After putting in long work hours all winter and squeezing in those extra bench presses, it’s finally time to take a break! Whether you’re relaxing on the beach or exploring a new city, a time out from the normal routine can be wonderful thing. But it can also make it tough to stay fit—all those meals out and indulging in a few (OK, a lot of) cocktails doesn't exactly help either. All that fun means you might return home feeling less than refreshed.
The good news is feeling healthy during and post-vacay is totally possible. Making just a few smart choices will keep you active and energized and help you get the most out of that vacay—and looking forward to the next one.
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Eating and Diet
- Eat before the airport. Chow down on a big meal before hitting the airport to avoid having to eat at the fast food courts. If you forget and need to eat there, try fruit or a salad.
- Watch out for jetlag. Adjusting to a new time zone might make you hungry at odd hours. Resist the urge to snack at 4 a.m. and wait for normal meal times instead (or choose a healthy snack, like a handful of nuts, to tide you over).
- Drive past the drive-thru. If you’re driving to your getaway, plan where and when you’ll be stopping for meals before hitting the road. It’ll give you more flexibility when choosing a healthier restaurant—or figuring out the best options. And of course, pack your own healthy snacks! (See a theme here?)
- Save space for treats. Visiting France? It’d be a sin not to try out some crepes. And that's just fine. On days you’ll be indulging more than usual, try to keep other meals and snacks on the healthy side.
- Beware of buffets. With so many delicious choices, how to choose anything other than, well, everything? Start by using a smaller plate; it’ll encourage smaller portions The mathematical relationship between dishware size and portion size. Pratt, I.S., Croager, E.J., Rosenberb, M. Education and Research Division, Cancer Council Western Australia. Appetite, 2012 Feb;58(1):299-302. Also aim to fill up on as many fruits and veggies as possible. Just have to try that cheesy pasta? Spread the love and share it with a friend.
- Stay regular. No, not that kind of regular. Keeping a fairly consistent diet helps maintain weight better than being erratic Promoting long-term weight control: does dieting consistency matter? Gorin, A.A., Phelan, S., et al. Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center, Brown Medical School/The Miriam Hospital. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 2004 Feb;28(2):278-81. Even when you're on vacation, aim to eat roughly the same amount and kinds of food as you usually do. Your body will thank you.
- Visit food markets. They’re a great place to soak up local culture and eat delicious—and cheap—fresh food. Local food is better for the environment; you get to pick what you’re eating; and you'll even squeeze in some movement as you walk around the market. Talk about a win-win-win.
- Pack snacks. When you plan to be out all day, bring along your own healthy snacks to stave off hunger. It’ll keep money in your pocket and away from unhealthier options (we’re looking at you, golden arches). Trail mix, granola bars, or even PB&J sandwiches are all healthy, portable options.
- Make your own meals. If you’re staying somewhere with kitchen access, take the time to whip up your own delicious meals as much as often doing your stay. You’re more likely to eat something nutritious at home—and you’ll know exactly what’s in it.
- Beware of drinks. A single cocktail can contain loads of sugar (and calories). If a stiff drink is necessary (and sometimes it is!), try some of these healthier drinks instead.
- Take a cooking class. It’ll help relieve stress and you’ll be able to recreate the flavors of your vacation long after it’s over. Bonus points for doing something cultural while on vacay.
Exercise and Fitness
- See the sights. On foot or bike, that is. Skip the bus tours and check out your new surroundings the old-fashioned way to burn calories while taking in the views. Lots of cities even offer running tours to let you explore while getting a workout in.
- Take the stairs. Skip the elevator and sneak in some extra cardio. Bonus: Lots of sightseeing attractions—churches and towers, for example—have stairs with architectural oddities, letting you kill two birds with one step.
- Embrace your surroundings. If you’re at the beach, try doing the usual yoga routine on the sand instead of indoors. A change in scenery might be the boost needed to get physical Environmental and policy determinants of physical activity in the United States. Brownson, R.C., Baker, E.A., Housemann, R.A., et al. Department of Community Health and Prevention Research Center, School of Public Health, Saint Louis University. American Journal of Public Health, 2001 Dec;91(12):1995-2003. Take a long walk through a local park when kickin’ it in a new city.
- Be adventurous. Break out of a workout rut and use vacation as an excuse to try a new, fun activity. Whether it’s rock climbing, sailing, or trapeze swinging, challenge yourself to try something different while you’re away.
- Try the local specialty. Take advantage of what an area’s known for—or even plan a vacation around it! Unroll a yoga mat in India, climb boulders in Colorado, learn tai chi moves in China, or woo potential suitors with flamenco moves in Spain. It’s a great way to learn about a different culture while getting fit.
- Make exercise your vacation. A surefire way to guarantee you keep moving while traveling is by planning a getaway around a fitness event or competition. Force yourself to vacation by registering for a race in a different city or try a weekend fitness retreat.
Room and Board
- Check out amenities first. Make it easy to squeeze in workout time by booking a hotel with a gym or pool. If that cozy bed and breakfast doesn’t have the facilities, find out if discounts are offered at a local gym.
- Scope out the neighborhood. Book accommodation near places where you can get your sweat on. If you need to run laps before starting your day, make sure there’s a track nearby. If you can’t unwind until you hear namaste, stay near a yoga studio.
- Do it anywhere. Bodyweight exercises can be done anywhere and require zero equipment. Bust a move in your hotel room to keep fit.
- Stash food. Ask for a room with a mini-fridge and keep it stocked with healthy snacks like fruits, veggies, and nuts to avoid room service.
Rest and Relaxation
- Keep work away. It’s a vacation, remember? Resist the urge to check work e-mails and focus on having fun. It will keep your mind clear and allow you to decompress.
- Free your mind. Meditating for just a few minutes each day can help relieve anxiety and stress. Bonus points if you can find a beautiful space to do it in.
- Get the most out of time off. Doing activities that you enjoy, keeping your cell phone off, and sharing time with friends and family (or alone time!) ensure that you’ll get the most bang for your buck out of a vacation.
How do you stay fit and healthy while on vacation? Let us know in the comments below!
Originally posted June 2012, updated May 2014