There are many factors that we can control and plan for when it comes to business travel—and some we cannot—like getting sick while on the road.
Business travelers and travel companies alike take precautions to avoid illness and its spread as much as possible. On a personal level, travelers can take steps to avoid illness, mitigate symptoms, and get help when needed.
A sickness while traveling for business can range from something as manageable as a common cold to something as serious as a virus. This eight-step checklist can serve as a guide if you start to feel ill before or during a business trip. Ater all, we’re in the business of powering in-person connections, health should always come first.
Everyone knows to wash their hands regularly, but this habit for cleanliness should take on more importance during frequent business travel. In addition to washing your hands after meetings with handshakes and shared devices, it is helpful to carry a hand sanitizer with you—and use it frequently. Some business travelers also carry disinfecting wipes to clean frequently touched spaces, such as seatback trays on the plane, remote controls in hotel rooms, and even doorknobs.
Hydrate more than normal during frequent business travel—and even more when you feel the first symptoms arise. The best way to make this easy is by carrying a reusable water bottle at all times. Start and end each day with a full bottle.
It is also a good idea to curate a selection of teas that you enjoy and sip throughout the day. Our favorites are ginger and peppermint for settling the stomach, chamomile for flights and nighttime, and Throat Coat or Echinacea Plus when symptoms start.
In addition to hydration, take extra care to sleep, rest, and eat plain, whole foods when you start to feel sick.
One of the greatest causes of illness on the road is a change of routine. We don’t have access to our usual meals, gyms, or support network. We are literally, and metaphorically, in a new place which means our systems are being tested.
One of the best ways to avoid getting sick during travel is to maintain a healthy routine that includes regular exercise and fresh air, limiting alcohol consumption, and making smart choices during meals. The Navan infographic, 5 Tips on How to Eat Healthy While Traveling for Business, sheds light on why sticking to a routine is helpful, and how to structure even the busiest day with wellness in mind.
We’re not suggesting the standard emergency kit sold in a store. Take the time to curate your own wellness kit that can easily travel with you. It might hold your preferred brand of decongestant, cold/flu medication, vitamins, probiotics, nasal spray, cough drops, tissues, or over-the-counter pain medication. These serve as the first line of defense when you start to feel ill and can help stop an oncoming sickness from turning into something more serious. Many doctors recommend packing a copy of updated medical information, including shots, past surgeries, allergies, and blood type.
My personal wellness kit includes essential oils that I can apply generously when I start to feel my immune system slip during frequent travel. The secret of a well-curated wellness kit is that you get to choose what works for you, and it provides a sense of security when you have it on hand at a moment’s notice.
There is an app for everything—including sickness.
TravelSmart has the phone numbers for emergency services by destination and offers a comprehensive list of hospitals in 129 countries—all of which have been vetted by Allianz Global Assistance. It also provides the universal pharmaceutical name for common medications. Welloh is a resource when you’re considering urgent care. It includes directions, operating hours, ratings, and reviews of urgent care centers, hospitals, and pharmacies around the world.
Travel Health Guide can help make sense of symptoms and provide remedy recommendations. It is backed by Dr. Deborah Mills—also known as Dr. Deb, “The Travel Doctor,” who has a 20-year track record of caring for travelers’ ailments. In Case of Emergency is a safe place to store all medical information, including height, weight, blood type, allergies, vaccinations, medications, and insurance information. It can be used to find emergency services (fire, ambulance, and police) in more than 200 countries, and it stores emergency contacts.
All frequent business travelers should have a conversation with their current health insurance provider to see what assistance they offer in case of an illness, especially while abroad. Most providers will be able to offer recommendations in an emergency; however, you might consider travel insurance if there are no protections in your current plan. Business travelers can also speak with their HR team or travel manager to see what the company policy is for supporting travelers during business trips.
If you choose to purchase travel insurance, check the requirements for trip interruption benefits. This aspect of travel insurance can be used when you have to cut your trip short for a covered reason, and can be used to reimburse the unused portion of your trip, as well as the extra costs of making new travel arrangements to get to your original or final destination.
The requirements shift depending on the providers, but the business traveler usually needs to prove that the sickness is serious enough to warrant a trip delay, cancellation, or interruption. A doctor must examine you beforehand and advise you to cancel or interrupt your trip. If that’s not possible, the doctor can examine you within 72 hours of your cancellation/interruption.
Squaremouth.com is a travel insurance comparison site that helps navigate travel insurance options.
Business travelers can take all the precautions and still be surprised by a sickness that’s beyond being cured by rest and water. In that case, it is time to find professional help.
There are a number of resources to ensure that they get the help that they deserve: The Joint Commission International suggests local hospitals that give the best level of care in a destination. The International Society of Travel Medicine maintains a database of the best outpatient practices around the world. The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers is an organization that provides English-speaking doctors; however, membership is required to access their services.
Hotel concierges can also be a great resource during this time. Ask them for recommendations for a local doctor, a medical center, or a pharmacy where they speak English.
In case of an emergency, business travelers can also rely on their local embassy for local health care recommendations. In addition to helping find medical assistance, they can also inform family or assist in the transfer of funds.
A plan to get home might be the best cure for a serious situation. In this care, you’ll need to rebook your flight if you’re able to fly. Business travelers can change a flight by contacting a Navan travel agent or make the change themselves with a self-service flight change.
While Navan can’t prevent illness, we are ready to assist with your travel plans on any device that you sign in on. We wish you the healthiest and safest travels out there. Make sure you're covered for all your corporate travel needs. Learn how Navan simplifies business travel.