Quite a few people have requested this post from me about how to stay healthy while traveling. It’s easy to throw your healthy habits out the window when traveling, but this definitely makes it harder to catch up in the future with getting back on track.
I was recently traveling for over three weeks to Iceland, Washington D.C. and finally Connecticut for my brother’s wedding. Usually I exercise five days a week and eat a fairly healthy diet. But, on vacations it’s so tempting to forget about all those good habits. Staying healthy when traveling takes willpower sometimes, but it is something you definitely can do. I also want to mention that I don’t just mean eating and exercise habits; I’m also speaking about taking care of your body, mind and soul during a vacation as well.
So let me share my tips for staying healthy while traveling that I learned from my years of my travels across the globe. For this post, I will walk through the following topics: food, exercise, sleep and relaxation. For me, these are the most important aspects to follow when trying to stay healthy while traveling. I’d love to hear what things are important for you when trying to stay healthy while traveling so definitely let me know in the comments! By the way, most of this post is going to deal with traveling to destinations you reach by plane, but of course these tips can be applied to traveling by any mode of transportation.
Food: A super important aspect to staying healthy while traveling
There are several things I think are important when dealing with food and traveling. Taking a plane can be an easy way to start eating away the calories without even noticing—either at the airport or on the plane itself.
Let’s be honest—most airport food is really not the healthiest. This has been a complaint that several of you have talked to me about before. That’s why I believe it’s important to bring food with you to the airport and even on the plane. It’s a habit I’ve gotten into a few years back and it’s definitely changed the way I travel. Bringing food like fruits, nuts, sandwiches will go a long way when you are eyeing that Big Mac at the McDonalds airport.
If you are flying on a plane that offers food on board it is a good idea to order a special meal beforehand. I can’t speak for all air carriers but when I worked for Emirates we had a range of meals from fruit platters to low calorie meals for our special meals. These would be your healthiest option on the plane. Oh, and special meals usually come before the meals for the rest of the passengers come! Another good thing to keep in mind. And the best thing is, there is no extra cost if you do so!
If you are dealing with jetlag upon reaching your new destination you will probably face a sort of hunger where you want to eat just about anything that comes your way. Whenever I’m really tired from traveling all I want to do is eat tons of chocolate. Not the best idea. That’s why I always carry pre-landing snacks with me these days. Sometimes you don’t find food upon landing in your new destination for a while so honestly it’s a good idea to always carry food with you. If you can’t bring food with you for landing, then just try to remember not to eat the first thing that seems appetizing to you. Opt for the healthy choice, you’ll thank yourself later!
So now let’s get to the food you eat while you are on your trip. Personally speaking I love to stay in AirBnBs or small apartments when traveling that have kitchens attached. Staying in places equipped with a little kitchen (or at least a place to store food for breakfast) has totally changed the way I travel and eat abroad! can go to the supermarket and store healthy food to eat—even if it is just for breakfast. Usually I do cook a few times on my vacation though. Going to the supermarket will also save you tons of money. If you’ve never gone to the supermarket while traveling, then I definitely recommend trying it the next time you go somewhere. It’s not only a way to stay healthy but also a fun way to get to know the country you are staying in.
If you are staying a hotel you also have options. You can still go to the supermarket and pick up small things like oatmeal in plastic cups (assuming you have a tea kettle in your room) to make something quick to eat in the morning. Or, just to pick up some healthy snacks to store in the room.
I definitely am one to indulge a little on vacation but it is important not to go overboard with anything. That includes alcohol, caffeine and junk food. I’ll get to the alcohol and caffeine in a minute when I talk about sleeping/jet lag. As for junk food, it is normal to want to sneak in a treat that you might not usually eat often when you are at your home. What I usually do is share something with the people I’m traveling with if I’m really craving it. So, instead of eating an entire piece of cheesecake by myself I just have one or two bites. I still feel satisfied, and (mostly) healthy.
Lastly, make sure you stay hydrated when you are traveling. I used to work long haul flights from Dubai-USA and I was always so surprised how little water some people drank on the plane. This is really not healthy and will make you feel awful upon landing in your new destination. Make sure you keep drinking and staying hydrated! This also applies when you are in your new destination. Go to a store and get a bottle of water with you. If you stay hydrated, you will feel so much better. It’s a simple step to help you stay healthy when traveling.
Keep your exercise routine up to help you stay healthy while traveling
I used to be the worst at this. I would go on vacation and never even think about exercising. But, this is totally the wrong attitude to have. If you are someone who exercises regularly, then you know how hard it is to get back on a routine after you stop exercising for a while. These days there are so many options to exercise outside of going to a gym or running outside that there are no excuses.
If you don’t want to be strapped to a treadmill while on vacation, then you can definitely find ways to incorporate exercise into your trip. For example, when we were in Iceland we did a lot of exploring by foot. I don’t mean strolling around the town at a leisurely pace, but walking up and down hills exploring all around the area for several hours per day. The options are really limitless depending on where you are going on vacation. If you are traveling to a place where you can go hiking, then you can do that for exercise. Or, if you are taking a beach holiday then you can definitely go swimming. There are so many ways you can exercise on your trip to help you stay healthy while traveling.
Alternatively, if you are traveling to a place where you really can’t incorporate exercise into the trip then you can still find a way. There are hundreds of YouTube workout videos out there—and trust me you’ll definitely break a sweat! I have a few favorites via YouTube, so if you need a recommendation just ask! Find what works for you and make sure you stay on track.
How to cope with jetlag and sleeping while traveling to make sure you stay healthy
Jetlag. Ugh. Anyone who has experienced serious cases of it knows how awful it is! I used to fly 16 hour flights from Dubai-Los Angeles when working for Emirates. I honestly don’t know how I did that sometimes! I just got back from the USA a few days ago and I’m experiencing one of the worst cases of jetlag I’ve ever had. Healthy sleeping patterns are crucial to staying healthy while traveling, but if you are crossing several time zones it definitely is not easy! I’ll share my tips about the subject, but I’m always looking for new tips so please do share yours with me as well.
I find it nearly impossible to sleep on planes, and I usually don’t. I used to get a lot of questions if it is ok to take any sort of sleeping tablet on planes. To be honest, I would say no, but that is just my personal opinion. Plenty of people swear by them but for me, they just make me feel a lot worse and very groggy!
Also, when flying it is a good idea to avoid drinking too much caffeine or alcohol. It can be tempting when you are sitting on a plane for 10 hours to drink the time away, but once you land you will feel really terrible. Instead, try to limit yourself how much of these kinds of drinks you are having. When flying, I usually try to drink plenty of water or a calming drink like chamomile tea. Drinking something like chamomile tea will help calm your nerves—especially if you are a nervous flyer like me!
Everyone has a different method for how to deal with sleeping/jetlag when traveling. Personally, I try to adjust to the new time zone. If I need to take a nap upon landing in a new place, I only allow myself to sleep for 20-30 minutes. If I sleep for longer than that I usually wake up feeling very lethargic and not wanting to do anything.
As stated in the point above, exercise is super important to do even when on vacation. But, it is also important to help you cope with jetlag and travel tiredness. I usually like to go out for a walk when I reach a new destination. It helps get the blood flowing—especially if I was just sitting on a plane for a long period of time.
I then try to stay awake as long as I can until it is dark outside and a normal sleeping hour. This usually helps me to sleep a good seven hours on the first night I arrive somewhere. The following days I try not to do too much strenuous activity. Listen to your body—it will tell you what it needs.
Lastly, I wanted to mention that sometimes it is just impossible to avoid jetlag or getting a good night sleep on vacation. Sometimes when I land in a new destination I find it hard to sleep on the bed, or that it’s too noisy in the hotel room. Or maybe I crossed so many time zones that I wake up after just sleeping 1-2 hours in the night. This has definitely happened to me before. Has this ever happened to you before? It’s the absolute worst! Just be aware that this is totally normal. If you are really struggling with jetlag like this, then you can take something natural like Valerian root or melatonin. Take very low doses of it! If you need advice on this, just ask me. I’d be happy to share my tips. As mentioned above, I don’t think it is a good idea to take sleeping pills when you are in situation like this. Go the natural route!
Always find time to relax on your vacation to rejuvenate yourself
My last tip for staying healthy while traveling is making sure you take time to relax. Most of the time I take trips somewhere is to explore a new place and have a good time. I’m sure most of you would say something along similar lines. But, these days we can easily be distracted by our phone, computer or tablet at any given time. I think it’s important sometimes to periodically detox from all our responsibilities at home and truly just live in the moment. This to me is true relaxation.
What helps me to truly relax is take a little time to detox from my phone’s constant notifications. When I’m on vacation, I usually set up an auto responder on my email and also keep my Wi-Fi off for a few days when I’m on a trip. This helps me to rejuvenate my mind and in turn helps me stay healthy while traveling. It isn’t only about keeping your body healthy while traveling, you need to remember about your mind as well!
What else would you add?
I shared my tips about the things I learned to stay healthy while traveling. So, now tell me—what would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments!