We all love the travel bug. When it bites you it's time to spin the globe and pick out a fun new destination to head toward. After all, we only have so much time on this planet–why not spend some it exploring exotic locales?
With travel, like with every other adventure we embark upon in life, it often pays to be prepared. Not the "buy a cute new bikini/sarong/sunglasses/suitcase" style preparation, but the "did I remember to pack the Cipro?" preparation. The last thing you want is to spend your hard earned vacation days cooped up in your AirBnb bathroom while your body makes you regret trying that street food that looked so tasty earlier. It's not complicated to do a little contingency planning, and if something does happen, it won't ruin your vacation.
Stay hydrated and bug-free
Do not trust the tap water
If you're living in a developed country it's incredibly easy to take the drinking water for granted. Turn on a faucet and it comes gushing out, free of harmful microbes and bacteria that could threaten your health. But, drinkable tap water is not always the norm. In fact, depending on where you travel, it can be the exception. Always check to see if your destination has potable drinking water before you start filling your water bottle from the tap. Keep in mind that tap water is not just used for drinking, but also for cleaning and preparing food. This is why it's highly advisable to avoid drinking smoothies or fresh cut fruit made by street vendors. Unfortunately, you just don't know where they're getting the water to wash the fruit or for the ice in your smoothie.
Check what vaccines you may need
There's a whole host of nasty diseases you can catch from just about anywhere, but these are especially prevalent in developing countries. Many of them are transmitted via food or water, so it's wise to check if you need to be inoculated against hepatitis A or B, typhoid, yellow fever, or other communicable diseases. You should also consult your physician several months before your intended travel date–some vaccines need to be given in stages, several weeks before you jet off.
Consider travel health insurance
In many cases, your health insurance won't cover you outside your country of residence. It's easy enough to find out: call your company and ask them. Make sure to ask them what exactly is covered, if anything, and if you'll have to file a claim to get reimbursed after paying out of pocket. Also find out how they define an "emergency," as it may be different from what you're thinking. If your insurance doesn't cover you, or you'd like some additional peace-of-mind coverage, consider buying travel health insurance. The plans are usually significantly cheaper than regular health insurance. If you're traveling to a far-flung place with sketchy healthcare options, travel insurance usually includes the option for a medi-jet, which would get you to a hospital quickly in case of a life-or-death situation.
Sunblock, sunblock, sunblock
Sorry, but you'll need more than a hat to protect yourself
Nothing can ruin a trip faster than a sunburn— except maybe a nasty case of food poisoning. Don't get lulled into a false sense of security when you're sitting under a beach umbrella or thatched hut. They provide minimal UV protection, and you'll still get exposed to dangerous rays that can scorch your skin without you even realizing it. Slather yourself with sunscreen every few hours, regardless of whether you're swimming, sunbathing, or sitting under an umbrella. And while you're at it, really slap the stuff all over your body. Most people skimp on the sunblock, cheating themselves of the full UV protection power. Your skin will thank you later.
Bring your own mini-medicine kit
Don't count on local pharmacies to have what you need
If you're traveling to a country where drug stores aren't as plentiful as those in the western world, pack your own mini-medical kit. It should include painkillers, anti-diarrheal medicine, Band-aids, allergy medicine, sunscreen, and if you're really nervous about the quality of the food, an antibiotic in case of food poisoning. Of course, before you attempt to self-medicate with any prescription drug, always speak with a physician. Check if there's a hotel doctor, or make sure you have enough Skype credit to call your doc back home.
Just use common sense
Women should take a few extra precautions when traveling alone. For one, always make sure someone knows where you are and how to reach you. If you're aiming for a hookup, use protection. When people are on vacation they tend to let loose and forgo their regular vigilance, but just because you're traveling is no reason to make a decision you may regret for the rest of your life. Check with your host or the front desk to ask about neighborhood safety. It is exhilarating traveling by yourself, but you also need to get the lay of the land before you decide to walk home alone at midnight.
Read reviews before dining
In this case it's okay to go with the popular opinion
Yelp, TripAdvisor, and even Lonely Planet are all terrific resources for scoping out dining establishments before you dive headfirst into a plate of ceviche or salad. Sometimes locals have more resistance built-up against the tap water supply and can eat food that will make a foreigner pretty sick. If a restaurant is popular with tourists (but not a tourist trap), you can pretty much assume you'll be in good hands. Also check with your host or concierge for a restaurant recommendation. Just look them up too, as sometimes hotels have partnerships with local restaurants that aren't all that great. If you're dying for the street food experience, your best bet is to sign up for a tour catering to tourists. That, or limit yourself to fully cooked food sold at busy carts.
It's not that hard to take a few extra precautions before and while on vacation. Follow these tips and you can be sure that the only "bug" you'll come back with is the one that has you searching Instagram for your next big trip.