stay healthy while traveling

Simple Tips to Stay Healthy While Traveling to a Sports Event

Have you ever found that you get sick as soon as you get back from seeing a live football match in another country? Or worse, you start to get sick while you’re still enjoying your sports experience in another city ? 

This used to always happen to me – I’d arrive home exhausted, run-down, sleep deprived, and my body would immediately surrender to whatever bug had been circulating through the plane on my flight home.

It’s only been in recent years that I’ve finally developed some strategies for how to stay healthy while traveling to a sports event, and I thought that now would be the perfect time to share them. With Euro 2024, Paris Olympics just around the corner or the new season leagues starting soon, planning to stay healthy is just as important as planning the rest of your trip! Here’s what I’ve learned. 

What Are the Health Risks of Sports Events Like Euro 2024?

First of all, why is staying healthy during a sports event trip important? Because travel (especially to a large, crowded, chaotic event like Euro 2024) inevitably brings some health risks. Here are some of the main concerns that come with traveling to a sports event

Dehydration

Dehydration may not seem like a big deal, as it usually just causes a headache which goes away when you finally drink some water. But it can be much worse than that – dehydration can cause dizziness, disorientation, and even permanent kidney damage. Don’t worry – I’ll share some tips for staying hydrated when traveling later on. 

Sunburn

Some of the sports events takes place over summer, and you’ll inevitably be spending a lot of time outside. I’ve learned (the hard way) that starting a sports travel with a sunburn is a great way to ruin your entire trip. Not only can sunburn cause you to be hot, painful, and embarrassed, but it can also have long-term health effects – even one sunburn a year can increase your risk of certain skin cancers.

COVID-19 and Other Infections

Traveling to a big event like Euro 2024 inevitably puts you in some big crowds with people who have traveled from all corners of the globe. This increases your risk of picking up an infection like a cold or COVID-19. Plus, if you’re jetlagged, sleep-deprived, dehydrated, or haven’t been eating well, your immune system may be weakened, making you even more susceptible to these lurking infections. 

16 Tips for Sports Travelers

So, now you can see why it’s important to look after your health at a football game or basketball match, but what are some actual health precautions for sports travelers? Here are 18 tips you can use for maintaining health during your travel. Trust me – they could make a real difference! 

Check Your Vaccine Record

Before you travel internationally, it’s always a good idea to check whether your vaccines are all up to date. Could you benefit from a flu shot? Are you due for a tetanus booster? Getting a quick jab 6-8 weeks before you travel could really help you stay healthy throughout the tournament, and it only takes a few minutes! 

Bring COVID-19 Tests

It may feel like the pandemic is behind us, but if there’s one thing we can learn from COVID-19, it’s how quickly things can change. Various COVID-19 strains are still circulating and causing outbreaks, and while some people only experience mild symptoms, others are left bedridden for several days with a fever and horrible body aches. 

As well as getting a booster, taking some COVID tests with you is a good idea. If you’re feeling any symptoms, you can take a quick test, and then take any necessary precautions based on the result. Some airports also have free tests for travelers – they’re usually located once you pass through customs and are easy to throw in your backpack, just in case. 

Stay Up-to-Date With Your Country’s Travel Recommendations 

Before traveling to any sports event host country, check your country’s official government websites for any travel advisories or alerts. For example, for US-based travelers, here’s the CDC’s current advice about visiting Germany. These pages give you a heads-up about any potential travel threats, and any precautions you should take, like scheduling a health check-up or downloading a safety app before your departure. 

Ensure You Have Health Coverage

Make sure you have health coverage that allows you to get medical care or treatment while you’re in Germany. Some travel insurance programs for sports travelers include health insurance, but not all. Make sure you understand what is and isn’t covered in your policy. If you require a visa to travel to Germany, health insurance of at least €30,000 is mandatory. 

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Plan Ahead and Locate Local Healthcare Services

If you’re dealing with a medical emergency, the last thing you want to is spend time figuring out how to get help. Before you travel to watch a game or Summer Olympics live, plan ahead and locate a medical center or hospital that’s near your accommodation. Store the phone number in your phone, and keep the address handy in case you need to get there in a hurry. 

Pack Some Basic Supplies

You don’t need to take a full-on first aid kit with you, but it never hurts to have a few basic supplies. I always travel with bandaids (they come in handy for blisters after long days of walking!), over-the-counter pain relievers, any prescription medications I’m taking, sunscreen, insect repellent, and allergy pills. Make sure you leave everything in its original packaging so that you don’t experience any issues with airport security. We have listed out a simple first aid kit for sports travelers.

Flying? Stretch and Move Regularly

I used to always be a window seat person, but now I try to book an aisle seat so that I can get up and stretch regularly. Even on shorter flights, I think it really helps to reduce swelling and I feel more fresh and ready to go when I arrive. For longer flights, I get up and walk around every 1-2 hours, and for overnight flights, I do some basic stretches like calf raises in my seat. You’ll feel better and it reduces your risk of developing a potentially serious DVT. 

Pack Healthy Snacks

How is airplane food somehow salty and bland at the same time? The salty snacks handed out on some flights can make swelling and dehydration worse, so I always turn them down and opt for my own snacks. I like to pack natural granola bars, nuts, or trail mix for an energy boost (and just something to keep the boredom away) when I’m in transit. 

Fight Jetlag

It can be tempting to take a nap as soon as you check into your hotel, but it’s better to fight through the jetlag and stay awake until the evening. Go for a walk, swim in the hotel pool if you’re lucky enough to have one, find a local cafe to hang out at, or do whatever else it takes to distract you from how exhausted you are. 

I find that if you give in to jetlag and nap on that first day, it’s really hard to adjust to your new time zone and you’ll struggle to sleep properly or get into any kind of schedule for your entire trip. The sooner you force yourself to adjust, the sooner your body will respond and you’ll be able to have way more fun each day. 

Walk Where Possible

Going to a city to have a matchday experience is a chance to treat ourselves, and if you’re anything like me, you don’t exactly eat a salad every night you’re on vacation! I like to balance out my extra indulgences with lots of walking. It keeps the guilt away, makes me feel like I’m still being active, and it’s also a great way to see and take in your local surroundings. Plus, if you’re traveling on a budget, walking is a lot cheaper than an Uber or a cab! 

Hand Sanitizer is Your Friend

Travel with a tiny, travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer – you’ll use it so much more than you expect. At large sports events like Euro 2024, there’s a good chance the bathrooms will run out of soap or paper towels, or you’ll have to use portable toilets that are less than sparkling clean. Hand sanitizer is a great way to keep yourself hygienic when supplies are limited or you’re touching lots of communal surfaces. 

Use Bug Spray 

Mosquitos and other bugs love the warmer weather, and Euro 2024 and Paris are being held during what should be some of those host cities warmest weeks of the year. For your own comfort, bring some bug spray to keep the pests off your skin, especially if you’re camping in Germany for Euro 2024. Bug bites aren’t just annoying, but they can also spread infections like West Nile Virus and Dengue fever. Not worth the risk! 

Take Breaks and Decompress

Huge sports events like Euro 2024, with big, loud crowds, can be stressful. Add that to the stress that comes with traveling, navigating your way through a foreign country, dealing with everything being unfamiliar, and trying not to get lost, and you’ll soon see why it’s completely normal to feel a bit overwhelmed or anxious from time to time. 

As much as you want to make the most of every moment and have as much fun at the tournament as possible, make sure you’re also taking some time to relax and unwind. Bring a book with you to read before you fall asleep, spend some time sitting at a quiet park, and do whatever else works to keep yourself in the right headspace to enjoy Euro 2024 without feeling too panicked. 

Make Healthy Food Choices

Like I said, I don’t exactly stick to salads when I’m traveling – part of the experience is treating yourself and trying all the incredible new foods on offer! That said, I do try to make some healthy choices – if the hotel has a breakfast buffet, don’t skip the fresh fruit or granola, and think about going to a local supermarket to pick up some healthier snacks for your hotel room and your days exploring the German cities you’re in. 

Drink Alcohol in Moderation

For most of us, football and beer go hand in hand. That said, try to drink in moderation while you’re at Euro 2024 – your liver will thank you! If you’re traveling solo, it’s especially important to keep your wits about you – you’re in a foreign country, navigating your way around unknown areas. And even if you’re with friends, it’s still a good idea to limit your alcohol intake and pace yourself – you have to wake up and do it all again tomorrow!

And Coffee, Too

Caffeine is an essential part of getting the day started, but it’s also a diuretic and can cause dehydration. Try not to drink too much coffee, especially later in the day if you’re struggling with jetlag – it may prevent you from sleeping and leave you feeling even more exhausted the next day. 

Still Wondering How to Stay Healthy While Traveling to a Sports Event? Listen to Your Body! 

The tips I’ve provided work for me, but we’re all different! The most important thing is to listen to your body throughout your sports travel, and take breaks or slow down when you need to. Do a bit of planning before your trip and make smart choices once you’re in Germany – you’ll thank yourself later!