Travel is a tree that bears many fruits. Under the right circumstances, it can be good for your business, your store of experiences, your relationships, your soul... One thing travel isn’t always good for, however, is your body, which can suffer at the hands of jet lag, dehydration and bad airport food, to name just a few of the many health-related challenges travelers face every day.
Here’s the bright side: Many business travelers know that wellness can be elusive when they’re on the road, so they’re committed to being healthier in spite of the many obstacles they face.
So finds new research published this week by travel-management platform CWT. Based on a survey of more than 2,700 frequent business travelers from around the globe, it found that 42 percent of them work hard to adhere to their health and wellness routines when they’re traveling. Likewise, 38 percent of business travelers say they eat healthier while on the road, and 26 percent that they work out more when they travel. Only 7 percent say they do not maintain their health and wellness routines when they’re away from home.
“Maintaining healthy habits while traveling is nearing the top of the priority list for travelers around the world,” Niklas Andréen, CWT’s chief traveler experience officer, said in a statement.
Just because being healthy on the road is important to travelers, however, doesn’t mean that it’s easy for them. In fact, sometimes it’s downright hard. Here are five tips that will make it just a little bit easier:
1. Drink up (water, that is)
The first and most important rule of healthy travel is to stay hydrated -- especially when you’re flying. “Staying hydrated is always important, traveling or not. However, it should be the first thing on your mind when you travel, especially if you’re on an airplane, because the humidity inside the cabin is lower than normal. Your body will also be acclimating to a new climate, and between finding your way around and enjoying your trip drinking water can be easily forgotten,” nutritionist Elizabeth Rider notes in a post on her blog, in which she recommends finding a convenience store at your destination and purchasing at least 60 ounces of water for each day that you’re traveling. “Dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue and loads of other issues. It can also cause hunger, so bottoms up!”
Travel writer Shivani Vora also sings water’s praises. “This simple tip helps with everything from dehydration to constipation to overcoming jet lag,” she says in an article for the New York Times. “Since you’re likely to get busier as the day goes on and may forget to drink, try starting your day by drinking 16 ounces.”
2. Premeditate your meals
If you leave your diet to chance while you’re traveling, you’re almost guaranteed to fall off the wagon. If healthy eating is important to you, you should plan as many of your meals as possible -- just like you would at home.
Start with road snacks, which you should prepare ahead of time and pack in your luggage, advises Vora. “Since healthy food can be scarce and expensive when you’re away from home, it’s a good idea to pack your own,” she says. “Take a portable, collapsible cooler, and fill it with healthy ... meals.”
If that sounds impractical, at least pack a few snacks. “You don’t have to bring your entire pantry, just grab a piece of fruit that keeps well (apple, banana, orange), some almond butter, your own healthy trail mix and/or a good-quality, low-sugar bar,” Rider advises. “These types of healthy snacks will tide you over in a pinch and can prevent you from needing that pastry at the airport.”
Before you get to your destination, Rider continues, research restaurants and their menus so you know ahead of time where you can go for a healthy meal. Also, locate a grocery near your hotel. “Find the nearest market or grocery store to grab some fruit or fresh food,” she says. “Dining out is a wonderful part of the travel experience, but try to have one meal a day from the grocery store. Think whole/real foods like fruits, veggies, nuts and salads.”
Planning should even encompass room service, author Harley Pasternak says in a blog post for fitness-tracker company Fitbit. “Regardless of where in the world you might be visiting, many hotels offer a North American-style breakfast,” Pasternak writes. “In some cases, you can order your breakfast the night before -- doing this will ensure that you’re making smarter decisions, and it also acts as a wake-up call. Generally, options like scrambled eggs, or an omelet with veggies and a side of fruit, are available no matter where you are in the world.”
3. Keep it moving
If diet is one side of the healthy-travel equation, exercise is the other. Fortunately, there are many easy ways to get the blood pumping while you’re on the road, according to Vora. For example, she says, try walking up a flight of stairs two steps at a time for a total of 20 repetitions. Or, when you use the toilet, add 10 extra reps of sitting down and standing up -- which might feel silly, but will nonetheless make you feel the burn. If you have free time between meetings, she also recommends doing “active sightseeing.”
“A growing number of destinations around the world have bike-share programs that visitors can take advantage of. Bikes are a fantastic way to explore a city … Rely on these two-wheelers as your primary mode of transport and ride yours to drop-off locations that are near sights you want to visit,” advises Vora, who also suggests taking walking tours. “Almost every city around the world offers a range of walking tours, whether you’re interested in history, culture, drinking, food or architecture … You can also look at guidebooks or travel sites for suggested walking tours, and pick a different one for each day.”
Stretching can be just as important as exercise, according to UT Health Austin, a health-care practice that’s administered by the University of Texas at Austin. “Sitting in the same position for hours on end … on the plane stiffens your joints and muscles and can lead to all sorts of aches and pains during your trip,” it says in a post on its blog. “Try to get up and take a walk or stretch out your arms, legs, neck and back at least once every hour to increase blood flow and to feel more refreshed. It’s easy to sneak in some neck and shoulder rolls, back twists and leg stretches while you’re sitting [or] waiting in line.”
4. Choose a healthy hotel
The right accommodations can make a big difference in travelers’ ability to exercise and eat well. For that reason, Rider recommends short-term rentals over hotels when possible “Consider renting a condo or apartment with a kitchen instead of staying at a hotel,” she says. Preparing a few of your own meals in a kitchen, especially breakfast, will help you stay on track.”
Of course, plenty of hotels offer in-room kitchens and kitchenettes. And most have amenities that can help you adhere to your fitness routine. CWT’s survey, for example, found that 49 percent of business travelers use hotels’ fitness centers to maintain their wellness routines, that 40 percent of them use hotels’ swimming pools and that 27 percent of them use in-room fitness equipment that hotels supply. Looking for properties that offer these and other wellness features -- a lap pool, a yoga studio, group fitness classes, a spa and/or in-room Peloton bikes, just to name a few -- ensures you’ll have ample and convenient access to fitness activities.
5. Get your Zs
At home and on the road, the final piece of the health puzzle is sleep, according to lifestyle blogger Diane Nassy.
“Sleep is essential to our health and well-being,” Nassy writes in a blog post for car-rental company Alamo. “Research has revealed that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as the common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick. So, getting proper sleep is very important before and during your travels.”
Nassy recommends packing a travel pillow and earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to help you sleep on the plane. In your hotel room, meanwhile, eliminating light can help, according to Rider. “Just like when you’re at home, a dark sleep space with no extra light will help you get better rest,” she says. “Turn the alarm clock light off or unplug it, and use a towel under the door if light is pouring in from the hallway. Eye masks look funny, but if all else fails use one. Any light in your sleep space can disrupt your good night’s sleep.”