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Packing for a Healthy Vacation

Want to stay healthy while traveling in the U.S. and abroad? Prepare before you leave and take some essentials along for healthy travel.
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Step 3: Check Your Travel Insurance Coverage

Be sure to take your insurance policy identify card and a claim form with you. If you're traveling to another country, check with your insurer to see whether you will be covered if you fall ill or get injured while abroad.

If your insurance does not offer coverage, you may want to purchase supplemental insurance that does. Even if your insurer covers "customary and reasonable" hospital costs overseas, few companies pay for medical evacuation back to the U.S. The U.S. State Department estimates the cost at "$10,000 and up."

Note that Medicare does not cover hospital or medical costs outside the U.S. The American Association of Retired Persons has information for senior citizens about foreign medical care coverage with Medicare supplement plans.

Step 4: Check Your Packing List

The following is based on packing lists from the American College of Emergency Physicians and the Emory University TravelWell Clinic. You may not need every item on this list. Note that the first thing to avoid when traveling is back strain. Pack light! If you're traveling to a major city, you'll be able to buy just about any supply you can buy at home. If you have any doubt, take it along.

  • Prescription drugs, with a separate list in case you lose your luggage
  • Aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen.
  • Antihistamine
  • Decongestant
  • Pepto-Bismol or a generic equivalent
  • Motion sickness medicine such as Dramamine or Transderm patches
  • Imodium for diarrhea
  • Sunscreen with at least 15 SPF, and a crushable, broad-brimmed hat
  • Insect repellent with DEET concentration of about 35%
  • Rehydration solution packets
  • 1% hydrocortisone cream
  • Water purification tablets
  • A mild sedative/sleeping pill such as Ambien
  • An anti-anxiety medication such as Xanax
  • A medical thermometer
  • Bandages of various sizes
  • Gauze pads and/or rolls
  • Adhesive tape
  • A small, sharp scissors with rounded tips (note: scissors are not allowed in carry-on luggage)
  • Tweezers to remove splinters or ticks
  • Antiseptic solution
  • Antacid
  • Mild laxative
  • Cough medicine such as Robitussin-DM or a generic equivalent
  • Antifungal lotion such as Lotrimin
  • Antibacterial ointment such as Bacitracin
  • Antibiotic for severe traveler's diarrhea
  • Antimalarial drugs, if prescribed by your doctor
  • Altitude sickness preventative such as Diamox
  • Hydrogen peroxide to disinfect and clean wounds
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
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Reviewed on January 25, 2008

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