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11 Essentials for safe and healthy Summer travel

Jun 10, 2024 By Devin Collins
An open suitcase on the bed being packed for summer vacation

Clinical Editors: Nailah Abdulbaaqee, MD, Anna Askari, MD, and Megan Dodson, PA-C

Summer is just around the corner. And for many, that means it’s time to dig out the luggage, dust off the passport, and soak up the sun with a vacation. But just because you’re planning on hitting the road or taking to the skies this summer, doesn’t mean you have to let your health slide. Whether you plan on making day trips to the beach or traveling internationally, there are a few things to include on your vacation packing list to prioritize your health and wellness, no matter where you’re heading. Here are some must-haves for safe and healthy summer travel:

1. Sunscreen

While experts recommend wearing sunscreen throughout the year, lathering up with SPF is especially important during summer, when the weather is warmer and the days are longer. Sunscreen helps protect the skin from the sun’s harmful rays, reducing the risk of skin cancer, as well as premature skin aging, such as wrinkles or sun spots. “Whether it’s sunny or overcast, there is potential for skin damage from UV exposure,” says One Medical provider Nailah Abdulbaaqee, MD. “If you are planning on spending any time — even just a few moments — outside, a good sunscreen with SPF 30 is essential to reduce skin damage from UV rays. SPF 30 blocks over 96% of UVB rays with marginal effects with higher SPF sunscreen concentrations.” When choosing a sunscreen, consider options that offer broad spectrum coverage (meaning they protect against both UVA and UVB rays) and are water-resistant.

2. First aid kit

Whether you’re spending your vacation relaxing on a beach or hiking through the mountains, injury or illness can happen anywhere. Being prepared with a travel-sized first aid kit can help you stay comfortable and safe on the go. If this were a test, it would be a “no-brainer” that every travel bag should have a good first aid kit,” says Abdulbaaqee. “This allows for quick “on-the-spot” treatments with bandages, antibacterial ointment and medication for pain relief and allergy exposure.” You can either build a kit of your own or purchase a pre-made one. These travel kits come in a range of sizes with essentials like bandages, anti-itch ointments, hand sanitizer, antibiotics, gauze, and more, so you can be prepared for any occasion.

3. Travel toothbrush

Though it’s easy to let your normal habits slide when traveling, it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene even when you’re away from home. Poor oral health can result in bacterial infections and inflammation, which can increase your risk of some serious medical issues, so a good travel toothbrush can go a long way in your overall health. There are plenty of both manual and electric toothbrushes that are great for protecting your teeth and gums on the go. Depending on the length of your trip and the size of your luggage, you might choose a foldable option or opt for a slim, electric brush. No matter where you’re heading, aim to brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. And don’t forget to floss!

4. Eye mask

Between bright planes and sunny hotel rooms, it’s not always easy to get proper shut-eye while traveling. If you’re struggling to get your beauty rest, consider bringing an eye mask along on your travels. “Sleeping in a new environment can be uncomfortable, especially if there is bright light coming through the windows.” says One Medical provider Anna Askari, MD. “I recommend an eye mask for sleep to provide the benefits of blackout curtains and help you fight any jet lag.” Silk or satin eye masks can help block out light so you can rest peacefully, no matter what environment you’re in, while reducing wrinkles and keeping your hair smooth. They’re also lightweight and breathable, making them great for any season.

5. Travel neck pillow

If you have trouble dozing off on planes, a travel pillow is another must-have for good sleep. “Getting sleep on a long flight can seem impossible, but investing in a good travel neck pillow can do the trick,” says Askari. “These pillows wrap around the neck and provide the extra support you need to keep your cervical spine upright and supported, while providing comfort so you can get that much needed rest.” Looking to catch some z’s on your next long flight or road trip? Invest in a travel pillow to keep your head in an ergonomic upright position and avoid neck and back pain on your trip.

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6. Compression socks

In addition to your regular day-to-day clothing, you might consider adding some compression socks to your bag. Compression socks are snug fitting socks that are designed to apply gentle pressure to the legs and ankles to improve blood circulation. “This is a great tool for those who are frequent fliers to help increase the blood flow in your legs,” she says. “Compression stockings may help prevent blood clots, varicose veins, swelling, and fatigue in the legs.” Compression socks come in varying levels of tension and lengths to target different parts of the leg. While they should feel snug, they shouldn’t be painful. If you aren’t sure which compression socks are best for you and your health needs, reach out to your primary care provider.

7. Reusable water bottle

Water is a necessary part of life, as it keeps our body’s systems functioning properly, while protecting our organs and keeping us cool. “Water is excellent for our overall physical performance and maintaining our energy levels,” says Abdulbaaqee. ”Drinking water helps us avoid dehydration which occurs easily in the summer heat. It also protects our skin and can aid with digestion and the filtering of toxins.” Dehydration can wreak havoc on the body and lead to serious health complications, so it’s important to drink water regularly throughout the day.

Keep water handy and save money on plastic water bottles with a reusable bottle. Look for water bottles that are leakproof, easy to transport, and keep drinks cold throughout the day. They’re better for the environment too!

8. Wide-brimmed sun hat

In addition to sunscreen, wide-brimmed hats can also help save your skin during your summer travels. Hats offer longer-lasting sun protection, shading your eyes, ears, face, and neck from the sun’s harmful rays without wearing off like sunblock. When planning for your trip, look for hats that have brims around 3 to 4 inches. You might also choose a sun hat with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating to better protect your skin from ultraviolet rays. Plus, many sun hats are floppy and foldable, so you won’t need to worry about having enough space in your suitcase or backpack.

9. Hand sanitizer

From public restrooms and cramped airplanes to busy shops and crowded museums, traveling, unfortunately, often means exposure to new germs. Luckily, practicing good hand hygiene, including washing your hands and using hand sanitizer frequently, can protect you from getting sick and keep you healthy on your journey. "Basic precautions, including sanitizing, can dramatically reduce exposure to viruses and bacteria that can cause anything from the common cold to pneumonia,” says Abdulbaaqee. A good hand sanitizer can kill 99.9% of most common disease causing germs. Plus they can easily fit in your purse, backpack, or fanny pack so you can sanitize on the go. Many hand sanitizers even contain aloe vera and essential oils to help keep your skin moisturized.

10. Bug spray

Summer can be a great time to get outdoors. Unfortunately, however, that can also mean a greater chance of bug bites. “While the outdoors may be a second home for some, it is also a first home for others - namely insects,” says Abdulbaaqee. “Having a good insect repellent is key to avoiding insect bites which in some areas can be harbingers of infections like malaria and Zika. With multiple formulations of active ingredients (please make sure to read safety guidelines for best usage) as well as natural alternatives available, insect repellent can be safe for everyone - including children, pregnant and breastfeeding women.” Not sure what kind to choose? Check out bug sprays that are formulated with over 25% DEET, as these bug sprays provides long-lasting protection from insects like mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, gnats, and chiggers.

11. Journal

Though it may be fun, traveling isn’t always stress-free. If you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed in between visiting family or wrangling the kids, find a few minutes to prioritize your well-being with a mindfulness journal. With guided exercises, daily affirmations, and positive quotes, these journals make it easy to prioritize your mental health and add a little mindfulness, gratitude, and positivity to your day. Bring it to the beach, on a hike, or even out on the airplane, whenever you have a few moments to reset and unwind.

Originally published June 7, 2022.

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Devin Collins

The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, a national, modern primary care practice pairing 24/7 virtual care services with inviting and convenient in-person care at over 100 locations across the U.S. One Medical is on a mission to transform health care for all through a human-centered, technology-powered approach to caring for people at every stage of life.

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