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Holiday Travel

Santa hat resting on tennis shoes at airport

Going overseas for the holidays? Get prepared to have a safe and healthy trip.

With the holidays approaching, you may be traveling abroad to see loved ones or taking a vacation to a warm, tropical destination. The CDC Travelers’ Health website is a great resource for getting you and your family prepared for a healthy and safe holiday travel season.

Before You Go

  • Visit a travel medicine specialist or your health care provider at least 4 to 6 weeks before you leave to find about needed vaccines and health concerns at your destination. Even if you are leaving soon, a visit to a travel medicine provider is still valuable. A doctor or nurse can counsel you on ways you can reduce your risk of getting sick or hurt while traveling.
  • If possible, children should complete their routine childhood vaccines on the normal schedule before traveling. Some travel vaccines cannot be given to very young children, so it’s important to check with a travel medicine doctor, who should consult the child’s pediatrician, as early as possible before travel.
  • If there is a risk of malaria at your destination, talk to your doctor about taking malaria-prevention medicine. Some of these drugs must be started 1–2 weeks before you leave. If you’re leaving sooner, let your doctor know. Malaria drugs are not 100% effective, and other diseases (such as Zika, dengue, and chikungunya) also are spread by mosquitoes, so you will still need to take steps to prevent mosquito bites.
  • Zika is still a risk in many countries around the world. Pregnant women should NOT travel to areas with a risk of Zika. Because Zika can cause serious birth defects and be spread through sex as well as mosquito bites, partners of pregnant women and couples considering pregnancy should take prevention steps during and after travel.
  • Pack a travel health kit. Include prescription and over-the-counter medicines (enough to last your whole trip, plus a little extra), sunscreen, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, first aid supplies, health insurance card, insect repellent, and condoms.
  • Check with your health insurance provider to find out about medical coverage outside the United States. Consider additional insurance that covers medical care and emergency evacuation, especially if you will be traveling to remote areas.
  • Check the US Department of State website for information on security risks. Register your trip with the nearest US embassy or consulate through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get the latest safety and security information for your destination country.
Woman packing travel kit

Remember to pack a travel health kit for your trip.

Man spraying on insect repellent

Always apply sunscreen first, then your EPA-registered insect repellent.

During Your Trip

  • Eat and drink safely. Contaminated food or drinks can cause travelers’ diarrhea and other diseases. Travelers’ diarrhea is the most common travel-related illness, especially in children. Reduce your risk by eating only food that is cooked and served hot. Drink water, sodas, or sports drinks that are bottled and sealed or very hot coffee or tea.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays when enjoying outdoor activities, such as snow skiing, spending time at the beach, swimming, and hiking.
  • Use insect repellent to protect against diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as Zika, dengue, and malaria. To prevent insect bites, use an EPA-registered insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus/para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. Apply insect repellent on exposed skin. If you’re also using sunscreen, put the sunscreen on first, then apply the repellent. Be sure to follow instructions on the label and reapply as directed.
  • Practice road safety. Always wear a seat belt, ride only in marked taxis or ride-sharing vehicles, and avoid overcrowded, overweight, or top-heavy buses or vans. Be alert when crossing the street, especially in countries where people drive on the left. Children should always ride in age-appropriate car seats when traveling. Parents should plan to bring car seats because they may not be available in many countries.

After You Return

  • If you are not feeling well after your trip, you may need to see a doctor. If you need help finding a travel medicine specialist, find a clinic here. Be sure to tell your doctor about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip. Also tell your doctor if you were bitten or scratched by an animal or were around any sick people while traveling. This will help your doctor understand your symptoms to exclude certain infections and avoid unnecessary testing.
  • If your doctor prescribed antimalarial medicine for your trip, keep taking the rest of your pills after you return home. If you stop taking your medicine too soon, you could still get sick.
  • If you become ill with a fever after you return home (for up to 1 year), you should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the doctor about your travel history.
  • If you are pregnant and have traveled to an area with Zika risk, talk to your doctor or nurse about your recent travel, even if you don’t have symptoms. Your doctor or nurse will decide if and when to test you for Zika.
  • See your health care provider if you are pregnant and developed a fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes during your trip or within 2 weeks after traveling to a country where Zika virus cases have been reported.

For more information on what to do if you are sick after your trip, see Getting Sick after Travel.