Tips for Traveling When Sick: Make the Most of Your Trip

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Obviously, you wouldn’t choose to travel while sick, but sometimes you have no choice.  I had big plans for my trips to Orlando.  I had all this food I wanted to eat, rides I wanted to ride, I wanted to go to the parks from 8AM until midnight.  Things don’t always go as planned though.

On New Year’s Day this year, my mom and I left around 3AM and drove to Orlando, Florida.  This is about a ten hour drive for us from Tennessee and we had to make it there to pick up my brother at the airport-he lives in Memphis and flew to meet us.  Lucky him.  We made it there, stopped by the store to get some essential things, went to the hotel and rested the rest of the night.  I felt fine.  Exhausted, but fine.

The first day we headed to Universal Studios and this being my second time to visit Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I was very excited.  Almost from the beginning of the day, I just didn’t feel myself.  All day, I struggled with nausea, heartburn, and just everything on my entire body hurting.  I was determined to have a great time though.  I rode rides even though I felt like I was going to throw up and ate food even though I didn’t really have an appetite.  On our way back to the hotel, we decided to stop by Walmart for a few things to maybe help me feel better.  I told my family I was staying in the car.  I ended up getting sick in the parking lot and proceeded to throw up every hour all night.  Not fun.

The next day we had planned to head to the Magic Kingdom.  For those that don’t know me, I hardly complain about pain or being sick and I tend to downplay my symptoms.  I told my mom and brother we were getting up early to get to the park.  Obviously, they didn’t exactly let me do that.  We finally got going about ten o’clock and decided to head to Epcot instead of Magic Kingdom since there aren’t as many rides there.  Probably the best decision we could have made.  I didn’t get sick, as far as throwing up goes, anymore, but I did continue to feel like I was going to for most of the trip.  To add insult to injury, the second day I started getting one of the worst sinus infections I have ever had complete with an extremely bad cough, congestion, trouble breathing, headaches and so on.  The coughing got so bad that I started throwing up just from the forcefulness of it.  Needless to say, I was very sick.  However, I was already there and had already bought all the tickets.  I thought I’d make the most of it and give everyone some tips on traveling when sick.  Tips I didn’t exactly follow like I should, but I wish I had.  So, when I say I learned some of these the hard way, I mean it.

1.  Don’t push yourself.

I’m probably the guiltiest person when comes to pushing myself when I’m sick.  I don’t want to miss out on things or waste my money and so I just keep going.  If I had rested more the first few days I was sick, I may have not gotten as sick or gotten over it quicker.  At Disney World, they have the hopper option with tickets which means you can hop around from park to park each day.  You could go to all 4 parks all 4 days if you wanted.  This meant I could easily come back to the room and rest for a few hours during the day because I knew I could go back to that park another day.  This was extremely helpful.  If you have the option to travel slower, do so.  If you don’t have that option, at least take breaks throughout your day.

Tips for Traveling When Sick

Me Just Trying to Stay Awake on the Carousel

2.  Get medicine in your system quickly.  

Just like I’m horrible at not pushing myself, I am HORRIBLE at taking medicine.  Just ask my mother.  I hate medicine–I think in the long run it does worse things to you and so I hate taking it.  However, if you are on the road and you are this sick, don’t take the chance.  There wasn’t too much I could take for the sick stomach that was going to help, but there was for the sinuses.  I was drugged up on mucinex, sudafed, an inhaler, zyrtec, and whatever else I could take.  It didn’t make me instantly better, but it made me functional.

3.  Drink lots of water.  

You should be drinking lots of water anyway.  Shame on you, if you aren’t.  However, if you are sick then you are most likely dehydrated.  Sick and dehydrated while traveling is just asking for trouble.

4.  Fast.  

If you are so sick that you’re either throwing up or you can’t taste anything anyway, why eat?  Just stick to the clear fluids to help flush out all the toxins in your body.

5.  Live vicariously through your travel partners.

Some of things I was most excited about for my trip to Disney World was the food.  I wanted my turkey leg from Tomorrowland.  I wanted butterbeer from Harry Potter world.  I wanted to test different foods from the different countries in Epcot.  I couldn’t stomach any of that.  So, just force your travel partners, whoever they may be, to eat and drink and describe in great detail how it tastes.

Tips for Traveling When Sick

Prime Example of Living Vicariously through Travel Partners

6.  Consider a walk-in clinic.

If your illness gets serious enough that over the counter medication isn’t cutting it, seriously consider going to a clinic or doctor.  I tried calling my regular doctor to call in a prescription for me, but they refused.  I’m cheap and didn’t want to go to a clinic.  It was only on the drive back and knowing I had to work the next day that we stopped at a walk in clinic and I got some antibiotics.

Ever gotten really sick while traveling?  What are some tips you’ve learned to make the most of a trip?

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Ashley is the mastermind behind A Southern Gypsy, a travel blog focused on adventure, outdoors and wildlfe, and is headed to Southeast Asia in November on her first long term, solo trip. Hates mustard & pickles. Needs coffee to function.

66 Comments

  1. Mrs. Chasing the Donkey

    January 26, 2014 at 1:25 AM

    So sorry you were sick, I agree to live vicariously through your travel partners – and also making them look after you helps too.

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 26, 2014 at 6:15 AM

      Agreed! My mom is a nurse, so luckily while traveling with her, I get taken care of pretty well :)

    • Kara

      January 27, 2014 at 10:27 AM

      Lucky for Ashley this time she ALLOWED us to go with her! And had her mother to encourage her to take medicine, a brother to eat her turkey leg, etc. She forgot to mention we did hit the Fantasyland sick clinic once for a pepcid….we think! Free and helpful for a few minutes…Definitely take your own personal first aid kit including potential meds you may need. Getting out of Disney to a Walmart isn’t a fast or easy task!

      • Ashley Hubbard

        January 27, 2014 at 11:07 AM

        I’m definitely glad y’all were there to take care of me :) Getting to a store is not fast, she is right.

  2. Emma

    January 26, 2014 at 1:56 AM

    Such a shame…. Well done you for persevering though, and some good tips to remember. I once got really sick in Thailand, I thought I was dying. An old hippy saved me with flat coca cola, it really really worked! :)

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 26, 2014 at 6:16 AM

      Haha that’s awesome and an interesting remedy! Glad it worked :)

  3. Stef

    January 26, 2014 at 2:03 AM

    I totally know what you’re talking about. I once was in Barcelona for a week. I got the flu. I just kept on going cause I didn’t want to miss anything in Barcelona, it was tiring and I really don’t look good on the photos :P but I just couldn’t “waste” my time there. When I got home my friend got sick with the swine flu, so I probably had it too before :-/

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 26, 2014 at 6:16 AM

      Glad I’m not the only one haha…I just can’t help but push myself.

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  5. Kiara Gallop

    January 26, 2014 at 3:58 AM

    I hiked up a mountain in Morocco dosed up on immodium because I had food poisoning. The trouble was the immodium gave me really bad stomach cramps so getting to the top was painful. Yeah, I’m not too good at taking it easy when I’m ill either!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 26, 2014 at 6:17 AM

      Ouch! Sounds like something I would do. Glad you made it to the top though ;)

  6. Conversant Traveller

    January 26, 2014 at 5:13 AM

    Bad luck not being able to enjoy it 100%, but I love your attitude not letting it get you down! I’ve often been ill whilst travelling (goes with the territory right?!) and the best advice has always come from locals, sometimes really odd things that I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing, like eating boiled eggs in Thailand to combat travellers trots. Surprisingly it worked.

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 26, 2014 at 6:18 AM

      Eating boiled eggs in Thailand? That’s interesting haha…I’d say taking advice from locals makes complete sense though. :)

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  8. frankaboutcroatia

    January 26, 2014 at 10:00 AM

    You really do look exhausted on that carousel :(. I hate medicine too, but more that medicine I hate being sick. When I feel I will get cold, I stuff myself with garlic (horrible for anybody around me :-) ), honey, tea, lemons, and pills.
    I take it as a fight I really want to win. And win it quickly.

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 26, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      Garlic does work wonders. My family is big into natural health stuff. Unfortunately, you smell like garlic completely though haha

  9. Samantha @mytanfeet

    January 26, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    Getting sick on a trip is the worst…and abroad is even suckier. Luckily I haven’t had anything terrible abroad but I know people who have and had to cut their trip short. No fun!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 26, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      I haven’t really gotten sick abroad either…nothing like this or worse at least.

  10. Calli

    January 26, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    So sorry your trip didn’t turn out as planned! One thing we’ve learned is that when we aren’t feeling well on the road it’s often our bodies trying to tell us to slow down. As much as we want to see and do and EAT everything we can while traveling, it can also wreak havoc on your body. We’ve been fortunate to only have a couple sick days this trip but it always seems to happen at the worst time. Great tips – thanks for sharing!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 26, 2014 at 2:27 PM

      Thanks Calli! It sucks when you don’t get to experience a place like you anticipated doing, but health should come first.

  11. Gabor Kovacs

    January 26, 2014 at 12:27 PM

    When you travel for a long time, it is normal to get sick sometimes. I agree with you that the most important things is not forcing yourself to do something. It always ends in a disater.

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 26, 2014 at 2:26 PM

      It definitely does. Luckily, when you’re traveling long term…you usually have the option to slow down.

  12. noel morata

    January 26, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    It’s no fun getting sick on a vacation or trip…great suggestions for how to deal with it and still have a decent trip!

  13. Raul (@ilivetotravel)

    January 26, 2014 at 1:21 PM

    Traveling while sick is THE worst – I long for my bed, the comfort of my things. I got sick in Beijing due to the horrible pollution there and all I wanted as something from McDonalds (which I don’t eat often) – I guess a chocolate milk shake and fries were comfort food for me!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 26, 2014 at 2:25 PM

      I know..all I wanted to do was sleep, but forced myself to get out there. It’s a crappy feeling for sure.

  14. Dave

    January 26, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    Glad to see that you made the most of the trip while battling the sickness – a good traveler does everything possible to make sure she isn’t confined to a hotel room!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 26, 2014 at 2:25 PM

      Yes, I don’t do well missing out on things at all!

  15. Lunaguava

    January 26, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    That doesn’t sound like fun at all… Kudos on trying to fight it and enjoy your stay, but in the end our bodies usually have a hard time competing with our minds. Best to let it heal and enjoy watching other people have fun :) Good luck!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 26, 2014 at 5:17 PM

      Thanks guys! It definitely dampened the whole trip, but I made the most of it :)

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  17. Syd

    January 26, 2014 at 8:22 PM

    I am actually horrible at doing every single thing you just listed. Especially drinking water and not pushing myself…This summer I did a bike race in Wisconsin (probably shouldn’t have done it as I was already feeling iffy) and then ended up getting super dehydrated as it was 100 degrees… I couldn’t stop puking to drink water so it was this horrible cycle of vomiting and trying to drink and then vomiting more…Ended up in the hospital with an IV drip. Fun times, not. Then I didn’t want to eat anything for over a week. On the bright side (I guess?) I lost like 15 pounds without even trying…

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 26, 2014 at 9:56 PM

      Wow, that sounds absolutely terrible and exactly like something I would do. Losing weight is the ONLY thing good about being sick.

  18. Michele {Malaysian Meanders}

    January 27, 2014 at 3:38 AM

    We just finished up our own Orlando Universal Studios/Disney World vacation a few weeks ago, so I am really feeling your pain that you weren’t able to do all that you had anticipated. Good advice. My husband was getting over a sinus infection while we were there but was able to push through it and do the rides. On the other hand, he did spend 4 hours waiting at an Urgent Care clinic on Christmas day while we were visiting my parents. He actually gets sick on trips a lot, although not to the extent that you did. In those situations, he tries to take it easy and travel vicariously through the rest of us. I remember being horribly sick on a long overseas flight, and the flight attendants were so kind that they cleared a row for me so I could lie down.

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 27, 2014 at 9:38 AM

      That was nice of the flight attendants…being sick on that long of flight would not be fun at all. That’s a bummer he gets sick when traveling so easily…I think some of us just can’t adapt to new climates as quickly. When I moved from TN to WA, I immediately got the worst sinus infection I’ve ever seen in my life.

  19. Nico

    January 27, 2014 at 6:54 AM

    The last time I was sick on the road I thought I’d got malaria. Luckily it turned out to be just a bad case of the flu :/

  20. Shelly Maynard

    January 27, 2014 at 7:21 AM

    Great tips! I used to love road trips but now, as an adult, I get sick when traveling too far. I like the reminder of drinking enough! I have a weak bladder so I neglect drinking in the car so I’m sure that doesn’t help!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 27, 2014 at 9:36 AM

      That’s no fun! I have a small bladder too so I tend not to drink a lot when traveling which is not good for you at all, but oh well!

  21. Madison

    January 27, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    So sorry to hear you were sick on your trip!! These are great tips though for anyone who finds themselves in the same situation. Hopefully you were able to still enjoy the trip :)

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 27, 2014 at 9:35 AM

      Thanks Madison! It’s hard not to enjoy yourself a little bit when at Disney, but I did struggle with it

  22. Lisa

    January 27, 2014 at 8:28 AM

    I was sick the day my family went to the Louvre in Paris. Trying to buy medicine at the pharmacy was an interesting experience!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 27, 2014 at 9:35 AM

      Ahh that’s no fun at all! At least you have a story out of it, right? Silver linings haha..

  23. Heidi

    January 27, 2014 at 9:11 AM

    Unfortunately, I seem to get sick with something every single time I travel, without fail. These tips are definitely great and some of my highly recommended suggestions!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 27, 2014 at 9:34 AM

      Aww that sucks! I always seem to do something really dumb. I went skiing and tore my ACL. I almost chopped my finger off RIGHT before leaving for Europe for 3 weeks…makes life interesting I suppose.

  24. LoLinda

    January 27, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    Aaaww bless your heart! I’m so sorry you got sick on your Disney trip. I traveled there from Tennessee too over New Years, last year! What a coinky dink! :) Thankfully I didn’t get sick, other than a couple of migraine-esque headaches. But with the hopper, it wasn’t that bad. :) Thanks for the great tips – but praying that I’ll never need them!

  25. Sammi

    January 27, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    I’m so jealous you’ve been to Harry Potter world in Orlando- I’ve been to the studio’s here in the UK and it was great.

    Great tips for what to do when you’re sick. I got sick in Spain this summer and the hostel I stayed in were great and got meds in me and made sure I wasn’t getting to high a temperature. I felt awful that night but so much better the next day and just getting meds and fluids made me feel loads better!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 27, 2014 at 10:29 AM

      I’ve been to the studio tour in the UK and absolutely loved it! That’s great that the hostel was so helpful!

  26. jeanae

    January 27, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    Oh, dear! Getting sick is the pits; suffering with sickness during vacation should be illegal. Disney should be the happiest trip ever. I am glad that you did finally get some meds, and get to feeling better. You’ll have to tell your family that you need a Disney do-over. The sick trip doesn’t count, and you need to go again right away. :)

  27. Pat Hatt

    January 27, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    Yuck to the germs, even worse when traveling. But at least you made the most of it, still I like the do over idea too

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 27, 2014 at 1:52 PM

      The do over idea is awesome. I want to go back once the Harry Potter expansion is finished in the summer anyway :)

  28. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs

    January 27, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    Great advices, luckily I never really get ill when travelling but it is better to be ready for unexpected!

  29. Tiffany Cruz

    January 27, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    Your post reminded me of the time my family went on vacation to Disney World and my mom got the flu and spent most of the time in our hotel room instead of at the parks with us. Glad you made the best of it. Now you have me wanting to go back to the Magic Kingdom, love the turkey legs.

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 27, 2014 at 2:32 PM

      They are so good, aren’t they? When I was younger, I went and the day we were going to the Animal Kingdom, I got a 24 hour flu and had to stay in the room. Another time, I got stung on the eye by a wasp and I’m allergic to wasps so my eye swelled up really bad. I love Disney, but it might hate me haha

  30. Jess

    January 28, 2014 at 2:50 AM

    I seem to have a habit of getting sick every year just as I finish up my fieldwork – which is, of course, when I have free time and plan to explore the area! It’s definitely not fun. I need to be better about not overdoing it when I know I’m getting sick, but that’s hard when you’re traveling and there’s so much to see and do.

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 28, 2014 at 8:49 AM

      It is very hard for sure. That sucks it always happens when work is over.

  31. Sarah Shumate

    January 28, 2014 at 8:29 AM

    Oh, that sounds just awful! I’m so sorry! I’m always terrified I’ll get some sort of stomach virus or food poisoning while traveling. That would be the only sort of sickness I wouldn’t be able to push through and continue doing things on a trip if I had it. You are much tougher than I am!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 28, 2014 at 8:45 AM

      I guess the good thing with stomach bugs is that they usually only last a day or two where those stupid sinus infections can last weeks.

  32. Lily La

    January 30, 2014 at 12:58 AM

    Getting sick while traveling is always a nightmare of mine. Thankfully, it only happened to me once while I was in Vietnam – but I had family to take care of me. Couldn’t imagine it if I were alone!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 30, 2014 at 7:05 AM

      That’s good you had someone to take care of you-I luckily did on this trip as well. That’ll be interesting once I’m traveling alone…

  33. Mary {The World Is A Book}

    January 31, 2014 at 1:29 AM

    So sorry you got sick on your trip but kudos for getting through it. Some great tips here. Getting sick and my kids getting sick is always a fear when traveling. We’ve been okay so far (knock on wood). The only other time we’ve all felt ill was during an Alaska cruise with really choppy waters and we were all seasick. Thank goodness it was only for a few hours.

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 31, 2014 at 7:03 AM

      I’ve never, ever had a probably with motion sickenss or sea sickness (thank goodness!). However, on my last day on my mediterranean cruise, the water was so choppy that even I began to feel the effects. Thanks for reading Mary!:)

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