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There’s little else that kills the joy of traveling more than sickness. Whether you’re suffering from Montezuma’s revenge or a case of the sniffles, illness on the road is the worst. But what are you supposed to do if you get sick while traveling? Let’s look at what it's like to get sick on vacation — and what steps you can take to avoid it.
» Learn more: Your guide to travel medical insurance
How to avoid sickness while traveling
Trying to avoid getting sick in the first place? These tips can help you stay fit for your trip.
Bring your medications
If you're on prescription medication, make sure you bring enough to last your whole trip; you don’t want to go cold turkey on something that keeps your body in balance.
It’s also a good idea to bring any over-the-counter remedies you might need, like painkillers, anti-nausea medication, anti-diarrheal drugs and motion sickness pills. If you do end up feeling sick while traveling, this can save you a trip to a pharmacy or doctor.
Avoid risky food
This is pertinent everywhere, but especially in locations where the diet is significantly different from yours or hygiene standards are lacking. Do research before deciding on a restaurant, and avoid those tempting roadside stands if they look sketchy.
If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that hygiene is important. Remember to wash your hands often and avoid touching your face, especially when you’re out and about. If you don’t have much access to soap and water, bring hand sanitizer to do the job.
Don’t overstress yourself
It’s natural to want to maximize your time on vacation, be wary of running yourself ragged. Five 11-hour tours in a row may allow you to see a lot of things, but those early wake-up times and late returns can wreak havoc on your immune system. Make sure to factor in time to rest.
» Learn more: How to avoid getting sick on a plane
What to do if you get sick traveling overseas
Contact your insurance company
Although you likely have health insurance at home, it’s possible it won’t cover you when you’re overseas. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to pay out of pocket for treatment, though.
Travel insurance can provide medical coverage for you during trips. There are multiple types of travel insurance with varying deductibles and coverage limits, so you’ll want to check out your options before buying one.
If you have travel insurance and need to visit a health care facility, contact the insurance provider first to be sure the facility you select qualifies for reimbursement under your policy.
» Learn more: Does my health insurance cover international travel?
Check your credit card
Depending on how you’ve booked your travel, you may be eligible for complimentary medical insurance through your credit card. Many travel credit cards offer coverage for various types of medical care, including medical emergencies, emergency evacuation and even quarantine.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, for example, will provide up to $2,500 in health care with a $50 deductible if you’ve used the card to pay for your trip. The card will also pay up to $75 per day for five days if a doctor deems it necessary for you to stay in a hotel after being released from a hospital.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now
Go to the doctor
Are you ill enough that you need to see someone? Don’t worry; most places will be able to accommodate you. This is true even if you don’t have travel insurance. In some locations, such as Italy, emergency medical care is free.
In others, you’ll need to pay out of pocket, but you probably shouldn't expect expenses such as you’d find in the U.S. In Crete, for example, a nighttime house call with a doctor and nurse will cost you 200 euros, or roughly $195.
» Learn more: Credit cards that provide travel insurance
This can be your first or last step, depending on the severity of your illness. It’s tempting to cut your recovery short, especially when your vacation time is limited, but you shouldn’t.
Allow time for any medications you've been prescribed to take effect, and give your body a chance to heal before venturing out on another tour.
» Learn more: Is travel insurance worth it?
Sickness while traveling, recapped
Nobody likes being sick, but it’s worse when you fall ill on vacation. Follow our tips to avoid sickness altogether — maintain good hygiene, bring over-the-counter medications, avoid risky foods, and make time for recovery.
If you end up sick on vacation, try not to worry too much. If you have travel medical insurance, you'll want to contact your insurance provider to find in-network care. Otherwise, some travel credit cards provide complimentary insurance, though you’ll want to verify your coverage before departing on your trip.
Finally, if you do get sick on vacation, do yourself a favor and don’t cut your recovery short. Stay in bed, drink fluids and finish your medications before heading out for more adventures.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card