Avoid Holiday Illness – Tips on NOT Getting Sick on Vacation

Planning a perfect vacation takes time and effort and I’m sure you have done your due diligence researching your best options to make sure it’s the best holiday ever. And it will be, just don’t forget to put enough thought into avoiding holiday illness. Holiday illness is the main reason why otherwise perfectly planned holidays end up being a disappointment. And there’s no wonder – getting sick gets everyone down, whether it is during your vacation or within a comfort of your home. It is important to ensure that your well being and your health are in perfect balance so you can enjoy your holidays to the fullest. I have compiled a list of tips on how NOT to get sick during your vacation. Continue reading to learn all about it.

Avoid Holiday Illness - Tips on Not Getting Sick on Vacation, Photo: assbach, Flickr
Avoid Holiday Illness - Tips on Not Getting Sick on Vacation, Photo: assbach, Flickr

Travellers’ Diarrhea

Travellers’ Diarrhea is one of the most commons holiday illnesses a traveler could contract during their vacation. E.coli seems to like travelers more than any other bacteria and it could take you down for two or three days. Taking bismuth subsalicylate regularly reduces risks of contracting Travellers’ Diarrhea, but you should always exercise smart travelers eating habits.

How NOT to Get Travellers’ Diarrhea – Easy Tips Anyone Can Follow:

  • Don’t eat raw vegetables (or other raw food). Make sure what you eat is thoroughly cooked. Remember – salad is raw food
  • Peel fruit yourself before eating
  • Drink bottled water (that you open yourself) and canned soft drinks
  • Avoid ice cubes

When I leave for abroad, I ask my doctor to prescribe me Ciprofloxacin and have it on me in case I manage to contract Travellers’ Diarrhea. Ciprofloxacin is a safe antibiotic used for treatment of moderate to severe diarrhea. You can also use Lopericmide which is available over the counter in your local pharmacy.


If you’re taking sun vacation and going to one of the hot spots, it’s easy to get excited and enjoy the beautiful, scorching sun a little bit too much. It happens to all of us, and trust me, it’s happened to me in Mexico after spending half of year in Eastern Caribbean. Do not underestimate the power of sun. Have a waterproof sun block in your backpack at all times. It is recommended to get a sun block with at least 30 SPF (Sun Protection Factor). Majority of sun rays will be blocked if you use one of the 30 SPF sun blocks but even so, if you stay on the sun longer than your skin can manage, you’re gonna end up sunburnt.

Tips to Relieve Vacation Sunburn:

  • Apply cold compresses for immediate local relief. Wrap ice cubes in a towel and press against burnt skin
  • Use pain killers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen) to relieve discomfort and suffering
  • Apply aloe – aloe will keep your skin moist after sun dried it out
  • Drink crap loads of water. Keep yourself hydrated – or better yet, over-hydrated. Drink way more water than you would otherwise

Protecting Children from Sunburn:
If you’re travelling with little babies, be especially cautious and do not expose them to tropic sun much. Little children should wear sunglasses, hats and liberal amounts of 30 SPF sun block at all times. It’s best to use a sun block that’s not waterproof on children, as they rub their faces a lot and could get it in their eyes, making it rather difficult to get out afterwards. Some merchants also offer specially designed swim suits for children that filter out UV rays.


Hepatitis causes serious damage to liver so it is not to be taken lightly. As a traveler, you are the most susceptible to Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. There are other strains of Hepatitis, but when it comes to avoiding travel illness, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B are the two you need to give a thought. Hepatitis vaccination is routinely performed in many countries – check with your local health center to see if you already have protection.

A vaccination to protect against Hep A consists of a single shot that you should take few days before departing to your travel destination. More complete Hepatitis vaccination that gives protection against Hep A and Hep B is also available but needs to be taken as a series of three shots over the six month period.

More Information on Hepatitis A:
Hepatitis A – Information for Travellers with Map of Prevalence

More Information on Hepatitis B:
Hepatitis B – Information for Travellers with Map of Prevalence


Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes. Mosquito bites are unpleasant on principle, so use of an insect repellent with DEET is highly recommended in any area with these parasiting critters. I also recommend buying inexpensive mosquito netting that can cover your bed and block them suckers from getting to you while you’re sleeping. You can buy one of those in a dollar store and they don’t take much space in your backpack.

Malaria is no fun at all. It’s actually a dangerous disease that could lead to coma and death. There are pills a doctor can prescribe to you that you should start taking before your vacation and continue taking during vacation as well. That goes especially if you’re travelling to areas with high prevalence of malaria.

Peasants used to sleep with pigs. Why? Because pigs have a higher body temperature than humans. They slept with their pigs so the mosquitos would bite the pigs, not the peasants? If you are going to mosquito areas avoid soaps or lotions with floral scents (no scents is best). Eating massive amounts of garlic and vitamin B also makes you less tasty.

Motion Sickness

If you’re taking a cruise you may experience motion sickness. Good thing is that most (pretty much all) cruise ships have on board medical professionals and guess what they deal with most – Motion Sickness. They are always well supplied to deal with vacationers who experience symptoms of Motion Sickness so even if you manage to forget your anti-nausea medication, you can get it on board.

I’ve heard of some people having good results using Motion Sickness Discs behind their ears, but I’m not too fond of that solution. Accu-Pressure wristbands that rub anti nausea spots on people’s wrists sound like a much better solution, but those may not work for everyone. Over the counter antihistamines can help since the center of motion sickness is the middle ear. Ginger is a wonderful cure for motion sickness and almost any other form of intestinal distress. Whether in the form of fresh, pickled (for you sushi fanatics), tea, or just plain old ground it works. I nibble ginger candy for good luck and to prevent a plethora of tummy troubles.

Pack Your Own Medication!

This happens all the time and I really must stress it – when going on holiday, make sure you pack enough of your own prescribed medication. Make sure you have full supply and some more. Don’t assume you will find a pharmacy with the medication you take at the vacation spot you’re travelling to. That goes in particular if you’re travelling abroad. It’s often rather difficult to find drugs you need at a dose you need in foreign countries. Even if you’re travelling to a country similar to your home country (for example Canadian travelling to the US), pack enough of your own medication. You may be surprised how difficult it is to find, let’s say, anti-cholesterol medication in certain areas. Avoid disappointment, avoid holiday illness and make sure you have enough of your own medication to last you your whole trip and over, should there be delays for whatever reason.

Check With Your Travelers’ Clinic

Consult your local Travellers’ Health Clinic and tell them where you’re travelling. They will have up to date information on the location and will inform you on necessary or suggested vaccinations and whatever other precautions you should be aware of. If you’re a Canadian, go to Health Canada website for a Travel Health Clinic near you. If you live in Alberta, you can go directly to Capital Health website.

Traveller’s Anti-Illness Checklist

  • Aloe Vera Gel
  • Anti-Diarrhea Pills (Ciprofloxacin)
  • Anti-Nausea Medication (Dimenhydrinate)
  • Band-Aids
  • Birth Control
  • Condoms
  • Eye Drops
  • Insect Repellent with DEET
  • Mosquito Netting
  • Painkillers – Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen
  • Sunblock with 30 SPF
  • Your Prescription Medication

Full Travel Checklist for Perfect Holiday, Camping, Backpacking

Related Reading:
Medical Advice Disclaimer

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