24 Tips, Tricks and Best Practices To Keep You Healthy While Traveling This New Year
Developing a plan is the first and most critical step for staying healthy when you’re away from home. Knowing where your healthy eating options are and having a fitness plan will keep you from succumbing to your depleted will-power after a long day on the road. If you’re anything like me, I have lower self-control when I’m exhausted and away from home. Planning isn’t a time consuming process – I can usually develop my health trip plan in under an hour and I can promise you it’s the most important hour of my overall trip planning. In this post, I’ll cover my tips and tricks for staying healthy when you’re away from home.
Eating & Drinking
My #1 tip for staying healthy while traveling. Traveling is stressful on your body and your organs. Airplane air dehydrates you quickly and different climates, altitudes can also wreak havoc on your bodily organs. I try to stay extra diligent on my water consumption on days that I travel – I use Fitbit’s app to track every ounce. Don’t be afraid that you’ll have to pee on a plane – it’s much better than the effects of dehydration!
Carry a reusable water-bottle
Having a reusable water bottle will 1. Keep you hydrated (#1 tip to staying healthy on the road) 2. Save you money since plastic water bottles are expensive and 3. Save the environment because those water bottles end up in our oceans. I never leave the house without a Nalgene, whether work or travel, it’s always full. The only exception is that I keep it empty until I get through security when I fly. I’ve never had a hard time finding a water fountain in an airport to fill it up before the flight.
Notice the key word “limit.” It’s unrealistic to think we won’t enjoy a little alcohol while we travel, but keep it in check. Alcohol will increase dehydration and your body’s ability to adjust to different time zones. It’ll also lower your will-power and you’ll be even more tempted by that burger for dinner.
Not all smoothies are created equal – avoid fruit juice mixes!
Don’t get fooled into thinking a fruit smoothie is a healthy option because it has real fruit. Pay attention to the liquid in the drink. Often smoothies are made with fruit juices to improve the test, but the juice is pure sugar. My suggestion is to ask for the same smoothie fruit and vegetables mixed with water instead of the juice. You may lose a little flavor, but you’re blood sugar levels and waistline will thank you.
Focus on “Real” high quality food – don’t spin your wheels on calorie counting
Thankfully calorie counting is beginning to be a thing of the past. It’s extremely hard (especially when traveling) and it doesn’t create a real picture of health. Instead, I recommend focusing on the quality of the food you’re eating. Are you chosing organic grilled chicken or processed deli chicken? What about fresh, crispy kale versus watery, browning iceberg? The quality of the ingredients should mean more than the calories in them. The better you eat, the better you feel.
Watch restaurant portions – they are huge
It’s safe to say that MOST restaurant portions are about double the size of the recommended portion size. I’m not suggesting to cut your meal in half and toss the rest, but just realize the plate in front of you is probably close to double, if not more, the recommended meal size. Usually, I’ll split a dish with my wife or ask for leftovers. If you don’t have a fridge in your hotel room, ask the front desk is there is room in their fridge to leave it overnight. Last resort – give it to someone who is in need of a good meal.
Grocery stores aren’t just for weekday shopping
Grocery stores are a great place to pick up healthy snacks and meals when you’re on the road. Most large grocery store chains have a ready-made food section with salad bars and hot dishes. My favorite is Whole Foods. Whenever I travel, I look up the closest Whole Foods to my location in case I need a healthy meal option quickly.
Probably the most underrated food for travel. It’s full of fiber and protein, stores dry and is simple to make. Try putting together a few portion sized zip lock bags with oatmeal and some dry fruit. I recommend avoiding the pre-made packets as they often contain too much sugar. Just mix with hot water and let soak for a few minutes and you have a healthy snack!
Use Yelp and Planes, Trains and Treadmills
Shameless plug. The mission of this site is to help travelers, both work and vacation, stay healthy while they are away from home. We’re continuing to build out a database of healthy hotel guides, restaurant recommendations and airport restaurants which can certainly help! If you need more advice, we even offer a service to provide healthy menu items at your exact destination!
Plan your meals
The key to staying healthy is planning. Doing a little pre-work on closest food options at every step of your travel will keep you from grabbing a greasy burger when you run out of willpower. Use Yelp, PlanesTrainsandTreamills and Google Search to know the area around your destination(s). Also, if I know I’m eating at a specific restaurant, I pick out a meal ahead of time by using the menu on the website so I won’t be tempted into a less healthy option when I’m hungry.
Ask your hotel for smoothies and healthy food – even if it’s not on their menu
Hotels can often accommodate reasonable requests to improve your stay. For example, I’ll ask whether the kitchen can make me a fruit and vegetable smoothie with no fruit juice or whether there are raw vegetables that I can have. If you are polite, patient and understanding, you may find the hotel is capable and willing to accommodate more requests. Pro Tip – check out our hotel database for healthy eat tips left by fellow travelers, including off-menu items hotels can make.
Ask your restaurant for substitutions
Don’t feel like you’re being difficult. It’s your body and you should decide how and what goes into it. I often recommend substituting sides for health uncooked vegetables (or sauteed without butter). I also ask for sauce and dressing on the side so that I can manage the amount that goes into my meal.
Track – not calories or exact foods, but the quality and the portion
I use a simple tracking method when I’m traveling. I simply assign every meal (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks) with a letter grad, A through F, based on the quality and portion of the food I consume. I then make goals each week to have a certain number of “A” meals or no “C – F” meals. The ranking is more art than science, but it’s a simply way to track rather than entering every item into an app. This one will probably require a separate post, but this summary though give you an idea on a simple tracker that is easy to complete.
Pack your own snacks
This is especially true for the transit part of your trip. Whether you’re flying or driving, it’s hard to find healthy food in airports and gas stations, but easy to pack ahead of time. Whether it’s apples and bananas or a few handfuls of nuts, packing ahead of time is much cheaper and healthier than most of your options on the road.
Balance over absolute – enjoy yourself!
Remember, this is travel. It’s supposed to be about new experiences and often those experiences come in the form of food and drink. The most important message is balance is more important than any absolute. Meaning, enjoy your over-indulgence of steak or wine, but chose one night only and then know you’ll need to eat a little healthier before and after to make up for the indulgence. I usually plan certain meals ahead of time that I know will be indulgent and then look at other meals as ones that I need to make sure to get all my fruits and vegetables and clean foods from. This works for me, but you need to figure out what works for you.
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Ask your hotel what they can do to help you stay healthy
Hotels often have gym discounts or in-room options they can help you with. Westin even has neighborhood running maps, running groups and rental gym gear. I usually call ahead of time so I can pack and plan accordingly, but you can also ask the front desk when you check in. Also, check out our hotel database for healthy tips left by fellow travelers.
These two pieces of equipment will take up virtually no room in your luggage and allow you to workout from basically anywhere. Jumping rope is one of the best cardio exercises and a TRX suspension system will challenge even the heaviest weight-lifters without leaving your hotel room. Even if your hotel doesn’t have a gym, a parking lot is a great place for jumping rope and doing some calisthenics.
No shirt, no shoes, no problem
There are plenty of in-room hotel workouts if you forget your gear. Just remember that jumping up and down or listening to loud music may annoy your neighbors. Be respectful! Our friends at Nerd Fitness have a great hotel workout.
Aim for morning workouts
It’ll be the only time you aren’t scheduled for something while traveling and it’ll feel great to accomplish something first thing in the morning. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve had ambitions to workout in the evening after work only to be thwarted by an impromptu client dinner.
Plan – know what and when you’ll have time to exercise.
I typically look at each week independently and put time on my calendar when I’ll workout. I also plan my workouts to the best of my ability, often not knowing what gym equipment I’ll have access to. For example, I’ll plan a cardio workout on Monday with the hope that I’ll run 5 miles on a treadmill, but I’ll also think about backup plans – maybe 60 minutes on a bike at a high rate of intensity or a spin class. Personally, I find that the more specific that I plan each workout, the more likely I’ll complete it. If I show up to a gym with no plan, I usually leave pretty disappointed with my effort.
Sleep in your workout clothes
Sleep in your gym clothes if you have a hard time motivating yourself in the morning. It’ll save one extra step between you and a sunrise fitness sesh. I’ve yet to hear of anyone regretting a workout after they were finished.
Resting and Relaxing
Download some relaxing music and bring some headphones
This is a trick for staying stress free in the (sometimes) stressful life of traveling. Whether it’s plane delays, weather or annoying co-workers, there are plenty of times where your stress level builds. Download some easy listening music and bring some noise cancelling headphones to escape the situation and calm yourself down.
Don’t skimp on sleep, even if you’re tempted
Your adrenaline may try to trick you into thinking you’re not tired, but don’t be fooled. It’s important to get your normal sleep while you’re traveling so you don’t get burnt out by the end of your trip. The more you can stay on a normal schedule the better, whether traveling or at home.
Ask for a room away from the ice machines, elevators and stairs
It’s not disrespectful to ask for a quiet hotel room away from the ice machines, elevators and stairs. Just don’t be disappointed if they are sold out and can’t accommodate your request. Try calling a few days ahead of your stay with any of your requests – you’ll look more organized and give the team at the hotel time to plan their room allocation.
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