It's cold and flu season again here in Canada, but what about other parts of the world like say Brazil? If you're above the equator, cold and flu season typically happens during colder winter months, usually from November to March. If you're south of the equator, it flips just like the seasons.

Does that mean you should only travel south of the equator between November and March to avoid cold and flu season?

Not necessarily. Travelling to a destination during its off-peak cold and flu period will definitely decrease the risk of you catching a bug during your trip; however contracting a cold or flu virus is possible all year long especially if you'll be travelling where large groups of people gather. Heavily congested tourist areas such as airports, holiday events, restaurants, concerts, amusement parks and busy shopping malls are all prone to the spread of cold and flu viruses.

A recent report of a sickness overtaking a cruise ship in Hawaii exemplifies how quickly a virus can spread. Norwegian Cruise Lines asked state health officials to run laboratory tests to diagnose the cause of a ship-wide sickness that affected 400 of the 2500 passengers on one of their cruise ships in mid-November. Results have not yet been released, but the Norwalk virus was on the list of potential causes of the outbreak.

Passengers suffering from symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and their cabin mates were asked by crew members to remain in their cabins for 24 hours after the outbreak was reported.

Tips to help you avoid getting a cold or flu while away on vacation

  • Consider getting the flu shot.

    If you've gotten the flu shot already, great! If you haven't and are considering it, check with your local pharmacist or doctor. Pharmacies usually post their clinic schedules in early November, but you should be able to get it anytime with your doctor. Don't get it the day before you leave though; make sure you get it at least 2 weeks prior to your departure to ensure enough time has passed for you to develop immunity.

  • Pack medications in your carry-on.

    If your checked luggage is lost or damaged during your trip, ensure you have your medication with you (in its original prescription container) in your carry-on to keep it safe and secure.

  • Pack alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

    Keep these in your carry-on as well and use them often. Alcohol-based sanitizers are more effective at killing bacteria. Most airplane filters fail to remove viruses from the air you have to breathe while on your flight, so it's important to do all you can to kill germs before they come into contact with you.

  • Get some sleep for goodness sake!

    The backbone of any strong immune system is simply getting enough rest. If you don't already, try to start a regular sleep routine 2 weeks before leaving. This way, if you don't do well sleeping on a plane you'll at least be able to handle the lack of sleep during your flight.

  • Buy travel insurance for ensured security.

    Check out travel insurance options and consider purchasing a policy. Travel insurance is a key back-up plan in case you do happen to get sick while on vacation.

Travel insurance really is the best back-up plan. Here's why:

You know what, sometimes no matter how people try to prevent getting sick while on vacation, they just get sick. It can happen to you. Just don't get caught in another country or out to sea without medical treatment and prescription coverage.

Consider what happened to the Norwegian Cruise Lines passengers. They were asked to remain in their cabins for a full 24 hours. When you look at the overall cost of this trip for 2 people, it averages out to approximately $1000 a day*. While Norwegian Cruise Lines did reportedly give all quarantined passengers a $200 credit, the credit was only good for on-ship use and obviously did not cover the cost of an average day on board - or medical attention costs. An all inclusive plan with trip interruption would have refunded the expense of the rest of your trip if you had to leave early due to illness, and the medical coverage would have covered any medical attention or prescription costs while you remained aboard.

No matter what kind of trip you are planning, travel insurance is always a good back-up plan to avoid costs and hassles associated with getting sick during your travels. Check out your options online at It's free and there is no obligation to buy once you get a quote. Plus, rates start as low as $12.

Shop for travel insurance today at - where insurance companies compete and you save money.

* Rates based on online package prices for a December 2007 departure date on the same ship. Rates are based on a 7 day cruise, with an ocean view room. Rates are also based on a trip package for a double room occupancy. The rate used is an approximate average per person. Package prices include return airfare from Pearson International Airport and all applicable taxes.

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