There are the lucky ones who stay healthy regardless of where they go or how many germs lurk in their surroundings—in crowded airports, on planes, at holiday gatherings. For most people, though, figuring out how to stay healthy is a process of trial and error.
To help reduce the error, I asked the healthiest people I know—nutrition nuts, fitness fanatics, travel addicts, and yogis—how to stay healthy while traveling. This is a collection of their best tips. And I have to say, even after working at a fitness website for seven years, this is some of the best advice I’ve ever come across.
Let’s kick things off.
Don’t Leave Room for Excuses
Fara, a personal trainer and writer for Women’s Running, tackles healthy travel from all angles. She starts by mapping out the fitness facilities at her destination. Then she packs the tools that will help her stay healthy on the go, including quick drying workout clothes and…a travel blender. Yes, you read that right.
“This way I can keep my snacking routine close to what I do at home,” she says.
Once she arrives at her destination, she uses tools like Garmin and Strava to find scenic running or hiking routes. For bad weather days she keeps a couple of 25-minute circuit workouts bookmarked on her computer.
And to ensure she’s limber and ready for anything, she has her recovery tools on hand too.
“I always travel with my trigger point ball,” she says. “So I can roll any knots I have from travel stress.”
Hydrate Ahead of Time
“It’s harder to stay hydrated when you’re on the long flights.” If you hydrate ahead of time she says it helps to keep up your energy and minimize the effects of jet lag.
Eat Healthy From the Start
Dina, creator at dina’s cucina, ups her probiotic intake before and during the trip, and then focuses on packing healthy food for the journey.
“Airport and airplane food is terrible,” she says. “Don’t start your vacation off on the wrong foot.”
She also travels with tea including “bedtime tea to make sure you’re getting adequate sleep, and peppermint and ginger for nausea and upset stomach.”
Pack a Lemon
“I know this sounds weird,” she says, “but lemons are packed with Vitamin C and they’re super cleansing. At airports, I get a free cup of hot water, add some lemon and my own tea, and have a healthy alternative to Starbucks. Plus, drinking hot lemon water in the mornings is an Ayurvedic healthy practice, and wherever I’m headed it usually takes me a day to pick up [more lemons].”
She also carries a tincture of ginger if she’s headed to a developing country. “It works to soothe belly aches but is also an anti-bacterial and can help if you eat something funky or end up with a mild case of traveler’s trots.”
And just in case it turns into Montezuma’s revenge, she’ll have Cipro on hand, too.
Stay on the Exercise Wagon
Erin, a yoga instructor, relies on her workout routine to help her stay healthy when traveling.
“I try not to use traveling as an excuse to fall off the [exercise] wagon,” she says. “Running in a new city is a great way to explore the unfamiliar streets.”
If you’re not a runner, she recommends looking for Spin classes, yoga studios, or hiking trails in the area.
Keep it Simple
For Jennifer, a yoga instructor, her running shoes (and yoga mat) go everywhere she goes. “You can walk or run anywhere—no equipment or fancy gym needed,” she says. “I recently ran the stairs at a lake we were at because there were no roads or sidewalks.”
I love the simplicity of this. Her shoes act as a trigger to make the best use of the resources available, whatever they may be.
Sightsee on Foot
Katia, co-founder at ZenRise, turns her runs into sightseeing adventures. “I usually [run] first thing in the morning after I arrive. It allows me to get familiar with a new place while the streets, beaches, or parks are empty. I can watch beautiful sunrises, and [take note of] local shops and attractions I would not see otherwise,” she says.
Katia’s runs are usually 5 to 7 miles, “as long as the temperature is over 45 to 50 degrees F.” If she’s traveling during winter and the temps don’t cooperate, she’ll do a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout. This consists of 1 to 3 cycles of a 7-min circuit.
She uses the 7 Minute Workout Challenge iPhone app and performs the workout first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
Get Up and Move
Emily, a holistic health coach and founder of Embrace True Health, also likes to get her blood moving in the morning. “It helps you wake up and feel more energized throughout the day,” she says. The morning routine doesn’t have to be high intensity either. You can take a walk outside or do simple body weight exercises such as a few rounds of squats, push-ups, and crunches.
“Daily exercise can help counteract some of the negative effects of dining out, such as weight gain or increased belly bloat,” she says.
When traveling across different time zones, Emily also avoids drinking caffeine and alcohol on the plane. “Dehydration exacerbates the symptoms of jet lag,” she says. To ensure that you’re well hydrated, drink plenty of water before, during, and after your flight.”
To help ward off any sickness symptoms, Lindsey, a yogi and frequent traveler, packs zinc and Emergen-C packets for her trips.
And if she ever feels pangs of anxiety or homesickness, she turns to meditation. “Download the Insight Timer meditation app and listen to a guided meditation for a few minutes to help ground [yourself],” she says.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you still might succumb to a travel bug. Ashley, travel blogger at Ashley Abroad, always has medication at the ready for times like this. “I generally bring cold medicine, Advil, and Imodium at a bare minimum,” she says.
Editor’s note: I’ll add essential oils to the list of meds in my bag. The minute I start to feel run down—or at the first sign of a family member’s cough—I put four drops of On Guard (by doTerra) in a glass of water and guzzle it down.
And last but not least…
Get Plenty of Sleep
Melissa says, “Lack of sleep is the number one reason why I get sick.” And I agree!
Do what it takes to get a full night of sleep before your trip, then nap on the plane, and stay well rested during your travels.
To help, Melissa brings her own inflatable pillow (“airline pillows are full of germs!”) and earplugs for the plane. She also tries to get on schedule with the new time zone on day one. “No naps,” she says. “It’s more important to hit the hay early the first night and get acclimated.”
Your turn: what’s your best trick for how to stay healthy when you travel?