Healthy Travel Essentials (and a Giveaway!)

I count myself among the lucky ones every time I get a chance to travel. It's thrilling to experience a different side of myself; challenge myself to new adventures, experience new cultures, eat new food, enjoy a different climate; and, most of all, step out of my comfort zone.

Then why are the days before fraught with anxiety, especially when I have to decide what to pack?

Perhaps part of the answer lies in the fact that I am, and always have been, a "what-if" kind of person, as well as a person who likes her comforts. That makes packing for a trip one of those anxiety-provoking experiences. What if I get sick? What if I forget something? How can I possibly leave behind my sonic toothbrush (but it's too big), favorite hair dryer (too bulky), super-necessary night moisturizer (too large)? Forever, the puzzle remains: how can I have all the comforts of home if I have to pack all of them into one small suitcase? Mind you, my definition of small is probably different from many seasoned travelers. Try as I might, I'm still not able to perfect the art of carry-on packing.

Alas, I've come to realize that I can't possibly be prepared for every single eventuality; but more importantly, I've also come to see that most of the things we worry about rarely happen anyway. So we do the best we can with what we have.

And that means packing healthy. Even if you're on a carefree getaway, protecting your health goes a long way toward making you feel secure and helping your vacation run smoothly. Although I may not have figured out (yet) the best/most useful/least wasteful clothing and shoes to pack, I have managed to come up with my list of healthy travel essentials:

Hand sanitizer/wipes. I use these when I get on the plane; I wipe down the tray tables, as well as the armrest and remote control buttons. (Who knows where the former occupant's hands have been, after all?). Once at the hotel, I again use them to wipe down the remote control, phone and any other surfaces that might harbor unwanted germs.

Ginger. Since I am of the motion-sickness variety (ever hear of someone getting seasick on a kayak on a tranquil lake?), I never travel without my stash of ginger capsules. Several studies support the use and effectiveness of ginger over Dramamine. It also is handy to keep around in the event of an upset stomach. But talk to your doc first if you are on a blood thinner such as warfarin (Coumadin) or aspirin, as it may increase the risk of bleeding.

Over-the-counter medication. Unexpected things like sore muscles, minor cuts, headaches or colds can turn up any time, and not having a simple thing like a bandage or antihistamine or pain medication becomes a major annoyance, especially if you're not near a pharmacy (which, as irony would have it, you can't find one when you need one).

Snacks. You don't have to travel all that much to know that healthy food choices at airports leave a lot to be desired. Flights get delayed or, worse, stuck for hours on the tarmac. And good luck getting a healthy snack (if any at all) once airborne. Same goes for railroad or car travel. Knowing I can turn to a snack like trail mix, fruit or a LUNA bar, filled with organic whole grain, soy protein, nuts and seeds, makes me feel a little less anxious and a lot less ravenous once I reach my destination.

Sunscreen. Even if your travel plans don't include sitting at the beach and worshiping the sun, chances are you'll be outdoors more than normal. And remember: even on cloudy days, the sun's damaging rays can work themselves through the clouds. You'll be glad you packed your own, especially when you see the prices at the hotel gift shop!

Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash and dental floss. There's nothing worse than forgetting a toothbrush. Oh, wait—there is: forgetting toothpaste and floss. Most hotel rooms do not offer these the way they offer soaps and lotions. And brushing your teeth with your finger—or without toothpaste—is no treat, trust me.

Prescription medications. Make sure you have enough to last the length of the trip. It's smart to make a list of all your meds and carry it with you, in case your luggage gets lost. Better yet, pack your meds in your carry-on.

Miscellaneous. It's always good to include other items in your kit for unexpected events, like tweezers, antacids, a mild laxative or stool softener, a thermometer, hydrocortisone cream, an antibacterial cream, and AA and AAA batteries (chances are that something you have with you takes them).

Here's something I don't have to be without on my trips: an Eluo sonic toothbrush. Cenoire makes one that is small enough to throw into a handbag. It's battery operated and stylishly compact (looks like a mascara wand) and incredibly effective (cleans well with its 23,000 brush strokes per minute—sure beats those tiny fold-up jobs!)

And guess what? You don't have to be without one, either: the kind folks at Cenoire are making one available to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment and your name will be chosen at random. The offer is open to U.S. residents only. Once your name is chosen, I'll notify you by e-mail. If you don't acknowledge my notification within 48 hours, you'll pass your winnings on to the next random name, who will be oh-so-happy.

Wishing all of you safe, healthy travels.

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