Tips for Staying Healthy When You Travel
For me, traveling and food go together. Eating foods from all over the world right here in Chicago is how I first became interested in other cultures. Now eating new foods (and going to grocery stores, markets, and food tours) is my favorite thing to do when I travel to other parts of the world.
As much as I like to experience new foods and activities when I travel, there’s no getting around the fact that all that change is hard on my body. Sometimes it’s hard to enjoy a vacation when my sleep and digestion is all thrown off and then I come home exhausted and with a cold. So today I thought I’d share a few of my tips for staying healthy when traveling—while still, of course, enjoying your trip!
My Tips for Keeping a Healthy Routine When Traveling:
Pack High Fiber Foods
I don’t typically bring tons of snack foods when I travel. I prefer to seek out 2-3 meals per day in my destination instead of snacking all day. I’ll maybe bring a Larabar or a packed meal for the plane if it’s going to be a longer flight. However, between air travel and to-go foods, fiber can take a serious dip in your diet when you travel. So try bringing dried fruit (dates, prunes, figs) or a high-fiber bar to eat once a day to help keep your digestion moving. Make sure to load up on veggies at meals and to keep active to help sluggish digestion when traveling as well.
Bring Tools for a Mini Sleep Sanctuary
It can be hard to sleep in a new bed and in a new time zone, especially when all other parts of your routine are off. I’ve built myself a little “sleep sanctuary” at home and so I try to travel with key components of it. Trying packing a mini sound machine, an eye mask, and earplugs to help make your hotel room or Airbnb more sleep-friendly. I also tend to unplug alarm clocks and cover electronic lights with towels to make the room as dark as possible.
Stay Hydrated and Moisturized
When you are dehydrated, not only do you feel tired and extra-hungry, but dry skin, eyes, and mucous membranes have more difficulty fending off germs. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after air travel and stay hydrated during your trip, buying bottled or filtered water if necessary. If you are traveling to areas with safe drinking water, travel with an empty water bottle and fill it up as needed. Almost every airport has readily available water fountains now.
Pack a little bottle of hand lotion to keep skin moisturized in dry airplane air as well. Lotion can keep your hands from cracking after lots of washing with drying soaps that are common in public restrooms.
Do One Active Thing a Day
I’m not a big exercise-on-vacation type of person, but I do like to build one physical activity into each day’s itinerary whether that is walking around a neighborhood, doing a bike tour, or trying a local dance class. Activity will help sore muscles and joints from travel, as well as help your sleep and digestion. Plus, you’ll work up an appetite for all the foods you want to try! Be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes. I’m a new convert to Altra brand shoes; their shoes have wide toe boxes and are designed with the human foot in mind (rather than fashion) so lots of people like them for heavy walking.
Stretch on the Plane
This one drives my husband crazy, but I like to get up at least once on short flights and a few times on longer flights to stretch. You can do little stretches like putting your arms overhead and rolling your ankles in your seat, but it’s actually really important to get up and get your blood flowing to prevent blood clots from prolonged sitting. Book an aisle seat if you are self-conscious of disrupting your neighbors.
Skip Airport and Airplane Food or Eat at the Nicest Airport Restaurant
Basically all food at the airport (and certainly on the plane) is overpriced garbage. Try to plan your travel to avoid it at all costs. If I’m in a bind and need to eat something at the airport, my new system is to go to the nicest restaurant in the terminal at eat there. The food is likely healthier and fresher, but more importantly, the atmosphere is considerably less stressful and the price is really not that much different than the prepacked sandwiches at Hudson News. Embrace the vacation vibe and treat yourself to a brief escape from airport stress.
Bring an Immersion Blender
I don’t usually cook on vacation even when staying in an Airbnb, but if you can, that’s certainly a way you can help maintain a healthy routine. I’ve read lots of other people in the health space travel with a blender but that seems like a huge pain to me. If you are thinking about making a morning smoothie each day of your trip, try bringing an immersion blender that comes with a big cup. Your smoothies won’t be nearly as velvety smooth as a pitcher-style blender, but these are way lighter, easier to clean, smaller, and less expensive (should you forget it behind). I have this one from KitchenAid and it’s pretty travel friendly. (Disclosure: I work with KitchenAid.)
Try (doctor-approved) Travel Supplements
You guys know I don’t recommend self-subscribing supplements, but certain ones can help ease the side effects of travel if its particularly hard on your body. I use magnesium glycinate for digestion and muscle cramping, turmeric for inflammation, and CBD or melatonin for sleep. Ask your health care provider what supplements they might recommend for you, especially if you rely on more intense pharmaceuticals like sleeping pills or pain killers when you travel.
Eat One Healthy Home-style Meal a Day
Travel is my time as a chef to explore new things, so I don’t really restrict what I eat when I’m on vacation (or otherwise). But I do know that I’ll feel terrible if I eat too many carbs or fried foods so I try to make sure that at least one meal a day somewhat mimics my style of eating at home—lighter and with more vegetables. Whether you eat plant-based, paleo, Mediterranean, or any other style of eating, you’ll probably feel best on your vacation if you stick with that as much as possible. Try one meal a day.
Leave Late and Come Back Early
This has become my new travel mantra and I’m all about spreading the secret: take a late morning flight to your destination and take an early flight back home. In my 20s, I would always try to “make the most” of any trip so I’d book the earliest flight possible on Friday and then the latest one on Sunday. This was also an attempt to save a few bucks. I would always be exhausted on day one of the trip with no place to put my luggage and then I’d be exhausted come Monday morning because I had no time to unpack, shop for food, or get ready for the week. My new philosophy is all about making the trip ideal for me which means not having to set an alarm at 4am to go to the airport and arriving home with enough time to go grocery shopping for the week and get back to my normal routine. This tip is all about reducing stress and enjoying travel. One weekend trip shouldn’t destroy the rest of your week!