How to Beat the Snot out of a Cold When You’re Traveling

coldBeing sick is not fun.

It’s about ten times less fun when you’re on vacation or traveling.

This past week, I was sick for the first time since I left my “home” eight months ago. Not bad, considering I went from the tropics of Hawaii to a wintery New York, and even made due through all the rain in Chicago – none of that got to me. But I finally caught a little bit of something in Portland – in the summer no less!

Not that big of a deal, and nothing that kept me down. A cold is actually a great exercise for being present in the moment – no matter what else is going on, if you gotta sneeze, that takes priority!

It’s actually pretty cool, to me, how healthy I am, given how often my environment changes, and how often I’m around people.


But above I mentioned a “how-to,” so let’s get right to what I’ve been doing over the last week to knock this sucka out!



  •  I’ve been housesitting over the last few days, so no one is around (except this adorable cat!), which is nice when you want it quiet to sleep. I even turned off my alarm!
  • If you’re on vacation – there’s nowhere you need to be, so sleep in! Your body will let you know when it’s time to get up.
  • If it’s a business trip or you do have something you can’t miss, take every available opportunity to nap. Sleep as much as you can between meetings, work, etc.
  • Most people don’t get enough sleep even when they’re healthy; aim for at least 7.5 hours each night, more if you can.
  • Even closing your eyes for a minute or so can be a great re-charger.



  • I’m drinking water and tea regularly these days, but for the cold, I stepped it up
    • Herbal teas and soups (basically any hot liquid) help break up congestion
  • Take plenty of fluids to flush toxic by-products out of the body as quickly and efficiently as possible. The ideal liquids are water and fresh fruit juice. Avoid drinks that have diuretic (fluid-eliminating) properties, such as black tea and coffee.
  • Go nuts and make a green smoothie – tons of vitamins in there!
  • There’s not much scientific evidence to back up binging on Vitamin C, though it may help reduce the cold, and even if you take too much, your body will just flush out the extra


  • I’m certain that I felt better because I was eating well. Sure it takes a little more effort to continue to prepare really great meals, yet I know this is SO much better for me than if I took the “easy” road and just ate stuff that was convenient, pumped with god-knows-what chemicals and additives.
  • Apples, cranberries and tomatoes – all contain substances to help strengthen the immune system
  • Garlic also includes immune boosting substances
  • Focus on plant-based foods: lots of fruits, vegetables, and nuts
  • Avoid sweets, alcohol (dehydrates you – undoes the fluid stuff above) and processed food as much as possible



  • What was I up to between reaching for more tissues? I wrote an article, walked around Portland, biked a few miles, went to a park, and gave a talk on Travel Hacking – and I never felt like I was over-doing it.
  • One night, I ran about a half-mile to catch a MAX train here in Portland, and was exhausted for about an hour. I didn’t collapse, and even got my strength back after dinner, but yeah, that might have been too much.
  • If you act like this cold has kicked your butt, you’ll start to feel that way, too. Act like this thing is on its way out.
  • Do everything you can in your normal routine, without pushing.


neti pot#5. TAKE A DEEP BREATH

  • A girl I dated used a Neti Pot – the process seemed so bizarre! If you’re unfamiliar with this contraption, you fill it with a water-and-saline-based solution, then tilt your head and pour it in one nostril, and out it comes from the other! It can be useful for allergies, post-nasal drip, and nasal decongestion. Thanks to a friend on Facebook, I learned that they even have travel versions – score!
  • This was definitely a great investment and I may even use it when I’m not battling a cold!
  • If you don’t have the “solution,” just add 1 teaspoon of salt to warm water – you want the water to be roughly the same as your body temperature so that it doesn’t feel funky (cold water will be trippy).
  • The regular product is an actual pot – looks a bit like a tea kettle.
  • The generic name (if you’re looking at the drug store) might be something like “sinus wash” – I got an upright, plastic squeeze bottle, so it’s super light and can compress down in space.
  • This technique is also known as “nasal irrigation” (love that!), and there is evidence to back up the flush: saline solution can help increase the speed and improve coordination of the cilia (tiny structures that line the nasal cavities) so that they may more effectively remove the bacteria, allergens, and other irritants that cause sinus problems. (Thanks WebMD!)




  • Would have been real easy for me to say “being sick sucks” at the top; not my style these days. :-)
  • Instead of thinking (or talking) about how awesome it would be to NOT be sick, focus on all the cool things going on, or the fact that you finally get to sleep more (hopefully)!
  • Know that whatever you’re experiencing, that is exactly what you needed – every challenge is another opportunity for growth.



  • Wash your hands regularly, perhaps more often than usual, as cold viruses are known to hang out longer than suspected.



I asked for ideas from others on Facebook and Twitter – I think these help most when you catch the cold early, which I didn’t – still hoping I’ll actually listen to my body when I start to notice something is off.

Here are their suggestions (some will be easier to take on the road than others)…

  • Grapefruit seed extract – lots of vitamin C here, or just plain grapefruit works!
  • Gypsy Cold Care Tea
  • Hydrogen Peroxide in your ear
  • Spicy foods like soup with tabasco or spicy Pho – anything that makes your eyes water will have the same effect on your nose, and will break up congestion
  • Taking a run to build up body heat
  • Humidifier/vaporizer
  • Eucalyptus oil (helps loosen phlegm) – can use with the humidifier or get a body wash with this and use in the shower – double whammy to your cold!


What are your suggestions for beating a cold on the road?


I’d love to hear your answer along with any other comments you have below.

Until next time,


Did you enjoy this post?
Please like/tweet/share it with your amazing social network – and thank you!

, , , photo 4 


Former life: actor/office worker/virtual assistant; lived in Los Angeles for 11 years. Since then: sold nearly everything, took a $5 flight to Hawaii, lived there for 3 months, wrote an eGuide about all of it, and still traveling. Currently: digital nomad - looking to improve myself, have fun and serve others.