Take a healthy summer vacation

June 20, 2012

Summertime is family vacation time. Where are you going? The beach or the mountains? An action-packed amusement park or a quiet place on a lake? No matter where you plan to get away, one thing will be the same. You have to plan ahead to make it a healthy and safe trip.  

Do some pre-vacation planning

There are lots of great resources to help you plan a safe and healthy vacation. One of them is Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC offers some suggestions for travelers.

Get travel health insurance. You should think about buying health insurance if you are traveling outside the United States. Check the details of your plan to see what's covered before you leave. You may need supplemental coverage if you have to leave a country because of a medical emergency.

Be careful what you eat. In some countries, you should eat foods that have been fully cooked and served hot. Avoid eating fresh vegetables and fruits, unless you can peel them yourself. Dairy products can also be unsafe, especially if you are traveling with babies.

If your baby is bottle-fed, carry powdered baby formula. Also, use purified, bottled water with unbroken seals.

Traveling by plane and by car

No matter how you plan to get there, traveling can be stressful. You have to plan, budget, shop, and pack. You may also have to find a sitter for your dog.

All these activities can leave you feeling like you really do need a vacation. But don't forget to keep your health in mind.

International Business Times also lists some suggestions.  

If you've been exercising and eating healthier all year, you don't want to lose progress on vacation. Taking your diet and fitness habits on the road with you is a great idea.

Just remember one thing — it's all about balance. It does not matter if you are at home, the beach or some place in between. A healthy lifestyle is all about practicing balance and moderation.

If you're traveling by plane, try these tips:

Make healthy food your carry-on. Carry foods that do not get crushed easily. Bring along apples, bananas, raw nuts, whole grain crackers, crunchy vegetables, and even dark chocolate. You won't feel hungry on the plane. Plus, you won't pay $5 for potato chips or a giant cookie when your children want a snack.

Stay hydrated. Ask for water or club soda with lime. Try not to drink sodas or other options from the beverage cart. With plane germs and the altitude change, you'll be doing your body a favor.

Watch the seat belt light. Keep your seat belt fastened for your safety. But don't forget to wiggle your feet and legs every 30 minutes or so to lower the risk of developing a deep venous thrombosis, a blood clot in the leg. Sitting for long periods when traveling can increase the risk of DVTs.

If you're traveling by car, do this:

Plan a picnic. Skipping roadside fast-food will save calories and money, and add fun to your trip. Fill a cooler with sandwich ingredients. Then, stop at a roadside picnic spot. You can enjoy turkey sandwiches on wheat bread, fresh vegetables, hummus, and a fruit salad.

Be a tourist. Try to stop every one to two hours to walk and stretch. Small towns that dot the interstate make great pit stops and photo opportunities.

Stay hydrated. Keep drinking that water! Each time you stop to refuel the car, refuel yourself. Take reusable water bottles and refill with water in the gas station.

When you've reached your destination:

Keep moving. Plan activities that require you to move. Try golf, tennis, kayaking, swimming, or even a stroll through a tourist attraction. Doing more than lounging all day will burn those vacation calories.

Indulge just a little. Do not make every single meal a vacation celebration. You will probably eat at local dives. You may even splurge on a fancy dinner or two.

But you do not have to eat a big meal three times a day for a week. If you eat at a greasy beach spot for lunch, have a lighter dinner. If you order a bottle of wine with dinner, skip dessert.

Sleep. One of the best things you can do for your body is stay rested. You will have to deal with the hustle and bustle of getting to your destination. You will experience a jam-packed vacation schedule, new time zones and even diet changes.

As a result, your vacation can take a toll on your body. Take advantage of your time off and squeeze in a nap. Also, try to get as much quality sleep at night as possible.

Don’t forget about your children’s health

A family vacation can turn into a nightmare if someone gets sick. Be prepared.

Pack common medicines such as allergy tablets, first aid supplies, and hand sanitizers. Insect repellent and antidiarrheal medicine are also important. Keep your family doctor's phone number handy in case of an emergency.

Here are a few more good tips for healthy and safe travels with your family:

Become familiar with your surroundings. Check out hotel rooms for hazards. These can include sharp corners on furniture, unprotected electrical outlets, exposed wiring, insect infestation, or faulty balcony railings.

Introduce your children to new experiences gently. Let smaller waves lap their ankles instead of letting them jump into tall waves right away.

Wear sunscreen. Avoid getting too much sun by wearing protective clothing. Find shade during the hottest time of day, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Swim in safe places. Before jumping in the water, ask about bacterial contamination and water depth. Also ask about such things as sharp rocks or coral, riptides, and dangerous sea creatures.

Keep children at a safe distance from stray or unfamiliar animals. A medical professional should evaluate any injuries.

Wash hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Wash pacifiers, teething rings, and toys often.

Children can have ear pain during airline flights, especially during descent and landing. To help make children more comfortable, infants should nurse or suck on a bottle. Older children can chew gum to equalize pressure in the middle ear.

Most importantly, relax and have a good time. Children know when parents are tense or nervous, so plan ahead to avoid problems.

Now you are ready to go! Have a healthy trip. But, most of all, have a great time on your summer vacation.