Bon Voyage: A Great Trip Starts with Safety

Traveling can be an exhilarating and memorable experience—but it can also be full of unexpected problems. By taking a few simple precautions, you can avoid common tourist mistakes and ensure a safe trip.

One of the most important preparations for overseas travel is getting the vaccinations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the countries you’re visiting.

“See your doctor at least four to six weeks before your trip to get necessary inoculations or medications,” says Saddleback Medical Center infectious disease specialist Alan White, M.D. “When traveling, carry a current list of your vaccinations, prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.”

Getting It Together

For easy access, record your vaccination and medication history on a portable USB drive that you can take on your trip. With increased airport security, you may need a letter from your doctor outlining your medications in order to travel with them. Pack your medication in a carry-on bag, in case your luggage is lost or your flight is canceled.

One of the best ways of getting to know a country’s culture is by sampling the local cuisine. But don’t let your adventurous palate ruin your trip; food and water may be contaminated. Water is a main culprit of intestinal distress. If you have any doubt about drinking the local water, use bottled water to make ice, wash food and brush your teeth. Boiled and disinfected water is also safe. And while you may be tempted by that strawberry daiquiri, it’s a good idea to stick to canned or bottled drinks. Other common sources of trouble are uncooked foods, including salads. And make sure to avoid fruits and vegetables that don’t have peels.

Pregnant Pause

If you’re pregnant, you may be intimidated by traveling—but it can be a great time to take that trip you’ve always dreamed about.

“With a little bit of extra care, travel is safe for most pregnant women,” says Saddleback Medical Center obstetrician/gynecologist Linda Chung, M.D. “Always check with your doctor before embarking on a trip, and carry a copy of your prenatal chart while traveling.”

Whether you go by car, boat or airplane, there are a few steps you can take to stay comfortable. During a car trip, limit driving to no more than five or six hours each day and take short exercise breaks along the way to keep your blood circulating. Pregnant women should wear their seat belt with the shoulder portion over the collarbone and the lap portion under the abdomen and low on the hips—never above or over the belly.

Air travel is usually safe for most pregnant women, though your airline may require a letter from your doctor saying you’re okay to fly during your third trimester. And remember that pregnancy makes you more susceptible to blood clots. To be on the safe side, take frequent strolls, stretch your legs and rotate your ankles every half hour while flying. If you’re concerned about motion sickness, ask your doctor what medication is best. Some may cause uncomfortable side effects.

Most of all, enjoy your trip. If you observe some basic safety precautions, it will be smooth sailing ahead!

Safe Travels Checklist

Here's a checklist to help you stay safe while traveling to distant lands:

  • Follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for travel vaccinations.
  • See your doctor four to six weeks before you leave for vacation.
  • Stick with foods that are well cooked.
  • Avoid raw vegetables and fruits that don’t have peels.
  • Drink boiled, bottled or sterilized water only—and make sure to brush your teeth and use ice cubes made with the same.
  • Always keep medication with you in a carry-on, just in case your luggage is lost.
  • If pregnant, get your doctor’s blessing before traveling long distances.