Healthy New Year! How to be a healthier traveller in 2019

Make 2019 the year you get ‘travel ready’, says Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth, with our handy checklist of travel essentials to keep you fighting fit – and eco-friendly…

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It’s now easier than ever to make big trips at short notice. But that often means you find yourself heading to the airport without having done important pre-trip preparations, from bringing medicine to having insurance. We’re all guilty of cutting corners, so here’s our list for making sure that you’re prepared in 2019…

Get insurance


Some home insurance policies do include travel, but always ensure you are covered for what you propose to do. Extreme sports, long-standing medical conditions and mountain travel will probably need to be covered separately. Helicopter rescue also usually requires a special policy; if you pay as you go, you could be faced with a big bill in the event of an accident. For example, a helicopter to lift someone back to Kathmandu from the mountains can cost £8,000.

Phoning home

A remarkable number of walkers and trekkers expect to rely on their phones to aid navigation. People can be surprised to find that even on Dartmoor, for example, there may be no signal, therefore no map and no means of summoning help if injured. Paper maps don’t have this problem.

When abroad, buy a local SIM and find out in advance how to call an ambulance – or whether there is one locally. The US State Department site is very useful and has frequently updated lists of local hospitals of an acceptable standard.

Tropical diseases 

Global warming is changing disease patterns, so it is more important than ever to check the seasonal risks at your destination. Don’t rely on conversations with other travellers; instead, check an expert source like the NHS about whether malaria precautions are relevant or if there has been an outbreak of plague nearby.

Forewarned, you will be able to act accordingly, whether stocking up at the airport pharmacy on sunscreens and repellent (not just relying on old out-of-date bottles in your cabinet) or adjusting your travel plans to suit.

Drinking water 

Even experienced travellers hold on to fake information about health risks. The water of foreign countries is often assumed to be dangerously contaminated, hence the huge sales of drinking water in plastic bottles. Sadly, the bottled water industry has been so successful in its marketing that locals, too, often think that tap water should be avoided.

To avoid all doubt (and minimise the amount of plastic you use), why not travel with at least a one-litre reusable bottle and some water sterilisation tablets? Then, if boiled water or hot drinks aren’t available, you’ll still be able to keep hydrated.


A squirty bottle can be a useful addition for an impromptu ablution where loo paper isn’t provided or after a wild pee. Washing water doesn’t need to biodegrade and doesn’t litter like toilet paper (burn any you use). If you can manage a bottom wash without paper (and definitely without nasty plastic-containing wet wipes), you’ll be making your contribution to maintaining the health of the planet.

Alcohol gels or wipes seem to be carried by most travellers. These may be easy to use but much better bacteriological cleaning is achieved with soap and water than with such products. Carry a bar of soap in a plastic box so you’ll be able to wash your hands before each meal without adding to the solid waste disposal problems faced by many countries.



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