How I Avoid Getting Sick Amid Intense Travel, Time Difference & Long-Haul Flights

November 1, 2022

Last month, I found out that I would be going on a two-week work trip overseas on a short notice. This made me nervous for a myriad of reasons. First, I had just been to the doctor for GERD (strong acid reflux); and my mom was exposed to someone who was diagnosed with COVID. Although she never tested positive herself, she was coughing and sick for days. Meanwhile, I was slammed with work and unable to get a good night’s sleep. I have strengths, but a stellar immune system isn’t one of them. If I even so much as get moderately stressed and exhausted, I usually get cold sores, acne, or eczema flare-ups. The amount of stress I felt before I even took off should have made me sick, let alone the actual jet lag and travel fatigue.

But I was determined not to get sick at any cost, before or during the trip. And I’m amazed that I pulled this off while on a strenuous schedule the whole time. I’m going to continue to use these tips in the future when I absolutely can’t get sick—wedding, business trips, vacations, you name it. Read on for my tips!

A juice a day

It’s not exactly news that drinking a juice a day is good for one’s health. Yet, I haven’t ever put this to the test before. I don’t own a juicer (too lazy) and it seemed too expensive to buy each day. But under the circumstances, I invested in drinking a daily green or a carrot-based juice for a week leading up to the trip. I immediately felt calmer, less stressed, more energetic, and boosted after drinking a juice. Even sleep deprivation felt less awful after a juice break. I’m 100% sure it made a huge difference—and for $9 a day, it’s not such a steep cost. Even drinking a juice every day for a month is $270—a lot cheaper than an emergency trip to the hospital, for example. I also liked the convenience and the ritual of going to a local vegan cafe and sitting down and mindfully drinking from a glass. If you don’t mind the extra cleanup, you could also DIY your juice and save some money.

Elderberry syrup

About a week before my trip, I started taking a teaspoon of elderberry syrup about five times a day. Studies show elderberry boosts your immune system and my physician’s assistant friend also recommends taking it to avoid catching a cold. Any time I needed a little pick-me-up throughout the day, I took a spoonful and felt more vibrant and less susceptible. I still have most of the $30 bottle left, which means it’s a wellness habit I’m definitely able and willing to continue.


I traveled with some vegan omega-3 gel capsules, since elderberry syrup is less portable. Omega-3 is also crucial for immune system health, and it’s a nutrient that many vegans may not naturally get through their diet alone. I like Nordic Naturals Vegan Omega-3 gels made of algae, which is one of the few sources of vegan DHA.

Adjusting to time difference

My friend, who was a flight attendant for many years, told me that the best way to adjust to time difference is to act according to the destination’s hour. So if you land in the morning, have breakfast and be active the rest of the day; if you arrive late at night, sleep immediately, etc. Ignore where you come from!! I followed this advice while traveling halfway across the world and experienced very little jet lag. Almost no waking up in the middle of the night or inability to fall asleep when appropriate. If you’re still having trouble falling asleep, try not to turn on all the lights and “be productive.” It will ultimately work better if you truly rest and keep reinforcing the nighttime feels your body needs to drift off.

Hot baths

Yes, we have been touting the benefits of cold showers here at PD, but it’s fall you guys! I. Just. Can’t. The one secret weapon I have when I am too busy to have me time and desperately need to relax, is a hot bath. I took one every day leading up to the trip and also most of the days during the trip. It’s not only relaxing and sleep-regulating, (and also cleansing! so functional!), it also is proven to increase your immune function. A 2013 study of athletes and non-athletes showed that a single Finnish sauna session increased white blood cell count and reduced body mass. (Interestingly, athletes reaped more benefits than non-athletes.) While I’m not equipped with a dry sauna at home, I can easily increase my body temperature with a simple hot soak in the bathtub, which is also great because I don’t even have to stand up! Really, why even bother showering.

If I’m feeling fancy, I add a half cup of Epsom salt to further relax my muscles and supply my body with extra magnesium. But even plain hot water appears to do so much good to my immune system. I hope you find these tips helpful—stay well, dumplings!

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Photo: Taisiia Stupak via Unsplash


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