If you follow me on social media, you know that Oliver and I are off on a month long travel adventure! Hooray for post-pandemic travel! Oliver is at such a great age for traveling as he’s so curious and eager to try new things, but not yet walking or running so I can still keep an eye on him 🤪.
Before you ask —
Yes, COVID restrictions have let up in my area.
Yes, I am following all public safety protocols before-during-and after traveling.
And yes, and I am confident in my decision to bring Oliver along for the ride.
Ok, let’s get into the nitty gritty of protecting your immune system while traveling!
For a lot of us it’s been awhile since you were last on a plane. Or in a new city, letting your curiosity lead the way. Or since you’ve explored anything foreign beyond your happy little bubble 😆.
Pre-pandemic travel has its own struggles, but now that we’re traveling in a post-pandemic world, it’s even more important to make sure our immune systems are in tip-top shape when we’re out and about on planes and trains, in restaurants and airports, zoos and parks, and all the other fun spots.
And this all starts with ensuring your immune system is happy, healthy, and thriving before heading to the airport.
Keep reading to find out some of my favorite natural tips ‘n tricks to ensure you’re keeping your immune system happy ‘n healthy while traveling!
Prioritizing fiber-rich and nutrient-dense, whole REAL foods are essential for promoting good immune function.
Would your great grandmother recognize what you’re about to put into your mouth? No? Then don’t eat it. No exceptions. This means avoiding food that comes in packages, boxes, and bags with long ingredient lists, all refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, refined grains, processed dairy, GMOs, vegetable oils and fake/ fast/ or fried foods.
Eat high quality, clean, nutrient-dense foods that you primarily cook yourself at least 90% of the time! I’m talkin’ clean, quality proteins, tons of healthy fats and oils, and eat the rainbow in fruit and veggies.
About 1-2 days ahead, think about any special travel food items you want to bring like raw nuts and seeds, bars, or dried fruits. Start putting snack size servings together in small containers to bring with you.
Take advantage of travel review sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp. Reading reviews ahead of time and searching for popular terms like gluten-free, organic, grass-fed, and even farm-to-table can help take the stress out of deciding where to eat while you’re on the road.
At hotels and resorts, don’t be afraid to ask questions and be specific about how to customize your experience. The staff is there to make your stay enjoyable, and will be happy to accommodate you. Of course, calling ahead to communicate any special needs also helps, but on-the-spot requests for gluten-free meals, for example, can typically be catered to pretty easily.
Request a mini-fridge in your hotel room. If necessary, explain that you have food allergies. Every hotel has them for medical purposes, so calling or making the request ahead of time is your best bet. Alternatively, book a room in a suites/extended-stay venue that has a kitchenette. These are becoming more and more popular/available and are not necessarily more expensive than other types of hotels.
Always think ahead. You’ll never be sorry you carried some extra snacks, but a delay on the tarmac or an unexpected, extended time without food handy will leave you hungry and possibly scavenging for less healthy choices. Err on the side of packing a bit more than you need to keep yourself well prepared.
Use a cooler bag with a reliable/leak-proof ice pack to keep foods fresh in your hotel room. Pack your ice pack in your checked luggage wrapped in extra zip-top bags so that it doesn’t leak.
Pack foods in tall/narrow containers that stay upright and won’t spill. Rinse and reuse containers you bring or that you purchase with food in them along the way.
Use lots of small and large zip-top bags. They can not only hold food and prevent spills, but they can be re-used to hold ice from an ice machine or messy trash from your travels.
Keep extra protein and fat sources on hand like jerky and nuts or nut butter packets in the event of a flight delay. They’re lightweight, so it’s easy to pack extra.
Bring sea salt and organic black pepper in small containers so that you can season up any bland travel-food with healthy spices.
Bring an emergency pack. You wouldn’t forget your toothbrush or extra walking shoes, so add one more thing to your checklist and be prepared and prioritize your emergency food pack accordingly. Over time you will find your favorite version of the emergency food pack, but here’s an example of what you could include:
Prior to your departure date, search online to locate a local health food store in your destination. Search for grocery stores like Whole Foods Market, Natural Trader Joe’s, or ideally a small local co-op or organic grocer, and stock up when you arrive. Buy enough healthy snacks or even meal ingredients to last for the duration of your trip. Not only is it more cost effective, but exploring new grocery stores and farmers markets is one of my favorite ways to get acquainted with a new place!
Sleep is crucial for a well-functioning immune system and managing inflammation. Before, during and after your travel, do the best that you can to prioritize your sleep.
Sleep is one of the most important – and often overlooked – foundational aspects of our health. It’s critical to many ongoing, vital processes in the body, but it’s especially important when we are warding off any kind of illness. Our body repairs and rebuilds itself while we sleep. The more fatigued we are, the more susceptible we are to illness. Getting a solid seven to nine hours of sleep a night is a great goal for supporting the body and the immune system.
Make sure you’ve had a good night’s sleep the night before (and hopefully for the week leading up to your trip!). Airport travel is chaotic, especially when you have car seats, strollers, diaper bags, and whining kids to juggle. The emotional stress of travel is enough to wear our immune systems down and make us more vulnerable to our neighbor’s coughing. So get your zzzz’s and start your travels on the right foot!
Need help in the sleep hygiene department? Check out this blog post.
While you might be good about drinking enough water in your typical day-to-day life, it’s easy to slip up when you’re out of your regular routine. Proper hydration is critical in order for your body to function properly – water is found in every cell in the body, which means it’s part of all the tissues, organs, and systems we need to function and feel our best.
Hydration is especially important with air travel! Flying can cause more rapid dehydration, and it’s no secret that planes are dry.
Before, during, and after traveling, make sure you’re drinking at least half your bodyweight in ounces of clean filtered water, every single day.
Bring a reusable water bottle made from stainless steel on your travels so you can keep track of how much water you’re getting in every day. Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to stay healthy on the road, but bring your refillable water bottles and fill them up with spring water that you buy on the other side once you’ve passed the security gates.
Avoid sugar and sugar containing foods. Sugar is a very potent suppressant of the immune system. This includes sweets, desserts, soft drinks, fruit juices, candies, baked goods, donuts, chocolate, ice cream, pastries, cookies, fruits in canned syrups, and even sweetened dried fruits. And absolutely do not consume anything labeled ‘diet’ or ‘sugar-free’ – diet soda, sugar-free gum, breath freshener, Sweet-n-Low, even diet green tea contains artificial sweeteners. Fruit juice, Vitamin Water, Gatorade, Smart Water, or energy drinks are NOT a healthy option. It’s pure, unadulterated sugar and contains the same amount of sugar as soda!
Stress causes inflammation in the body, causing cortisol and your adrenal glands to struggle to keep up, directly impacting your immune system. Throw traveling into the mix, and you’re setting your immune system up for failure.
Before, during, and after your travel, take the time to implement simple stress management practices that work for you. Take 10 deep belly breaths. Get outside. Enjoy a hot bath. Get a good night’s sleep. Exercise. Cook yourself a delicious meal. Read a book. Paint. Draw. Create. Meditate. Do what makes you happy.
No matter where in the world your travels take you, create space and find time to relax, get out into nature, and feel grounded – this can offer so much support for your immune system and other essential systems of the body.
Exercise and movement optimize the circulation of your body’s lymphatic system, and when your lymphatic system is flowing long and strong, your body is able to clear out toxins and allow nutrients to get where they are needed.
Get at least 45 minutes – 1 hour daily of some kind of exercise and full-body functional movements. Walk, hike, swim, bike, run, yoga, lift weights, pilates, barre, whatever! Just move your body every single day – before, during, AND after traveling.
In a perfect world, you’d be getting all the minerals and nutrients that your body needs through diet alone. But, let’s be real, that isn’t always possible. Incorporating the following supplements into your diet will help add some additional protection to your immune system while traveling:
Take an extra 20,000 IU of Vitamin D (with a healthy fat source) before getting on the airplane, and take 5000 IU per day while traveling to keep your immune system up. Make sure to always take your vitamin D with a fat source to increase absorption.
Take 100mg of CoQ10 before getting on the airplane to protect your body from the extra oxidative stress.
Take an extra 1,000 mg of Vitamin C three times daily before and while traveling.
One of the most well researched nutrients for fighting viral infections is N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC). Take 1 capsule, twice daily. This is an amino acid complex that is the precursor to glutathione production, the body’s most powerful antioxidant, and helps promote optimal detoxification and immune system health. NAC is well researched for its role in optimizing lung health. It is also well researched to stop viral replication, reduce the severity of symptoms, and decrease the duration of infection.
There’s a direct correlation between gut and immune system health, so supporting your gut with Probiotics throughout travel is essential.
And speaking of your gut …
Activated Charcoal is carbonized organic matter – such as coconut shells – that is designed to soak up potentially harmful toxins or chemicals. I advise taking 2-4 capsules prior to eating food of unknown quality or if you’re drinking more alcohol than usual. You can also take activated charcoal if you experience any negative digestive distress while traveling (bloating, gas, nausea, heartburn, etc.). If you think you’re actually getting sick, take 4 capsules at the first sign of symptoms.
Your mucus membranes – like your mouth, nose, and eyes – can be little germ portals if you’re not careful. Wash your hands. Avoid touching things when you are in public and then touching your face. Be sure to cover your mouth if you are coughing or sneezing, especially in public. If you’re sick and you want to avoid passing it to others the best thing you can do is stay home and allow your body the opportunity to rest.
Questions? Concerns? Check out the extensive information that the CDC put together.
Leaving your bubble and getting on an airplane after almost two years of pandemic life can be scary, but most of all, it can be F U N!
And, getting sick doesn’t have to be a part of your trip. Prepping your immune system before, during, and after travel with some nutrition and lifestyle tweaks is crucial to reducing your risk of illness while traveling.
Drop a comment below and let me know how you keep your immune system healthy ‘n happy while traveling!