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9 Ways to Stay Healthy When You Travel

Travel is always supposed to be a fun adventure, something that we don’t usually think of when we want to be healthy. But healthy living while on the road doesn’t have to be a chore; you can easily incorporate a healthier way of traveling for you and your family without making sacrifices and still enjoy your trip. Here are a few tips on how to be healthy when you travel and return home feeling (and looking) great.

1. Decide to be healthy.

This seems logical, but it’s an important first step to being a healthier traveler. Before you even leave home, you need to make the conscious decision to be healthy while you’re out of town or it just won’t work. If you have a family, sit everyone down and just have a short conversation about ways everyone can make the travel experience a little bit healthier. By engaging the entire family before the trip, you will get that all so important buy-in and kids may even want to make a game out of it.

2. Walk everywhere.

Personally speaking, I always walk a lot more than I do at home. Maybe it’s because I am usually off exploring cities, but I find myself walking distances I would probably never consider tackling at home. Unless the weather is uncooperative, be sure to walk as much as you can when you travel. If you’re in a large city, skip public transportation if your destination is only a couple of metro stops or blocks away. You will save money and stay in shape at the same time. To add a little pizzazz to your routine, consider also taking a few walking tours when you travel. Not only will you learn a lot and experience a new side to the destination, but you’ll also burn off some extra calories!

3. Eat locally.

Almost of all our meals are consumed at restaurants or cafes when we travel, and sometimes that can be a problem if you’re trying to be healthy. Restaurants are unavoidable, so instead of skipping them instead just follow some best practices when you dine out. First, be sure to eat locally. Skip chains and find little Mom and Pop eateries wherever you visit. The food will be more authentic and will (hopefully) be made using fresh, local ingredients. I always loose weight when I visit Europe not from exercising, but from skipping fast food and instead eating great, local, wholesome food. If you’re having a hard time finding one just ask a local where they like to eat. I’ve never gone wrong with this approach.

4. Active experiences.

There are plenty of decisions we have to make when we travel and you can use these opportunities to be a healthier traveler. Sure, be sure to spend some time at the beach but also decide to book an active experience, like kayaking or stand up paddle boarding. While walking is great (see above) maybe instead you can rent a bike for the day and explore that way. You’ll ultimately save money by not using cabs or public transportation plus you’ll feel more like a local AND stay healthy at the same time. Whatever you decide to do, just be sure to incorporate some active experiences that get your heart pumping.

5. Water, water and more water.

This is something most people don’t do, or do enough of. Travel is inherently a dehydrating experience, which left unchecked will ultimately mar your entire trip. It starts even before you leave home. Flying dehydrates the body, and it is crucial to remain hydrated or even slightly over-hydrated when you’re in a plane. The day before you leave make sure you have at least eight ounces of water and maintain that on the day of departure. Once airborne, skip coffee and alcohol and instead consume water. Your body will reward you by mitigating the effects of jet lag once you arrive in your destination. Once you’ve arrived the water intake doesn’t stop. Chances are you’ll be busy throughout the day, whether you’re on the beach or in a city so don’t forget to stay properly hydrated. Drinking water will keep your body healthy while you’re out exploring the world.

6. Stretch it out.

Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you should hit the gym when you travel (although that’s not a bad idea), no, instead I’m asking you to take 5 minutes to help your body better cope with your travels. When I travel I’m much more active than when I’m at home and as I get older, my body adapts slower to these changes. To help heal faster, just spend a few minutes in the morning or evening to do some basic stretches. It doesn’t have to be yoga, but do a little online research and find some simple and quick stretches you can do anywhere. This will help the muscles bounce back faster and when you fly it’ll help reduce the chances of developing deep vein thrombosis.

7. Basic math: watch what you eat.

I know, I know, you’re on vacation so calories don’t count. Well, not exactly. It’s fine to splurge and enjoy new foods; that’s one of the most important parts of the travel experience, but like my mom used to say – everything in moderation. When you visit a new restaurant, skip the appetizer or leave the breadbasket alone. Carbs taste good, but too many and our healthy regimen goes off the rails quickly. Proteins should always be the focus of your meals and be sure to also load up on local fruits and vegetables. They’re healthy, taste great and give you a new appreciation for how locals eat. So yes, go ahead and get that gelato, but make sure it’s a small one and you don’t have five or six a day.

8. Cook for yourself.

If I’m going to be in the same place for more than a few days, I usually prefer to rent an apartment or condo. Short-term vacation rentals are all the rage in the travel world and with good reason. You usually get more space than in a hotel at a reduced price. Plus you get to experience life like a local and, perhaps most importantly, you have access to a kitchen. Don’t ignore the kitchen; instead use it to your advantage. Choose to make a few meals at home by starting off shopping in a local market. You’ll experience life in the city in a completely different way, immediately feeling less like a tourist and more like a local. Take these fresh and nutritious finds back to your rental and whip up a locally inspired meal. You’ll eat better and get a more authentic experience at the same time.

9. Relax!

As an over-planning traveler, I understand how hard it can be to slow down while on a trip. You only have a brief window of time in a new place and you want to see and do as much as possible. I understand that desire, but it’s really the worst thing you can do. First, by traveling too fast you end up actually missing more than you will see. It’s better to choose a few things and do them well, knowing that it’s impossible to see all that a new place has to offer in a short few days. Plus slowing down is inherently healthy. The more relaxed and less stressed out you are, the less tense your body will be. Your blood pressure will return to normal levels and you’ll actually be happy instead of miserable, which has plenty of health benefits. Also, be sure to give your body time to recharge. Take a brief nap in the afternoons if you’re feeling worn down and avoid getting sick in the process. Remember, you’re on vacation and you’re supposed to have fun. Take it easy, relax and let yourself enjoy the experience.

What are some ways you stay healthy while traveling?

An experiential luxury traveler at heart, Matt Long shares his adventures with thousands of readers every day through his award-winning site LandLopers.com. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Based in Washington, D.C., Matt has been to more than 65 countries and all seven continents. Matt is part of  The Opener , an exclusive, invite-only contributor network that will bring the best food, culture, and innovation writing to the pages of Coca-Cola Journey.