How to Stay Healthy While Traveling

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There was a period in my life when my friends all assumed that I had become a professional vacationer. For a long time the response that I got when I told people I was going on a trip was "again? Didn't you just come back from somewhere?" The answer is usually yes I did and yes I'm leaving again. I guess I have just turned traveling into a habit, and I'm completely ok with that.  

Even though travel is fun and exciting, it can be disruptive to your routines. And while I don't always love a routine, their power cannot be ignored. Depending on the circumstances of your travel, it's likely unrealistic to assume that you can stick to whatever routine/plan you have going on at thome while you are traveling. If you are going somewhere more long term, staying in place you can, feel like home, and don't mind doing some "work" while you are on your trip, you can probably stick to your plan. But otherwise it's often much more challenging to stick with the routines you've solidified at home.  While I don't typically see a vacation as a reason to completely abandon all of your goals and do whatever you want, I certainly agree with loosening up standards a bit.

However, sticking with your routines as much as possible can keep you from getting completely derailed, exhausted, and can help you stay productive (if you need to be). 

I have certain things that are non-negotiables for me when I trave. I don't eat gluten (on a very rare occasion I will eat it because I can tolerate small amounts with long periods between exposures), I limit added sugar and sugary treats, I drink decaf coffee, I eat tons of veggies, and I exercise most days (but this exercise may take the form of walking places instead of driving, not a formal exercise routine)

How to Stay Healthy While Traveling 

While there's a lot that you might not be able to control during travel as well as a lot to be said for loosening up and not trying to control all the things, here are a few areas where maintaining a routine will be extremely beneficial and help you to make the most of your time away (or if you are traveling for work to stay productive and not get completely worn out).

food

97% of the reason I travel is for the food. I know it can be tempting to eat poorly while you're on vacation. It's all part of the idea that we are actually taking care of ourselves by letting loose, when in reality it probably won't make you feel so great and you might be doing more harm than good. That doesn't mean that you can't go out and enjoy yourself more than you might at home, but here are some ways to enjoy new food while not completely derailing your healthy habits from home. 

Know your non-negotiables. Stick with the basic principles of what you eat at home, but indulge in new and exciting ways to eat those foods. If you don't eat dairy at home because it causes you stomach upset and you get zits when you eat it, avoid it while you are on vacation too.  Same goes for any other foods that you might avoid while you are at home. Just because you are on vacation doesn't mean that these foods suddenly won't make you feel terrible when you eat them.

Don't eat out for every meal. If possible try and do some cooking at your condo or in your hotel room. If I'm staying in a hotel I try to have at the very least a microwave and a refrigerator in my room so that I can go to the grocery store and stock up on a few things so that I can eat my usual food for at least a few meals. If I don't have the ability to cook anything I typically will try and stock up on things for breakfast and coffee. Things like hard-boiled eggs, lunch meats, fruits, and veggies. This allows me to have some amount of control over what I'm eating for a few meals so that I can save money and not have to worry about the finer points of eating out (what oils are my foods cooked in, cross contamination, substitutions, etc.). 

Hydrate. Air travel can be extremely dehydrating. Make sure that you replenish your fluids after you get off the plane. If you have traveled to a climate that is warmer than you are used to, hydration remains important even while you are not on a plane. Staying hydrated will also help you not get sick and can help you to feel more energized so that you can make the most of your time away. 

Sleep

You might not be able to control the time zone, but there are plenty of things that you can do to minimize jet lag and make sure that you get onto a schedule and get enough sleep every night. 

If possible, travel during the day. This is something that's virtually impossible for me to do. I live in Alaska and if I'm traveling farther than Seattle, it's almost impossible to get a flight that leaves before 10pm. Whether or not it's possible to travel during the day depends on where you live and where you're going, if you are traveling overseas or farther than a few hours away, it's probably not possible. Traveling during the day ensures that you don't miss out on a night of sleep. If you are unable to travel during the day, try and adjust to local time as quickly as possible. If you've been on a plane all night and you arrive somewhere and it's 2pm, you might feel like taking a nap. Try your best to stay awake and go to bed at a reasonable local hour. 

Have a bedtime and stick to it. Since you're off having fun (unless you're traveling for work) then you might be tempted to stay up late to try and pack more into your vacation, but chances are that will just leave you feeling tired, cranky, and unmotivated. Having a bedtime just like you would at home will help ensure that you get plenty of sleep so that you can make the most of your time away. If you have to get up at a specific time, then work backwards from that time to determine your bedtime. 

exercise

Unless you're a professional athlete, I think it's unreasonable to assume that you're going to stick to your exact workout plan while you are traveling but you can still work movement and exercise into your vacation. 

Walk. I find that I enjoy walking places more when I'm traveling because I get a better feel for an area when I walk places as opposed to when I drive. On most of the trips we take to cities where we want to explore, we've done A LOT of walking. Walking is also a good way to make sure that you're plenty hungry when it comes to your next meal...because as I mentioned a huge reason I like traveling is for the food! If you're in a warm climate, taking a short walk after dinner or in the morning can be a good way to sneak some movement into your day. When we travel internationally we don't usually have a car so there's more walking and public transportation involved. 

Get creative and work movement into your day. Even if you don't feel like exercising every day, try and work some sort of more active activity into your trip at least a couple of times per week. Whether it's a hike, a guided walking tour, a kayak trip, or just walking around a museum or park, making exercise part of your vacation in a way that doesn't make it feel like exercise has multiple benefits. Not only do you get the benefits of movement, but you also won't have such a hard time getting back into your routine when you go back home. 

Final thoughts

Have an idea of what routines you do want to stick with before you go as well as how you're going to accomplish them. But also be willing to not stress about it if you can't make those things happen. Have your non-negotiables in mind too. Those are the few things that you should be willing to sacrifice a bit of fun to stick with. If you're training for an event and you have big goals, you may not be willing to loosen up on your training schedule. If you have food sensitivities or know that certain foods make you feel terrible, do whatever you can or need to do to make sure that you don't get stuck eating those foods. 

Remember that vacation is definitely a time to relax and cut loose, but depending on your health needs and your overall goals, it's probably not a time to completely go off the rails and abandon all of your routines from home. It's also somewhat unrealistic to assume that you'll be able to stick to your routines from home 100% while you are traveling, but this depends on the nature of your travel. If you're in a place for a longer stretch of time, it's easier to create and stick with some routines, but if you're staying in a hotel for just a few days, those routines will be harder to come by.


What is one thing that you always find yourself doing on vacation but you never do at home?