This summer is set to be one of the busiest travel seasons on record, thanks to several years of pent-up demand. Now that travel is finally back in the future, you’re ready to book your road trips, flights, Airbnbs, hotels, cruises and more. Going on a well-deserved vacation doesn’t mean your health has to suffer, however. Learn from three health experts about tips and tricks for preparing for and staying healthy while traveling, and a checklist for helpful items to stock up on ahead of time.
How to Stay Healthy When Traveling
Bring your own snacks.
Being prepared before hunger strikes will help you to make better choices when traveling. Stock your car or bag with healthy snacks, avoiding items with lots of non-nutritive ingredients such as dyes and artificial flavors, says Nadine Bradley, a registered dietitian with Culina Health. A good rule of thumb is to eat as many whole foods as possible (i.e., bananas, almonds), but if processed snacks are your only option, aim to choose ones with less than 5 grams of added sugar, at least a few grams of fiber and whole grains whenever possible, she adds.
Kristel de Groot, registered dietitian and co-founder of Your Super, advises packing a tote bag of healthy food for your family. “It’s so easy to eat only pre-packaged snacks that often leave you feeling hungry and constipated afterward,” she says. Some whole foods that travel well include nuts, apples, grapes, berries, sliced cucumber and bell peppers, crackers, hummus and overnight oats. If you’re not able to pack much, visit a local supermarket once you reach your destination to stock up on healthy options.
Rather than limiting what you consume or omitting certain foods, focus on eating more fruit and vegetables. It’s one way to ensure you’re getting adequate fiber to avoid GI issues, a common problem that can put a damper on vacation, says Bradley. Women should aim for about 25 grams of fiber per day, while men need around 38 grams.
Bradley advises eating mostly when the sun is out to avoid late-night snacking when you’re not actually hungry — a technique that is also doable away from home. “I try not to encourage overanalyzing every decision to eat or drink during vacation, but mindfulness is always important,” she says. “If you know the habits you create during vacation will leak into your routine at home, having a cut-off time for food or drinks could be helpful.”
Keep in mind that while enjoying your meals on vacation is fun (and fine!), “not every meal has to be a crazy-indulgent one,” says de Groot. For example, if you know you’ll have a big dinner with friends one night, consider keeping breakfast that day on the simpler side (i.e., yogurt with berries rather than a giant plate of French toast).
The journey’s half the fun, or so they say, but whether you’re taking a road trip or a flight to get to your destination, it involves a lot of sitting — which isn’t ideal for your health. Take advantage of every opportunity to walk while traveling, says Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and DrAxe.com. If you’re in a car, hop out at a rest stop and walk for 15 minutes every few hours, and at the airport, stroll around the terminal to get in steps before your flight.
Once you arrive, if your idea of bliss is planting yourself in a beach chair, cocktail in hand, there’s nothing wrong with that. Instead of hitting the gym, you can still try to be active each day by swimming, paddleboarding, surfing, hiking, beach volleyball, pickleball or partaking in another fun outdoor activity offered at your destination, says Dr. Axe. You don’t have to “earn” your meals but being active during the day will help you to feel better overall and help you to enjoy delicious food while traveling.
If you’re worried about availability of exercise equipment, bring your own. Dumbbells aren’t travel-friendly, for obvious reasons, but items such as jump ropes are resistant bands are easy to pack, says Dr. Axe. They don’t take up much space, are lightweight and can pass through TSA in a carry-on. During downtime, take out your equipment and squeeze in a workout, whether that’s jumping rope in a parking lot or doing banded squats in your hotel room.
Keep your routines.
If you’re used to an early wake-up call, sleeping in can be a major perk of vacation. After all, escaping the daily grind is one reason traveling can help you to rejuvenate. Yet a key piece of staying healthy while traveling is to still take care of your body in other ways by maintaining a routine, says de Groot. It’s OK to skip the 6 a.m. alarm, but if you normally meditate or do 15 minutes of yoga every day, for instance, do those on vacation too.
Take a probiotic.
Probiotics will help keep things moving and add healthy bacteria to your microbiome, essential to your overall health, says de Groot. Fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi and some soy products contain natural probiotics, or you can take a probiotics supplement, in gummy, pill or powder form.
Drinking enough water will help to keep your digestive tract functioning normally, says de Groot. Pack a reusable water bottle, which is more environmentally friendly than plastic and may also encourage you to drink more. Hydration is especially critical if you’re spending lots of time outdoors, such as hanging out on the beach in warm weather.
All healthy travel advice considered, Bradley says the No. 1 thing you should do on vacation is have fun. If you don’t vacation frequently, there’s no harm in indulging a little bit, and it won’t completely set you back on your wellness goals as long as you follow a healthy routine at home. “Go have an amazing time and be mindful to reset and relax while on vacation so that when you come home, you can jump back into prioritizing wellness sooner,” she says.
Healthy Travel Essentials
Here are 10 easy-to-pack items to help you maintain your family’s wellness on the road.
Prevent jet lag with a 100% natural, safe homeopathic JetZone Jet Lag formula, $9.99
Keep gut health in check with portable Flora Travel Probiotic, $24.99
To keep water cold for 24 hours: Built Cascade Water Bottle, $19.99
For simple workouts on the road: Gaiam Restore Strength and Flexibility Kit, $14.86
Pack your own snacks and reduce waste with LunchSkins Reusable Sandwich & Snack Bags, $9.29
For quick, anywhere hand washing: Honest Company Keepin’ It Clean wipes, $6.99
Roll on one of these five essential oils to help you relax: Badger Aromatherapy Travel Kit, $12.74
Assorted bandages and ointments in this Welly Human Repair Kit, $9.79
Keep your skin fresh with easy-to-pack, animal test-free and vegan toiletries: Formula 10.0.6 Clean Getaway Travel Kit, $9.99
For calming pets’ anxiety in the car: Ark Naturals Happy Traveler for Dogs and Cats, $8.99