By Kat Tancock
“Just because you are on vacay doesn’t mean you should take a vacation from your good eating habits”, says holistic nutritionist Joy McCarthy—and the same goes for exercise, sleep and the rest of your healthful routine. To avoid coming down with something during or after your trip, and to stave off the dreaded vacation weight gain, follow these expert tips for staying healthy on holiday.
1. To prevent dehydration and accompanying fatigue, drink plenty of water the day before your flight, suggests McCarthy. During travel, she suggests packing sachets of electrolyte-rich powdered vitamin supplement Emergen-C, which can be mixed with water. “Both the water and electrolytes will prevent dehydration.”
2. Start every morning with some exercise, says Dr. Mark Bubbs of Naturopathic Sports Medicine. “A quick 20-minute power walk on an empty stomach will kick-start your fat-burning hormones.”
3. Pack light, suggests life coach Judy Librach. “Strategic, well-planned packing is one of the easiest ways to reduce stress,” she says. “Particularly when you are moving through multiple stops, you don’t want to have cumbersome luggage.”
4. Starting a few weeks before vacation starts and continuing as you’re away, take a probiotic supplement to strengthen your immune system and help fight off colds, flu and digestive issues, says McCarthy.
5. Eating at a buffet? Start by filling your plate (and your stomach) with healthy picks such as raw fruits and vegetables and salads (but watch the dressing, croutons and other calorie-rich fillers). Then go back for the other options.
6. Be aware of food-borne risks, especially when travelling overseas, says travel health expert Dr. Brian Aw. Research the conditions at your destination, and if you’re not sure, “A rule of thumb is to either cook it, boil it, peel it—or leave it!”
7. Wash hands frequently, and pack hand sanitizer for when washing facilities aren’t available.
8. Pack healthy snacks for the flight, for emergencies and for when you’re worn out from travelling. McCarthy suggests dried fruit and almonds or walnuts. “Avoid binging on sugary snacks for an artificial energy boost,” says Dr. Bubbs. “Pack an extra apple or pear and snack on a handful of nuts to get through the day.”
9. Travelling with kids? Pack comforting items to help them (and you) stress less and sleep better while away—and lower your family’s risk of coming down with a bug. “Pack a night-light for the child that finds it difficult to fall asleep, and a pillow to help them feel cozy with something familiar from home,” recommends Librach.
10. On the plane, direct the air vent in front of you (rather than on you) to blow away any germs that might be floating around the cabin. Air from the vent comes straight from the plane’s filtration system.
11. Trouble sleeping on long flights? Bring an eye mask and an mp3 player on the plane and play soothing music that will encourage sleep while blocking out crying babies and annoying coughs.
12. Sleep well the night before you travel, says Evelyn Hannon, editor of travel website Journeywoman. Being well rested rather than frazzled as you depart will set a good tone for the whole trip.
13. To ward off ill effects of heavy lunches and dinners, exercise one to three hours before a rich meal “to improve your insulin sensitivity and reduce the impact on your waistline,” recommends Dr. Bubbs.
14. Come prepared to exercise, suggests McCarthy. Bring your favourite DVD or put a video on your iPhone, pack resistance bands or a yoga mat and scout out hotel facilities beforehand so you know what to expect.
15. Plan ahead on any major trips and consult with a travel health clinic, says Dr. Aw. Specialists can look up your destination and advise on recommended vaccinations and other preventive measures to avoid common illnesses and issues such as hepatitis A or traveller’s diarrhea.
16. “Put your sense of humour in your carry-on,” suggests Librach. If things get stressful with family members, “bring it back to a blissful place by putting love in your heart and learning how to detach from the drama.”
17. Try to build a fun physical activity into each day of your trip: go kayaking, take a surfing lesson, go on a walking tour, rent a bike, hike up to a gorgeous lookout or try a yoga class on the beach. You’ll get a rush from it and you’ll feel justified in tucking into that next big meal (see #13).
18. Pack your essential OTC medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers and antidiarrheals. You can’t be sure your preferred brands will be available at your destination, or that the drugstore will be open at 2 am when you suddenly need them.
19. Research where you’ll sleep, suggests Hannon, and ask for the quietest room possible. “A room that fronts on a main street often means a symphony of assorted traffic sounds well into the wee small hours,” she says.
20. Eat a good meal before you leave home—you’ll last longer before succumbing to unhealthy airport snacks.
21. Also research where you’ll eat. Figure out where to get a healthy meal in the airports you’ll be in. On a road trip? Map out restaurants that have healthy options along your route.
22. Check your insurance. Even between provinces you can run into trouble, and an overnight trip south of the border can be hard on the wallet if you need even minor medical care.
23. “While vacationing it can be easy to miss out on your water consumption,” says McCarthy. “Bring a refillable bottle with you and make sure you carry it with you and drink water throughout the day.” Just make sure it’s empty before you go through airport security.
24. Counteract some of the stress of travel by upping your vitamin intake, says Dr. Bubbs. Wherever you can, substitute fruits and vegetables for other foods such as breads and French fries.
25. Sleep is key to staying happy and healthy in the short and long term. While travelling, “try and get a good night’s rest so that you actually feel well rested when you return,” McCarthy says.