I recently got married (finally! It was on our 10-year anniversary… yeah, I know) and my husband and I were lucky enough to go on our honeymoon and a family holiday in the space of six weeks. Previously I’ve found it hard to be healthy on holidays, but on these trips I really tried to be conscious of my habits and actions. As a result, I didn’t come home thinking all I’d done was eat and drink to much – which is how my past holidays usually went.
These are the deliberate, conscious yet easy-to-do tips that meant I spent my time away – and once I was back home – calm, in control, refreshed and relaxed.
1. Strengthen your immune system.
In the weeks leading up to (and during) your travel, take probiotics to strengthen your gut health, plus a multi-vitamin for overall wellbeing.
2. Research local food options.
Search online for healthy cafés, restaurants and supermarkets in the area you’re staying so you know where to go when you arrive.
3. Make exercise easy.
Choose a hotel with a gym, or research the closest one near your accommodation. If there’s nothing around, consider bringing your own equipment like a skipping rope or resistant band – which are small, cheap, portable and light, meaning easy to fit in your suitcase – so you can fit in a workout wherever, whenever.
4. Remove temptation in advance.
If you’re staying at a hotel, you can call ahead of time and ask for the mini-bar items (except water) to be removed. Yeah, this is a tough one – haven’t we all dug into overpriced Pringles just because they’re there?! But the health and money benefits are definitely worth it.
5. Eat well.
Plane food… just the thought of it makes me shudder. So before you leave either eat a big nutritious meal, or prep your own food in advance that doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
This could be salads without meat and cheese (e.g. quinoa and roast veggies), bliss balls, nuts, kale chips, vegetable sticks (carrot, celery, capsicum or cucumber) with dip, homemade muffins, protein bars, dark chocolate, individual sachets of nut butter, etc.
That said, if you have to eat a plane meal, choose the main dish that has the most vegetables and skip the added bread, soft drink and dessert.
6. Drink plenty of water.
Bring a big reusable water bottle – airline staff are normally happy to refill it for you. I also bring my own herbal teabags and just ask for a cup of hot water.
Skip the screens (your phone, tablet or the on-board movies) and take the time to read a your favourite magazine or a book you’ve been meaning to get to, meditate, take the opportunity to get into the current adult colouring-in-book trend, journal, bring a book of puzzles or brain-teasers (I like Sudoku); or my favourite – sleep! Just bring a neck pillow, sleep mask and ear plugs you can shut out noise and light.
8. Make good food choices – most of the time.
When you’re out of your routine or have a “I’m travelling, I’m going to enjoy myself” mindset, it’s easier to make unhealthy choices. I think indulgences are important – but make them worthwhile ones. This means a beautiful dessert one night; one or two cocktails another night; gourmet handmade gelato; or a pastry from a famous bakery. Those are indulgences you can revel in, will remember, and can enjoy every bite without feeling guilty. They’re things you can look on and say, “gosh, they were so worth it.” But it’s the stuff that makes you think “hrmm, I feel gross” afterwards that I recommend avoiding, like fries with every meal, chocolate from the mini-bar and soft drinks that don’t add anything to your experience.
When you’re travelling, walking is the best way to see the sights, get some fresh air, and experience local culture. And it’s free! So where possible, walk instead of catching public transport, driving or getting a taxi. And don’t be scared of going long distances – once you get started, an hour of walking can easily turn into two or three or even more. (Once I walked around New York for six hours – and it only felt like one!) Just make sure to plan for bad weather (with an umbrella or water-proof jacket), hot weather (sunscreen, hat or protective clothing), your feet (good quality walking shoes), your location (a hard-copy map or making sure you can use a map app on your phone) and think about your thirst/hunger (water and healthy snacks).
10. Fit in meaningful movement.
Walking is good, but taking the time for exercise is even better. If you’ve got a gym close to you, use it. Or if a gym isn’t an option, just do a workout in your room – as I mentioned before, a skipping rope or resistance band makes it easy to get moving as you don’t need much space. You could also download a yoga or Pilates app, or create your own circuit of bodyweight exercises (like squats, lunges and planks) that don’t require equipment. But whatever you do, don’t worry about slogging it out for an hour. Just 15-20 minutes is beneficial. I love the app called The 7 Minute Workout, which takes you through short high-intensity intervals of body-weight exercises that gives you an all-over workout. If my motivation is lacking, I’ll just do this once or twice. Something is always better than nothing!
11. Don’t sweat the small (and big) stuff.
Things will go wrong. There’s big things like delayed flights, lost luggage, missed trains, getting sick or stolen money – but there’s also little things like getting a bad night’s sleep, a local getting annoyed that you can’t speak the language, or getting the wrong meal sent out to you. The list is endless. It’s easy to get upset or angry when things go wrong, but negativity only leads to more negativity. Attitude is everything! So instead, cultivate gratitude that you can travel at all (e.g. frequently list things you’re grateful for), remember that it’s not always about you (someone’s frustration at you is usually because of something they’re going through, not something you’ve done), and always remember “this too shall pass”.
12. Be gentle with yourself.
These tips are great – but the most important thing is not to stress out and to be gentle with yourself. Had a big night out enjoying the local bars? That’s okay. Eat way too much food during dinner? Fine too. You didn’t think about exercise for a single minute? It’s. All. Fine. No guilt, no shame, no beating yourself up. And, as much as it’s hard to, after one blow-out don’t think, “That’s it. It’s all over. I wanted to be healthy but I can’t. I’m just going to eat everything in sight and I’ll start again when I get home.” Just resolve to get back on track from the next opportunity you can. In short, enjoy yourself and be thankful for the opportunity to travel. Life is meant to be lived!
Over to you – do you have any tips for staying healthy while travelling? Have you found any particular city or place easier or harder to be healthy in?