Stay Safe and Healthy While You Travel this Holiday Season
For many, the holiday season is full of travel – family for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hannukah, friends’ houses for holiday parties, and possibly vacation time while the kids are out of school for Winter Break. Traveling often alters your normal schedule and plans for workouts, healthy eating, and getting plenty of rest. Planning ahead can make your trip more enjoyable and safe for all.
Thanksgiving weekend is the most traveled weekend in the United States. Typical highway food tends to be fast food, service-station hot dogs and chips and too much sugary soda. Eating junk food not only adds pounds, but can add to fatigue on an already stressful trip. Stay safe and healthy on the road with these tips:
• If you head out early in the morning, choose a breakfast with a good combination of carbohydrate and protein, particularly if you are the driver. Foods high in simple carbs and sugar will cause a drop in blood sugar later that can make you sleepy.
• If you must eat on the run for breakfast, try a breakfast burrito or english muffin sandwich over a high-fat biscuit. Choose a leaner meat such as ham or Canadian bacon over sausage. And drink decaf coffee, low fat milk, or water. Service stations now offer granola bars and some protein bars which work well on the road.
• Bring along a cooler with healthy snacks and drinks for the trip. Fresh cut-up fruits and vegetables make easy finger foods, as do single portion string cheese, yogurt in a tube, and nuts such as almonds or cashews. Plan ahead and make everyone’s favorite deli sandwich so there won’t be a need to stop for burgers and fries. Bring plenty of bottled water and 100% juice to drink.
• Staying at a hotel? Try to find a local grocery store to stock up on snacks for the room refrigerator so you can avoid the vending machines. If the room has a microwave, try a frozen dinner or soup-to-go that can easily be heated.
• Watch your posture – make sure you are sitting comfortably with the small of your back supported to avoid slouching.
• Stop regularly, at least once an hour, to get out a stretch your legs. Between stops, use cruise control to stretch your legs and do ankle circles to keep the blood flowing.
• According to the National Sleep Foundation, driving drowsy has the same slow reaction time, decreased awareness, and visual changes as drunk driving. Get plenty of rest before your trip, and stop if you are getting sleepy. Change drivers often if possible.
• Be sure to wear your seat belt.
Airports are packed this time of year, and unfortunately it coincides with cold and flu season. Crowded airplanes are breeding ground for germs and viruses. A study from the Journal of Environmental Health Research reports that passengers are more than 100 times more likely to get sick on an airplane compared to every day circumstances. SmarterTravel and Delta Airlines offer these tips for air travelers:
• Do not put your belongings in the seatback pocket. Passengers store everything from used tissues to dirty diapers in there, making the pocket a holding tank for germs and bacteria.
• Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Ask for bottled water whenever possible; according to the EPA, the aircraft's holding tank water often contains total coliform bacteria. Drink at least 8 ounces for every hour you are on the flight. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as these are dehydrating.
• Avoid using blankets and pillows offered by the airline personnel, as they are rarely laundered and can harbor germs left by previous passengers.
• Keep hand sanitizers or sanitizing wipes in your carry-on bag and wipe down the armrests and tray table.
• Use tissues to flush toilets and turn faucets and doorknobs in the bathrooms. Traces of E. coli can be found in many airplane bathrooms.
• Pack items in plastic bags to prevent germs from spreading to your personal items.
• During disembarkment and at the baggage claim, be careful lifting heavy bags to prevent injury to your back and shoulders.
• Airlines have pretty much eliminated meals and snacks from most continental flights. Be sure to pack something healthy to munch to prevent getting overly hungry, causing you to eat poorly later.
• Skip the people mover and escalator and walk to your terminal. You’ll be sitting for a long stretch of time, so get a little exercise when you can.
• Carry enough of all of your medications in your carry-on luggage just in case your luggage is lost or delayed. If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or epilepsy, carry a notification card or wear an ID bracelet so the airline staff knows what to do in case of an emergency.
• Even healthy people can get blood clots in their legs after long flights. Do not stay in one position too long. Move around the cabin when you can, or do calf stretches and ankle exercises in your seat to keep the blood flow moving in your legs.