A dietitian and a travel expert share all the health and wellness tips you need for your next vacation. Spoiler alert: Healthy travel snacks are on the menu and R&R is absolutely built into the itinerary.
Got travel on your radar? Just because you’ll be in a different environment doesn’t mean that you need to ditch your daily wellness routine. That said, if you’re on a well-earned vacation, you very well can—and oftentimes should—give yourself a break and let loose a little.
If you want to feel your best (read: balanced) en route—whether by plane, train, car, or boat—and once you arrive at your final destination, heed the expert-vetted insights ahead.
What to Pack: Wellness Travel Essentials
Suitable clothing, toiletries, and the like aside, you may want to pack a few extras to help ensure a smooth travel experience. “When I think of wellness essentials for traveling, I always come back to the things that help balance out some of the wear and tear of being on the go, or those that can help set a foundation for your day,” explains Maddie Pasquariello, MS, RD.
Here’s what the dietitian and frequent flyer packs to keep her wellness game in check while on the road:
- A lightweight, refillable water bottle to stay hydrated
- Nutrient-dense healthy travel snacks such as DIY trail mix, peanut butter pretzels, and protein bars
- A mini resistance band, which takes up virtually no space and can facilitate a mini workout or simple stretches
- Ear plugs, an eye mask, a neck pillow, and a soft wrap to stay cozy and warm
She also takes care to keep a few pro-digestion staples on hand. After all, travel in and of itself typically derails you from your regular eating patterns. If you’re crossing time zones, travel can also disrupt your circadian rhythm, which not only regulates sleep but also influences hunger and metabolism. “I’ll usually take a probiotic in the AM and then pack some digestive enzymes for mealtime,” Pasquariello shares. In addition, “Any supplements you usually take are good to keep with you when you’re on the go.”
Moreover, she highly suggests packing fiber-rich chia seeds… which just might be the digestion-boosting travel hack you never knew you needed. “I’ve found that chia seeds are one of the most foolproof ways to keep digestion in check,” says Pasquariello. “Just mix a teaspoon or so of chia seeds into a few tablespoons of water first thing in the morning, let it gel for five minutes, and then sip the drink before breakfast.”
Rachael Levine (aka Tripping Millennial), a travel content creator fresh off a yearlong trip around the world, learned just how important it is to keep your feet in fighting shape, too. First on her list: compression socks for long-haul flights. “I was resistant to the idea at first, but now I recognize how valuable they are not only for preventing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), but also to keep my feet from swelling up,” she shares.
Second on her list: a pair of kicks that feel good to walk in. “I usually average about 10,000 to 20,000 steps a day depending on the destination, so packing sneakers that are equally comfortable and fashionable is another must.” And though she’s often wiped out after all that walking, she’ll pack a pair or two of workout clothes, especially if hiking is on the agenda.
How to Stay Healthy in Transit
Whether you’re taking a short road trip, a long-haul international flight, or anything in between, it pays to adopt a few simple habits and hacks so you can arrive at your destination feeling as fresh as possible.
Prepare the Day Before and the Morning of Travel
Pasquariello emphasizes the value of a pre-travel wellness regimen to make your journey less taxing. This includes packing the staples shared above (well ahead of time to reduce stress, if possible), getting to bed early the night before, enjoying nutritious pre-travel meals, and working out or stretching before taking off. “Once you’ve done all that, you should be 80 percent of the way there,” she says.
Get Up and Move Around
No matter what means of transportation you take, aim to get up and stretch every few hours to counteract all the scrunching and get your blood flowing. “If you can, stop every two hours or so to do some quick hip opening stretches, lunges, roll out your neck a bit, and stretch your wrists and upper back,” Pasquariello advises. “One caveat: I think it’s totally fine to skip this if you’re taking a red-eye flight, in which case I always think it’s ideal to prioritize getting some rest.”
Hydrate and Avoid Triggering Foods
“This isn’t always easy, but one thing that helps me feel a bit more refreshed during the transit phase is to up my intake of water and moderate my intake of sodium,” Pasquariello continues. She says that doing so can help stave off travel bloat. Try to keep some of your healthy travel snacks in your carry-on, backpack, or purse. Plus, you may want to pack your own homemade mini meal to enjoy en route (think: a sandwich, wrap, or yogurt parfait with frozen fruit). “You don’t have to resort to overpriced and generally low-quality airport, airplane, or gas station food,” she says.
Limit Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol are both dehydrating and can negatively impact your sleep/wake cycles, which naturally spells trouble for your in-transit wellness game. Both can “affect the quality of sleep you get leading into your trip and make you feel more exhausted on that first day at your next location,” Pasquariello warns.
5 Health and Wellness Travel Tips
Alas, you’ve made it to your vacation spot. The following health and wellness tips will help you enjoy your travels to the fullest.
1. Find Creative Ways to Stay Active
Levine says that she used to prioritize hotels with fancy gym facilities, but has learned to incorporate movement in other ways that are often more rewarding. “While I certainly want to leverage hotel gyms when possible, I think it’s nice to combine fitness with exploring a new place as well,” she shares. A few travel influencer-approved ideas include “going for morning walks in city parks, taking a bike tour, or doing a bit of beachside yoga.”
2. Enjoy the Local Cuisine
Food is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to enjoy a local culture, whether domestically or abroad. “Let yourself wander and explore, take the advice of locals on where to dine, and explore beyond the restaurant in your hotel,” Pasquariello advises. Food tours and local food markets can also help you get a literal and figurative taste of your environment. If you have food restrictions, try to reach out to a cafe or restaurant ahead of time to ensure that you have options available.
3. Don’t Overdo It with the Alcohol
Levine notes that it took a learning curve for her to be more mindful about her alcohol consumption—especially in places “where wine is incredibly affordable, often significant to the local culture, and, let’s face it, delicious,” she shares. She and her husband took care to cut back their imbibing and even abstained for a few weeks at a time throughout their yearlong travels abroad.
Your own trip will likely be significantly shorter than a year’s time. Still, you can more mindfully consume alcohol by hydrating before and after imbibing, as well as by rotating alcoholic beverages with water or sparkling water.
4. Prioritize Sleep
“One of the biggest challenges of my travels over the last year was keeping a consistent sleep schedule, regardless of the country or time zone I was in,” Levine continues. To promote sleep quality so you can enjoy the next day fully energized, she suggests using an eye mask, ear plugs, and/or a white noise app or portable machine—all of which, she says, “can be a godsend for ensuring you get your best possible sleep.”
5. Swap Stress for Simplicity
It makes sense that you want to feel your best throughout your travels. Yet that can also entail cutting yourself some slack and not stressing over sticking to a perfectly refined wellness regimen. “Vacation can be a great time to step outside of daily solid routines and give your body a rest,” Pasquariello explains. “Give yourself permission to just be, enjoy, relax, and take a mental reset. That’s what you’re there for, and lessening stress levels is one of the best things we can do for our health.”
Levine agrees, sharing that—of all things—Netflix binges ended up being a worthy part of her travel wellness regimen. Depending on your travel style and destination, you may default to a go-go-go mentality. “FOMO is real, and no matter how long we traveled, it still often felt like a massive waste to spend a night in,” she shares. However, she realized that constant movement and stimulation wouldn’t do her any favors. She then respected her body’s need to simply relax and recharge. So if you have a packed and active schedule but your brain or body signals that it needs to rest, be sure to honor that.
While the health and wellness travel tips shared above can help you feel good, allow for some flexibility. “Travel will always alter your routine to some extent. I recommend trying to go into a trip with an open mind about your routine and accepting that you won’t be able to stick to it perfectly,” Pasquariello says. After all, a break from your norm can absolutely be a beautiful, built-in benefit of traveling if you let it.
Moreover, she strongly advises drowning out any noise—whether self-imposed or external—that indulging while on vacation will set you back. “It’s just diet culture talking, so don’t think twice about it,” she shares. “All of the healthy habits and routines you’ve built won’t disappear with a week or two off.” And with that, we wish you a healthy, happy, and highly rewarding bon voyage.