A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Tips for a safe, healthy family vacation

Family flying in an airplane over the ocean illustration - Health travel tips

Check with your airline about rules for traveling with medical supplies. The U.S. Department of State website has information about medication laws and health care in your destination country.

Vacations should be fun for the whole family. An illness or injury during a trip is stressful, especially if you’re not prepared to handle it.

Having the right supplies and information may stop a medical problem from ruining your vacation.

Pack health and safety items

Dr. Kristin Whitaker, a Marshfield Clinic family medicine physician, recommends bringing first aid supplies, prescription and over-the-counter medications, and medical information to help your family handle minor and serious medical problems.

Check with your airline for information about how to travel with medications and where to store them in-flight.

Download this checklist of recommended health and safety items to bring on your trip.

Travel safety packing list


Take action to prevent and treat illnesses

Motion sickness, traveler’s diarrhea and dehydration are common ailments that strike travelers.

Whitaker recommended taking these steps to reduce your chance of an illness while on vacation:

  • Eat a light meal before traveling to prevent motion sickness.
  • Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for information on drinking water conditions at your destination. Boil drinking water or use bottled water if the water supply is questionable.
  • Stick to familiar foods if new spices or cuisines tend to upset your stomach.
  • Carry a refillable bottle of clean water to drink throughout the day.

Over-the-counter medications can help prevent or treat many minor illnesses.

“If you end up having a problem with diarrhea or vomiting, go to a bland diet of rice, noodles, toast, bananas and other foods that tend not to upset the stomach,” Whitaker said.

Before your trip, ask your primary care provider if you can call with questions about non-emergency health issues while you’re gone.

Know how to get medical help

Seconds count in an emergency, so it’s important to know how to get medical help quickly while traveling.

Locate nearby medical facilities before your trip. If you’re traveling abroad, the U.S. Embassy in your destination country can help you find an English-speaking doctor.

Find out if your health insurance provider covers treatment at medical centers near your destination or offers international coverage for travelers.

Have a safety plan

Losing track of a child in an unfamiliar place is one of the scariest situations a parent can imagine. Planning what to do if your family gets separated can help you get reunited faster.

Decide if you want to make a meeting place, instruct your kids to find a security guard or store employee to help, or have kids stay still if you get separated. Writing your phone number on your child’s arm can make it easier for an adult who finds your child to locate you.

Take a family picture on your phone in the morning so you have an updated photo of everyone and know what they’re wearing,” Whitaker said. “Dressing in bright matching t-shirts can make it easier to spot your family.”

Use technology

It seems there’s a smartphone app for everything, and travel health is no exception. Consider downloading these apps to help you plan a safe, healthy trip.

  • TravWell – CDC app with vaccine recommendations, travel packing lists and options to keep a record of medications and vaccines.
  • Can I Eat This? – A CDC app that tells you if food and drink choices in your destination country are likely to be safe.
  • Smart Traveler – A U.S. Department of State app with U.S. Embassy contact information for emergencies and information about whether your medications are legal in your destination country.

More Shine365 posts about traveling

How to stay healthy when traveling abroad

Zika safety before, during and after vacation

Can plane travel increase blood clot risk?

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