10 Ways to Stay Healthy During International Travel: Vaccines, Essential Oils & More

Travel overseas is exciting and there are many things to prepare for. Are you ready for any mishaps in health or non-emergency situations that could be the difference between an amazing experience or one you’d rather not remember? Living a natural life is easy when you are in your own home where you control most of the things your family is exposed to.  When you step out of that bubble, though, our world is filled with real threats to our immune system. Obviously, no one likes to get sick, but it’s even worse when it strikes during a vacation or business travel.natural remedies for travel

Develop Healthy Habits Now If you are used to supporting your immune system naturally, taking an international vacation should not be a big deal. Domestic travel gives us better availability of natural and traditional products, but the things you use in the US may not be as readily available overseas. Travel overseas takes more planning and time to become familiar with options before the need arises. Just like any healthy living habits, preparing for international travel with natural remedies will be most successful if you’ve practiced the methods beforehand, though the most important component will be having the right tools in your carry on before you board the plane so you are prepared.

Powerful options There are many tips that are universal no matter where you are traveling, whether to the Northwoods of Wisconsin or to China, simple immune supporting measures can benefit every traveler.  Some travel tips are specific to certain locations (the Northwoods of Wisconsin for example, where you’ll want extra protection against ticks & mosquitos). For many, the mode of protection can be as toxic as the original ailment you are trying to avoid. One summer I got extremely ill after spraying just a little OFF bug repellent on my ankles. I spent two days recovering from the exposure to the chemicals. Fortunately I had my friend Michelle nearby in a neighboring cabin at Fort Wilderness to give me a soothing application of essential oils along my spine and I recovered much more quickly than without the natural essential oils.

Plan ahead For planning purposes, staying healthy for international travel  begins weeks before you leave, when you build up your body’s immune system. This is even more important if you choose to bypass any vaccines. We’ve been faced with this situation several times as my husband has taken m sons to Africa and India, and as  write this, my son is preparing for a trip to South America.

Choosing to vaccinate is a personal choice I’ll share some of the process of how we made our decisions, since it’s a very personal choice. It’s a controversial subject, with advocates strongly pushing on both sides of the arguments of whether to vaccinate or not. The FDA has not evaluated this information and it’s not intended as a replacement for counsel from a medical doctor or medical practitioner. What many people don’t know is that vaccinations are voluntary. This alone makes me mad that more people don’t know their rights. School vaccine forms list on the front of the record that the government requires students to be vaccinated. But if you flip the card over, there are simple exemptions for religious or personal reasons. We have executed this freedom of choice in our family, after one of my kids suffered a seizure after receiving the MMR vaccine when he was just over one year old.  We took a break from vaccines for many years, until a year ago when this same child (then 14) was taking a trip to India with my husband. After careful research, and a whole lot of prayers, we decided to have him receive some vaccines before the trip overseas.

How do you decide what is best? I believe each family needs to look at their own circumstances, and make choices that work for you. Here is how we chose what we did:

  • Look at all the vaccines required to enter the country you are traveling to. The CDC makes recommendations, but some countries require certain vaccines, like Ghana requiring proof of the yellow fever vaccine before you can enter the country. The CDC strongly advises all travelers to Brazil get Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines. These diseases are transmitted through food and water.
  • Find out what illnesses are prevalent in the country you are visiting. In our case, India has a high rate of polio. For this vaccine, we weighed the risk of not getting the polio vaccine (high risk of acquiring the disease) vs the side effects of the vaccine (the polio vaccine has been around a long time and the virus has not really changed, unlike the flu virus that mutates each season).  I figured the longer a vaccine has been around (and more consistent it has been), the less likely it will have harmful effects. My husband and son traveled to some remote villages and impoverished areas where they were more likely to be exposed to polio victims and also to contaminated food & water. Hepatitis A is contracted through contaminated water and food. This disease affects the liver and becomes a life-long ailment  thus there is a high risk associated with not getting the vaccine. The vaccine like polio has been around decades without complications like other vaccines (MMR), and compared to other vaccines, the Hep A seemed a much lower risk so they got that vaccine. 
  • Find out what you really need If your doctor is requiring a booster to vaccines, you can have a simple blood test done (ask for a “blood titer”) for specific diseases. The blood titer checks to see if there are any antibodies from previous vaccines (or even from moms). We did this for our teenager and found he did not even need the MMR booster because he still had antibodies (whew, that was a huge relief). We did have to pay for this test out of pocket as our insurance didn’t cover it. But I  consider peace of mind knowing I avoided another exposure to vaccine garbage. I believe some of it is helpful and good, but the whole vaccine industry has gotten out of control and shooting infants with 12-18 different viruses when their immune systems are so immature seems reckless.  I don’t know how much truth there is to this, but as we were considering vaccine options for my 14 year old, I had a million questions because it’d been years since we had vaccines. The nurse volunteered information to console me saying that most vaccine reactions occurred in children under 6 :/. These are tough decisions parents must make. Do the research so you can make informed decisions. I believe it’s not wise to go into a situation blindly , before, during or after international travel.
  • See each person as an individual. Never doubt your observations of your family. Have intelligent conversations with your doctor about vaccines for travel. You may have to consult with a special travel doctor or nurse. Get all the facts and look at your personal situation. I know the power of essential oils and natural methods of healing the body. I’ve been practicing  therapeutic  aromatherapy for almost 6 years and I still don’t have the confidence to take on major diseases like polio or Hepatitis A. I also was not traveling with my 14 year old, my husband was.  Sure, I sent along essential oils, but I didn’t have the confidence in my husband or son that they would be able to be ahead of a serious illness that could affect their liver or physical being. I’m not sure I’d have that confidence myself. We’ll see when it’s my turn to travel. This is your decision and no one else can really tell you how to choose.

Now that you have some direction for vaccine coverage, here are

10 things you can do to stay healthy during international & domestic travel  (regardless of whether you vaccinate or not). The key to several of these is be prepared, have the tools on hand and intervene as early as you can. The sooner you attack illness, the better your odds of beating it quickly and hopefully avoid a trip to a hospital or doctor in a foreign land.

1. Build up your digestive tract, many call this your primary immune system. Take broad spectrum probiotics weeks before leaving for your trip. Probiotics are the good bacteria in your gut, they fight infections,bacteria and viruses that enter the body, often through digestion. Make sure the probiotics you get are refrigerated (although I’ve seen some new brands that are on health food store shelves I have not tried these), look for a broad spectrum (acidopholus in yogurt is pretty much insignificant). I have a friend who works for a company that creates probiotics for food. Just like any industry, he’s been getting pressure to create “more with less”. The result? greater numbers of bacteria that are essentially less effective than generations of bacteria before them.  There are hundreds of different good bacteria in your gut, it makes sense that you would want to take a supplement with a lot of strains as well as high numbers.

2. Be prepared with essential oils: Essential oils are an awesome replacement for many over -the-counter drugs and chemical-based remedies.  If you’re not familiar with essential oils, you can read more about how to apply essential oils.  At the bare minimum, all travelers should carry lavender, lemon, peppermint, an immune boosting blend (cinnamon/clove/rosemary/lemon/eucalyptus) & Purifying blend (lemongrass, citronella, melaleuca alternifolia) in their carry on. These five oils alone are great supplements for a backpack full of body supporting care.  I like to include the essential oil  lozenges as extra protection from recycled airplane air on long flights.

A year ago, I got a phone call from my son en route to India. He had a cold sore, which can be very painful and last for days – not a good way to start vacation. I knew he had his {cinnamon/clove/rosemary/lemon/melaleuca alternifolia} lozenges in his bag and reminded him to suck on one whenever he could. He was much more comfortable and it was a simple fix.

Cooling Foot Spray

Cooling Foot Spray


  • 5 Drops Cypress Essential Oil
  • 5 Drops Peppermint Essential Oil
  • 5 Drops Grapefruit Essential Oil
  • 3 tsp Jojoba vegetable carrier oil


  1. Mix together essential oils in a roller bottle or re-use a 15 ml essential oil bottle.
  2. Add vegetable carrier oil of your choice.
  3. Shake gently to mix ingredients.
  4. Apply to soles of feet before, during and after a long flight or car travel.
  5. Stand up and move around at least every hour to keep circulation moving.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by Yummly Rich Recipes

Do your homework If you are bypassing vaccines, research what illnesses you are at risk of getting in your area of travel and plan accordingly. Typhoid fever can cause individuals to become quite ill. It’s caused by the salmonella typhi bacteria and usually contracted through infected food or water. Not surprisingly, many common illnesses that travelers encounter are becoming resistant to antibiotics, including Typhoid and Malaria.  You can lessen your susceptibility to Typhoid fever by eating cooked foods and drinking purified water. Avoiding tap and unfiltered water is not just a Mexico thing.

Essential Oils support a healthy immune system Clove, thyme, peppermint and cinnamon essential oils are powerful against the salmonella typhi ( cinnamon & clove). Number one is to follow your doctors orders when traveling. It’s important to act quickly if you suspect infection from anything. Make sure you use only therapeutic food grade essential oils which can be ingested. Take 1-2 drops of one of  an immune boosting blend in a capsule or spoonful of milk twice a day until symptoms subside. For additional protection, apply 2-4 drops of your Immune Boosting blend to the soles of the feet or lower abdomen to fight the fever. My daughter and I traveled to Mexico last summer to an orphanage. Despite drinking purified water, my 14 year old came down with a horrible intestinal bug. We massaged a Digestive Blend, with tarragon, ginger, patchouli, lemongrass, peppermint and other powerful anti-microbial oils, on her belly and she took 2 drops in a gel capsule. She also took a blend in a capsule daily during our trip and for 14 days after as preventative against any bacteria growing out of control.

Parasites can be susceptible to a powerful supplement that contains essential oils of cumin, anise, fennel, melaleuca, nutmeg, clove and thyme oil in it’s ingredient list. Last summer we went on a missions trip to an orphanage in Mexico. My 14 year old daughter succumbed to a stomach bug with severe diarrhea despite the fact that our whole team was drinking purified water and eating the same food. I gave her an inner defense capsule that contained the powerful essential oils listed above and the diarrhea ceased within 15 minutes. Her energy levels came back and we had to repeat the gel capsules 2 times a day. We gave her a probiotic at bedtime to keep her good bacteria in check. Despite having this stomach bug, my daughter was tired the first day, but was able to enjoy the rest of the trip while we continued protecting her intestinal tract from being overcome by the bacteria.  The blessing in all this is the disruption that one day did not ruin our entire trip and we were able to still have a fun, memorable trip.

  • Lavender essential oil – calms your nervous system down during travel and helps alleviate insomnia from jet lag. Lavender essential oil is purifying so it can cleanse wounds, cuts and scrapes and speeds healing. Lavender soothes mild burns from sunburn to 2nd degree burns and eases the pain. Lavender a gentle, calming oil that may support healthy skin and immune function, just place a drop on your tongue or for an extra boost, combine a drop of lavender, lemon & peppermint and swallow together for super relief from seasonal and time zone changes.
  • Lemon essential oil – boosts the immune system and may energize you during travel. Drink a drop in a glass water bottle while you travel to stay hydrated. Lemon is also anti-bacterial, so drinking it in your water will give you added protection against local flora. A drop or two of lemon essential oil can help keep your hands clean when water isn’t available. 
  • Immune Boosting Blend with Cinnamon/Clove/Rosemary/Lemon/Eucalyptus Radiata is your major defense against bacteria and viruses. Swallow a drop or two at the first sign of illness. Applying this immune boosting blend to the soles of your feet or abdomen is also helpful in keeping the body strong.
  • Peppermint essential oil is good for relieving inflammation from bumps, bruises or sore muscles from carrying heavy luggage. Place a drop of peppermint essential oil on your tongue for an energy boost (without caffeine that will goof up your sleep cycles even more). Peppermint is also helpful for easing nausea from travel or illness. Sip a drop of peppermint essential oil in your glass water bottle will most likely stop any nausea within minutes. Peppermint is excellent for alleviating motion sickness too.
  • A Purifying Blend with lemongrass, citronella and melaleuca alternifolia is an excellent insect repellent. It also cleanses wounds and freshens the air to fight airborne bacteria. A Purifying blend is a must for anyone traveling to places with bugs! Rub it on your skin as a natural bug deterrent or on the soles of your feet to discourage spiders from invading your bedding. If you want to make your own air freshener for travel, you can spray your sheets with Purifying essential oils as extra protection against bed bugs.How to Stay healthy during travel

3.  Get rest find out what works for helping you get your ZZZ’s. An eye pillow for travel to block out the light, sound canceling earphones. Whatever works for you, make sure you include it in your carry-on. A good night’s sleep will make all the difference between an enjoyable, relaxing vacation and one that is not. On a trip to France, I had terrible sleep the first couple nights. I realize all the pillows were down – I”m allergic. Once I switched out the pillows for down-free, I was sleeping like a baby. If you have a special pillow that you need, get it in a travel size if space allows. Avoid caffeine for artificial stimulation that will only mess with your natural sleep cycle, especially if you are traveling across several time zones. Caffeine stays in your system for hours, essential oils metabolize in an hour or so. Breathe in lavender to settle down for sleep, Drink peppermint essential oil in your glass water bottle to wake up.

4. Pack some healthy snacks Eating airport food is not a good way to begin a vacation. Most countries won’t allow fresh fruit through customs, but you may be able to bring in dried fruit and nuts. Both of these are good sources of energy and nutrition in case you are traveling a long time without quality foods available. Goji berries are one of my favorite fruits to travel with. They are actually high in protein, unlike most dried fruits, so they won’t cause your blood sugar to spike. I find that just a small handful fills me up between meals and satisfies on a long flight. For extra nutrition, I always include Travel packets of my favorite Goji Fruit beverage. They are a portable, healthy way to provide quick energy with whole foods ingredients. Nutritional beverages made with the goji berries plus blueberry, plum, aronia, pomegranite juice and more are super nutritious when you are traveling. Pour a 2oz packet into 8-10 ounces of water for an energy drink with no artificial colors, flavors or synthetic vitamins. Gogi fruit nutrition is like liquid vitamins (all natural ingredients).

5. Carry a copy of any prescription you take in case your luggage or medication is lost. You’ll save time trying to get a prescription filled overseas. Ideally, keep any prescription medications with you in your carry-on luggage. If you wear contacts, make sure to bring a pair of glasses in case your contacts become damaged or you get any eye irritation that prevents you from wearing your contacts.

6. Keep your feet happy  Your feet have thousands of nerve endings that connect with every part of your body. If your feet are happy, the rest of your body will be too. Make sure you have extra shoes along on your trip, well fitting shoes for the airport as well as comfortable shoes for the rest of the trip.  Give your feet time to breathe when you are able, slip your shoes off and do some simple stretches, point and flex your feet, circle your feet to loosen the ankles. If your feet get swollen from air travel or walking, rub a couple drops of peppermint essential oil on the soles to alleviate inflammation. Peppermint is very cooling to hot feet too. Stinky feet? Rub in some Purifying oils  to disinfect, or apply a Cinnamon/clove/rosemary/lemon/eucalyptus radiate blend to prevent the start of any toe fungus. Bottom line for healthy feet?

  • Keep your feet clean
  • Keep them cool
  • Give them time to breathe and slip off your shoes and socks

7.  Stay hydrated  This is one of those tips everyone knows, but many forget – myself included. Airplane travel in particular dries out our bodies. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, ideally purified water with lemon or peppermint essential oil in it (just make sure it is a glass bottle if you are drinking essential oils in your water. Staying hydrated will keep your immune system strong and help you sleep better, both essential to having a healthy trip. These are the basics, but they are so important. Drink, drink, drink.  Don’t be tempted to drink alcohol to relax on the plane, it’s affects will only be temporary, you’ll be more dehydrated than before and it will goof up your body’s natural rhythms of rest and wakefulness.

my glass water bottle

my glass water bottle


8. Bring the bathroom sink  Well almost, bring along healthy hand sanitizer. Because I like to travel light, I’d choose to just use lemon essential oil as a natural hand sanitizer. My next choice is an essential oil hand sanitizer. This little bottle has 200 uses in it! Effectiveness in small quantities, that’s what I love about essential oils, they are compact, portable and powerful. Keep them in your carry-on or purse. Avoid the chemical cleaners that have harsh ingredients like alcohol and triclosan.


9. Be prepared for the worst  with a supplement with four different kinds of oregano. This is the one supplement you bring and hope you never have to use, but you are so glad you did if you need it. Oregano essential oils are powerful. It is also helpful to have your doctor write a prescription for an antibiotic that can be filled if all else fails. Oregano oil supplements may be prudent insurance for wellness and  a natural way to go for any sick bugs or stomach issues like travelers diarrhea. Follow the directions from your doc. This is the reason you build up your digestive tract before taking vacation in case you need to take antibiotics, your gut will be stronger and good bacteria will remain in balance. Other must haves in your carry on bag:

  • Digestive essential oil blend
  • Parasite essential oil supplement for attacking intestinal bugs
  • Probiotic that does not need refrigeration (our doctor recommended Ortho Biotic which contains 22 billion CFU’s of 7 different strains)

10. Be flexible  Plan ahead, be prepared with your traveling wellness kit and other necessities and then relax. You’ve taken the time to prepare for your trip, now you can enjoy the adventure knowing you are ready for whatever comes your way. Hopefully all will be uneventful except for the people you meet and the places you go.

Is there anything you do to travel naturally not listed here? What do you bring?

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and this information is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment, to diagnose or cure any disease.

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One Response to 10 Ways to Stay Healthy During International Travel: Vaccines, Essential Oils & More

  1. Lou Ellen Boyes July 24, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    I am going out of the country (Europe and India) and would like to order some essential oils.
    How can I do this? Do you have an order site?


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