I was reading a friends Facebook post recently about being on vacation with her sick husband and it made me think of what steps you could take to ensure you stay healthy before you go on vacation. Has that ever happened to you? You do the research and take the time to plan and book your vacation. Excitement and anticipation builds as the date draws close. You have ensured the dogs/cats/children are taken care of, finished off those work projects that just had to get done before you could leave, packed your bags with items that only come out to play a couple of times a year, and begin to allow yourself to relax. But as you step off that plane, train, or automobile you feel the rumblings of (insert your own issue here- sore throat, stomach upset, bad migraine, tickly cough).


    Actually this phenomenon has been given a name by Dutch psychologist, Ad Vingerhoets – leisure sickness. While this new ‘disease’ might not be found in any medical journal, nor are there any large-scale research studies to support Vingerhoets diagnosis, just ask a few friends and I bet they will share some sad stories.


    stay healthy before you go on vacation
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    Why do I get sick at the start of my vacation?


    The main culprit appears to be stress. Your immune system does a great job of keeping you going through the tough times. But the minute you relax, or try to unwind, wham you get ill.


    “Stress before you go {on vacation} disregulates your immune system so it’s priming you for bad things,” said clinical health psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, the S. Robert Davis chair of medicine at Ohio State University’s College of Medicine.

    Most of us lead fairly stressful lives, not just those in high-powered jobs. The primitive response of adrenaline is our body’s natural way of getting us through whatever it is we need to do. But as we start to unwind, in readiness for our vacation, the body realizes that it can use the time to relax and repair. As levels of adrenaline reduce and our immune system takes its foot off the pedal, so we get sick.


    stay healthy before you go on vacation
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    5 Steps to help you stay healthy before you go on vacation


    As the saying goes, the first step is recognizing that you have a problem. As you build up to a vacation begin to slowly allow your mind and body to unwind. Switch off all those gadgets that bombard your brain with information (including the television) and allow yourself time to do nothing – shocking I know!


    When I am most stressed my exercise routine goes astray, which compounds the problem. Even a small amount of physical activity will help the body. Exercise has proven stress-busting benefits as it pumps up your endorphins; your brains feel good neurotransmitters. I enjoy reading Lee’s ideas on exercise on her blog


    Hand in hand with exercise, is making the best food options. When stressed we are more likely to reach for those ‘comfort foods’ such as burgers, pizza, or mac and cheese. Sadly these high-fat foods will only compound the issue. Instead choose foods that are low-fat and high-fiber to boost your immune system. Check out this great website Clean Food Love for some tasty recipes.


    Add a few supplements to your diet to help boost your immune system. My doctor recently recommended that I increase my vitamin C intake. This vitamin is water-soluble, supports growth and development, and helps the body absorb iron. As the body does not produce or store Vitamin C, taking a supplement ensures sufficient daily levels. Also consider adding B2 and B6 but check with your own doctor for recommendations that work best for you and your lifestyle.


    Increase your liquid intake, and sadly I do not mean the alcoholic variety. Keeping your body correctly hydrated will boost your immune system in many ways. But don’t take my word for it, read this article to find out the 5 immune-boosting benefits of drinking water.



    While you probably know what you should do to improve your health and stay healthy before you go on vacation, a little reinforcement is always a good thing. Taking a few small steps as you prepare for vacation will help your body ease into vacation mode, and prevent the big shock to the system that can make you ill.


    Happy travels.


    Main image attribution: Allan Foster: Cold?


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