Vacations are meant to be relaxing and fun, but there is no doubt that traveling can also be a very stressful experience.  New foods, new cultures, new roads, new people, new places to sleep, and new germs can all add up to wreak havoc on your body and mind.  Whether your family is headed to the beach or you’re off on a girls’ weekend in NYC, here are some tips for staying healthy while you travel so you can make the most of your time.

1. For Nausea and Motion Sickness: Ginger

Photo by The Delicious Life

Real ginger is the best remedy for nausea and motion sickness. Think twice before choosing ginger ale – most mainstream brands don’t even contain any real ginger.  Instead, you can purchase powdered ginger in capsule form, which is convenient for traveling.

Candied ginger (pictured above) is also a good option, especially for children, and ginger tea bags are very effective, as well.  You can carry some on a plane and ask for hot water, or ask for hot water in any restaurant.

2.  For Digestive Upset: Probiotics

Probiotics are a powerful ally against digestive upset. They are full of the “good” bacteria that your body needs in order for your gut to stay healthy, and the more good bacteria that are thriving in there, the less chance there is that the “bad” bacteria can take hold.

Begin taking probiotics a few days before your trip, and continue throughout the trip, especially if you are traveling out of your native country or culture.  Look for a brand that is shelf-stable and doesn’t require refrigeration.

3.  For Jet Lag: Melatonin and Magnesium

Most people think of jet lag only when they travel overseas, but even going more than one time zone away can disturb your natural circadian rhythms. Melatonin is the hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles.  You can purchase melatonin over-the-counter at pharmacies and health food stores.

The best way to use melatonin is to take the appropriate dosage one hour before your bedtime in your new time zone on the first and second days of your trip. By the third day, you shouldn’t need it, and in fact it may interfere with your body’s production of natural melatonin if you continue to use it.   But if you travel again and find yourself in another new time zone, or when you return home, you can again take it on the first and second evenings in that new time zone, one hour before bed.

In addition to the melatonin, you can take a magnesium supplement.  Magnesium helps the body achieve deeper, more restful sleep. It is a natural treatment for insomnia, and I personally use it regularly to help with my tendency toward light, restless sleep.

A common sense tip in new time zones: Resist the urge to nap; don’t go to sleep until bedtime.  When you do go to sleep, leave the curtains or shades open, so sunlight will wake you in the morning.  This will help get you on track right away.

4.  For an Immune Boost: Echinacea and Cod Liver Oil


Photo by Jordan Meeter

Echinacea has proven itself to be a natural immune booster, stimulating the production of white blood cells.  You can find it in many forms, such as herbal tinctures, capsules, tea bags, lozenges, and more.  Follow the recommended dosage, and begin taking it about a week before your trip.

Cod liver oil is a super food that contains vitamin D, a terrific immune booster. I highly recommend a daily supplement of cod liver oil for everyone, but especially in times of stress. It will support your whole system wonderfully.

Other options are vitamin C, and my sister (a nurse practitioner) swears by olive leaf extract.  Whatever immune-boost you choose, start a week before you leave so it has time to kick in.

5.  For Stress Relief and All-Purpose Healing: Lavender

Lavender is one of my favorite scents, and the essential oil is a great choice for stress relief. You can pour a few drops into a bath for a relaxing soak, or massage a little bit into your temples to help with headaches.

It also has healing properties; rub a drop or two into bug bites and stings, or make an herbal steam in a sink full of hot water with a towel over your head for sinus and bronchial relief.


Photo by Fred

6.  For Overall Health

Make sure to plan ahead well, so that you’re getting plenty of sleep before you leave on your trip. If you aren’t well-rested to begin with, your immune system will already be run down before you go, and you will be much more prone to illness.

And yes, everyone loves to indulge on vacations, but remember not to do so at every meal.  If you aren’t eating well, you won’t feel well, and you won’t enjoy your trip.

Finally, make sure you spend some time outside, getting fresh air. Take a walk.  On car trips, stop every so often to stretch your legs and run around.  Get in touch with nature.  Watch a sunset.

What suggestions can you add for staying healthy while you travel?