Becky Hart | Feb 17, 2023
Just because you go on holiday doesn’t mean you have to — or should — abandon all the healthy habits you’ve developed at home. Nothing ruins a vacation quite like getting sick or hurt during your trip. These tips for staying healthy while traveling will help you make the most of your time away and, hopefully, keep you from having to use travel insurance in an emergency.
How to eat healthy while traveling is top of mind for a lot of us. We tend to have less control over our meals when we’re on the road, not to mention the temptation of new and decadent foods can be great.
First and foremost, remember that it’s 100% acceptable to indulge while on vacation. You don’t have to go overboard, but treating yourself to a meal that you’ll never be able to find at home is encouraged. Experiencing a place through local flavors is part of the adventure, and you should absolutely take advantage of the opportunity.
Create a meal itinerary the same way you plan your hotels and activities.
“Making a plan will ensure that you can both enjoy the treats and indulges of the holiday season but also maintain your current healthy habits,” says Julie Przybyla, St. Louis-based registered dietician, certified personal trainer, and owner of Vibrant Nutrition & Fitness. “Research your destination and plan the meals that will be a treat. Then, fill in the gaps with healthier options that are already part of your nutrition. Your digestive tract with thank you for the consistency of familiar foods in between the treats.”
Pack your own snacks if you’re going to be out exploring all day. Focus on portable, hunger-satisfying foods like nuts and fruit. By bringing your own, you’ll also save money while traveling
Even if there’s a kitchen in the vacation home you rented, you’ll probably dine out more when you travel. This can make it more challenging to eat healthy on vacation.
Restaurants and hotels, especially in the United States, are notorious for serving huge portions. Ask if you can get a half-portion or look on the menu for “lighter” options, which are often smaller servings of other menu items.
“These items often are leaner cuts of meat served with more non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli, asparagus and squash,” says Julie. “Explore these menu items as you might find a new favorite.”
It is possible to eat out and still eat healthy. Like Julie said earlier, it all goes back to making a simple strategy before you even leave home.
“Again, it is okay to have more indulgent meals. But if you’d rather stay on the lighter side, aim to fill up with veggies first,” she recommends. “Have a salad prior and water. When ordering, look for items that are paired with lots of veggies other than potatoes. When your plate comes, eat those first, then the other items like the meats and starches.”
To say that you should never eat street food, especially if you’re traveling internationally, isn’t realistic. Some of the most delicious treats I’ve ever had came from stands on the side of the road (I’m thinking of you, empanada from a random hut along a Chilean highway). So instead of avoiding it altogether, be smart about which ones you try. Seven Corners writer Luke Armstrong shares his top tips, gathered from over 10 years of traveling through more than 30 countries.
Says Julie: “It also helps to pack some anti-diarrheal meds just in case the food doesn’t like you as much as you like it.”
Finally, writer Carla Janette recommends taking probiotics when you travel. “Probiotics help you maintain a healthy gut by increasing the good bacteria in your belly so you can fight off the bad bacteria. They help you maintain healthy bowel movements and fight off microbes and parasites that can be commonly found.”
Probiotics can be found in capsule form from your local pharmacy as well as naturally in some foods like yogurt.
Staying hydrated is just as important as, if not more than, eating well. If you don’t get enough water, you’ll likely experience fatigue, headaches, irritability, and even more severe symptoms like fever. You don’t want any of these things interrupting your vacation.
Carry water with you while you explore or make sure you have a steady supply while you’re relaxing on the beach. You can also get water from some foods, such as watermelon and other fruits, lettuce, cucumbers, celery, spinach, and mushrooms.
If you’re in a tropical location, Luke recommends taking advantage of coconuts, which have similar electrolytes to what you find in Gatorade and, when unflavored, can be low in sugar and calories.
At some destinations, it’s safer to drink bottled or treated water than what comes out of the tap. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or local authorities if you’re unsure. It’s also a good idea to brush your teeth and rinse your toothbrush with bottled water at these destinations.
If you’re flying to another country where you can’t drink the water, I recommend filling up a reusable water bottle at the airport before you leave. That way you aren’t trying to get liquids through TSA security, but you’ll have something you can drink when you land. This has saved me more than once when I wasn’t able to get to a store for bottled water right away and needed something to drink for a jetlag headache.
We tend to think about safe drinking water only in less-developed countries, but these aren’t the only places where you should pay special care.
If you’re camping anywhere, regardless of the country, be cautious about drinking water from streams or rivers. These sometimes have bacteria from animal waste that can cause you extreme illness and even death. Avoid drinking water from still or stagnant water. In either case, it’s best to treat your water with purification tablets before drinking.
Your everyday routine is different when you travel. Sometimes shaking up the ordinary is why we travel. It’s still a good idea to get good sleep, though.
When you’re well-rested, you’re able to stay more alert. This can help you make better decisions and be aware of your surroundings, both important things when you’re in an unfamiliar place. The less alert you are, the more likely you are to make a mistake that could put you in an unsafe situation.
Good sleep can also help improve your mood — nobody wants to be a Grumpy Gus on vacation — as well as reduce stress and keep your immune system working well.
Changing time zones can seriously mess up your sleep schedule, but there are ways to beat jetlag.
Remember when your mom said you had to wear a hat in the snow so you wouldn’t catch a cold. It’s the same idea when you travel. Dressing for the climate and weather conditions at your destination can help keep you healthy and comfortable.
Obviously, you’re going to choose lightweight, light-colored clothing for warmer climates, and heavier layers for cold. Remember that the weather at some locations can vary greatly throughout the day. Pack accordingly with an extra jacket for when the evening gets chillier, or a cap for when the sun comes out stronger at midday.
Going on a cruise? Weather conditions can change rapidly on a ship, so make sure you have everything you need with this essential packing list for your next cruise.
No matter where you’re going, don’t underestimate the value of a dry pair of shoes. “The best thing you can do is to pack waterproof shoes,” says Luke. “If you're going to be walking in a place where temperatures dip at dusk and dew accumulates, bring a dry pair of socks to change into. This will keep you both healthy and happy. Who doesn't love the feeling of slipping into a pair of clean socks after a day of walking about?”
Unless you’re going to spend your entire trip in a cave, this tip is for you. The sun can affect you whether you’re on the beach in the summer or on the ski slopes in wintertime. Sunrays can be particularly strong at high altitudes, so the effect of the sun often surprises us when vacationing in the mountains. And if you’re on the water, say boating or eFoiling, it’s even more intense as the sunlight will also reflect off the water for a double dose of rays.
Wear sunscreen and be sure to lather up any parts of your body that are uncovered by clothing. Wear a hat with a brim and sunglasses to protect your face and eyes, which can be particularly sensitive to the sun.
UV clothing can help protect you from sunburn and windburn. Investing in a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt with UV protection is a good idea if you’re going to be on a boat or fishing.
We’re all aware that wearing a face mask can help reduce the spread of illness. If you’re feeling sick or are traveling in an area with high contagion rates, it’s advisable to mask up.
This isn’t just for COVID, either. Wearing a mask can reduce the risk of other airborne illnesses such as the flu and common cold.
It’s common to let go a bit during vacation. Sometimes when we travel, we do things we normally would shy away from. By all means, live it up. Just remember that your actions still have consequences, and “what happens in Vegas” sometimes does actually follow you home.
A sexually transmitted disease is not the kind of souvenir you want, so practice safe sex. Our guest blogger Lawrence Ferber shared some of his favorite tips for gay travelers — pack your own condoms and lube — but anyone might find them helpful.
Should you exercise while on vacation? That depends on you and your fitness goals. A good rule of thumb, however, is to maintain at least a bit of your routine. If you typically do yoga three times a week, make sure you stretch in the morning or meditate before bed. If you’re all about cardio, enjoy an early run or walk before a day of sightseeing.
In our opinion, it’s best to stick with a routine that keeps you feeling happy and healthy, but don’t let your workout regime derail your vacation. Your body might appreciate the physical break and change of routine, but if your mental health calls for regular activity, stick with it.
It’s good to step outside your comfort zone when you travel. That’s how you discover new foods and meet interesting people. Trying new activities is part of that as well.
Whatever you choose to do — bicycling, surfing, canoeing — do it safely. Avoid activities that pose unnecessary risks and tour operators that don’t take adequate safety precautions.
You (hopefully) bought travel insurance before your trip, but it’s important to remember that you might not be covered for “adventure activities” such as jet skiing or bungee jumping unless you chose to add that coverage. Plus, it can be harder to find medical attention if you do get hurt in a remote location or somewhere with a different health care system.
If you take regular medication and you’re traveling internationally, it’s important to make sure you have enough to last your entire trip, plus a bit more in case your return is delayed. It might be more difficult to find the same variety, brand, and dosage that you would get at home. The same goes for some over-the-counter medications.
It may also be a good idea for your traveling companions to know when and how you need to use your medication. For example, if you have an EpiPen, does someone in your group know where it is and how to administer it?
Finally, make sure you pack copies of your medical records if traveling internationally with pharmaceutical drugs. Some border checkpoints might request official documentation that you’re carrying them legally.
You don't need insurance to stay healthy but one of the most important things you can do for your health and wellness is to make sure you are covered in case of illness or injury while traveling.
This is particularly important if you’re traveling outside your home country. Your domestic health insurance often does not cover you on international trips, meaning you may have to pay for your medical care out of pocket and, depending on the country, upfront before receiving treatment. Obviously, this can get expensive, not to mention stressful.
With protection like Seven Corners Travel Medical Insurance, you get coverage for medical expenses when traveling internationally. You also get 24/7 travel assistance services. Our Assist Team can help you find medical care in your location, recommend translation services if you don’t speak the same language as your doctor, arrange emergency medical evacuations, and more.
It can be overwhelming to navigate a foreign health care system, especially when you already aren’t feeling your best. Having access to travel assistance services like these can help.
It’s also a good idea to make a plan before your trip so you know the steps to take during a medical emergency.
Prioritizing your wellness, no matter where you are, is always a good decision. When purchasing travel insurance is part of that commitment to living a healthy life, contact Seven Corners. Try a quick quote online or contact our licensed agents to find the right protection for your health and travels.
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