June 03, 2024

12 Simple Hacks for Healthier Travel

photo of Perry Santanachote

Written By

Perry Santanachote

photo of Mary Stratos, PA-C, IFMCP

Medically Reviewed By

Mary Stratos, PA-C, IFMCP

Lifeforce Physician Assistant

12 Simple Hacks for Healthier Travel

You’ve finally done it: Your nutrition and exercise routines are rock solid; you’re feeling your best. Now comes the true test — a trip. While visiting new places is exciting, the deviations from routine can be a blow to sleep, exercise, and nutrition

In a 2018 study, the Harvard Business Review found that people who travel regularly for work had higher body mass index scores and were also significantly more likely to report anxiety, depression, a lack of physical activity, and trouble sleeping. 

Rather than let all of this keep you home or dampen your trip, there are ways to continue caring for your wellness goals while traveling for work or leisure. A Lifeforce Health Coach might not fit in your suitcase, but we have the next best thing — novel travel tips and exercise alternatives from our team to keep you on track.

12 Health Coach-Approved Tips for Healthy Travel

Healthier Travel Hacks: 12 Health Coach Approved Tips

1. Book an Airbnb and cook some meals yourself.

Staying healthy while on the road can be a struggle with restaurant fare and room service for every meal. That can be mitigated if you opt for Airbnb or a residence-style hotel room with a kitchenette.

“Having a refrigerator and access to kitchen appliances such as a microwave, toaster and even a stove and oven will allow you to cook a few meals from home base, which will give you ultimate control over ingredients, oils used, and portions,” says Lifeforce Health Coach Gina Viviano. “Order your groceries online with a service like Shipt or Instacart, and schedule the delivery for your arrival. This convenience will motivate you to stick to the choices you made when you were planning this trip.” 

You can also look for a grocery store nearby to grab simpler, nutritionally balanced breakfast and lunch items. Bonus: Exploring grocery stores in a foreign country is a great way to experience the local culture.

Healthier Travel Hacks: Drink 8oz H2O per hour

2. Sip 8 ounces of H2O per hour of air travel. 

Water is your best friend, especially when you’re in an airplane for hours. “Plane travel can cause us to feel less hydrated and more exhausted than usual due to the air in airplane cabins having almost zero moisture,” says Viviano. When drink service comes around, forgo wine, soda, or coffee — all of which can make you feel worse — and opt for water or herbal tea instead. Better yet, pack a reusable water bottle and fill it up once you’ve gone through security. According to the Aerospace Medical Association, you should aim to drink about eight ounces of water every hour you’re in the air.

Healthier Travel Hacks: Get Morning Sunlight

3. Seek out the morning sun to reset your internal clock.

Traveling cross-country or beyond? “Leverage principles of chronobiology to optimize sleep-wake cycles and adapt to changing time zones more efficiently,” says Lifeforce Senior Health Coach Kelly Lynch, a kinesiology and hormone health specialist. Within an hour of waking up, get outside to chase some sunlight, which signals to the brain and body that it’s morning and time to be awake. That morning exposure helps trigger bodily processes that help you feel energized throughout daytime hours and boost the production of melatonin (the hormone that signals to the body it’s time to sleep) about 12 hours later.

Healthy Travel Hacks - Playlist

4. Make a circadian rhythm playlist.

A 2020 study shows how critical sleep is to staying healthy, especially when crossing time zones. Not enough of it can compromise the immune system. Get your mind and body into the new time zone with curated tunes.

“Musical playlists help my body and mind get into the right headspace, like a helpful heads up,” says Lifeforce Health Coach Rachel Krivoshey, a Nationally Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach and Registered Dietetic Technician. “Something fun and boppy for wake-up time, relaxing and slow for bedtime, and energizing beats for when it’s time for movement.”

Healthy Travel Hacks Airplane

5. Lean into fasting or time-restricted eating.

Intermittent fasting has many benefits, including reduced inflammation, enhanced sleep, and weight management. “Travel days are great opportunities to expand the time between meals,” says Lifeforce Health Coach Karen Katzenbach, a Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certified Master Coach. “There’s no need to try to find healthy food at the airport or remember to pack TSA-friendly options. What better way to lessen the stress of travel?” Just know that this isn’t the time to start intermittent fasting for the first time if you’re new to it.

“You can also restrict calories during the day if you know you will have a more calorie-dense meal that evening,” says Julie Christoffer, a Certified Holistic Life and Health Coach and Therapeutic Recreational Specialist. “If you cannot fast all day, eat a high-protein food, like eggs or a protein shake, which will keep you feeling satiated longer than other types of food.

Healthy Travel Hacks - Healthy Meals

6. Pre-book your dinner plans.

Look for healthy restaurants before your trip and avoid letting dinner become a game-time decision that can compromise your dietary goals. “Scan menus for meals that contain fiber, a healthy fat, and a protein source,” says Krivoshey. “You’ll make a healthy choice while honoring cravings and the local delicacies around you. Incorporating these elements into each meal and snack also helps you not feel sluggish after eating so you can enjoy where you are to the fullest.”

Also, challenge yourself to try a new healthy dish from the local cuisine each day, says Lifeforce Health Coach Jillian Montemarano. “Not only will you expand your culinary horizons, but you'll also discover delicious and nutritious options that you can incorporate into your diet after you return home.

Healthy Travel Hacks - One Plate Rule

7. Abide by the one-plate rule.

“It is tempting to eat all the new and fun things when traveling to a new destination, and it is important to enjoy them, but do so in moderation,” says Lifeforce Health Coach Megan Houser, a Nationally Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. “Be especially mindful of alcohol and sweets.” Consider practicing the one-bite rule and allow yourself one or two bites of each dish you're curious about, says Montemarano. “Often, just a taste is enough to satisfy your curiosity without leading to overeating.”

And if you’re at an all-inclusive resort or cruise buffet, follow the one-plate rule. “The goal is to enjoy all the different foods and cuisines while also not breaking the metabolic bank and overeating,” says Lifeforce Health Coach Vinnie Antonelli-Galizio, a Nationally Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach and Certified Personal Trainer. “Nothing is off limits, but everything you want to enjoy, desserts included, must fit on one plate. It’ll go a long way in allowing you to maintain your body composition while still enjoying life.”

As for alcohol and sugary drinks, “Alternate each of those drinks with water to stay well hydrated throughout the day, especially when sightseeing or enjoying poolside cocktails,” says Houser. “Doing so helps avoid headaches and fatigue.”

Single Serving Snacks

8. Pack high-protein and high-fiber snacks.

Airport and gas station snack options are often processed and full of sodium and carbs. “Always travel with pre-portioned snacks that are non-perishable yet nutrient-packed,” says Viviano. “Aim to include foods high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, as this combo will keep you fuller for longer while also working to slow glucose absorption and balance your blood sugar.

Some great options:

  • Low-sugar jerky, such as Chomps, an apple, and almonds.

  • Protein bar with whole, natural food ingredients, such as Truvani, a piece of fruit, and/or veggies, such as baby carrots, mini cucumbers and mini sweet peppers.

  • A protein powder packet and all-natural nut butter, such as Artisana, can be added to a bottle of water and shaken up for a filling smoothie.

“If you are driving to your destination, you can pack a cooler with even more healthy choices,” says Christoffer. “Add hard-boiled eggs, string cheese, grilled chicken breast, and Greek yogurt to your snack arsenal.”

Lifeforce Peak Rest Sleep

9. Take the best supplements for travel.

Adaptogens

Adaptogenic herbs and supplements, such as ashwagandha, rhodiola, or holy basil, modulate the body's stress response and enhance sleep onset and duration, says Lynch. Sleep-enhancing blends containing herbs, like valerian root, passionflower, and chamomile, can also calm the mind and promote relaxation before bedtime.

Magnesium

A magnesium supplement, such as Lifeforce Magnesium or Peak Rest™, can decrease anxiety and help you to relax before bedtime for a great night's sleep, says Christoffer. “You can also apply a magnesium cream or spray on your body to help reduce inflammation and muscle aches after a day of hiking or walking.”

Electrolytes

“A zero-calorie electrolyte powder, like LMNT, Drip Drop, or Water Boy, helps keep inflammation down and keeps you hydrated on the go with essential amounts of sodium, magnesium, and potassium,” says Christoffer.

Superfood powders

When eating out at restaurants, you may consume fewer fruits, vegetables, and nutrient-dense foods than you would when cooking at home. “Superfood supplements, like spirulina or chlorella tablets, help boost nutrient intake and enhance resilience during your journey,” says Lynch.

Healthy Travel Hacks - Stretching

10. Prioritize mobility drills and corrective exercises.

Lynch suggests counteracting the effects of prolonged sitting during travel with a lacrosse ball or massage roller. Perform self-myofascial release on tight muscles, focusing on areas like the hips, shoulders, and thoracic spine. Incorporate dynamic stretches and mobility exercises, too, to improve joint range of motion and prevent stiffness.

Healthy Travel Hacks - Exercise Bike Riding

11. Take in some high-intensity sightseeing.

What natural resources or unique urban experiences exist at your destination? “Incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into your sightseeing for a boost in metabolism while experiencing the area in a unique way,” says Lynch. Choose landmarks or intervals along your route, sprint between them, and perform bodyweight exercises like push-ups, squats, or burpees in between the bouts of cardio.

Healthy Travel Hacks - Jump Rope

12. Pack a jump rope and resistance bands for travel-friendly workouts.

“The smallest and mightiest tool people can bring on their travels are resistance bands,” says Antonelli-Galizio. “Many have attachable handles that come in a nice cinched bag for easy packing.” Need instructions? Viviano loves Heather Robertson's resistance band workout video on YouTube.

A jump rope also easily fits into your suitcase and is excellent for cardio. “Use it to literally shake off all the effects of sitting during your travel days,” says Katzenbach. Or if you need to lengthen muscles and unwind, a simple no-equipment yoga flow can work wonders, too.

This article was medically reviewed by Mary Stratos, PA-C, Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner.

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