Traveling is the perfect mentor you can ever wish for. You may know the destination you’re going to. You may have packed all the essentials from your travel list. You may have even become a virtual expert on that new locale or country.
Still, there will come a time (or times, in my case) where you will face unforeseen scenarios… with unprepared naivety. Be it baggage loss, theft, sickness, detours or plain disasters.
Take my trip to Japan in 2016 for example. I spent my whole time with coughing attacks, clogged nose, and ringing ears. Whenever I’d come back from an open space and enter a room, my hearing would go downhill, rolling away at a supersonic speed.
Or when my foot arch started paining and became swollen due to wrong shoes and arch support in Europe for more than two months in 2017.
I struggled both times, mentally and physically. It wasn’t that I hadn’t taken proper care of my health, didn’t know what to do before traveling or wouldn’t visit a clinic there. I’d checked everything against my emergency checklist yet became flustered once I was actually traveling sick through unknown countries.
Those pains were awful, no doubt. But they opened a new door to parts of me. I became more self-aware about my physical and mental states and limits. I started looking at pre-travel preparations with more clarity and importance. I realized how I wanted to travel in future.
Yes, there were times when I kept wishing for the trip to end early or my pain to go away. But looking back–I don’t regret going on those travels.
Coming back to the main objective of this post–I want to give you the ultimate travel checklist for staying healthy on the road. This is crucial for two reasons: 1. You won’t forget any health essentials. 2. You’ll be better prepared to handle emergencies.
What to know before traveling?
That making a checklist isn’t scary. There are just a few things you need to figure out to build your travel checklist. This way, you’ll travel in the healthiest way possible and resolve any medical emergencies without problems.
Before we jump into a detailed week-by-week checklist, make sure you have the answers to these questions:
- Which country (or countries) are you going to?
- What’s the duration of your trip?
- What type of activities will you be doing? Adventurous, off-the-grid, island-hopping, generic, etc.?
- Are there any travel warnings issued by your country’s national health organization or embassy for your destination(s)?
- Will you need to take vaccines before traveling for preeminent medical threats, such as Malaria or Dengue?
These questions create an easy roadmap that helps you prevent or avoid any predictable issues by accessing proper medical care. Once you nail them down, creating your pre-travel checklist is as easy as saying pizza.
I’d recommend using mine (written below) as your reference.
6 to 8 weeks prior
- Passport validity — many countries have a 6-months validity (before expiration) prerequisite to issuing a visa. Know the passport and visa requirement of that country before you apply.
- Follow-up with your general physician.
- Blood tests — if you have a pre-existing condition, these tests will prove helpful when you need medical attention abroad.
- Personal medication — if you’re on prescribed medication, inform your doctor and stock up on tablets for an extended travel duration.
- Travel health insurance — this becomes tricky if you have a pre-existing condition. Please review and discuss coverage and benefits with the insurance provider.
- Health summary sheet/card — a sheet or a card (with a quick recap of your medical history) is easy to carry. Though you may need to bring the prescription if you’re on medication to buy more if they’re misplaced or lost.
- Research the common scams in touristy areas — this may seem obvious, but you get a peace of mind knowing which ones happen often and how to counteract them.
2 to 4 weeks prior
- An extra pair of prescription glasses — my brand new spectacles ended up under the leather shoe of a stranger in Italy. P.S.: Prescription glasses are way more expensive in European and Western countries.
- Walking (orthotic) shoes — these are different than running shoes which have flexible compression for high-level activity. I’d recommend getting one any day (head over to Boot Bomb to find the right one), especially if you have under- or overpronation.
- A universal adaptor which comes with the right output plug of your destination.
- Healthy (or medicinal) local foods you can eat for fast recovery in a foreign country.
- Indispensable food ingredients (you love) to cook with.
- Prepaid travel card to load and use money without hefty international transaction fees.
- Mobile sim and plan for the entire travel duration. Although I love to disconnect while traveling, I still prefer having a smartphone with a good network as a solo female traveler.
- Local and foreign cash (and change for payphones, because you may not have 24/7 access to a mobile or network).
- Crisis simulation — I took this idea from yTravel Blog. Basically, list down all the worst things that can happen to you during the trip and next plans of action for each of them.
1 week prior
- Small travel first aid kit with a sheet of its contents, including but not limited to:
- Antiseptic cream
- Aloe gel for sunburn treatment
- Insect repellent (DEET)
- Oral rehydration solution packets
- Wound-cleaning gauze
- Sterile Dressings
- Bandage tape
- Tweezers and scissors
- Digital thermometer
- Inform your bank about your travel plans to avoid getting the card blocked. P.S.: Set up an international spend limit to minimize your expenses overseas.
- 30+ SPF sunscreen containing Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide for better skin protection.
- Have physical, mobile and cloud copies of important documents.
- Share the day-to-day itinerary with your close friends and family — this includes the city, accommodation, and contact number that’s open 24/7.
- Keep a set of passport reissue documents in case of its loss or theft.
- Make a list of emergency numbers of your bank, health insurance, embassy along with the destination country’s crisis hotline.
- Get a power bank and travel wallet.
- Carry warm socks if you can’t pack your house slippers.
- Have travel pillow, chewing gum, earplugs and wet tissues ready for flight journeys.
- Download Google Translate.
. . . .
Putting yourself in the middle of an unexplored land, culture, community and still moving toward your destination is what traveling means. Every journey gives you a chance to add a new curve to your story, and it’s an absolutely wonderful feeling… one that doesn’t find a footing in the life of routine.
Having a checklist makes that curve a smooth and memorable ride. So start building yours before you travel to explore the wonders of our world.
Missed something in my checklist? Comment below to keep adding on.