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Holiday Safety Travel Tips

Holiday Safety Travel Tips

As you gear up for December travel, these holiday safety travel tips can help you stay healthy as you visit loved ones.

Stay healthy before, during, and after your travel with these simple healthy holiday tips.

‘Tis the Season to Be Merry and Healthy with Healthy Holiday Tips!

 

Making a drive this holiday season? Make sure you’re prepared.

Vantage Point: The Gift of Preparedness

 

Sudden snowstorm popping up on your holiday drive? Be prepared and know how to drive in the snow with these winter driving tips from AAA.

Fly nonstop whenever you can. People are more likely to get stranded at airports during holiday storms in layover cities. If you’re worried about being stranded, book a hotel reservation you can cancel ahead of time so you’re not scrambling when the storm hits.

Don't Get Stranded During Holiday Travel

 

Keep your phone or devices charged so that you can keep track of delays and the weather, call loved ones for help, or book emergency hotel reservations. Keep your chargers and a charging battery handy if you have battery issues.

Traveling with Your Charged Device

 

Follow the airline and airports on social media and check their feeds before and during your travel. You’ll be the first to get info about delays and gate changes, and they may be able to help you if you contact them with travel issues.

Airline and Airport Social Media Help

 

If you have an emergency while traveling this holiday season, know that you’re covered as a Health Alliance member with our partner Assist America.

Covered During Emergencies While Traveling

Healthy Holiday Tips

‘Tis the Season to Be Merry and Healthy with Healthy Holiday Tips!

If you’re not careful navigating the holidays, you can easily get sick and ruin your plans. Assist America, our emergency travel assistance partner, has healthy holiday tips to keep you healthy while traveling this holiday season.

From getting all of your last-minute holiday shopping done, to decorating the house, attending holiday events, and packing to visit family, the holidays can take a toll on your immune system. The changing weather and cold temperatures can also affect your health, and whether you travel by car, train, or plane, you may be in contact with germs that you’re not used to. Taking these easy steps can help protect you.

Before Travel

  1. First and foremost, get your flu shot.

    Getting your flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu. While flu season begins in late October, it usually peaks from December to February. Crowded places where people are close to each other a stretch of time, like shopping malls, airplanes, or trains are prime spots to pick up the flu.

  2. Take a daily vitamin.

    While vitamins may not prevent you from getting sick, taking vitamins and supplements throughout the year can help boost your immune system. Talk to your doctor about which vitamins are best for you, and combine them with a healthy diet of fresh vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats to be your best.

  3. Prepare a travel kit.

    While packing for your trip, prepare a small travel kit. You can include individual disinfectant, alcohol, and antiseptic wipes, hand sanitizer, a pack of tissues, bandaids, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash. You can also use small plastic bags or a pill organizer to pack your usual vitamins, so you don’t stop taking them while traveling.

During Travel

  1. Watch what you touch.

    Be aware of what you’re touching when you travel. Door and suitcase handles, public bathroom faucets, and money are touched by people all day long. Make sure not to touch your face after touching things like these and wash your hands with soap and water regularly. If you can’t wash your hands, use your hand sanitizer.

  2. Clean your surroundings.

    Tray tables, plane touch-screen monitors and remotes, armrests, restaurant tables, and many other surfaces you touch during your trip are infamous for being covered with germs. Use cleaning or alcohol wipes to clean off these surfaces before you get settled. Then, wash your hands again after using them for extra safety.

  3. Avoid physical contact.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with the flu can spread it to others up to roughly 6 feet away, so while it may be difficult to do in a crowded space, try to avoid close contact with the people around you.

    Once you’re with your loved ones for the holidays, avoid sharing glasses and silverware during meals, and use a strict single-dipping policy.

After Travel

  1. Take a shower as soon as you get to your destination.

    To wash off all the germs you might have been exposed to during your trip, take a well-deserved shower as soon as you get to your family’s or hotel. Change into a clean set of clothes after, and you’ll feel clean, refreshed, and ready to enjoy holiday celebrations!

  2. Eat healthy food.

    We all know too well that the holidays are no time to diet, however, you can be mindful of the types of food you eat. Make room for vegetables and fresh fruits at every meal. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, oranges, pears, and other exotic fruits are all in season in December, and they’re all a great source of healthy vitamins.

  3. Stay hydrated.

    When you’re in an plane, car, or train for a long time, your body can get dehydrated. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of liquids throughout your travel.

    During celebrations, you should also make sure you continue to drink plenty of water in addition to all the alcoholic and sugary drinks you may be tempted by!

 

By taking these few simple steps, you’ll give yourself and your family a better chance at enjoying a germ-free holiday season.

Still, if you do get sick while traveling during the holidays, remember to contact Assist America, our emergency travel assistance partner who is available 24/7 to help you find a qualified doctor near your location or secure prescriptions at a local pharmacy. To talk to an Assist America coordinator, download the Assist America Mobile App or call 1-800-872-1414 or +1-609-986-1234 (outside of the U.S.).

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Helpful Thanksgiving Travel Tips

Thanksgiving Travel Tips for Flying

According to AAA, nearly 51 million people in the United States traveled during Thanksgiving weekend last year, and 36 million of those were flying. Assist America, our emergency travel assistance partner, has a few handy Thanksgiving travel tips to help get you through the airport and on your flight in as little time as possible.

Sign Up for Airport Membership Programs

Airport programs like TSA PreCheck and CLEAR are 2 of the most helpful programs for getting through security lines quickly. TSA PreCheck grants low-risk travelers access to expedited security screenings when traveling domestically. And CLEAR offers their members quick security and screening lines. However, these programs require you to sign up well in advance. The process for getting approved can take anywhere from a few weeks to 6 months.

Global Entry is a program for faster clearance once you arrive in the U.S. and is perfect for international travelers. Finally, NEXUS was specifically created for travelers who frequently go between the U.S. and Canada.

Be Ready for Security Screening

Make sure you carry as little metal, such as jewelry, belts, coins, and keys, as possible. You might want to store them in your carry-on or in a plastic bag before you reach the security checkpoint. Security will also usually ask you to take your laptop, tablet, and camera out of your bags for screening, unless you’re enrolled in TSA PreCheck.

Resealable plastic bags are also ideal for storing liquids and gels, whether you’re packing them in your carry-on or a checked bag. Remember you’re limited to 3.4 ounce or smaller containers if you’re going through security with your liquids.

Keep prescription medications in a bag in your carry-on, so security can inspect them by hand if needed.

Lastly, remember that coats and shoes usually need to be removed. To make the process quicker, be sure to wear socks and easily removable shoes. Travelers over 75 years old may be allowed to keep shoes and a light jacket on. You can also have a head covering on during the screening process, however if it’s too concealing, you may have to go through a pat-down screening as well.

Tricks to Avoid Long Lines

To avoid long lines, avoid traveling at peak travel times, which are Wednesday and Sunday for Thanksgiving weekend. The further away from these days you can travel, the better. Low-fare seats are often more widely available on Tuesday or Thanksgiving Day. If you can leave on Saturday or Monday, you’ll probably enjoy less-crowded airports for your return home.

One trick to go through airport lines quicker is to avoid ones with a lot of families or older people and go for the lines with business people, who tend to be more efficient when it comes to traveling. Luckily, wait times have also shrunk since the TSA decided to let travelers under 12 and over 75 leave their shoes on going through security.

Download Air Travel Apps

Waiting in line can also be cut shorter if you download the airline’s app and check in before you get to the airport. You can also monitor the airport’s wait times with your phone using the TripIt app or the MyTSA app. This may help you decide when you need to leave home to make it to your flight on time.

 

These tips will help you make it through the airport quickly, so you can get back to focusing on enjoying your Thanksgiving break.

Enjoy this Thanksgiving weekend with your family and friends and we wish you safe travels wherever this holiday takes you!

Homesickness in College Students

How to Deal with Homesickness in College

One of the main causes of distress in students is homesickness. According to the UCLA Higher Education Institute, over 30% of college students experience low-level homesickness, and about 69% of first year college students experience severe homesickness.

Homesickness is more than the concept of missing home or missing family — it’s the feeling of longing and feeling out of place. Whether they’re nearby, out-of-state, or studying in a foreign country, college students are not only experiencing a new phase of life, but they’re also at a new school, in a new place.

Although it’s normal to feel homesick, wanting to enjoy a home-cooked meal with family or not wanting to deal with adult responsibilities and academic pressures may quickly make homesickness grow. Homesickness builds in waves and can turn into more serious mental health issues if not taken seriously.

Last year, Assist America worked on a severe case of homesickness, helping an 18-year-old student from Germany who was hospitalized after his homesickness transformed into serious depressive episodes.

In the weeks leading up to his hospitalization, the student had shown increased signs of homesickness, including mentioning that he wanted to go home, a decrease in the desire to participate in activities and social events, and suicidal thoughts.

After a while, his roommates told the university staff about his behavior, and he was later admitted to the hospital. Once he was stable, Assist America arranged for transportation supervised by a medical escort to take him back to Germany.

Tips for Overcoming Homesickness

Some preventive measures can be taken by both parents and students to help overcome homesickness.

For Parents

  • You can help your child prepare for college life by visiting the campus ahead of time so they can familiarize themselves with its surroundings.

  • In the years before college, consider sending your child to summer camps, activities, or to visit family away from home , so they can gradually learn to deal with separation anxiety.

  • Avoid expressing your own anxiety about your child leaving for college in front of them. Instead, talk optimistically and positively about their new experiences to come.

  • Encourage your child to find trusted friends and adults on campus. These relationships will help them build connections in their new community and ease the transition.

  • Consider sending little surprise care packages to your child. Include their favorite cookies or candies, a new book, gift cards to their favorite stores, a letter, and a funny family photo.

  • Make the most of technology. Staying in touch on the phone or through video chat is easier than ever and can help the whole family feel connected.

For Students

  • Stay engaged in campus activities. Many colleges organize welcome week events to help students get used to college culture.

  • Establish and stick to a daily routine, even if it’s difficult to stay on track with exams and events around every corner. Routines are good for dealing with stress and anxiety and will help you adjust to your new community and class schedule.

  • Feeling homesick is normal, as long as you can handle the situation. To help battle feelings of loneliness, keep a family picture on your study table, video-chat often, or go old-school and write letters to family and friends back home.

  • Find ways to reward yourself as you make gains in your new routine. For instance, after submitting an important assignment or taking a big exam, take some time to do something fun or treat yourself with something you like.

  • If campus is only a drive away, you and your parents and friends can plan a few weekends throughout the school year to visit each other on campus, at home, or to meet at a halfway-point.

  • When packing for college, take some of your favorite decorations from your room to make your new room feel more like home.

  • Know what services are available to you to help you cope with homesickness. Too often students don’t realize all the things their college has ready to help them with exactly these issues. Never shy away from seeking advice from a trusted adult on campus about these services. Or you can look into these services privately on your school’s website.

While Studying Abroad

  • Students who study abroad are even more likely to feel homesick since they have to adjust to a whole new culture and lifestyle, learn to speak a new language, and meet all new people from many backgrounds.

  • A challenge while studying abroad is knowing who you can ask questions and how and where to get help. Before leaving, create a reference list with the names, contact details, and roles of people that will be helpful during your stay. Once you arrive, be sure to add anyone important you meet to your list. 

  • Schools often have an international student department who will organize welcome events and get-togethers. Be sure to attend those activities, especially at the beginning of your time abroad.

  • Many international programs also have Facebook groups where former and new students can exchange tips and experiences. Joining these groups to make connections and prepare before leaving home.

  • Make friends with people from the same country as you. When you’re missing home, spend time together. Your shared experience of studying abroad can make you feel a little closer to home.

How Assist America Can Help

Assist America provides useful services that can reassure parents and students studying out-of-state or abroad.

For example, Assist America can help students find where and how they can refill certain prescriptions before they even leave home, so they can plan their departure with peace of mind.

Students who know they will need to see a doctor while away from home can call us or Assist America for referrals. Assist America also provides emergency trauma counseling for students on the phone, with referrals for follow-up sessions with specialists.

Finally, students going to a foreign country can use the Pre-Trip Information tool on Assist America’s website and the mobile app to familiarize themselves with their destination.

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App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google LLC.

Essential Summer Safety Tips

Essential Summer Safety Tips

The summer season is finally here! But as we start to enjoy the outdoors and more adventurous activities, hospitals and urgent care facilities are bracing themselves for “trauma season” as they call it in the healthcare industry. 

Emergency rooms usually see injuries and traumas double in the summer compared to the winter months. The most common causes of injuries during the summer include car accidents, severe sunburns, water-sports injuries, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and falls.

But many of these can easily be avoided by following these essential summer safety tips that will keep you and your family safe and healthy during the summer months.

WaterTo avoid dehydration, drink plenty of water or beverages high in electrolytes. Avoid drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, both of which actually make your system lose water. Eat fruits and vegetables which contain a lot of water like grapefruits, peaches, eggplants, and spinach.

Sun ProtectionTo avoid sunburns, apply sunscreen with an at least SPF 30 and make sure you’re using a waterproof formula if you’re swimming. Stay in the shade from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., cover your skin, and wear a hat if you’re exposed. Keep children in the shade as much as possible.

Heat ProtectionTo avoid heat exhaustion and heatstroke, don’t engage in physical activities during the hottest hours of the day. Get acclimated to the hot weather by slowly increasing the amount of time you spend outside.

Water SafetyTo avoid water-related injuries, always bring a buddy along while participating in water sports and follow the lifeguards’ instructions. Take time to get used to the difference in temperature between in and out of the water. Don’t drink alcohol before water activities.

Car SafetyTo reduce the risk of car accidents, make sure all your car maintenance is done before you leave on a trip. Allow plenty of time to arrive and try to drive during off-peak hours. Stop and take breaks every 100 miles or 2 hours, and if possible, take turns with a passenger.

 

Sometimes accidents, illnesses, and injuries cannot be avoided, even for the most careful traveler. If you find yourself injured or sick, remember that our travel emergency partner, Assist America is here to help. 

You can download the free Assist America Mobile App to access your membership details, membership ID card, list of services, or to call the 24/7 Operations Center with the tap of a button.

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App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google LLC.

How to Stay Healthy While Traveling

5 Tips to Stay Healthy While Traveling

Traveling is amazing! What’s not to love about discovering new places, meeting new people and trying new foods? But, traveling also means that your fitness, eating, and sleep habits are disrupted, which can affect your overall health. Assist America, our travel emergency assistance partner has tips for helping you stay healthy while traveling. 

  1. Adopt a Go-To Travel Exercise Routine.

To-Go Travel Routine

If you travel regularly, create an exercise routine that can easily be adapted to your environment and that you can commit to when you’re on-the-go. Your routine should be simple and short, with exercises you can do in a hotel room, a gym, a park, or even on a beach.

If you are a runner, make sure to pack your running gear with you. Running is a great way to discover a destination from a different angle.

If working out isn’t your thing, simply set aside 10 minutes in the morning to stretch before you start your day and another 5 minutes at night to wind down. It will help you relax and energize your body. 

  1. Choose Walking Over Cabs or Public Transportation.

Choose Walking

Whenever you can, choose to walk rather than hop in a cab, bus, or subway since walking is beneficial for your health. It helps improve circulation, sleep, and breathing. It also strengthens muscles, supports your joints, and can lead to weight loss. 

  1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Reusable water bottles are your best travel ally. Once you get through airport security check points, fill up your bottle at a nearby water fountain and make sure you keep drinking water on the plane.

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, fill up before you leave your hotel room if it’s safe to drink the tap water at your destination. If it’s not, ask the hotel for unopened water bottles or buy some at a store nearby. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water at restaurants or even hanging out by the pool.

  1. Commit to One Healthy Meal a Day

One Healthy Meal a Day

While there’s nothing wrong with trying new foods and enjoying big meals, having several rich meals per day can be hard on your body.

If you’re staying at a rental or an apartment-hotel, take advantage of the kitchen by cooking simple meals depending on your schedule. If you’re going to be eating out a lot, opt for vegetarian dishes, choose grilled options over fried, try some fresh seafood, and look at the salad menu. 

  1. Sleep! 

Get Enough Sleep While Traveling

Changing time zones, walking all day, carrying suitcases, all of these can be harsh on your body and your energy. Just being away from your own bed can make it hard to fall asleep. Make sure to rest and to get plenty of sleep by blocking out the lights, reducing the noise, and turning your phone off.

 

If you incorporate these tips into your travel routine, we guarantee you will feel refreshed and full of energy to enjoy each of your trips to their fullest!

Adventures in Vacationing

Long View: Adventures in Vacationing

Vacation season is upon us. Do you have all the tools you need for a restful and restorative vacation this summer?

I cannot envision a trip anywhere without my cell phone’s Google Maps app. It astounds me to think of some of the family trips I took with my parents and brother before cell phones. Imagine a family of 4, in a 4-seat, single-engine airplane, landing on a grass runway in the middle of lake country in northern Canada. No roads, no buildings, just trees and water. I still remember picking wild blueberries on the runway while we waited for the boat from the fishing village to come pick us up. How on earth did we get there without Google? Brave people, my parents.

In my 20s, my mother and I managed to drive our Volvo sedan across a pedestrian-only canal bridge in Sweden. We didn’t realize that fact until later that night while enjoying a glass of wine on the hotel patio across the street from the bridge. “You know Mom,” I said, “I haven’t seen a single car go over that bridge since we sat down.” It was the 1990s, no Google Maps.

My son Scoobs and I learned not to trust those GPS boxes in rental cars while in Panama. After getting the pleasant Spanish-speaking lady to start talking to us in English, she took us on a series of turns around the airport that had us stuck in a cul-de-sac surrounded by garbage-eating wild dogs. Back out onto the highway, she sent us south toward the Colombian border, rather than north to our resort, and turning left in Central America is apparently not allowed. I pulled up onto the highway median, agreed to the international charges, and Googled our way safely to the Westin.

On that same trip, we were amazed at the accuracy of Google Maps as it guided us into the jungles of Panama and over a wooden bridge made only of 2 very long 2x6s to the drop-off spot where we went kayaking. Why it was so hyper-accurate in the jungles of Panama, yet managed to send me onto a golf course cart path in central Illinois remains a mystery and a testament to that saucy little app’s sense of humor.

Health insurance information is also a vital tool to take with you on vacation. Thanks to the new Your Health Alliance phone app, you don’t even need to bring the actual card with you. Unplanned illnesses and injuries can happen. My 5-year-old little brother got the chicken pox for the second time while in Key West, FL. (Brave parents again.)

Another really nice tool Health Alliance provides to our Medicare family is Assist America. Assist America provides free help finding doctors outside of the United States, prescription refill assistance, and even emergency medical evacuation.

The crew I run with decided last year to take a 5-mile hike through the mountainous jungles of Jamaica’s Cockpit Country. A check of Google shows you how lush and beautiful it is, but it’s a far cry from umbrella drinks and endless beaches. After the 5-mile hike/death march, we went cave exploring under those same mountains, and at times, found ourselves crawling on hands and knees through narrow tunnels and over muddy boulders on our way to an underground lake. You can imagine what a bunch of 50-year-old adventurers looked like at the end of the day. I personally resembled a naked mole rat. Assist America may have been a welcome choice for evacuation back to our resort’s lounge chairs and endless buffet.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.