Do you find yourself coming back from long trips feeling under the weather? It’s not just you — a lot of people find that they get sick after extended travel either in the air or on the road. Don’t let a cold control your vacation by taking steps to protect yourself along every stage of your next road trip.
Why We Get Sick While Traveling
There are two main ways that something can cause you to get sick — either it increases the number of pathogens to which you are exposed, or it suppresses your immune system and makes you more susceptible to the existing pathogens. Traveling does a little bit of both.
If your road trip has you sticking mostly to the isolated wilderness, other people’s bacteria and viruses may be less of a concern to you — but the stresses of traveling can wreak havoc on your body and make you less able to fight off everyday crud. Stress, irregular sleep, and irregular eating can all lead to a lowered immune system. By maintaining good habits, yes, even on the road, you can give your body the best boost to stay happy and healthy throughout your entire trip.
Road Trip Healthy Habits
When it comes to feeling great during and after your big road trip, it’s all about taking care of your belly, your body, and your brain. Together, these three hold the key to skipping past the bacterial souvenirs of your travel. The first tip for staying healthy on the road starts in your gut.
But it’s vacation! I’ve been guilty of saying this myself as I buy more candy, chips, and soda from the gas station. But while those treats can be very enticing and signal the “specialness” of being on a road trip, your immune system will thank you for fueling your body with mostly good foods.
Bring a cooler along that you can pack with your own road trip snacks and plenty of water. The key to great road trip snacks is making sure to hit all of the major food types — crunchy, salty, sweet — and to always plan ahead! You’ll be more likely to eat the sandwich from home if it’s already made because the ingredients will never look as appealing as the convenience of the gas station hot bar.
When it comes to your drinks, water! water! water! It’s easy to get dehydrated, especially if you’re drinking fountain soda by the half gallon. You’ll want to limit caffeine intake in general. Caffeine won’t keep you awake. It only tricks you into ignoring the signals your body is giving you that you are sleepy.
Dehydration can be a major reason why your immune system isn’t functioning the way it should be. Don’t think that you can skip drinking to try to have fewer bathroom breaks. It’s a recipe for dry mouth and, later, sickness.
That said — balance is key. You have to treat yourself as well. Let yourself have the thing that smells great or the local delicacy of the region for a meal. But make sure the rest of your meals contain as many whole foods and protein as possible. One major advantage of being in an RV is your onboard kitchen! Take advantage of it and make sure you have plenty of fresh foods.
Consider supplements if, for some reason, you don’t think you can maintain access to a variety of food. And don’t forget if you’re traveling all day, you won’t need as many calories as you will on a full day of hiking and other outdoor adventures.
With the right kind of fuel, you’re well on the way to taking excellent care of your body. But outside of just what you’re putting into your body, it’s important to honor the rest of your body as well. Sitting down all day is really hard on the body, especially when you’re driving long distances day after day. The first and most major tip is to take breaks!
Take regular breaks to get out and walk around a little — even if you don’t need to gas up or use the restroom. If you’re drinking enough water, you should have to go regularly, but be sure to stop at least every two hours or so to stop, stretch, and move around. Take advantage of parks or playgrounds along your route for an extended stop where everyone can enjoy burning off a little stagnant energy. This will keep your energy up on the drive as well, without all that caffeine.
Between your regularly scheduled movement stops, you can still do a little while you’re seated. Try to keep a good posture in the car. You can do a few calf raises, shoulder shrugs, or even your kegels, all while comfortably buckled in.
And don’t skip the regular workouts, either. Use your favorite workout app or even just YouTube to find even a 15 min bodyweight workout to start or end your day on the road. You don’t need to bring along any fancy equipment. All you need is a commitment to moving, stretching, and using your body.
When you start getting tired, it’s important to stop. Driving while tired is incredibly dangerous. But getting good sleep (at least 7 hours a night) is crucial to keeping your immune system in good working order. You’ll need plenty of good rest, even on vacation. Enjoy waking up to the new views and get ready to take on the next day of your road trip fully rested.
The last step in keeping your immune system strong while on a long road trip is all about your mindset. Too much stress can really cause a major toll on your body. And a road trip should be fun! To some extent, things will always go wrong on a long enough road trip, and part of it is going with the flow and managing the ups and downs.
Incorporate whatever keeps you going while on the road, whether that’s the perfect driving playlist or a twisty audiobook that has the whole vehicle hooked. It’s important to keep your brain stimulated on a long drive.
Eventually, though, fatigue will set in. Adding a regular mindfulness routine to your driving days will help you get through a long rut, whether by meditation or whatever other tricks will help calm your mind. I love to reflect on the trip so far and journal along the way to unwind.
Armed with all of these tips and tricks, you’ll be more than prepared to take on everything that your road trip has to throw at you. As long as you remember to take care of your belly, body, and brain, you’ll come out on the other side of your trip healthy, happy, and excited for the next adventure. If you’re ready to get on the road, contact Cruise America today for an RV rental!