek! Enjoy your time back in the UK – such a shame we won’t get to see you. Sx

    • Amy
      Posted at 14:47h, 16 June Reply

      So sorry to hear about your knee Sarah, I hope it gets better and doesn’t interfere with your Mexico adventure. I’m excited to hear more about that! Yes, it’s a shame we missed you 🙁 Hopefully we’ll see you over in the Americas sometime in 2018!

  • Alyson
    Posted at 17:59h, 14 June Reply

    Ah the crappy Laos buffet! The kids and I refused to touch it. Chef, who, y’know, is a HEAD CHEF and knows all about food hygiene laws, filled his boots on cheap crap and was sick for 4 days. Gluttony over logic!
    We don’t worry about sleep, we like missing meals so never snack ( makes me thinner and I find no food is easier than tiny food), we find Trip Advisor is generlly a pack of lies after being stung by fake reviews too many times. Chef exercises to ridiculous extremes, the boys and I just do normal travel exercise, hiking up the Himalayas with packs, that sort of stuff. I find we’re all generally fitter, leaner and healthier on the road, other than when we get the Nepal squits. The Nepal squits were the worst squits ever. Way worse than any India squits. But in second place is the London squits, norovirus was a killer! . But it makes me thin 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 14:49h, 16 June Reply

      Ha! So Andrew wasn’t the only sucker for the dodgy Laos buffet then! Interesting take on TripAdvisor, we got a bit suspicious about the hotel reviews on there from Nepal actually, but I do find it useful for searching out veggie restaurants. Definitely agree that we’re more active on the road too – going to have to watch ourselves now we’re back in the UK for a while!

  • Patti
    Posted at 18:58h, 16 June Reply

    Great post, Amy and Andrew. There is always so much to think about “behind the scenes” when it comes to traveling! It can be a real challenge at times, trying to think 3 steps ahead at all times. I know as we wait for our visas to come through, we are questioning every day, “What did we forget to do?”

    I always carry a mini pharmacy with me. For this upcoming adventure, because we don’t know how long we’ll actually be gone, I managed to get a year’s worth of the one prescription med I take daily, but I also always ask my doctor for a prescription for an antibiotic because I can develop bad allergic reactions.

    But, in the end, it’s a small sacrifice to pay for the lifestyle – sans the bugs! 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:22h, 20 June Reply

      Yep, all the behind the scenes stuff can be really time consuming! Great idea to get a prescription for antibiotics Patti, always best to be prepared.

  • Victoria @The British Berliner
    Posted at 21:59h, 21 June Reply

    Very good tips Amy!

    Especially about the earplugs. I always forget them, then I’m done for, as I’m an extremely light sleeper!

    The thing that (excuse the pun), bugs me the most, are ants! I absolutely hate them, so whenever we travel abroad, I always insist that food not be brought into the room, and also not left inside the dustbin!

    And even though I travel a lot, whenever I go to a developing country, I am always ill. Every time! It’s either I get Delhi belly (India & the Philippines), or I catch a cold and can’t get rid of it! I was in Vietnam for almost a month, but I still couldn’t shake off my fever, cold, and headaches, and ended up at home in bed, for another week!

    p.s. Always take your own first aid kit for plasters, bandages, and cleaning up small wounds.

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:12h, 24 June Reply

      Thanks for those extra tips Victoria, especially the first aid kit. Sickness always does seem to strike on the road, doesn’t it? It took us about a month to recover from our trip to Nepal!

  • Louisa klimentos
    Posted at 00:36h, 27 June Reply

    Very good advice Amy and Andrew and i hope you are feeling better after being ill in Nepal.I f you are having any nause ,bloating ,belching etc,please go to a doctor and have a Ureah breath test to confirm if you have high levels of H Pylori bacteria .I certainly have it and i live in Australia

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:05h, 27 June Reply

      We are feeling fine now thanks Louisa, we’ll certainly bare your advice in mind though for the future. I hope you feel better soon.

      • Louisa klimentos
        Posted at 07:33h, 28 June Reply

        Thank you

  • Liz
    Posted at 03:27h, 29 April Reply

    I enjoyed your article. I actually got sick in Thailand because they were using ice made from tap water in our drinks.After that I always check if the ice is store-bought and fortunately I’ve managed to avoid getting food poisoning again.
    I don’t travel without my sleeping mask and earplugs anywhere as well! Plus my headphones that help me to escape any noisy situation.

    • Amy
      Posted at 18:19h, 30 April Reply

      Hi Liz, sorry to hear you got sick in Thailand. Ice cubes area a pesky thing to look out for!

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