5 Flu Season Travel Essentials

flu shotWe all know that airplanes double as mobile petri dishes. But with a particularly nasty flu epidemic upon us, the Gadling team thought we’d mother you by reminding you to get your flu shot, already. That, and bring along these proven deterrents to the flu and other airborne nastiness. Look at it this way: it can’t hurt.

1. Airborne or Emergen-C: If nothing else, these will shorten the duration and symptoms of an oncoming bout of cold or flu, if taken regularly at onset of symptoms. You can also talk to your travel doctor or primary care provider about prophylactic immune supplements (be wary of homeopathic or naturopathic preparations, which may not be FDA-approved, or could interact with prescription drugs you may be taking. Always talk to your pharmacist, first.).

2. Travel pillow: Need another reason? Because sharing leftover drool from an airline pillow is gross. While you’re at it, pack a lightweight blanket or shawl; if you are coming down with something, it will ward off the chills. And god knows your airline won’t supply you with one.

3. Ibuprofen: Being crammed into a seat is uncomfortable enough without adding fever aches to the mix.

3. Packet of antibacterial wipes: This time of year, it’s a good idea to wipe down airline bathroom faucets, your tray table, and possibly that runny-nosed, coughing toddler seated next to you.

4. Hand Sanitizer: Travelers should always be in the habit of carrying this, in lieu of soap and water. Use it after touching ATM’s, airline check-in screens, elevator buttons and money.

[Photo credit: Flickr user @alviseni]

50% of air travelers will fly with the flu to avoid a fee

I’m a one of the those people who always seems to get sick after a long plane ride. A few days post-trip, I suddenly get a runny nose, sore throat and all the other telltale signs of a cold, most likely contracted from a sick passenger. Usually it’s minor, and I’m out of commission for only a few days.

I guess I’ve just been lucky that it hasn’t been the flu, because, according to a recent TripAdvisor survey, over 50% of travelers would choose flying with the flu over paying a fee to change their flight. As if we needed more reason to get a flu shot before we travel this season, now we know that someone with the flu may end up on our flight, just to avoid the fee.

Out of 2,327 people, 51% said they would fly while sick with the flu rather than pay the $150-$200 fee (plus any change in price) imposed by most airlines in order to change their flights to a later date. This is obviously, alarming news, but I can see why it is the case that people would rather cough up some germs on their fellow passengers than cough up the extra cash to change the tickets. Especially because costs for the new dates will often be higher, meaning you may end up paying more like $300-$400 per ticket for the change.

In the case of inescapable commitments, I can understand why someone would not change the ticket. But for a leisure trip, I would consider it. Of course, I don’t want to get others sick, but from a purely selfish standpoint, I don’t want to spend my time in the air shaking and shivering with the flu, or to spend my entire vacation laid up in bed. But then again…if I felt well enough to get on the plane despite having the flu, I would definitely do it rather than incur the extra charges and have to change all my travel plans.

On his blog, Christopher Elliot offers a solution – airlines need to lower or waive the change fees during flu season. We need to stop financially penalizing those who get sick and allow them to change their flights easily, or they will continue to fly and risk spreading the flu to other passengers.

Going on a trip? Stop and get a flu shot at the airport

Luggage? Check. Passport? Check. Flu shot? If you’ve yet to get yours, you can take care of the task on the way to your next flight at clinics set up in several airports around the US.

Among the nearly 20 airports that will be offering flu shots beginning within the next few weeks are Atlanta, Boston Logan, O’Hare, Denver, Honolulu, LAX, JFK, and San Francisco. Costs range from $20 to $35, which is about what you’d pay at most clinics, unless your insurance covers it. Hours vary by location, but all are open from at least 8am to 4pm on weekdays. Currently, airport locations are only offering the regular seasonal flu vaccine. The H1N1 flu vaccine may be offered at these locations when it becomes available.

I’ll confess: I have never gotten a flu shot. I try my best to avoid being poked with a needle so the thought of actually requesting it seems counter-intuitive. I know I should get it though. 200,000 people were hospitalized for the flu last year, and travelers like myself who spend a lot of time breathing recycled air in the close quarters of planes may be at an increased risk. There’s also this little thing you may have heard of, called the H1N1 “swine” flu, which the CDC expects will reach pandemic proportions. It just makes sense to get the vaccine. And now getting a flu shot won’t even require a special trip to my doctor. I’m out of excuses. I may have to muster up some courage at the airport bar first, but it looks like my next vacation will start off with a flu shot.

Check out full details on airport clinic hours and costs here.