50 Travel Health Essentials the Pros Swear By
Here at Travel + Leisure, we're always looking for products to make traveling easier and more comfortable. If you’re not intentional about it, travel can truly wreak havoc on your health. The good habits you’ve worked hard to develop in your everyday routine — consistent sleeping patterns, regular workouts, summoning the strength to avoid ordering takeout — are easily upended while traveling.
Related: More travel essentials
Add to that the stress of everything associated with the pandemic, and travel these days (should you even be going anywhere, which isn't recommended at the moment) isn't quite a walk in the park.
While a weeklong trip to a spiritual retreat or a digital detox can be fitting short-term solutions, we need to be more mindful about incorporating wellness on every trip we take. Whether that be self-care and That’s easier said than done — as most habit changes are — but there are tools to help you make healthy choices and feel less likely to derail physically or mentally when traveling, no matter where you’re headed.
Below, we’re sharing our favorite tried and true products to help you have more energy and less stress on your next trip.
Stock your carry-on dopp kit.
One of the best ways to make your flight more enjoyable is knowing you have everything you might need on hand. Bring a small pouch, like one of these, in your personal item, and fill it with all the in-flight essentials: hand sanitizer (amazon.com, $5), eye drops (amazon.com, $13), a toothbrush (amazon.com, $5), cleansing wipes (sephora.com, from $23), earplugs (amazon.com, $7), hand cream (amazon.com, $28), and an ultra thick moisturizer (sephora.com, from $14) to apply in the restroom before boarding. You’ll look and feel much fresher.
So are Vitamin C and Ginger.
Chug an antioxidant packed green juice en route to the airport.
Frequent travelers like Momofuku Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi swear by chugging a nutritious green juice before boarding a flight (so does model Lindsay Ellingson, who told us that she often takes Juice Press’ juices with her to devour before getting on a plane). Juice Press and Project Juice both deliver their concoctions (pictured, above) domestically, so even if you don’t have a cold-pressed juicer in your hometown, you can get them sent right to your front door.
Combat cabin contagion with nasal mist.
During a flight, the air inside the plane tends to have a humidity level lower than 20 percent, as opposed to the 30 to 65 percent we’re used to in typical indoor environments. Not only will this dehydrate your skin, but it’ll also dry out the mucus membranes in your nose—which are essential for preventing illness—leaving you exposed to all of the non-ticketed pathogens on board, even if you’re heavy on the hand sanitizer. A quick spritz of natural saline nasal spray (amazon.com, $10) before you board will help.
Always carry a travel wrap.
Travel wraps are an easy way to keep comfortable during chilly flights in dry-aired cabins; without warmth, you may wind up catching a cold. Lying upon one can also help prevent germs if you’re traveling by train or bus and forgot a pillow, and they can also be used as sarongs, scarves, or blankets. So, basically, they’re the perfect multitasking garments. Can’t decide which one to splurge on? We’re here to help with our guide to the best wraps for every type of traveler. Interested in the wraps pictured above? From right to left: White + Warren (amazon.com, $315), Madeleine Thompson (net-a-porter.com, $437), and Long Cashmere Wrap (ahalife.com, $118).
Meditate in transit.
You don’t need to be any sort of guru to close your eyes and get your zen on when seated between strangers. There are several meditation apps—we like Headspace and Calm—that can guide you through a relaxation session to block out the stressors surrounding you, especially if you’re listening through noise-cancelling headphones (our favorites are Bose’s top-of-the-line QuietControl wireless headphones (amazon.com, $249). Continuing the practice on vacation, too, will lead to even more positive health benefits.
Abandon your pride and just use a neck pillow.
We, too, used to scoff at the inflatable neck devices some passengers deigned to use, but they. are. worth it. The first time you fall soundly asleep and stir back to life just as it’s time to disembark, you’ll be hooked just like us. Some of our favorites include the Infinity pillow (amazon.com, $40), the Trtl pillow (amazon.com, $30) and the Cabeau Evolution S3 pillow (amazon.com, $40), but we also have a guide to choosing a travel pillow based on how you sleep most comfortably.
Pack your own food.
"I’m always appalled at how expensive some of these first and business class tickets can be, and the food is still atrocious," Padma Lakshmi once told us. "I’d just rather have something that I bring, know is going to fill my stomach, and tastes nice—whether you eat it at room temperature or hot. I bring my pre-made Padma's Easy Exotic rice because it’s not saucy — you just need a spoon and that’s it." This advice is actually quite the no-brainer when you think about it — especially if you’re someone who hates airplane food. You’ll feel much better when you disembark by filling up on foods of your choice, rather than pre-made, sodium-packed meals (which, in addition to being quite unhealthy, are very dehydrating).
We've got more healthy travel snacks right here.
Post-flight, bathe and mask.
Every flight should end with a little R&R session, once you’ve checked into your hotel or Airbnb. The ultimate way to unwind (and get yourself back to feeling—and looking—your freshest) is a double duty bath and mask. Put on a deep purifying mask, like Tata Harper’s (sephora.com, $72), which expels all the toxins acquired on your flight, then stir up a calming bath to soak in. Kneipp makes travel-friendly sachets of bath salts (amazon.com, $5), which you can mix with the essential oil (amazon.com, $5) of your choice (eucalyptus is ultra relaxing, so we recommend going with that). This will help detoxify and re-hydrate your skin, and leave you feeling ready for a day of exploring. Repeat the same process before bed, and apply a moisturizing botanical oil, (amazon.com, $132) to help fall into a deep slumber.
Carry no tension.
Getting a post-flight massage can beat jet lag, improve circulation, and release tension. If you can’t make it to the spa, these palm-sized massage balls (amazon.com, $3) act like a portable foam roller to work out the knots and loosen tight muscles in your hips, back, shoulders, legs, et cetera. You can also use a tennis ball, but the crevice in the middle of this design is more comfortable to use around places like your spine.
Upgrade your sneakers.
Stay fit by packing lightweight exercise gear.
Identify your bad travel habits, and fix them.
Linden Schaffer, the founder of wellness travel company Pravassa, has compiled her hard-earned secrets to rethinking the routines that drain you into "Living Well on the Road: Health and Wellness for Travelers" (amazon.com, $19). It takes an action-based approach to bettering sleep, fitness, food, mindfulness, and time management for on-to-go professionals.
Whatever your travel-induced health complaint (mental or physical) may be, there’s probably an aromatherapy aid for it. ArtNaturals just launched a collection of travel-friendly roller balls (amazon.com, $25) formulated with their signature essential oils. Try their “Signature Om” for nausea and anxiety, or their “Signature Serene” for all around relaxation. We also love Tata Harper’s Aromatic Irritability Treatment (amazon.com, $65), which she uses to help combat stress (and let’s face it, who doesn’t get stressed when traveling?).
Aid sleep naturally.
While the sleep hormone melatonin (amazon.com, $12) hasn’t been proven as an effective long-term sleep aid, it’s exactly the chemical signal your body needs to re-adjust your internal clock to a new time zone. A few days before your trip, start taking the supplement at the time that’s about to become your new bedtime to trick your body into winding down. Just don’t wash it down with a glass of red wine, because combining the hormone with alcohol may actually have an adverse effect.
Have the option to block out noise.
Invest in a sleep mask that suits your individual needs.
Some people get headaches when they travel, and guess what, there’s an eye mask for that. Morihata’s Binchotan Charcoal Eye Mask (amazon.com, $28) uses activated charcoal, embedded within the mask, to ease tension and pressure around the eyes. Want more eye mask options? Check out our hyper-specific guide to the best sleep masks for travelers.
Erase signs of aging with a silk travel pillow.
Sleeping on an anti-aging pillow is a great way to prevent signs of aging. Combat the side sleeper’s worst nightmare—pillow face, which can have long term effects on skin—by resting your head against a silk pillowcase, like this one (sephora.com, $89) by Slip. For extra comfort, we love Nurse Jamie’s Beauty Bear (net-a-porter.com, $60), which caters to both back and side sleepers.
Bring a journal.
You are not immune to bad moods and mental strife just because you’re in a different part of the world. If you find yourself spiraling or feeling overwhelmed—which is especially easy to trigger in an unfamiliar environment—take some downtime for the OG form of word processing. Not only is writing surprisingly therapeutic, but it will also help you to remember not just what you saw and did, but how you felt on your trip. This set of passport-sized journals (containerstore.com, $16) will keep you covered through your next several trips.
Ignore your phone. We mean it.
Just like sugar, screen time is becoming harder and harder to pry ourselves away from even though we know it’s detrimental to our health. Give your eyes, mind, and thumbs a digital detox with the Moment app. It tracks how much you use your iPhone or iPad (and where you’re spending those minutes) and notifies you when you’re approaching your daily limits.
And most importantly, stay hydrated.
Every well-versed traveler knows by now (or at least, we’d hope) that the key to avoiding almost all the negative symptoms that come with traveling is to stay hydrated, especially in locales without easy access to potable water. A glass bottle like this one by Contigo (amazon.com, from $15) is best for avoiding harmful plastics, but if you’re looking to be a little more conservative with space, try this collapsible one (amazon.com, $22) that weighs a little over an ounce, but can hold a liter.
Yes, that means your skin, too!
The hydration rule applies both inside and out. Applying an in-flight sheet mask (sephora.com, from $95) never hurt anybody! And don't forget to add a hydrating mist (target.com, $13) Post-flight (or post-bath), lather up with a calming, moisturizing lotion—we love This Works Sleep Plus Dream Body (amazon.com, $35), especially for nighttime use — and apply something ultra nourishing on your face, like Pestle + Mortar’s Pure Hyaluronic Serum (amazon.com, $55).
Finally, don't forget a comfortable face mask
The CDC recommends that people wear face masks while traveling, and some airlines require that passengers wear a face covering on board in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We suggest comfortable, breathable masks made from 100 percent cotton, like this one from Old Navy (oldnavy.com, $13 for five masks).
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