Exercise, Nutrition

How to Stay Healthy on Vacation

Vacations are a great opportunity to step away from everyday worries and de-stress. Unfortunately, they’re also often the place healthy habits go to die. It’s sometimes ironic since many people use them as motivation to begin getting in shape in the first place.

You work hard to build healthier habits and self-discipline but after a week or two of vaycay bliss, it all seems to vanish when you get home. It can feel harder to get back into the swing of things as you return to normal life. Junky cravings can skyrocket and discipline to workout may plummet. So how do you enjoy your trip and stay healthy on vacation?

Like many people, I’ve wrestled with this cycle of behavior for years. After getting married in 2014, coming home from our honeymoon was a familiar pattern of struggling to readjust to everyday life. We had a wonderful time, but afterward, I remember feeling bloated, lethargic and unmotivated in the following weeks.

A couple years went by without much traveling beyond daycations and weekend trips. I’d made a lot of strides in my health and fitness in that time and had worked to develop a very consistent routine. Then in 2016, I had the opportunity to travel to Scotland for two weeks.

It was my first big trip in years where I’d be out of my normal diet and exercise routine longer than usual. I wanted to enjoy my time in a different country, but not lose too much of my hard-earned progress or fall back into my old pattern slacking off when I got home.

I so took some steps ahead of time that enabled me to have a great time while finally breaking that negative cycle of behavior. Today I’m sharing three strategies that can help you enjoy vacation season without giving up on your fitness goals!

1. Give Yourself Post-Vacation Goals

A big problem in the post-vacation season slump many people face is the result of setting short-sighted goals. Their only goal was to get in shape for that trip to the beach. As soon as it’s over, they pack away their swimsuit and all their fitness motivation until the following vacation season.

Make sure that you’re setting both short-term and long-term goals for your fitness throughout the year, not just for one event or season.

4 Kinds of Goals to set Throughout the Year

  • Daily Goals: “How much water I’ll drink, fruit and veggies servings I’ll consume per meal, etc.”
  •  Weekly Goals: “How many days I will get active and what kinds of exercise I will incorporate, etc.”
  • Monthly Goals: “Increases in strength or endurance, lowering body fat percent or increasing muscle mass, etc.”
  • Yearly Goals: “Several specific milestones I want to acheve.”

Write down goals somewhere you can physically check in on and track your progress. Keep a journal of your goals and progress and update how you’re doing sticking with them each week. Write daily and weekly goals on a whiteboard or calendar in the kitchen and check them off as you meet them. And find a friend to check in on and help keep you accountable.

2. Make Healthy Eating a Priority

There’s nothing wrong with a little indulgence, but there’s no “all or nothing” rule for enjoying yourself on a vacation. You can enjoy a slice of cake without having to eat the whole cake. Because trying to cram down an entire cake in one sitting would just make you feel sick, right? But that’s how we often treat our diet on vacation. All or nothing.

Anytime you indulge, it should still be done with some self-control

You can and should enjoy food during your travels. But keep in mind that the way you fuel your body impacts everything from your mood, energy levels, and quality of sleep. Consuming non-stop junk can leave you feeling like junk during and after your travels. You can enjoy yourself on vacation without going nuts and trying to eat the entire cake.

Aim for a 70/30 ratio of clean eating

If 70% of the day you are trying to eat generally well, then you can better enjoy indulging that other 30% of the time. Have that afternoon ice cream cone or triple chocolate dessert after dinner! But make sure you’re also getting in wholesome food sources with your other meals too.

Tips for Dining Out:

  • Looked for grilled or lean protein options vs fried on the menu
  • Try to include 1-2 servings of fruits and vegetables per meal
  • Order a salad or light lunch if you know dinner will be a heavier meal
  • Order water as your drink

Tips for Eating In:

  • Pack some healthy snacks to bring along on your trip
  • Bring a single serve blender to make protein shakes and smoothies in your hotel room
  • Pack a water bottle to stay hydrated during your travels

During my trip to Scotland, I packed my NutriBullet blender along with my favorite protein powder and meal replacement shakes. I visited a local grocery store where I bought some fruit, spinach, and yogurt and each morning I had a protein shake or smoothie for breakfast in the hostel. It helped me start my day with a boost of nutrients and didn’t leave me feeling heavy or sluggish as we set out to tour and explore the country. It also saved money in the long-run from eating out at a restaurant for every single meal. I also packed healthy snacks, like protein bars, nuts and dried fruits to snack on in the airport and during our travels on the trip.

3. Plan to Stay Active

You might be thinking “plan to exercise during my trip? Won’t that defeat the whole point of a vacation?” Actually, no, it won’t. Exercise has a wide range of benefits, including better sleep, more energy and increasing feelings of happiness. Those are all great things to have during your travels!

Like in everyday life, healthy lifestyle habits don’t happen by accident. If you want to experience the benefits of staying active during your vacation, you’ll have to plan ahead for how you will incorporate it.

Fit Vaycay Travel Checklist:

  • Pack a set of workout clothes and shoes
  • Decide on the days/times during the week you will exercise
  • Choose a workout destination
  • Bring along any exercise equipment you plan to use

Exercise first thing in the morning is often the best time to squeeze in a vacation workout. Not only are you more likely to follow through while you’re fresh and rested, but that quick exercise session will also help you start the day with a boost in mood, energy, and metabolism!

Exercise with Gym-Access:

Depending on where you stay, you may have access to a gym or fitness center in your hotel. If you know in advance you’ll have gym-access, take advantage of it during your trip. If the place you’re staying doesn’t have gym access, try looking up nearby gyms in the area. Most gyms allow visitors to workout at their facility!

Some gyms require a visitor drop-in fee of $5-10, but if you’re a member of a national gym chain, a local branch may be willing to let you drop in their facility for free while you’re in town. I did this last year when I was visiting a friend in Florida; I called up a local gym (of the same national chain that I work for in South Carolina) and spoke to the manager. They were more than happy to let me get my lifting sessions in for free at their facility while I was in town. My husband also does this with Crossfit gyms when he travels for work. It never hurts to ask!

Exercise without Gym-Acces:

If you don’t have access to a gym, there are still plenty of ways to stay active during your trip. Go for a jog and enjoy the local scenery! Or workout for free by exercising in your hotel room. There are a lot of resources online for home workout inspiration if you need some ideas to get started. (I regularly post full free gym and home workouts for my followers on my Instagram account.)

While I was in Scotland, I was staying in a hostel with my travel group and didn’t have access to a gym. The weather was cold and rainy and I didn’t feel like jogging outdoors. So I created my own gym by working out in our private room’s common area. I committed to exercising 4 days a week for 30-45 minutes and woke up earlier than my travel companions to sneak in my workouts. I brought along my travel yoga mat and two resistance bands and alternated between HIIT and resistance training workouts.

Exercise Through Exploration:

There’s no better way to stay active on your trip than getting out there and exploring your vacay destination! Wander around a new city on foot to see the sights. Go for a hike. Take a walk or practice some yoga on the beach. Spend an afternoon canoeing down a river or through the ocean. Dance the night away at a local salsa club. You definitely don’t need a gym to find creative ways to keep moving and using your body on a fun trip!

My Trip to Scotland

My trip to Scotland was memorable and one-of-a-kind in so many ways.

Not only because it’s a beautiful country with a rich history and incredibly kind, hospitable people.

It was also the first trip I’d ever actively planned for ways to stick with my health goals on a vacation. Not only did I have a fabulous time, but I also felt better than I had on any other trip I’ve ever taken.

I slept better. I felt good and my energy levels were great. I never felt bloated, sluggish or lethargic from constantly overloading on junky foods. When I came home, it was really easy to transition back into my weekly exercise and nutritional routine.

Believe it or not, I actually lost 3lbs during my trip. And it most certainly was not because I was trying to or restricting myself from fully enjoying my experiences.

I didn’t count calories or keep track of what I was eating. I ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full. I used self-control in my diet, but you better believe I was absolutely allowing myself to enjoy the local treats and cuisine.

I tried to stick to that 70/30 ratio in my diet each day. I made sure was taking in wholesome foods and menu choices 70% of the time and lived it up the other 30%. I got my 30-40 minutes of planned exercise in four days a week and then just enjoyed walking around and exploring Scotland on foot. I didn’t restrict myself or miss out on any experiences. I just strove to find a balance.

Since then, I’ve started traveling a little more throughout the year, whether it’s just getting out of town with my husband or visiting friends and family in other states.

I’ve made a point to employ the same strategies on those trips that I did in Scotland. Not only do I know that I’m taking care of my body better now than in years past, but I feel better than ever during my travels. And there’s no better way to make memories than feeling great inside and out while you do.

All writing and personal images copyright © 2018 Rachel Elise Weems Woods

34 thoughts on “How to Stay Healthy on Vacation”

  1. I love your post! This post raises awareness and puts intention, consciousness and action in motion to create a lifestyle that supports healthy body, mind, and spirit. Thank you! Xo, Evelyn, PathofPresence

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great advice, Reese! I think setting daily, short, and long term goals work not only for setting fitness goals, but other lifestyle goals as well. I love the idea of exercising by exploring the place you are in. I plan to do that as much as possible during my next vacation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s so hard for me to practice moderation on vacation! But it’s definitely needed if I don’t want to feel like garbage the next few days! Great tips!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The one thing I look forward to on vacation is the food which makes it that much harder to stay healthy. So thank you for the insight!


  5. It is always so tricky too b/c I am usually either really stressed or working extra hard right before a vacation so I really feel like I deserve a break from diet and exercise. It is never worth the feeling when you come back home though, so I love the 70/30 rule of thumb. Great article!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your trip looks amazing! I Feel like if you’re committed to clean eating and exercise in your everyday vacation shouldn’t be too hard to keep up that schedule. I like the idea of getting goals too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Going on vacation can be really hard to stay healthy. But like you said in your post stay active. That is what i try to do, I look for places to go and walk around.


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