Travel is one of my favorite hobbies. I grew up camping, going to the beach and on cruises with my family and have continued my love for travel. It’s through my experience with traveling and my nutritional therapy education that I’ve created a few healthy fundamentals that will help you stay safe and healthy while traveling.
While we’re here in the mist of summer and prime traveling season, I thought I’d share my 6 tips for staying healthy while traveling. We all know it’s difficult trying to stay healthy while you travel. We aren’t in our normal routine of exercise and surround by our normal diet. Sleep and exercise are also last to be prioritized too while we travel. Whether you’re unfamiliar with traveling to developing countries or just looking for my healthy habits I carry along with me when I travel, this article is for you.
Before heading off, it may be recommended to take a probiotic 2 weeks before traveling. Probiotics provide healthy gut bacteria for the gut that is necessary in the proper break down and absorption of food. A healthy gut can properly digest and assimilate food and nutrients, as well as help to keep things moving. Constipation is a common symptom some folks experience and a probiotic may help with that. Two weeks prior departure, I suggest taking a good quality probiotic. A probiotic will help populate more of the “good” bacteria in the gut. This will help ward off any acid reflux and digestive problems, viruses and illness.
Exercise stimulates the immune system, releases endorphins (feel-good chemicals), and keeps your brain sharp. Here’s how I stay active during my travel:
Head to the hotel fitness center. Whenever I book a hotel, I make sure it has a good fitness center—or at least a connection to a nearby fitness center if there isn’t one in the hotel itself. Walk as much as possible. When you’re in a walkable city or town, walk to appointments, restaurants, etc. rather than taking a cab. Do chair squats. If I have a long flight I will often do some chair squats to give my muscles some stimulation. I’ll also carry a resistance band in my luggage (takes little to no space), great for working multiple muscle groups in the comfort of my hotel room. After a long flight I’m pretty tense and tight so I’ll often times just stretch it out in the hotel room, doing some deep breathing and yoga poses.
Wash your hands
This is an obvious one but a must and just a friendly reminder, especially when traveling to those developing countries, is to wash your hands. That last thing you want to catch is a virus or end up being treated in the hospital for an illness while traveling. So always wash those puppies before eating.
This can be a real challenge when you’re staying in hotels and don’t have much time to cook. But there are a few things that can make it a little easier:
- Bring snacks. I travel with lots of Paleo-friendly snacks in my carry-on. Snacks high protein and fat like beef jerky, nuts, berries, olives, fruit/nut bars and almond butter (a few of my favorite snacks below in the picture). When I’m running low, I head to the local health food store to replenish.
- Eat a big meal before you travel. If I have a long travel day, I’ll make sure to have a hearty breakfast and/or lunch before getting on the plane. Then I’ll just eat the snacks in my carry-on while traveling. This saves me from terrible airport food.
- Don’t be afraid to fast. Sometimes if there’s nothing I want to eat available I’ll simply fast. Occasional fasting was certainly built into our Paleo ancestors’ lives, and I think travel is one of the best opportunities to give it a shot.
- Plan in advance. I typically choose hotels that have at least a kitchenette, and preferably full kitchens. While I may not have time to shop and prepare full meals, this allows me to at least have hot tea and pick up some kombucha or kefir that I can keep cold. I will also choose hotels based on the menu of their restaurant, or the proximity of other restaurants I’ve checked out nearby. That way I don’t get myself into a situation where I’m starving and the only thing available to eat is something that won’t make me feel well.
- Developing countries. Avoid tap water. Make sure you are getting water from a source of quality. Avoid anything raw like meat, fruit and veggies. Choose fruit with thick skin that must be peeled by you. Optimally, cook all food thoroughly.
Rest and Sleep
Just as exercise is especially crucial while traveling, so is rest. Travel is inherently stressful, and it can be difficult to find downtime especially when you’re traveling for work. What works for me is scheduling periods of rest into my day, just as I would schedule any other appointment or commitment. That way, when things get busy and I would otherwise forget to rest, I get a little reminder on my computer or phone that tells me it’s time to take a break.
Along the same lines, I do my best to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep on the road—just as I do at home. This isn’t always possible, but it makes a big difference in keeping me healthy.
Be Flexible and Adaptable
Let’s face it, things don’t always go the way we want them to when we’re traveling. From delayed or canceled flights to mixups at the hotel to bad food experiences, travel can be a real drag. But rather than struggle against things that are beyond your control, why not use these unpredicted events as opportunities? Flight delayed? Maybe it’s time to catch up on those phone calls you’ve been putting off, or write that email or blog post you’ve been procrastinating on.
And don’t forget the 80/20 rule—it’s especially important while traveling. If you’re starving and feel shaky and agitated because you haven’t eaten, but there’s no 100% Paleo-friendly food available, sometimes it’s better to go ahead and eat anyways so you’re not miserable for the next several hours on your flight. In most airports you can at least get a salad with some chicken on top or perhaps a burger with no bun and some lettuce and tomato. Not particularly appetizing, but it will tide you over. Along the same lines, while you may not have time for your full exercise routine, even doing 15–20 minutes of activity in the gym will often make a big difference in how you feel that day.
Now go on your merry way, travel and stay healthy!