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Travel Smarter: A Comprehensive Guide to Staying Healthy on the Go

Traveling is a summer highlight for many of us, but it can come with some unfortunate side effects; jet lag, irregular and unpredictable meals, limited food options, sleep disruptions, lack of routine, dehydration and inactivity can leave you feeling fatigued, grumpy, and distracted. Not exactly the ideal state for a fun family vacation! 


Fortunately, there are ways to maintain your health so you feel comfortable, energized, and present. In this article, we've consolidated all our travel health hacks so you can feel good when you arrive at your destination! 


Be Prepared

Although traveling can be disruptive to your usual routines, with a little foresight and planning, you can maintain your health throughout your journey. Being prepared is the most important step.


Here are some of our favorite strategies for embarking on trips prepared: 


Carve Out Time to Think Ahead: Allocate time in your schedule to plan your trip thoroughly. This includes mapping out your travel itinerary, so you know when and where you'll have time for meals and movement/exercise. By setting aside time to strategize, you can prevent last-minute decisions that might lead to unhealthy food choices or skipped workouts. It might sound counterintuitive, but putting in a little time on the front end of a trip will pay dividends in the end! That way, you won’t spend hours looking for restaurants or activities (and arguing with your family about where to go) while you’re on vacation. 


Research and Plan: Before setting off on your trip, invest some time in researching your destination. Look up local food options, grocery stores, and restaurants that offer healthy choices. If you have dietary restrictions or preferences, it’s particularly important to identify places where you can find suitable meals. Familiarize yourself with the location of fitness centers, parks, or walking trails. Many hotels offer gyms or partner with nearby fitness facilities—checking in advance can help you stay on track with your exercise routine.


Pack Essentials: As much as we may want to, we can’t predict or control the whole trip. But you can pack thoughtfully so that no matter what curveballs are thrown your way, you’ll be ready! Here are some essentials to consider:


  • Healthy Snacks: Carry non-perishable, nutritious snacks like nuts, seeds, nut butters, roasted edamame, Chomps sticks or Epic bars, Simple Mills almond flour cracker packs, and whole fruit (apples, oranges, berries). These can help you avoid hanger when you’re in a pinch. 

  • Hydration: Bring a reusable water bottle to ensure you stay hydrated, especially during long flights. The key here is to fill it up every chance you get. It might seem annoying, but you’ll be happy you did so when you hit unexpected delays. 

  • Supplements: If you take vitamins or supplements, pack enough for the duration of your trip, along with any necessary medication. Pack a pill box ahead of time to take all the thinking out of it and take it in your carry-on.  If you’re prone to illness when you travel, consider packing Beekeeper's Naturals throat spray, cough drops, and vitamin C packets to give your immune system a boost. Activated charcoal supplements are also good to keep on hand in case you catch a stomach virus.  


Start Strong: In the week or two leading up to your trip, be extra mindful of your food and exercise habits. Prioritize balanced meals rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats to boost your immune system and energy levels. Stay hydrated, avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine, and ensure you're getting adequate sleep. Doing so will allow you to start your trip feeling great! 


By being proactive and intentional about your health, you can minimize the disruptions caused by travel and enjoy your trip to the fullest. Taking these steps to prepare will help you feel energized, balanced, and ready to take on the adventures ahead.


Nutrition On The Road 

Maintaining healthy eating habits on the road can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. It’s important to note that “healthy eating” means different things to different people. For you, it might look like enjoying the heck out of pasta in Italy, or maybe it’s choosing simple meals that keep your tummy happy for the rest of the trip. Whatever it is, make choices that align with your values and make you feel your best.


Here are some tips to help you stay healthy and feel great while traveling: 


Pack Healthy Meals: Bringing your own meals can be a game-changer, especially for road trips or long flights. Clean out your fridge and make a big, chopped salad with hearty vegetables like carrots, cabbage, cucumber, and peppers. Put the dressing on the bottom so all you have to do is shake it up when you’re ready to eat. Other healthy meal ideas include: 

  • Whole grain wraps with turkey or chicken, avocado, and vegetables

  • Snack plates made with nuts, seeds, lean meats, hummus, guacamole and vegetables 

  • Protein smoothies stored in a thermos to keep them cool 

  • Chia pudding or overnight oats

  • Greek or coconut yogurt parfaits with fresh fruit and chopped nuts 


Find Healthy Options: While airports and rest stops can be notorious for unhealthy food choices, you can still find nutritious options with a bit of effort. Look for places that offer grilled proteins, steamed veggies, and whole-grain sides. Opt for whole-food snacks like nuts, seeds, olive packs, whole fruit, and sugar-free jerky. Choose sparkling water or coconut water instead of sugary drinks and skip the high-calorie toppings and creamy dressings that come with pre-packed or restaurant salads.  


Stick to Regular Meal Times: Maintaining a regular eating schedule can help you avoid becoming overly hungry, which often leads to poor food choices. Aim to eat every 3-4 hours and plan your meals around your travel itinerary.


Tips for Dining Out: Eating out doesn’t have to derail your healthy eating habits. The key is to keep it simple. Try these strategies to help you make better choices: 


  • Look up menus ahead of time. Research restaurants in advance and choose places with healthy options. This is especially important if you have specific dietary restrictions.

  • Ask for what you need! Don’t be afraid to request modifications to your meal, such as extra vegetables, grilled instead of fried proteins, or dressing on the side.

  • Prioritize protein and fiber. These nutrients help you stay full and satisfied. Choose dishes that include lean proteins (like chicken, fish, or legumes) and fiber-rich vegetables or whole grains.

  • Ask for extra healthy ingredients. Request additional vegetables or a double portion of protein to increase your nutrient intake.

  • Olive Oil + Vinegar or lemon > Salad Dressing. Use olive oil and vinegar instead of high-calorie, high-sugar dressings to keep your salad healthy. 

  • Water > Alcohol. Stay hydrated with water, and limit alcohol consumption, which can be dehydrating and high in empty calories. Have a cup of water for every drink you consume.


Pack Snacks: Packing snacks ensures you have healthy options readily available. Carbs are always easy to find, so focus on protein and fiber.  


Visit a Local Market: Exploring local markets can be a fun way to find fresh, healthy foods. Look for seasonal fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other whole foods to snack on during your trip. 


Determine Your Boundaries: Your food boundaries are unique to you and should be given some time and attention. Instead of diving head first into every treat you see, consider setting boundaries for your indulgences. Not only will this keep your health on track, but you’ll be more mindful of your choices and actually enjoy the treat more! For example, allow yourself one treat per day to enjoy local cuisine without overindulging. Heavy carb, cake or cocktail?


Eat Mindfully and Enjoy Your Meals: Take the time to savor your food and eat slowly. Mindful eating can help you feel more satisfied and less likely to overeat. Enjoying your meals (and the company) is an important part of the travel experience, so find a balance that works for you. 


Resetting Your Sleep Cycle 

Traveling across time zones can disrupt your natural sleep cycle, leading to jet lag. There’s nothing worse than being exhausted for the first half of your trip. Fortunately, you can reset your internal clock and adapt quickly to your new environment. Here’s how:  


Sleep According to Your Destination's Time Zone: As soon as you board your flight, adjust your watch to the time at your destination. If it's nighttime where you're headed, try to sleep on the plane. Use eye masks, earplugs, and neck pillows to create a conducive sleep environment. Conversely, if it's daytime, try to stay awake and active. 


Get Morning Light Exposure: Exposure to natural light is one of the most effective ways to reset your circadian rhythm. Upon arrival, make an effort to get outside and soak up the morning sun. This helps signal to your body that it's time to be awake and will help you adjust more quickly to the new time zone.


Stick to a Bedtime Routine: Maintaining a consistent bedtime routine can help signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and sleep. It’s not always possible (or desirable) to go to bed early on vacation, and that’s okay! If good sleep is important to you while traveling, follow the same pre-sleep rituals you do at home and set a regular sleep and wake time. 


Avoid Caffeine in the Afternoon: We get it - an afternoon cappuccino is just better on vacation. But caffeine is a stimulant that can interfere with your ability to fall asleep, especially when you're trying to adjust to a new time zone. To help your body adapt more quickly, avoid excess afternoon caffeine and opt for decaffeinated beverages and non-stimulant alternatives instead.


Avoid Excess Alcohol: Too much alcohol can also disrupt your sleep and stomach. Be mindful of your alcohol consumption, especially close to bedtime. Always drink a glass of water between alcoholic beverages to minimize the damage.  


Move Your Body!

Staying active is an amazing way to maintain health and energy, regardless of how food things unfold. Exploring new places and moving your body go hand in hand, so this should be a lower lift strategy than some of the others. Here are some ideas for staying active: 


  • Use Hotel Gyms or Outdoor Spaces for Workouts: Most hotels offer fitness facilities that you can take advantage of. If a gym isn’t an option, look for local parks, beaches, or outdoor spaces where you can do bodyweight exercises, yoga, walks or a quick workout.

  • Rent Bikes to Explore a New City: Renting a bike is an excellent way to stay active while sightseeing. Many cities have bike rental services or bike-sharing programs, making it easy to explore at your own pace. Cycling is not only great exercise but also a fun way to see new places from a different perspective.

  • Take a Walking Tour: Walking tours are a fantastic way to combine exercise with exploring your destination. Many cities offer guided tours that take you through historical sites, cultural landmarks, and scenic areas. Alternatively, you can create your own walking tour using a map or a travel app.

  • Use Stairs Instead of Elevators: Opting for stairs over elevators is an easy way to incorporate more physical activity into your day. Climbing stairs is a great cardiovascular workout that also strengthens your legs and glutes. Whenever possible, take the stairs at your hotel, museums, and other attractions.

  • Plan Active Excursions: Incorporate active excursions into your travel itinerary to keep moving and experience the local landscape. Biking, hiking, and swimming are fun ways to experience new places!  

  • Pack Practical Shoes and Clothing: Comfortable, practical shoes and clothing make staying active far more pleasant. 

  • Commit to Walking After Meals: Walking after meals is a simple, effective way to support digestion and stay active. Make it a habit to stroll after breakfast, lunch, or dinner.


Staying active will help you feel more energized, reduce stress, and make the most of your adventures.


A Note on Edema and Bloating 

Traveling can bring out the best in us - but it can also bring out the worst. Ahem, bloating and swelling, AKA edema. It can be so frustrating and distracting to have uncomfortable symptoms arise while on vacation. If you’re someone who struggles with either of these things while traveling, this section is for you! 


Edema and bloating often occur while traveling for a variety of reasons. Some likely culprits include sitting for long periods of time, dehydration, altitude changes while flying or driving, and high sodium intake from restaurant food. Fortunately, there are some proactive steps you can take to minimize these symptoms. 


  • Stay hydrated - drinking enough water helps flush out your body. 

  • Bring magnesium or electrolyte powders to support absorption of sodium to the body. We like Designs for Health ElectroPure packs or LMNT.

  • Move more - getting up to move during long flights or stopping to walk around on road trips helps keep blood flowing, ultimately reducing swelling and bloating.

  • Utilize natural diuretics like cucumber, celery, asparagus, parsley, dandelion root tea and water. Add lemon and ginger to your reusable water for their natural flushing effects. 

  • Avoid foods you know don’t make you feel good, or at least limit their quantity. 

  • Pack peppermint, ginger, and Throat Coat tea bags to make a quick bloat-busting beverage. 

  • Avoid excess carbonation, salt, or heavy greasy foods as all three exacerbate bloating and swelling. 

  • Consider compression socks for long flights to support circulation.

  • Elevate your legs when you arrive at your destination to help move swelling out of your feet and ankles.  


ENJOY! 

We certainly don’t want you to stress about getting everything “just right” or restrict any fun, but we do want to arm you with tips and tricks for feeling your best on vacation, so you can be present and enjoy it to the fullest!   




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