My patients who have weathered pandemic life with the healthiest outcomes are those who used to travel frequently, either for work or for pleasure. Since travel suddenly disappeared just over a year ago, these patients have been at home eating healthier food, exercising and avoiding the stress of jetlag. Now that many of us are starting to slowly resume travel, how can we carry forward a healthier lifestyle?
The first question to consider is why you are traveling. If you are traveling for pleasure you might approach healthy lifestyle differently than if you are a frequent business traveler, but many key ideas work in both cases.
The healthiest trips start with a little advanced planning before hitting the road. You can’t exercise if you don’t bring work-out clothes. If you are starving and haven’t packed a few protein bars you will eat the chips from the airport gift shop. Order groceries to be delivered to your hotel or rental around when you will arrive to have healthy favorites on hand. If you know where you are going to eat out, take a look at the menus and decide where you want to indulge and where you might want to eat more cleanly. If you need white noise to sleep, be sure you have a favorite app on your phone to provide white noise and a good night’s sleep.
Both vacationers and business travelers have a tendency to skip regular exercise on the road. However, exercise can be critical to helping you feel your best so keep moving. The hotel gym is often uninspiring but will work in a pinch, so make a point of being sure there is a reasonably well-equipped gym available. If you enjoy swimming laps, be sure there is a pool.
If you enjoy walking, running or biking for exercise don’t confine yourself to the hotel gym. Get out and see your destination on foot. Apps like MapMyRun can help you find routes in your destination. The hotel concierge is likely to have some ideas too, as are any locals you encounter along the way. Visiting family? On a recent family visit I exercised almost daily with my mom. It is a great way to connect, and isn’t that the whole reason you are there?
Does your destination have a specialty or famous dish? You don’t have to skip it. Reflect on what one or two foods or drinks will make the trip feel complete and indulge in those. Skip the rest. My family’s summer beach trip wouldn’t feel complete without a trip to the ice cream shop on the boardwalk. And I don’t go to my home state of Arizona without having my favorite burrito. But I can skip the starchy sides or swap them for a salad. If you hope to indulge in a few things, keep portion sizes small. You aren’t going to have pasta once on that much-looked-forward-to trip to Italy, but you don’t need a massive bowl at every stop.
Keep it Simple
The rest of the time opt for the simplest items on the menu. They are typically the healthiest. In almost any restaurant there is simply prepared fish or chicken. Always opt for a salad to start the meal–or as your meal.
Keep Your Alcohol Consumption in Check
For many of us travel is a time to imbibe more. But watch that the glass of wine with dinner or regular cocktail hour doesn’t get out of hand. Alcohol can contribute a lot of empty calories to our diet, disrupt our sleep and lower our inhibitions–sometimes leading to other unhealthy choices. One useful tip is to be sure you have a full glass of water between each alcoholic drink.
Get Adequate Sleep
Some travel is made for rest (laying in a hammock on a tropical island). Others are more active, like the four-day jaunt my kids and I took to London because my husband was there on business. In fact, business trips and conferences can have you up at dawn and wrap up with after dinner drinks. Add some jetlag to the mix and you can return home exhausted.
It is worth investing in accommodations that set you up for a good night’s sleep. My family and I routinely stay in vacation rental homes rather than hotels to aid our children’s sleep. Ask your doctor if an over-the-counter sleep aid like melatonin is appropriate to help with jetlag. Consider using white noise to drown out unfamiliar ambient noise. And when traveling with little ones, always double and triple check that the lovey was packed (both coming and going!).
With a little advanced planning and savvy choices we can return to travel and continue to meet our health goals.