Planning a summer trip? Whether it’s an international getaway or a visit to a nearby beach, you’ll want to spend the time enjoying yourself, not dealing with health problems.

Stocking up on the best insect repellents to deflect Zika-carrying mosquitoes shouldn't be your only concern. Our travel tips can help you avoid potential pitfalls and stay healthy, no matter where you go.

Before You Go

1. Do a basic vaccine check. Four to six weeks before an international trip, ask your doctor whether you’re up to date on common vaccines, such as those for influenza and tetanus.

“Nearly 50 percent of adults over 65 are not up to date on tetanus immunizations,” says Steven Mawhorter, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.

And consider that flu is prevalent in Australia and South America in June, July, and August.

2. Schedule a doctor’s appointment. If you have a chronic condition or other health concerns, or you’re going overseas, you can get travel tips to follow as well as prescriptions for your regular medication and others you may need, such as motion-sickness drugs.

3. Check your coverage abroad. Ask your insurer whether you’re covered for medical care while away. (Medicare usually doesn’t reimburse for doctor visits overseas, but supplemental plans may.) If not, consider buying travel insurance. Elizabeth Talbot, M.D., medical director of the Travel and International Health Clinic at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., tells patients traveling overseas to choose travel insurance that includes access to U.S.-trained clinicians and evacuation to high-quality medical care.

If you’re traveling in the U.S., your regular doctor or private group health insurer may be able to help you find local doctors. (In an emergency, go to the nearest ER.) Here and abroad, hotel concierges can often help you track down a doctor who might make a “room call.”

Internationally, you can find clinics, doctors, and hospitals through the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers and the International Society of Travel Medicine. The local U.S. Embassy can also provide a list of doctors and hospitals but usually not recommendations.

4. Prep right for tropical destinations. Heading to a developing nation or the tropics? Ask your doctor about unusual immunizations (such as those for hepatitis A, typhoid, and yellow fever) and special medicine (such as antimalarials) recommended or required for particular areas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers health-related travel tips at

5. Pack meds properly. Take enough for the duration of your trip, plus an extra week’s worth. Keep them in their original containers in your carry-on baggage, in case your luggage gets lost.

Take paper copies of your prescriptions; a copy of your insurance card; contact information for doctors; a doctor’s note if you carry needles or syringes, or you had a test that used radiation up to two weeks before; and a list of your medications. (If you lose or run out of it while traveling in the U.S., see whether a local pharmacy can call your doctor or if your pharmacy back home will mail it to you. If you’re overseas, ask someone at the nearest U.S. Embassy to direct you to a trusted facility.)

And don’t forget a first-aid kit, eyeglasses, hearing aids and batteries, and any other medical necessities. 

While You're En Route

6. Ease jet lag. Crossing a time zone disrupts your sleep-wake cycle; the more zones you traverse, the more off-kilter you’ll probably feel. Some people take melatonin supplements to help them sleep, but Marvin M. Lipman, M.D., Consumer Reports’ chief medical adviser, says that supplements aren’t regulated carefully, so what’s on the label may not be what’s in the bottle.

Instead, start acclimating to a new time zone before you depart by going to bed 1 to 2 hours later (if you’re traveling west) and 1 to 2 hours earlier (if you’re traveling east) each day for a week. Get exposure to sunlight when you arrive at your destination.

7. Flex those legs. Sitting for more than 4 hours in a boat, car, plane, or train can boost the risk of potentially life-threatening blood clots.

If you can’t walk around for a few minutes once an hour, do calf raises while seated: With feet flat, raise your heels for a few seconds, then raise your toes, making sure to keep your heels down; repeat each 10 times per hour. 

A couple on vacation.

At Your Destination

8. Quell stomach problems. Traveler’s diarrhea (TD) affects 30 to 70 percent of international tourists, especially those in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Mexico, and the Middle East.

“During a two-week trip to the developing world, you should expect TD,” Talbot says. She prescribes an antibiotic to people going to such places that they can use in case they develop severe diarrhea while traveling.

For mild to moderate diarrhea, medication such as OTC loperamide (Imodium A-D and generic) or prescription diphenoxylate and atropine (Lomotil and generic) may work. And in developing countries and the tropics, avoid raw food, street fare, ice, and unbottled water.

9. Try to avoid accidents. On vacation, you’re far more likely to be hospitalized or need a doctor for an injury or accident than for an infectious disease or illness.

Motor-vehicle accidents and drowning are top causes of death for travelers. That’s because being in vacation mode may relax a person’s judgment, and new places and traffic rules can be confusing.

So be extra careful when swimming in unfamiliar areas, wear seat belts and life vests, familiarize yourself with local driving laws, and opt for a driver if you’re uncomfortable getting behind the wheel.

10. Take the bite out of bed bugs. Hotels and motels are some of the most common places to find bed bugs, according to a 2015 survey from the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky.

To avoid the pests, whose bites can cause itchy welts, Michael Potter, Ph.D., a professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, recommends pulling back the sheets of your hotel bed and checking the mattress and box-spring seams, especially at the head of the bed, for the small brown or tannish bugs and the dark-colored spots they can leave. Keep clothing off the floor and stow your luggage on a luggage rack or a hard surface.

And consider where you stay; better hotel chains are usually more vigilant about treating rooms. “Properties that look run down and not well-maintained are the places to be most concerned about,” Potter says.

11. Be sun-smart. Sun damage is cumulative over a lifetime, so even if you haven’t used sunscreen regularly, it’s not too late to start. Apply it generously to all exposed areas at least 15 minutes before you go outdoors, and reapply every 2 hours.

But no sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun’s skin-damaging ultraviolet rays, so it’s important to take other protective measures, too. Wear sunglasses, a broad-brimmed hat, and protective clothing. And stay in the shade whenever possible.

12. Stay hydrated. Being on vacation takes you away from your normal routine, so you may have to work harder to stay hydrated. Needs vary, but a general guideline is to get 9 to 13 cups of fluids per day. (Men should aim for the upper limit.) Caffeinated beverages and some foods, especially fruit and vegetables, count toward that goal.