Tips for eating well, staying active and boosting your energy on vacation
by Jennifer Mitchell
For many travelers, it’s easy to pack on a few pounds of “vacation weight” with each trip. Jam packed itineraries, time zone changes and a desire to enjoy the local cuisine means broken routines, skipped workouts and lots of eating out. A few pounds per trip might sound harmless, but it can be problematic for those traveling for an extended period of time or those who travel frequently.
Though it’s challenging to avoid the vacation weight altogether, there are a few things you can do to keep the weight gain to a minimum. Before leaving for your trip, communicate with your travel companions and set expectations if you’re hoping to sub in a few healthy meals or squeeze in a workout before heading out for the day. Not only will that ensure healthy options are added to the itinerary but stating your intentions out loud will hold you accountable once on the trip.
Travel health tip #1: Pick and choose from your routines
One of the main perks of a vacation is the ability to break away from your daily routines, relax and try new things. However, a total departure from your routines may leave you feeling less than ideal and more susceptible to picking up a bug or feeling sluggish. Before leaving, think about which parts of your routine are most important to maintain while traveling—whether that’s your workout schedule, eating times and frequency, alcohol consumption or wake-up and bed times. Choose a few to stick to on your trip, then enjoy the freedom that comes with shaking off other routines and stepping into vacation mode.
If you’re traveling to a location where the time difference is drastic, start adjusting your sleep schedule by an hour or so each week in the weeks leading up to your trip to ease the transition. Because sleep is such a large contributor to your overall health, it’s important to get enough sleep while traveling. If you don’t tend to sleep well in other rooms or beds, bring some melatonin to help you sleep on the first few nights.
Travel health tip #2: Find ways to get moving
A vacation doesn’t necessarily mean a vacation from exercise. If you’re not staying at a place with a gym, there are plenty of ways to get your workout in. HIIT workouts are great because they’re short and typically don’t require any equipment. Fitness Blender, Jessica Smith TV and BeFiT have tons of workout videos you can do right in your hotel room or Airbnb.
If you prefer strength training, you might want to invest in resistance bands, which allow you to work your muscles without adding weight to your suitcase. ClassPass is another fantastic option if you enjoy the structure of an in-person class. Your membership works at home and will get you into gyms, yoga and barre studios, and workout facilities around the world. And no matter what type of workout you enjoy, you’re sure to be able to find a free workout video on YouTube.
Beyond a designated workout time, you can burn some extra calories by filling your itinerary with activities that will get your heart pumping. Book a group walking or bike tour if you’re in a city or go for a hike if you’re out exploring nature. At the beach? Rent a kayak or standup paddleboard. And as you move from your hotel to an activity to dinner, walk or bike rather than hopping in a cab or Uber. If you have a Fitbit or phone app that tracks steps, set a higher-than-normal goal for yourself on the days when you can’t squeeze in a workout. You’ll burn extra calories and you might find a fun neighborhood to explore or cozy, tucked-away restaurant while getting in those extra steps.
Travel health tip #3: Sneak in some healthy eating
Enjoying the cuisine of your destination is a big part of the travel experience. But that doesn’t mean you need to throw caution to the wind. When eating out, pay attention to portion sizes, and stop eating when you’re full—provided it’s culturally appropriate to leave food on your plate. If you’re interested in trying several exotic dishes at a restaurant, consider sharing with friends, so you can sample the local food without overindulging. And remember balance. If you start the day at an all-you-can-eat breakfast, maybe skip the afternoon gelato. Or if you polish off a few bottles of wine and box of macaroons one night, grab a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast the next morning.
Depending on where you’re traveling and for how long, you may want to consider staying at an Airbnb or hotel room with a kitchen, so you can cook a few healthy meals during your trip. You can even pick up local ingredients at a local market to ensure you’re trying the flavors of that destination. If cooking in isn’t an option, designate a few lunches or dinners as healthy meals and find local restaurants with healthier options using apps and websites like HealthyOut and Yelp.
Before leaving, pack some healthy snacks for the airport, plane or when you’re out and about. You can still enjoy your meals, but you won’t be tempted to snack on sweets or fried food when you get hungry midafternoon.
Just as important as your food choices is staying hydrated. We often confuse hunger with dehydration, which becomes common when traveling. As you’re walking around—potentially in the hot sun—it’s easy to forget to hydrate. Carry a water bottle with you while traveling and try to drink 16 ounces of water before hopping on a plane or heading out for the day. This will keep you from overeating or feeling fatigued when you’re out exploring.
Travel health tip #4: Don’t forget the extras
Beyond the basics of eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep, don’t forget to pack the extras that can give you a little boost. If you’re someone who takes daily vitamins, don’t forget to pack enough for your trip, and consider taking an Airborne or Emergen-C before getting on a plane. For those with a weak stomach or those who get traveler’s constipation, pack some probiotics, fiber and antacids to make sure stomach issues don’t hold you back from having fun. When camping, hiking or traveling to a country where insects can be dangerous, pack bug repellant wipes or spray in addition to getting any immunizations you need based on your destination. (Get the 411 on travel immunizations here.) And don’t forget to apply sunscreen regularly whenever you’re spending time outdoors. Nothing kills vacation fun like a bad sunburn.
Regardless of where you’re traveling, keep a bottle of antibacterial hand sanitizer in your purse or bag while out and about. You don’t want to risk even a common cold when on your coveted vacation time. To make sure you’re healthy and comfortable throughout your trip, check out the CDC’s list of medicine to pack for your trip.
Are you a health-conscious traveler? What are your tips for staying health on the road or while abroad? Drop them in the comments below or share on social with the hashtag #NoSmallPlan. And don’t forget to pack your healthy snacks and workout gear in a customized, No Small Plan tote bag.
Jennifer Mitchell is a blogger, comedian, freelance copywriter and travel enthusiast.
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