With flu season in full swing, and potentially on track to be the “worst in nearly a decade,” it’s important to stay aware of the best ways to keep yourself healthy, especially if a weekend getaway or business trip is coming up on your radar. Mark Orlowski, frequent traveler and founder of the Sustainable Endowments Institute, joined us to share a few tips on how to avoid getting sick on your next trip. Below is an edited transcript.
Mark Orlowski: For me, first of all air quality is key. I really try to avoid staying at any hotels that don’t have windows that open. Unfortunately, many new hotels are being built where literally you can’t open the window. I really try to avoid that because, you know, many hotels will use air fresheners or chemical cleaners in the rooms and then when you sort of add the fact that there’s no way to get some fresh air or breeze into the room to sort of clear out the smells. I’ve had times with my girlfriend, who has chemical sensitivities, we’ve had to check in and immediately check back out of the hotel because we just couldn’t stay there. She would become sick almost instantly walking into the room.
David Brancaccio: Also when you’re on the road you got to watch what you eat. Are you picky about that?
Orlowski: Whenever you can, eating as many fresh veggies and some fruit and so forth is really key. If I’m going to be somewhere for more than 24 hours or if I’m going somewhere for a few days, or staying at a place that maybe has a kitchen or even a kitchenette, I’ll often head actually over to the supermarket. And that’s another reason why, you know, if I’m staying somewhere for more than a day or two, I often think about or consider you know a house type of option, an Airbnb option. It’s also a great way to save money by the way when traveling too, because it’s a whole lot cheaper to head over the grocery store and buy some veggies than it is to eat out every meal.
Brancaccio: The ironies abound when it comes to not getting sick when you’re on the road. When I ate the goat head in Rwanda — true story — I was fine, but when I had the street meat from a cart here in Manhattan, things didn’t go quite as well. So I guess you know some of these rules probably apply even when you’re not on the road.
Orlowski: It’s a matter of just trying to you know plan ahead where you can. I think a lot of folks also don’t think to email a hotel or email their Airbnb host, for example, ahead of time.
Brancaccio: Well, it could be an opportunity for an entrepreneur — let you know what kinds of cleaning products are used in various hotels, how loud the hotels are, is there in-wall air conditioner.
Orlowski: That would. You know, another thing though, surprisingly right, most major hotel chains and also Airbnb for that matter, have no way to save your preference related to either requesting eco-friendly cleaning products or avoiding chemical cleaners and air fresheners. So that’s a kind of a surprising thing that seems like something that the hotel chains could look at, that Airbnb could look at, and really make, I think, everyone’s life a little bit better.
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