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Don’t Panic! What to do if you get sick on your trip

What to do if you get sick on your trip

The weather was a gorgeous 26 degrees celsius (quite a change from winter in New York) and we’d just spent one perfect day exploring Miami.

The full day of sightseeing had justified an afternoon nap. We planned to go to South Beach for dinner and drinks afterwards, but I woke up feeling off. I was starting to shiver even in the warm temperatures, my mind was vague, and I had very little energy.

I thought maybe it was just exhaustion, but I continued feeling worse as the evening wore on. By the next morning, I was positive that I had come down with a virus.

Our road trip was on a tight schedule so we continued our itinerary as planned, but I just wasn’t enjoying it. By the time we’d driven to Georgia for Christmas, I was feeling so sick that I couldn’t even perk myself up to enjoy the holiday with our friends and their family.

During our time in Atlanta, we learned that our friends (many of which are Robert’s colleagues) had also caught the same flu. It was obvious that we had all been infected at the workplace holiday party a few days earlier. One attendee must have been carrying the virus and had accidentally spread it to half the company.

I was angry that someone had gone to the holiday party sick and ruined everyone’s Christmas break (and my road trip, which I had been excited about for months) but there was nothing I could do about it now. My only option was insert as much rest time as I could into our tight schedule and try to recover.

It took 4 days before I started feeling better, but I finally managed to feel well enough to enjoy the remainder of our trip.

Navy Pier, Chicago

Sightseeing in Chicago

This isn’t the first time that sickness has affected our travels. Last September we planned a trip to Chicago over a long weekend, and took an extra day off work to make it a 4-day city break.

A few days before we were meant to fly out, I came down with a virus which left me couch-bound for a few days. I managed to recover before our trip, but as anyone who doesn’t live alone would know, viruses often spread throughout the household. I managed to pass the sickness on to Robert… who came down with it the day before we were due to leave.

As far as bad timing goes, this was the absolute worst. We looked at changing our flights to a day later, but because of the long weekend, it would have cost a ridiculous amount of money. Our options were to cancel our trip entirely, or for my poor sick husband to push through get to Chicago on our booked flight.

It wasn’t the best idea, but we decided to push through. I dosed him up on cold and flu drugs, placed him in the window seat on the plane so that he wasn’t sitting next to anyone else, got an early check in at the hotel for our arrival, and ordered him to spend the rest of the day in bed watching TV on my laptop.

Our efforts paid off. The next day Robert felt well enough to go out and do some easy sightseeing in the city.

Luckily we only lost one day to sickness that time, but we were extremely glad that we’d planned a relaxing 4-day trip to Chicago and not a whirlwind weekend trip. Losing one day out of four wasn’t that bad, but if it had have been one day out of two, it would have been a different story entirely.

Most of you would probably have had to deal with sickness while travelling, but if it happens again, don’t panic! I know your first instinct will be to freak out, but you definitely have options. I’ve put together a survival guide outlining what to do if you get sick on or before your trip.

Georgia, USA

I may look happy but I was actually feeling terrible when we crossed into Georgia

What you should do before you book your trip:

  • Plan to travel at a slower pace and factor in some rest time. It’s better that you have slightly too much time in each place than too little. If you don’t get sick, then you have an extra day or two for exploring. Bonus travel days!
  • Get travel insurance. First check whether your credit card includes cancellation insurance. If it doesn’t, then get travel insurance that includes cancellation. If you’re going international, then it’s also important that your insurance covers medical costs. See my guide to travel insurance for more info.

What to do if you get sick before you fly:

  • Go to the doctor. If you are unfit to fly, your doctor will tell you so. Cancelling or rescheduling your flight due to sickness is common, and your travel insurance will probably cover the associated costs as long as your doctor writes a note advising you not to fly.
  • Cancel or reschedule your flight. If you’re contagious, then there’s a very good chance that other people will collect your sickness if you’re sitting in close proximity to them for an extended period of time. If at all possible, reschedule your flight for a few days later.
  • If you absolutely can’t reschedule, be a good person and avoid spreading your disease to other travellers by taking as many precautions as possible. If you can upgrade to seat that doesn’t require you to sit next to a bunch of other people, do it. Drug yourself up, and if you need to cough or sneeze, do it into your arm so that your germs don’t spread through the air. Carry hand sanitizer with you and use it every time you blow your nose or touch your face, and wash your hands way more often than you think is necessary!
  • Organise an early check in. If you’re due to arrive in the morning, getting an early check in will be 100% worth it – those extra 3 hours of rest time that we had in Chicago made a huge difference to how much better Robert felt the next day.

What to do if you get sick on your trip:

  • Make rest time your number one priority. My biggest mistake on our southern road trip was that I didn’t have enough time to rest, so my sickness dragged on way longer than it should have. If you can, take 1-2 days and force yourself to curl up on the hotel bed and watch cable TV until your body has time to recover. It might not sound ideal, but resting will get your body back on track faster.
  • Drug yourself up. If you really can’t afford to take time to rest, then go to a pharmacy and dose yourself up on whatever drugs are necessary for your ailment. I’m a fan of painkillers (such as ibuprofen or paracetamol) for headaches and fevers, pseudoephedrine as a nasal decongestant, and cold and flu tablets for raising energy levels and assisting with sleep.

Have you ever gotten really sick right before or during your trip? Share your story with us in the comments!

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8 Responses to “Don’t Panic! What to do if you get sick on your trip”

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      You and me both! I seem to get a virus just about every month, and it sucks when it coincides with travelling! I hope you manage to avoid sickness on your trip, Charmaine 🙂

  1. Kate

    Great tips! A few years ago, I got incredibly sick while visiting Berlin. I spent one day exploring before quarantining myself in my hotel room. Being sick totally tainted my views of Berlin and for a long time I could never imagine visiting again. It’s only now, six years later, that I’m excited to give it another chance.

    Kate |

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I know exactly what you mean, Kate! I feel like sickness can absolutely taint your view of a place. I hope your second trip to Berlin is a healthy one, and that it changes your views – Berlin is a very interesting city 🙂

  2. stephanie

    great article. i wrote something similar last year. getting sick is very annoying when you are travelling but it happens.
    usually it is easily fixed with an aspirin or something and a lot of rest (and water).

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Stephanie! I just read your post, it sounds like that sickness in Asia was a nasty one 🙁 I think that sickness is not something that many people think about before they travel, but we all should be prepared for it. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!


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