Here's an issue that almost always comes up with clients....self-care while traveling: eating well, staying active, and keeping up with your routines while traveling. Let's face it, travel and road trips are an important part of a happy, healthy life; so knowing how to navigate these situations to the best of our abilities can be a huge boon to our overall well-being. On top of all of the typically challenges of travel (lots of sitting, changing time zones, less-than-ideal flight times, and the general stress of travel), most of us want/need to be able to relax and "live a little" while on vacation: going out to eat, sampling local cuisine, or staying out late. The key is to find ways to enjoy yourself without sacrificing your health to the point where you aren't able to fully enjoy the overall experience or bounce back quickly once you're home.
Between road trips (anywhere from a few hours to cross-country in a few days), living in my Jeep for five months, both domestic and international flights, and extended trips away from home, I've collected quite a bit of experience with this over the years. So I've finally decided to get it all compiled into one place just for you! As with all lifestyle practices, my five steps definitely apply; if you're going to succeed in sustaining your healthy lifestyle on the go, you'll need to focus on accepting responsibility, setting intention, managing expectations, establishing priorities, and practicing mindfulness. Let's jump in!
First of all, be realistic. You may need to adjust your expectations and priorities. For most of us, we simply cannot (and really shouldn't) expect to maintain the standards we set for ourselves at home, and that's okay. What I do think is very important is to be very clear about your priorities while traveling; what are your non-negotiables? In other words, which facets of your lifestyle are most important to your well-being? For some, certain foods may need to remain off-limits; for others, sleep may be the number one priority. I suggest taking some time before your next trip to sit down and write a list of your top priorities. Your intention should stay pretty much the same as when you're home: do your best with what's available.
Remember, prepping ahead of time is always easier than trying to figure things out on the fly.
For long drives and flights, I always pack as much healthy food as is practical. Here are my go-to options:
Dry/canned goods (I usually buy these on Thrive Market <-- use this link for an extra 25% off of your first order)!
Canned fish: Sardines, Herring, Salmon, etc -- just make sure they're packed in water or olive oil.
Protein/Snack Bars: Primal Kitchen's collagen bars, Rx Bars, Lara Bars, Exo Bars, Thunderbird, Tanka, and Epic all make great products in this category (though there are more great options popping up almost daily).
Grain-free granolas, kale and other veggie chips, and single serve protein shakes are also great options.
Nuts and seeds: I usually but in bulk and prepare single-serving bags or trail-mix ahead of time so I can just throw a couple in my personal bag if I want to munch during the flight.
Raw veggies: carrots, broccoli, celery, cauliflower, peppers, cucumber, and jicama all make great raw snacks. While they do have a limited shelf-life, especially at room temperature, they are certainly more travel friendly than most fruits.
Avocados. Here's the trick: purchase a cardboard shipping tube big enough that you can fill it with avos for a safe voyage.
If possible, bring a cooler!
Now you can prep some fresh meals ahead of time, grab a rotisserie chicken, or keep fruits and veggies fresh longer!
Once arriving at the destination (or even ahead of time), the first thing I do is located a quality grocery store near my hotel/AirBnB/campsite/etc.
Look for Whole Foods, Sprouts, Natural Grocers, Trader Joe's, etc. Or a quick search for "health stores" or "natural grocery stores" will usually turn up any smaller, local options. Depending how long I'm staying in a given area, I may also try to find a farmer's market. Even if none of these options are available, most large chains like Walmart and Costco are starting to carry some healthier options. Do your best.
What (and how much) I purchase usually depends on what my kitchen situation is like. Easiest options are rotisserie chicken or a quality lunch meat, which I'll usually wrap up in a fresh collard green with some avocado and sprouts, and probably some Primal Kitchen salad dressing, which are becoming pretty widely available. If you've got a full kitchen, go crazy!
When dining out, try to use the same rules you would at home (minus any local foods you've decided to try while on vacay):
Salads with protein (chicken, steak, seafood); remember to hold the croutons and dressing (I usually bring my own...).
Grilled on pan-seared steak, chicken, of seafood with steamed or sauteed veggies (just make sure they're using real butter if sauteed); you can usually swap out extra veggies in place of any starches.
Once your body has adapted to using fat as its primary fuel, it becomes much easier to go extended periods of time without needing food to maintain energy.
Don’t starve yourself, but in lieu or healthy options, you can simply wait a few more hours until better choices are available.
This is especially helpful on long flights.
Make sure you're still getting in as much movement as possible by simplifying your routine.
If you’re road-tripping, make stops every hour or so just to stretch your legs and take a few laps around your car or parking lot to keep your body moving; throw in some squats, push-ups, burpees, or jumping jacks to really get some blood moving. You may find it helpful to bring a yoga mat.
If you're flying, be sure to walk around as much as possible at the airport. Don't be afraid to be the weirdo stretching, doing push-ups, or whatever else you need to do. Never be embarrassed about taking care of yourself!
While on the flight, try to get up and stretch every 30 minutes or so if you aren't sleeping. Go to the bathroom way more often than is necessary. If there is a line, you've got an excuse to stand up a little longer!
Quick and easy body weight workouts are so important to have in your toolbox while traveling -- no gym necessary!
A few max-rep sets of push ups, planks, squats, and pull ups should do the trick. The first three can be done anywhere, and it's usually not too hard to find a park for some pull ups on the monkey bars.
You can also throw in some burpees or similar for a high-intensity body weight workout.
When exploring a new/different city, try to hoof it as much as possible. It makes your low-level aerobic activity much more interesting!
Sleep and Stress Management
Try to stick to your normal morning and evening routines as much as possible. Remember your non-negotiables: for me, this is hydration, gratitude, sunlight, and movement each morning before jumping into my day.
EDIT: I totally forgot about grounding/earthing! This is huge, especially before and after flights. Studies have shown that grounding, in conjunction with other healthy lifestyle factors, "may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, ANS dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV, hypercoagulable blood, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease." So as soon as possible after your flight, get your shoes off and get your bare feet in some dirt!
There are some other more advanced supplements and hacks that may help as well, particularly with jet lag, but these are my lifestyle essentials, hopefully they help you on your next trip!
This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, check out my full affiliate disclosure.