‘Tis the season for extended family holiday gatherings and celebrations, which means not just the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping and preparations, but for many a chance to get away to visit with loved ones or in some cases simply to take a well-deserved end-of-year vacation. While many preparations go into holiday travel, from securing reservations to making sure the details of family gatherings are set, one item that may not be at the top of everyone’s holiday wish list is taking the time to be sure their eyes and vision stay safe and healthy.

Several optical organizations offer eyecare health and safety tips for travelers that are certain to make this holiday season merry and bright as they head for their favorite destinations.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers “Eye Care Tips of Travelers” on its website, where ophthalmologist and world traveler Anne Sumers, MD, a clinical spokesperson for the group, offers her “Do’s and Don’ts” for protecting your eyes while away from home. Among her suggestions are preparing for dry eyes on an airplane, remembering to pack a pair of back-up eyeglasses and stocking up on prescription eye drops.

The American Optometric Association offers travel tips for contact lens wearers, recommending that travelers “may find their eyes are most comfortable wearing glasses when traveling by plane, particularly on longer flights.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a page on its website titled, “Travel Tips for People Who Wear Contact Lenses”, where it offers tips for contact lens wearers to avoid eye infections before and during travel, like making sure your contact lens prescription is up to date before heading out on the road and packing back-up supplies.

We also asked a few eyecare professionals their thoughts on keeping eyes healthy during the holiday travel season, and here’s what they had to say

Viola Kanevsky, OD.

“The best way to ensure you’re ready for takeoff is to visit your doctor of optometry annually and consider travel dates when booking your appointment. Your doctor of optometry can help establish the proper and updated prescription, make recommendations for in-flight or on-site necessities, eyewear essentials and so much more,” said Viola Kanevsky, OD, past president of New York State Optometric Association and American Optometric Association volunteer. They may even have travel recommendations for your destination!”

Sandra S. Block, OD, M Ed, MPH! FAAO, FCOVD, FNAP, president of the World Council of Optometry, added, “Tis the season for travel as we want to spend the time with our families. We look forward to sharing the excitement of the holidays and creating new memories. With that we need to ensure that we continue to care for our eyes. The thoughts and considerations for protecting our vision and eye health will vary in so many ways. No one associates the emergence of a new eye condition to develop as a result of the season, however, there are points about eyecare to remember during this wonderfully exciting season.”

On a related topic, Dr. Block points out that children often receive gifts during the holidays that are not age-appropriate and therefore can present a potential hazard. “It is suggested that gifts chosen not only make the child happy but also keep their eyes safe. Choose gifts that are age appropriate,” she said.

Sandra S. Block, OD, MEd, MPH, president of World Council of Optometry.

Dr. Block said, “Another issue for children to consider is to make sure that they have their glasses or contacts with them so they can appreciate the beauty of the season. As we have embraced the importance of myopia management, it is best to continue to follow the treatment regimen that your eyecare provider has outlined for the child.

“You probably do not want to take a vacation from the work to slow the progression of myopia. That being said, if you are using contact lenses or drops as a part of the treatment, make sure that there is time and space for continuing the treatment.”

Travel can be especially challenging for contact lens wearers, who may be conflicted when trying to decide whether to wear their lenses when traveling (especially on an airplane) or to simply wear their eyeglasses until they reach their destination. Risk of eye infection is another concern.

“The climate control inside an airplane can cause dry eyes, as can unfamiliar climate and weather. Remove contact lenses on planes and use wetting eye drops to keep your eyes healthy and moist,” Dr. Kavensky recommended.

She added, “More than 40 percent of contact lens wearers do not follow the proper hygiene instructions for their lenses, which can pose serious risks to eye and vision health. Contact lens-related eye and other injuries can lead to long-lasting damage but often are preventable.

“Many common care mistakes—including failing to clean and store lenses as directed and sleeping, showering or swimming while wearing contacts—can increase the chance of bacterial, viral and fungal infections. If you don’t already wear daily disposable contact lenses, switching to these for the duration of your trip will make care simpler and reduce the risk of infection while you travel.

“Eye infections can impact travelers whether they wear contact lenses, glasses or have perfect vision. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes.”

“For contact lens wearers, there are several things to consider when traveling,” added Dr. Block. Depending on the type of lens and wearing schedule, make sure that you carry solutions and extra lenses—enough for the time away along with an extra pair if you are wearing disposable lenses. Spending time with family often means long days together, so try not to overwear lenses and bring glasses with you as a backup for the day when you just want to wear your glasses.”

For patients with chronic eye conditions, Dr. Block noted, “If you are on medications—oral or drops—make sure you have packed sufficient amounts for the time you will be traveling and continue to follow the instructions. Remember, your eye doctor may be harder to connect with during the time you are away.

“Be proactive and keep all your medications in your carry-on luggage if you are flying or taking a train. If you notice changes in your vision such as excessive discharge, redness, pain, an increase in floaters or other new symptoms check with your optometrist when they arise. There are some conditions that cannot wait until you return.”

According to Dr. Kavensky, would-be travelers should prepare an “eyecare essentials packing list” that may include: several sets of contact lens with current prescriptions; an extra storage case; disinfecting and cleaning solutions; a copy of your contact lens and eyeglass prescription; a back-up set of glasses; and ocular medications and artificial tears along with a current prescription.

For those traveling by airplane, she noted, “Make sure to check airport or airline regulations. TSA allows contact lenses in both carry-on and checked bags, but contact lens solution must be 3.4 ounces of liquid or less in a carry-on. A good idea is one travel-sized container in your carry-on and a regular size in your checked bag.”

“The holiday season should be a wonderful time to enjoy family and friends but don’t ignore your eyes,” Dr. Block cautioned. “Whether you are a child, teenager or adult, good vision is important and you need to pay attention to protecting the health of your eyes.”

Cornea Care reminds holiday not to neglect their eyecare routine. Image via Cornea Care on X

Sterling Vision reminds travelers not to let eye safety take a back seat during the holiday season. Image via Sterling Vision on X

Advantage Vision Center offers its “3 Things to Know Before Traveling with Contact Lenses.” Image via Advantage Vision Center on X

Piedmont EyeCare Associates warns against dry eye during the holiday travel season. Image via Piedmont EyeCare Associates on X

Cedar Pointe Optometry wants its patients to experience the freedom of travel that contact lenses offer. Image via Cedar Pointe Optometry on X

Kendall Shepard Eye Center reminds travelers of the benefits of LASIK. Image via Kendall Shepard Eye Center on X