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How to fight a cold on the fly

By Sean O'Neill
updated September 29, 2021
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Sean O'Neill

Having a head cold on a plane may make you contemplate the guillotine. But you can reduce the severity of the symptoms by trying these "counter measures" from the American Pharmacists Association:

Drain a glass of water before your flight takes off. Dry air in an airplane cabin generally aggravates cold symptoms. Fight this problem by drinking a lot of non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic beverages while on board, too. Yes, staying hydrated on a flight can be inconvenient. But when you're congested, changes in cabin pressure can spark intense pain in your sinuses, and the resulting discomfort can last for days afterward. You won't regret the hassle of drinking up.

Don't overeat. Sorry to break the bad news, but there's no scientific support to grandma's saying, "Feed a cold and starve a fever."

Don't assume your local pharmacy knows what Tylenol is. Pack an emergency stash of medicine for your trip. If you have to seek help at a local pharmacy, try to do some Internet research about the names of medicines in advance. Tip: In Europe, the generic pain reliever acetaminophen goes by the name of paracetamol.

Don't speak the local language well? Be careful. Drugs that can only be sold with a prescription in the U.S. (because of the potential for accidental misuse) are often available over the counter in foreign countries. Don't be intimidated by a pharmacist. Insist that he or she accurately understands what your symptoms are and what health conditions you may have before you agree to his or her recommendations.

Alternative, or complementary, treatments are more generally accepted abroad. Don't be surprised if a pharmacist suggests you try a homeopathic treatment that's unfamiliar.

Decongestants often go by different names overseas. In Europe, for instance, the decongestant pseudoephedrine (used in American drugs like Sudafed) is seldom sold over the counter. Ask your pharmacist for their preferred option.

Finally, a Budget Travel tip: Never let a pharmacist talk you into buying more drugs and products than you want.

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Travel Tips

Would you pay extra for an allergy-free room?

Have you ever had trouble getting a good night's sleep in a hotel room because your allergies were acting up? Well, you may be able to breath a little more easily, now that Hyatt Hotels & Resorts has announced it will be outfitting all 125 of its full-service U.S., Canadian, and Caribbean properties with hypoallergenic Respire rooms. The rooms are geared toward travelers with asthma, allergies, and other respiratory sensitivities (more than half the U.S. population has tested positive for one or more allergens, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology), but they'll work just as well for anyone who just wants a better breathing environment. In the past few years, other hotel chains have introduced similar rooms (Wyndham and NYLO, among others) but none to the extent that Hyatt is planning. Respire rooms are currently available to book in 65 Hyatt properties; by year's end it should have a total of 2,000 of the allergy-friendly rooms spread across its Hyatt Resorts, Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt, and Andaz brands. How do they work? Each room undergoes a comprehensive, multistep process, implemented by New York–based company Pure Solutions, that involves sanitizing the air unit, treating all surfaces and fabrics to minimize allergens and irritants, installing a medical-grade air purifier, and covering mattresses and pillows with encasings designed to keep allergens out. Huh? Pure Solutions explains the process and science on its website behind it much better than I can here. The result is a room designed to eliminate up to 98 percent of airborne viruses and bacteria, along with pollen and other irritants. I know what you're thinking: Will you feel like you're staying in a hotel, or in a sterilized hospital? It's a valid question; steps other hotels have taken to reduce allergens have included removing carpeting and soft surfaces and replacing them with wood flooring and leather- and vinyl-clad furniture. But the Pure Solutions process is so thorough that those actions aren't needed at Hyatt properties. Your Respire room will feel just as cozy in decor and atmosphere as any other room in that particular hotel. In fact, the only visible difference will be the presence of the air purifier. The rooms, of course, don't come without a price; expect to pay $20 to $30 more for a Respire room. Would you pay a little extra to get a good night's sleep? More from Budget Travel 4 ways to get a free hotel room this fall Nothing to sneeze at: Allergy-free hotel rooms Have a Green Stay America's favorite hotel chains London hotels: Want that towel? You have to pay $2.40

Travel Tips

4 ways to get a free hotel room this fall

Check out these off-season hotel promos to snag a bonus night free. Country Inns & Suites If you stay at a Country Inns & Suites property soon—specifically, Sunday through Thursday by November 21—you can receive an instant bonus of 15,000 points in the GoldPoints Plus loyalty program. That bonus alone is enough to give you a free night's stay at another Country Inns & Suites. Reservations must be made three days in advance. Read more about the bonus offer here. Hyatt Packages that include a bonus night free are available at 21 Hyatt properties around the U.S. for stays now thorough the end of the year. For example, when you stay three nights at the Hyatt Key West Resort & Spa, a fourth night is free. And as a bonus bonus, a free room upgrade and free daily breakfast for two are included in the deal. Browse the package options and particulars here. Westin Pay for two nights at a Westin hotel in the U.S., Canada, or Aruba, and a third night is free. Pay for four nights at some hotels, and two additional nights are free. The offer is valid for guests arriving on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday through December 31, 2010, and to get the free days bookings must be prepaid—with no changes or cancellations possible. Check out other details and browse participating properties here. Wyndham Now through the end of 2011, when you stay three consecutive nights at many Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, you'll get a fourth night free. Participating resorts include properties all over the U.S., and several in the Caribbean and Mexico. Read more about fourth-night free offers here. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Chain Hotels With Style Resorts Within Reach: Best of the U.S. The Breakdown on 8 Membership Programs

Travel Tips

Controversy: Are you the cause of 'sidewalk rage'?

Cities love tourists for the money they bring to the local economy, and yet the locals often hate how visitors clog the streets and sidewalks. One city wants to do something about it. The city is London, and the specific street in question is popular Oxford Street. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the tactic being suggested is an unofficial line to segregate store browsers and travelers shuffling underneath the burden of heavy backpacks to half of the sidewalk closest to the buildings and shops, and to reserve the sidewalk's outside edge as a fast lane to be utilized by anyone -- locals, most likely -- walking with more of a sense of mission. How would the system be enforced? Actually, it wouldn't, not in any official capacity anyway. There wouldn't be fines or any repercussions for absentmindedly strolling or even for standing still and yakking away on a cell phone on the "fast" side of the sidewalk. But local area maps would advise travelers to stick to the slow side, and a team of neighborhoods hosts in red caps may approach slow walkers and "put visitors in their place, tactfully," as the Journal writes. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('2f2f6e50-f0f3-4363-a6e5-2fcecab4c7a4');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)The concept is only in the proposal stages, and it is a tricky business, obviously: Cities such as London, as well as New York, Paris, and others, certainly don't want to make tourists feel even the slightest bit unwelcomed. On the other hand, it'd be nice to be able to walk to work without having to weave and maneuver among a crush of travelers and browsers shuffling, pausing, and otherwise obstructing foot traffic. Staffers at Budget Travel's New York City office, which is near Times Square and where I've heard the phrase "sidewalk rage" used more than once, understand this as well as anyone. But is there a smarter solution than the one being proposed in London? If an invisible line down the sidewalk seems off-putting, what might work instead? Or should the locals simply suck it up, and accept that sidewalk congestion is the tradeoff for being a popular tourist hub?

Travel Tips

How travelers can complain effectively with social media

When something goes wrong on your vacation, it can be difficult to get anyone accountable to talk to you on the phone. If it's an urgent problem, try contacting the company via a social media tool instead. One savvy message on a company's Facebook page or one clever "tweet" can snowball and draw the attention of a travel company's highest officials. Your problem may be solved much faster. Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Virgin America, Marriott, Starwood, Travelocity, Expedia, and Hertz are all major companies that have staff members rapidly reacting to social media messages. Delta, for instance, monitors online messages constantly—including in-flight complaints posted by passengers using on-board Wi-Fi. Recently, Noelle Sadler griped on Twitter about Delta not giving her frequent flier miles for a qualifying flight on partner airline Avianca, reports the WSJ. The airline quickly gave her the frequent-flier miles. Happy ending. The following tips may boost your chances of getting your voice heard. Sign up You got to play to win. It's free to join social network Facebook and micro-blogging service Twitter. Facebook is best for travelers who don't use social media much It's quick to use Facebook to voice a complaint. But remember that companies respond online to people who say they're fans of their brand. I know, it sounds confusing, but you'll be more effective by "liking" a company on Facebook before you speak up about something it did wrong. On Facebook, search for the name of the major brand you most often do business with when traveling. Then click "like." Then complain. If you have more than a thousand followers, Twitter will get faster results than Facebook For urgent problems, you may get a faster response by tweeting. Case in point on how to use Twitter in a crisis, courtesy of travel journalist extraordinaire Christopher Elliott: When Jessica Gottlieb learned that her kids were trapped on the tarmac in an endlessly delayed Virgin America plane, she used her Web-enabled cell phone to "tweet" about her troubles: "Dear Virgin Air," she wrote via twitter.com/JessicaGottlieb. "My children have been on the tarmac for one hour with 90 more minutes to wait. I am at JFK gate b25. Pls RT." Reports Elliott: "That last request—please "RT"—is shorthand for Gottlieb's thousands of followers to "retweet" her message, or rebroadcast it to their followers. And retweet they did. Within minutes, Virgin had phoned Gottlieb to reassure her that her kids would be fine. "They contacted the gate agent manager and explained to us the entire weather situation," she says. "Within 20 minutes of that conversation, the plane took off." Stay upbeat Your grandmother was right. You'll attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. Be polite for the best responses. And if an airline, hotel, or other travel company does solve your problem, be sure to broadcast it to the world, too. Do a quick search before you try to contact a company through social media The technology is still new, and some travel companies still aren't listening to conversations on social media. Before you invest time in reaching out to a company online, look at its Facebook or Twitter pages and see if they seem active or like ghost towns. TWITTER TIPS • New to Twitter? Go from zero to hero in no time flat with this Twitter tools for beginners page. • Curious about how to find the Twitter page for a particular travel company? Google the word Twitter followed by the brand's name, such as "twitter delta". MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Flier's revenge: United customer gets even with hit music video San Francisco: Street food made simple with Twitter New travel stress: Facebook oversharing Not so cool tool: TripAdvisor's new "Trip Friends" feature