Holiday travels peak during festive periods. With the Lunar New Year around the corner, overseas assignees are making their way back to their hometowns to celebrate with their families while leisure travelers are departing for their holiday destinations. Some are also taking advantage of the long holiday to catch up with their loved ones based overseas. With so many travelers on the road, there is an increased chance that plans, schedules, and travels can go awry.
“When traveling in China or overseas during the Chinese New Year period, it’s important to take adequate precautions and prepare yourself and your family, so as to prevent illness or injury during your holidays,” says Dr. Jon Craig, chief medical officer for International SOS China. “Some travel destinations may expose you to health risks and hazards; you should always seek the advice of a medical practitioner before you travel, to make sure that vaccinations are up to date and medications are in order.”
To help you stay healthy and safe, and to avoid unnecessary travel disruption on the road this year, International SOS advises travelers to look out for the following:
- Prescriptions: Without early preparation, traveling with medication can be an issue. If you rely on a medication to manage an ongoing condition, you must prepare extra supplies and back-up information about your prescription drugs. Physically carry the medication on you while passing through immigration. When travelers in Europe were grounded for days because of the ash cloud, many ran low on critical medications and struggled to get refills at local pharmacies. Carry a list of all your medications and their scientific names (brand names differ from country to country), as well as extra doses and copies of each prescription.
- Wear and tear: Even a smooth flight can leave you with aches and fatigue. Add unanticipated hours on the tarmac, long waits on uncomfortable airport furniture, and radical time zone changes, and the body can suffer. In some cases, risks of travel-triggered conditions like deep vein thrombosis (resulting from long periods of sitting) may be increased. Make sure you stay hydrated and well-fed, avoid alcohol, and move about the cabin frequently when it’s permitted. If you suffer from a chronic condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes, consult your doctor before any extended air travel.
- After you land: Flights often get delayed, resulting in arrival after nightfall. To minimize this risk, you can arrange for ground transportation before your arrival with help from your hotel. Avoid spending more time than necessary in pickup and drop-off zones in front of the airport. Maintain a low profile at all times by talking discreetly about your plans with companions, airport, and hotel staff, wearing minimal jewelery, and staying away from bright colors and logos that could identify you as a tourist.
- Traffic accidents: Vehicle crashes are the number one danger for travelers. Be careful when driving after a long flight, especially in areas that you’re unfamiliar with. Drowsiness coupled with a strange highway – or even driving on the “wrong” side of the road – is a recipe for disaster. Take a cab or have transportation arranged ahead of time. Keep in mind that traffic accidents are one of the most common reasons for a medical evacuation.
- Nutrition on the go: It’s not always easy to maintain a healthy diet while traveling; there may be a lack of healthy choices and unfamiliar food. It’s important to stay hydrated. Aim to drink 1.5-2L of water each day – more if you’re in a hot and/or dry climate. Try to eat 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables per day to get the vitamins your body needs. When unfamiliar with the health and sanitation issues in your destination country, drink bottled water and eat only fruit you peeled yourself.
- Cash and travel documents: For those traveling in crowded trains or buses, look out for pickpockets and other petty criminals. Keep your travel documents – especially your passport – safe, since embassies may be closed; you might not be able to obtain a temporary passport until they reopen and this can delay your return trip. Carry enough cash, as some places may not accept cards and other forms of payment. Don’t put all your money in one location. Spread it between yourself, and companions, and luggage, because banks may not be open for you to withdraw money when you need it most.