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Healthy Aging

Healthy Travel Essentials (and a Giveaway!)

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 02/07/2012
Last Updated: 08/02/2012

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I count myself among the lucky ones every time I get a chance to travel. It's thrilling to experience a different side of myself; challenge myself to new adventures, experience new cultures, eat new food, enjoy a different climate; and, most of all, step out of my comfort zone.

Then why are the days before fraught with anxiety, especially when I have to decide what to pack?

Perhaps part of the answer lies in the fact that I am, and always have been, a "what-if" kind of person, as well as a person who likes her comforts. That makes packing for a trip one of those anxiety-provoking experiences. What if I get sick? What if I forget something? How can I possibly leave behind my sonic toothbrush (but it's too big), favorite hair dryer (too bulky), super-necessary night moisturizer (too large)? Forever, the puzzle remains: how can I have all the comforts of home if I have to pack all of them into one small suitcase? Mind you, my definition of small is probably different from many seasoned travelers. Try as I might, I'm still not able to perfect the art of carry-on packing.

Alas, I've come to realize that I can't possibly be prepared for every single eventuality; but more importantly, I've also come to see that most of the things we worry about rarely happen anyway. So we do the best we can with what we have.

And that means packing healthy. Even if you're on a carefree getaway, protecting your health goes a long way toward making you feel secure and helping your vacation run smoothly. Although I may not have figured out (yet) the best/most useful/least wasteful clothing and shoes to pack, I have managed to come up with my list of healthy travel essentials:

Hand sanitizer/wipes. I use these when I get on the plane; I wipe down the tray tables, as well as the armrest and remote control buttons. (Who knows where the former occupant's hands have been, after all?). Once at the hotel, I again use them to wipe down the remote control, phone and any other surfaces that might harbor unwanted germs.

Ginger. Since I am of the motion-sickness variety (ever hear of someone getting seasick on a kayak on a tranquil lake?), I never travel without my stash of ginger capsules. Several studies support the use and effectiveness of ginger over Dramamine. It also is handy to keep around in the event of an upset stomach. But talk to your doc first if you are on a blood thinner such as warfarin (Coumadin) or aspirin, as it may increase the risk of bleeding.

Over-the-counter medication. Unexpected things like sore muscles, minor cuts, headaches or colds can turn up any time, and not having a simple thing like a bandage or antihistamine or pain medication becomes a major annoyance, especially if you're not near a pharmacy (which, as irony would have it, you can't find one when you need one).

Snacks. You don't have to travel all that much to know that healthy food choices at airports leave a lot to be desired. Flights get delayed or, worse, stuck for hours on the tarmac. And good luck getting a healthy snack (if any at all) once airborne. Same goes for railroad or car travel. Knowing I can turn to a snack like trail mix, fruit or a LUNA bar, filled with organic whole grain, soy protein, nuts and seeds, makes me feel a little less anxious and a lot less ravenous once I reach my destination.

Sunscreen. Even if your travel plans don't include sitting at the beach and worshiping the sun, chances are you'll be outdoors more than normal. And remember: even on cloudy days, the sun's damaging rays can work themselves through the clouds. You'll be glad you packed your own, especially when you see the prices at the hotel gift shop!

Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash and dental floss. There's nothing worse than forgetting a toothbrush. Oh, wait—there is: forgetting toothpaste and floss. Most hotel rooms do not offer these the way they offer soaps and lotions. And brushing your teeth with your finger—or without toothpaste—is no treat, trust me.

. Make sure you have enough to last the length of the trip. It's smart to make a list of all your meds and carry it with you, in case your luggage gets lost. Better yet, pack your meds in your carry-on.

Miscellaneous. It's always good to include other items in your kit for unexpected events, like tweezers, antacids, a mild laxative or stool softener, a thermometer, hydrocortisone cream, an antibacterial cream, and AA and AAA batteries (chances are that something you have with you takes them).

Here's something I don't have to be without on my trips: an Eluo sonic toothbrush. makes one that is small enough to throw into a handbag. It's battery operated and stylishly compact (looks like a mascara wand) and incredibly effective (cleans well with its 23,000 brush strokes per minute—sure beats those tiny fold-up jobs!)

And guess what? You don't have to be without one, either: the kind folks at Cenoire are making one available to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment and your name will be chosen at random. The offer is open to U.S. residents only. Once your name is chosen, I'll notify you by e-mail. If you don't acknowledge my notification within 48 hours, you'll pass your winnings on to the next random name, who will be oh-so-happy.

Wishing all of you safe, healthy travels.


Yay! Put my name in the hat for the cool toothbrush! My hubby has various health issues, so we make frequent trips to a hospital 5 hours from here. I've gotten pretty good at picking up and leaving at a moment's notice, but always appreciate tips and tricks to make the process easier.

That's a long trip to make so frequently, Jane. Hope your husband's health issues improve!

Thanks for the tip on that sonic toothbrush. Will get myself one. Also, did not know about ginger. Interesting!

Everything you mentioned PLUS...a travel-size mirror (with magnification). You never know the mirror situation, or the lighting situation of your destination!

Great suggestion, Merr. You are so right; there's never a good mirror when you need one!~

Wow... are you able to fit all of this into a carry-on? I absolutely refuse to check a bag, so my travel necessities are very minimal. I always make room for a toothbrush, though!

Oh, no, Casey...I never claimed I was good at managing to fit this much into my carry-on! Unfortunately I am usually the one who checks my bag...and then gets aggravated when I have to stand and wait what seems like hours for it!

I'm a big fan of Ginger People Ginger Chews on when the plane begins to descend. Helps my tummy a LOT.

I've seen these chews but have never tried them...thanks for mentioning. The next time, I'll use these, since you don't have to have water handy like you do with the capsules.

Jane: When my sister's husband was going through lots of hospital stays, I sent her a small carryon back with essentials in it.(for the one waiting--not for the patient) A bag for her own choice of toiletries, some hand lotion, hand wipes, small kleenex packs, small flashlight, one of those fleece throws that folds down to nothing, a reusable water bottle, etc. She kept it in the front closet, ready to go at all times--restocking as soon as she would get home from a stay.

And I love this list of essentials. I would just say--take extras of the prescription meds, in addition to the list. And ALWAYS put them in your handbag or carry-on. NEVER check prescription meds.(or your diamonds).
And YES! I want to win a sonic toothbrush. (Although I've learned that hotels stock more things than you might imagine. You just have to ask them (some even keep spare neckties for the guys).

How thoughtful of you, Vera, to send something like that to your sister. I think the fleece throw is an especially great item to have.

I always carry my prescription meds on (as well as my diamonds :)

I'll keep in mind your ginger suggestion. The last time I took Dramamine it actually upset my tummy instead of calming it.

Yes, the ginger is really terrific. I've never heard of Dramamine upsetting someone's tummy...time to switch over to ginger, I say. And it doesn't make you sleepy the way Dramamine does!

Having been without my checked bag for my entire 10-day trip to Italy last year, I'd like to suggest packing a couple of pairs of extra underwear, socks, pjs, a pair of shoes, one outfit, a sweater, and all of the essentials you list above in a carry-on. Planning like that saved me on the trip so that it wasn't too onerous being without the big bag.

Great advice, Nancy. That's a long time to be without a bag! You did a really smart thing by packing your essentials in your carry-on.

Thanks so much for the tip on the Cenoire toothbrush! Once you've experienced an electric toothbrush, it's hard to regress, even for a short trip.

I agree, Joan. I know some people who lug their big sonic toothbrushes from home; but this portable one really makes it easy!

GREAT advice for travelers everywhere! These items are all very necessary on any flight, even if it's a one or two hour flight, as the airlines ALWAYS run late, ugh!

Thanks for the great information!

Nice to "see" another new face here. I'm happy to report that my flights were actually ON TIME this trip. Yay!

I would love to win the toothbrush. Would be perfect to bring with me to Florida in April!!

Thanks for joining in, Elissa. The winner will be chosen soon and announced next week!

Would love to win the electric toothbrush!

Thanks for reading, Mike...good luck!

I also like to tuck in a sarong/pareo that can be used to cover a table or other potentially germy surface.

What a great idea! Love that. I have a few sarongs I no longer wear...what a perfect use for them. And they take up so little room in a suitcase.

thanks to all from this indian traveller.everytime i forget to take something or bringback something and miss something

I'm amazed (although as a faithful reader I shouldn't be) at your preparations when you travel. I'm always much more concerned with not adding too much weight -- and if I need it, I can always buy it. Somewhere, midway between the two of us, there's a perfect traveler.

First, thanks for being as faithful reader, Ruth. Second, yes, there is a LOT of packing to do, and I realize there are many places where you can pick up things when you get there. But for me, having all my "stuff" is like a security blanket. Alas, I'll never master the art of traveling light...

Wow! And I thought I was a germophobe! I think it would be pretty funny to sit next to you on a plane, Sheryl. I'd love to see the look on the faces of your fellow passengers as you disinfect every surface. Gentle ribbing aside, a friend with chronic illness does exactly the same thing when she travels. She just can't afford to pick up a bug.

I'm just back from a trip myself and did not get sick. Of course, as soon as I got home I succumbed to the cold my kid --and half his class--seem to have.

Great idea on the toothbrush. I find the Wisps don't do as good a job as I'd like and with diabetes it is important to keep my mouth as clean as possible. Preparing for retirement so traveling a lot to get new home set up requires me to carry one everywhere.

Forgetting a toothbrush is really a worst case scenario. Especially for those of us who are really attached to our own electric ones.


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