The LA Times says regular vacationers are healthier than those who don’t take time out for travel. Of course, without a good plan, a summer vacation can kill the fitness peak you’ve worked so hard to reach. Since I’m traveling as I write this, I’ve had a fresh glimpse of what to do—and not to do—for a healthy, rejuvenating trip.
1. Pack Your Own Snacks.
Take at least a few meal replacement bars in your carry-on bag. While in-flight snacks are getting healthier (I’ve spotted fruit, yogurt parfaits, salads and vegetarian dishes), they’re also getting sparser, and you certainly don’t want to be at the mercy of airport food courts.
Food expert Michael Pollan’s food rule “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper” applies no matter what country you’re in. Don’t settle for a croissant and butter “continental breakfast,” or worse, the cup of coffee breakfast. Once you arrive, stock up on whole grain bread and fruit at the market.
Extra points if you’re going to one of the 10 healthiest food countries.
Unless you happen to be traveling to Italy, Greece or Croatia, a few countries where you can adopt the Mediterranean Diet, chances are you’ll have to up the ‘mindful eating’ ante. The New York Times finds that people tend to dive head-first into the “I’m on vacation!” mentality and go crazy with junk food.
While a bit of indulgence is great, you don’t want to spend your whole trip (and all your euros) in the loo, do you? Stick to these 3 rules for dining out guiltlessly.
3. Take Half To-Go (Wait, Does Europe Even Have To-Go Boxes?)
Surviving Europe with diet intact is not going to be easy. You’ve probably watched petite Italian women devour entire pizzas, and slender French girls effortlessly eat a salad with cheese piled a mile high.
Europeans don’t do to-go boxes, and they certainly don’t share. Besides, when you’re in a place with such delicious food, how can you help but gobble up everything on the table?
You’ll have to stick to your nutrition guns and order smaller portions or insist on sharing — most of the time. I’m also an advocate of the once-a-week “cheat day” policy (maybe twice a week while on vacation?).
4. Get Fitness Equipment that Fits in Your Travel Bag.
Plan to work out at least three days a week during your trip. If you’ll be exploring your destination on foot, Prevention Magazine has the scoop on the best walking shoes. If you’re sightseeing by bike, even better!
5. Board the Plane with a Plan.
With a little planning, air travel can be a breeze. Follow these steps to arrive at your destination refreshed:
- Avoid swelling and blood clotting in your legs by moving around every few hours during long flights. By drinking lots of water and picking the aisle seat, you’ll avoid dehydration and be more likely to stretch your legs en route to the bathroom.
- Don’t wreck your back with awkward luggage. Take a posture-friendly backpack that distributes weight evenly through your core (heavy backpacks should have a hip strap). A suitcase with wheels is even more ideal. To deal with the most problematic of all, the heavy laptop shoulder bag, they now make stylish rolly laptop cases.
- Wear comfortable, roomy shoes. When you have to scramble between connecting flights, your shoes will always be less comfortable than you thought they were—especially if your feet and ankles swelled on the first leg of your trip. (I just saw a girl swap her airport flip-flops for gold stilettos right before meeting her boyfriend at the gate—genius!)
6. Get Some Sleep.
“The disruption to normal schedules caused by flying — and especially jet lag — can wreak havoc on sleep patterns,” says Health.com. Not to mention we want to soak up all the sights of our new destination and would appreciate it if sleep didn’t get in the way.
But trust me: being tired, cranky and on the verge of a head cold leads to less satisfactory sightseeing. Sleep debt opens the door for all sorts of trouble. Take a smart approach to beating jet lag and pop back to the hotel (or a nap hotel) midday for a powernap.
Though vacations reduce your risk of heart attack, the long flights, huge meals and luggage-juggling can send your body into shock.
With a little planning, healthy travel is easy. Keep keep your immune system strong and you’ll make the most of your trip — and you won’t need another vacation when you get home!