We’re heading fast into holiday travel season, and for many, regular business travel is a returning reality, too. For any kind of traveler, it can be a chore to maintain healthy habits while away from regular routines, languishing in airports, and faced with the dubious dietary options that often accompany travel. It’s easy to lose track of how long it’s been since you’ve gotten a good workout—or eaten a green vegetable—but if you want to break the cycle of travel and slide, here are the fundamentals of staying healthy on the road.
Get Proper Nutrition
Let’s start with the biggest travel challenge of all: healthy food choices. Whether you’re traveling for pleasure and indulgences abound, or you’re a business traveler at the mercy of someone else’s arrangements, making smart choices in airports, hotels, and travel destinations can be a doozy. But if you don’t want to regret it later, it’s important to keep a balance to make sure you remain healthy during your travels.
- Carry healthy snacks with you (bonus if you can spare yourself the airport cost!) like homemade protein energy bites, granola bars, or dried fruits and nuts.
- Be picky about when indulgences are really worth it. For example, choose not to waste calories (and digestive distress) on a heavy breakfast if you know a big dinner is coming later that day.
- Beware hotel breakfasts loaded with salt, carbs, and fat (like bacon or pastries) and opt for fresh fruit, cereals or yogurt instead.
- Make sure you’re getting lots of immune-boosting foods to fortify your health during travel, which is already a minefield of immune system dings.
Get Your Rest
Although there are plenty of things that can keep us up late during travel, it’s important to get adequate sleep for optimal physical and mental health. According to the CDC, the minimum amount of sleep for adults (18-60 years) is 7 hours daily, and we already know that insufficient sleep can make you prone to infections, negatively impact your mood, and even affect brain function. If you struggle to sleep well in foreign surroundings, here are some tips to help you get better on-the-road zzz’s:
- Pack the sleep essentials: eye mask, earplugs, noise-cancelling headphones, pillow spray—whatever helps quiet the outside world and makes you feel more relaxed. You can even look into sleep-supporting apps.
- Watch your alcohol and caffeine intake, particularly in the 2–3 hours before you plan to sleep. Both can knock your sleep schedule off its natural rhythm and leave you wide-eyed in bed.
- Eat a lighter dinner, especially the later you eat it. Digestion is serious work for the GI system, and processing a large meal will pose a challenge to deep sleep.
- Try a melatonin supplement. This hormone typically rises naturally about two hours before bedtime, preparing your body for rest, but If you’re traveling, this natural process may get thrown out of whack. A melatonin supplement can help your body produce its own melatonin when you need it.
- Move as much as possible during the day, even if only to stretch. Air travel can stick you with long periods of inactivity, which can throw off your sleep cycle. Expending more energy will help your body rest when your head hits the pillow.
- Get a massage. Massage therapy is a proven path to better sleep, and you may not even need to seek out the nearest spa—or even leave your room. You can book a Zeel massage in over 100 cities nationwide, and we’ll even come to your hotel room.
Squeeze in Exercise
Many of us end up gaining weight while traveling because we overeat and skip exercise altogether. Even if time is limited, it still makes a major difference in your health to find just 15 minutes in your day to sweat it out while you’re on the road. Here are a few ideas:
- Try getting up just ten minutes earlier, as a short, high-intensity workout in the morning can boost your energy throughout the day, put you in a better mood, and improve your focus and cognition.
- Take advantage of hotel fitness amenities, like the gym or pool if your hotel offers these amenities.
- You may think hotel rooms aren’t spacious enough for exercise, but you can typically find just enough bedside floor space for some sun salutations, planks, push-ups, jumping jacks, or other small-space workouts.
- You can even pack the gym in your bag and with lightweight essentials like resistance bands, jump rope, or gliders.
- Just move: Take phone calls while you pace, take the stairs instead of the elevator, do a few squats while brushing your teeth. Remember, doing something is always better than doing nothing!
Take Care of Your Muscles & Joints (and Then Some)
Travel can do a number on your musculoskeletal system. From airplane seats to hotel beds to that overnighter you’ve been carrying on the same shoulder for hours…the most splendid of trips can still set up some serious aches and pains.
The best medicine for your travel-burdened muscles, joints, and bones? A massage. Everyone knows that massage therapy will relax tense muscles and restore your skeletal stasis, but massage also has powerful, scientifically proven abilities to help you get a better night’s sleep, improve circulation, and help power up your immune system—all things that can be doubly challenged on the road.
For extra convenience (because what’s better than convenience during travel?), a Zeel massage will come directly to you—in your hotel room, Airbnb, or even at your mother-in-law’s.
Carrying a bottle of water and consistently hydrating is a must, as travel can cause serious dehydration, inside and out. This is especially true when flying—the air in airplane cabins is very dry, which can unpleasantly affect nasal passages and might even make you slightly more susceptible to whatever might be floating around the cabin air. Even mild dehydration can cause constipation, headaches, and back and joint pains, so it’s crucial to drink as much water as possible. If possible, avoid sodas and sugary drinks, and be especially careful of your alcohol and caffeine intake, both of which can further dehydrate you. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 8 glasses of water daily.
Avoid Germs and Pack Smart
It is important to prioritize your physical health when you are traveling as all that moving around can give a shock to a body’s system that is used to a particular routine. Potentially contaminated surfaces, like an airplane seat or bathroom doorknob can always be wiped down and always and always refrain from touching your mouth, eyes or nose. These little habits can go a long way:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water and/or with an alcohol-based sanitizer
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth throughout your journey
- Use a paper towel or napkin to grasp door handles (especially in restrooms)
- Sanitize your airplane seating area with a disinfecting wipe—including trays and arm rests.
In addition, it’s always smart to carry a mini first-aid and medication kit, as the needed remedies for things like a sudden headache or upset stomach may not be readily available while traveling. Here are some CDC-recommended essentials for your mini-pharmacy (which, of course, may differ based on your destination and personal needs):
- OTC medications: Antacid, antihistamine, motion sickness medicine, digestive relief (Pepto-Bismol or Imodium), cough suppressant/drops, decongestant, pain & fever medicine (acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen), and a mild laxative.
- Hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol) and antibacterial hand wipes
- 1% hydrocortisone cream
- Antibiotic ointment like Neosporin
- Aloe vera gel for sunburns or rashes
- Eye drops
- Bandages of various sizes
The inconveniences of travel—the broken routines, lack of familiar spaces, limited access to our own stuff—force us to seek out creature comforts wherever we can. Unfortunately, those shortcuts are frequently linked to bad choices. Oftentimes those poor choices don’t really sink in until we return home filled with physiological regrets!
But the bottom line is: No matter how annoying it may feel to or forgo that airport cocktail or force a hotel workout, it’s the why that will move you to follow these healthy habits while traveling: Being passionate about your total health wherever you are will surely be a game changer for your travels from here on out.