For much of the United States, January marks the coldest days of the year. Add to that a higher likelihood of cloudy days, and you have the perfect reason to go for a warm weather getaway. 

But before you put on the sandals and sunglasses, make sure you take steps to stay healthy and safe on your trip. 

Do you spend hours researching the best hotels and the cheapest flights? Don’t forget to also do a little legwork to put together a plan to stay healthy and safe. Everyone can benefit from planning ahead, but it’s especially important for those with a chronic illness like asthma or diabetes.

For example, if you have a respiratory illness, you may have issues when you’re traveling on public transportation, staying in a hotel or rental, or visiting the home of a family member or friend. Changes in your environment during a trip can increase your exposure to changing weather conditions or allergens and irritants, such as pollen, mold, animal dander and air pollution.

Talk to Your Doctor Before Your Trip

It’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor several weeks before your vacation to talk about any medical issues you have that may be impacted by your travel plans.

Be sure to tell your doctor where you’re going on your trip and find out if you need any vaccinations. Many vaccines take time to work, and some must be given over a period of time. So be sure to find out what you might need early.

And while you’re at your doctor’s office, make sure that all of your immunizations are up-to-date. These typically include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio and a yearly flu shot.

If you take medicine, check with your doctor about how to adjust your medicine if you’ll be traveling across different time zones. Ask your doctor to provide extra prescriptions in case you need refills. Luggage sometimes gets lost, so carry a small supply of your medicines with you in your purse or carry-on bag.

And if you don’t already have one, get a medical identification bracelet or necklace with emergency information if needed for your health condition.

Pack It up to Stay Healthy

Consider putting together a travel pack that includes:

  • Any medicine you need to take
  • Sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher
  • Insect repellant to protect against mosquitoes that transmit serious viruses such as Zika and West Nile
  • Hand sanitizers
  • First aid items like bandages, antiseptic wipes and antibiotic ointment packets
  • Sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays

Depending on where you’re going, you may also want to include an oral antibiotic, water purification tablets and over-the-counter diarrhea medicine. If you regularly take any prescription or over-the-counter medications, pack more than you think you will need.

Check for Travel Advisories

Before you leave, stay informed on travel conditions by checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travel Health Notices. These reports give travelers updates about current health issues related to specific destinations.

These issues may arise from disease outbreaks, special events or gatherings, natural disasters, or other conditions that may affect travelers’ health.

If your winter travel plans include visiting areas with warm weather, you should be aware that many are still under the threat of the Zika virus. You can get the most up-to-date information on Zika on the CDC Zika website. And before your trip, check for travel updates on Zika-affected areas.

Get more travel health and safety information on the CDC’s Resources for Travelers page.