You’ve put so much into this vacation; made all the plans, counted down the days and managed to keep everyone excited, yet calm at the same time. It’s been a long few months. Once you arrive on site at your Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Universal vacation, everything feels amazing. Your resort hotel is beautifully decorated in rich seasonal embellishments; you may roll your eyes and claim it is over the top while an unparalleled excitement flourishes giddily on the inside. Right, huh?
You can’t see it, but I am giving you that knowing wink that says, “I won’t blow your cover, your Disney crush is safe with me.”
However you want to play your version of cool, you’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, and you think you have every angle covered. Rain? You’ve got the trusty ponchos. Wind? Roll up jackets in the backpack. Excessive sun? Water bottles, sunscreen and a willingness to shove ice cubes in places which need not be mentioned to cool down in time for the next sun-exposed queuing area.
Everything is in place until you get that funny feeling in the pit of your overexcited stomach. You write it off as nerves or tension or that mistake you made of eating the fish curry they served on the plane. Time for that Pepto that you were clever enough to pack in your bag. You pop out two tables and chew that chalky goodness with equal parts disgust and satisfaction while telling yourself that the more disgusting it tastes, the better job it will do. After a short time, you start to think that this unnerving sensation is not your stomach’s anticipation for the delightfully nauseating ups and downs of Tower of Terror in your future, but instead something more sinister and completely un-Disney. Something so unfaceable that to describe it one would need to search the internet for every antonym for Disney in existence.
In the best interests of the rest of your family or travel group, you have to encourage them to press on; you’ll be fine, you just need a little rest.
Fake it, basically.
Once they are out the door, you can order your pity room service and wallow in melancholy TV selections from under the safety of your depression-clad hotel bedding.
Here are four ways to avoid getting sick while you are away and another four tips on how to cope if everything fails and it happens anyway.
The Plane: Keep Your Vents On
Until recently, traveling pros would often swear that turning off the air vents on the airplane would save you from excessive germ exposure. We had the impression that leaving these vents on was an invitation for other people’s bacteria to rain down on us for the duration of the flight. Because of this, many of us sat in silence, hot, sweaty, and without any air circulation in hopes that we would avoid the ruthless curse of vacation sickness.
Be gross no more, because new research shows that airborne viruses such as measles and that pesky cold that every second person seems to complain about can “linger” in the air for a period of time before drifting to the floor. While in the air, you can breathe them in more easily; however, leaving the vents on is now said to create a force field of turbulent air around you that can create a barrier, so the particles don’t reach you. It can also assist in forcing the particles to the floor faster.
The Plane: Keep Antibacterial Wipes With You
New studies are continually emerging that show the germiest places on our flights are not where you would expect. The air coming out of the vents might not be thought to contaminate your vacation anymore; however, touching them still might. Another source of gross contamination I have to mention is the fold-down tray table in front of your seat. Run a wipe over your tray table before even considering using it, or prepare for the plague.
On-the-go: Wash and Sanitize
There is no better advice for avoiding germs than washing your hands — well and often. Take every opportunity to give them a once over and take that paper towel that you dried them off with to help you open the exit door without touching the handle. Think about it, all those people that didn’t wash their hands before leaving, where have they touched first? Gross, yeah?
Washing your hands frequently in theme parks is necessary but impractical at the rate needed to avoid all the germs. Get yourself some pocket hand sanitizer and don’t be shy to use it. Some are less obnoxious than others when it comes to their scent, so give a few different ones a whiff before committing it to your travel bag. Looking for one to share with your kids? Find a natural hand sanitizer and skip the chemicals and that strong smell.
On-the-Go: Take Two Of Everything With You
When you think of getting sick on vacation most of us would be forgiven for picturing a virus or a cold, or something we picked up along the way. But there are other types of sick that can leave you feeling less than fabulous. Stomach issues, allergies, skin conditions, whatever you have experienced at home, make sure you bring any medication you have with you.
If you can hit up your allergies with antihistamines or settle a sensitive stomach straight away with antacids, you can avoid a more significant problem. In your daily backpack, carry two of everything you think you might need, including pain medication, asthma puffers — basically, two of anything you have ever needed. Takes up less space than you think and can save your vacation.
If you are traveling from overseas, bring enough of your daily medications to sustain your family for the entire trip. Take a photo of any prescriptions relevant to your stash just in case you are questioned about them, as different medications are handled with varying levels of availability in other countries.
If you are an essential oil person, bring those along with you too. Everything can help, nothing can hurt, and you can never be too prepared.
You’ve taken the meds, lathered in oils, said your prayers and did a sacred anti-sickness ritual, but you got sick anyway. It happens. What you do from here can change how long it takes you to recover and how you and your traveling family can salvage this vacation. Let’s look at four things you can do once you’ve rung the “okay, I’m sick” bell to lessen the impact on yourself and others.
Rest, Don’t Fight It
You are sick, and no amount of prancing around in your Minnie Ears is going to change it, so let’s focus on speeding up your recovery time with lots of sleep and fluids rather than prolonging it. Break out the water bottles because even staying at the hotel requires hydration, especially when you are unwell. Order your room service, but try to keep things balanced; your body needs proper nutrition to aid in recovering faster. If you have a stomach-related illness, cheat on your low-carb diet and graze on plain crackers, bread or something similarly stomach friendly.
Get Some Sun
Vitamin D has increasing studies supporting its importance in fighting a common cold or respiratory infection. Sunlight can have a beneficial effect on skin disorders like psoriasis, acne, and eczema. Sunlight can also help build your immune system as white blood cells can increase with sun exposure and can assist your body in the fight against infections.
Of course, all sun exposure needs to be considered carefully and safely; the sun is also able to do a lot of harm if you leave your skin exposed and unprotected for long periods of time. Sunscreen is a must for long days in the parks but always remember to protect your face with a sun hat as well.
Consider Half Days
When you feel like the worst is behind you, don’t commit to a full day in the parks. It will be too much and, if you are like me, there is a good chance your sister will be given the opportunity to spend the rest of your lives telling everyone about that time when you collapsed in the Magic Kingdom, and she had to get you back in a wheelchair. We will save that story for another day, but consider yourselves warned.
Talk to your travel family and only commit to half a day, perhaps go in together and then bail out around lunchtime so you can come back and get some rest before you all meet up again for dinner. It gives you that connection you have been missing without pushing your luck too far.
Meet Up for Dinner
When all else fails, and you can’t face the strenuous schedule of your theme park days, give them a miss. It will be better for your family not to be worrying about you getting on and off each ride, and they won’t exactly make you feel any better either. If you have something that might be contagious, you also run the risk of ruining many other vacations by passing it on. Don’t be that person, the one that we all look back on thinking, “where did I get this cold from” and remember in the back of the “it’s a small world” boat coughing horrendously. We will remember you for a long time.
Give the days a miss and meet up with your group for dinner. They will have a lot of exciting things to tell you, so try to be involved in the vacation by listening intently and asking questions. This will also encourage them not to feel guilty about sharing. You worked so hard on this trip; there is no use in letting it be spoiled for everyone. Stick to water and don’t share food with your mates.
On a parting note, I would also suggest taking multivitamins. While there is very little medical research proving the importance of Vitamin C in fighting the common cold, the rest of the vitamins rolled into that small tablet can do wonders for your body in an environment where you may not naturally absorb the same nutrients you do at home.
Last, but not least, never — no seriously never, ever — leave home for a theme park day without carrying anti-diarrhea medication. You never know who, when or where it will be needed but when it is, it will be the best thing you have ever fished out of the bottom of your backpack.
On that note, let’s all go and rewash our hands for good measure and meet back here next time!
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.