There’s little worse than showing up for a holiday event harboring a cold or the flu. And holiday travel only makes you more prone to catching the germs that are so prevalent this time of year.

So how can you avoid the ick this season? Here are 6 tips to help you stay well.

1. Get your flu shot

Before you ever hit the road, get vaccinated. Most doctors’ offices and many pharmacies offer low-cost vaccinations. For the 2016-2017 season, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending the injectable vaccine, rather than the nasal spray flu vaccine. It might hurt for a second, but it’ll be much more pleasant than the flu, we promise.

2. Wash your hands

The number one defense against illness is frequent and adequate hand washing. Suds up before you eat and after touching grimy gas pumps or restaurant handles (basically anywhere in public). If running water isn’t handy, the CDC says sanitizer will do in a pinch.

3. Carry a “stay well” kit

The last thing you want to do while traveling for the holidays is track down a late-night pharmacy. Stock a small kit with items to help keep you from getting sick, such as wipes for airplane and hotel surfaces, (more on that below!) and hand sanitizer, plus a few first aid and comfort items (like lotion-moistened tissues, lozenges, saline drops, and pain reliever) in case you do catch a bug.

4. Know where the germs are

After reading this, you may become a dedicated car traveler: studies show that airplanes are basically just floating boxes of germs. Auburn University‘s department of Biological Sciences found that MRSA and E.coli, not to mention plenty of other cold- and flu-causing germs, can lurk on tray tables, armrests, seat back pockets, and more … for up to a week.

And if you’re staying in a hotel, watch out for top germ spots like the TV remote control and the phone. Carry holiday travel germ busters like sanitizing wipes and use that hand sanitizer liberally!

5. Keep healthy habits

You’ve heard it a million times: eat well, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. Boring advice, but it may well be the best medicine. Building up a reservoir of sleep, eating nutritiously, and squeezing in exercise can help keep you healthy since you’re more susceptible to illness when you’re feeling run down. But don’t neglect those habits while traveling. That includes fitting in exercise, even if it’s just an extra lap around the mall or airport, and getting adequate sleep. And feed your cold germ-fighting foods like citrus fruits, garlic, and chicken soup (yes! It really works!). If you’re driving, take frequent rest breaks. (And wash your hands after running into the mini mart!)

6. Speak up

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you’re surrounded by germ magnets. Here are 3 things to say to someone who’s sneezing and coughing, without offending them (too much!).

  • If it’s your kid: Show them the vampire sneeze. Sneezing into your hands is just wrong. Instead, sneeze into the crook of your elbow (aka the “vampire sneeze.”)
  • If it’s your mother-in-law:  Address it head on. Say, “The kids and I just got over a cold and I found that we were able to keep our germs down by washing our hands a lot, especially before I made or served food. I have yummy raspberry-scented wipes left. Do you mind if I use them on the remote?”
  • If it’s a stranger on the plane: Be kind and offer them a tissue or lozenge from your travel kit.

Make sure your holiday travel is safe as well as germ-free! Check that your auto insurance is up to date with the coverage you need.

Travel hacks | Getting there


about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.