5 Tips for a Happier & Healthier Vacation

Vacations are supposed to be about relaxing and/or adventuring and exploring new areas. But, while I just love vacation time, getting out of my food and exercise routines can be stressful for me. I am constantly experimenting with ways to enjoy time away from home and the 9-5 job routine while still feeling good about my overall health and what I am putting into my body.

We were just fortunate enough to get a spring break trip. My husband and I do not have kids, and neither of us are tied to a school schedule, but my in-laws are professors and we met them in Hawaii for a wonderful week over their spring break. Since it is the time of year that many sneak away, here are my top 5 tips to enjoy vacation while maintaining control of my health. Let me know if something resonates with you, and what you try to make your next trip a little bit happier and healthier along with what other tips you have!

1. Bring Healthy Snacks 

This will take shape differently for different people. At the least, bring emergency snacks if you cannot find anything healthy in airports or on your trip. But you can also pack all your food for at least travel day. I was recently gifted a travel cooler that fits on a roller bag. I am in love with it! It has been a total game changer, allowing me to bring meals instead of just snacks (and it has helped me bring Alaskan seafood to to family down south!) This is what I was gifted. I am sure there are others on the market, but since it was a gift I didn’t have to do my own research. Fortunately, ice packs are allowed through security if still frozen, and I can pack vegetables, fruit, my homemade muffins or cookies if I have them on hand, and sometimes a salad or leftover food for a meal in transit. I personally do not like spending money on food in airports, so for me this reduces both food and money stress.

I realize that many people will not want to devote 1 of 2 carry on bags to food! But here are some ideas for shelf-stable items to throw in your bag for your next trip:

  • Raw nuts or trail mix
  • Jerky (avoiding extra sugars. There are now some good grass fed beef items on the market).
  • Bars such as KIND or Lara that have few and good ingredients without a ton of added sugar
  • Vegetables – many can handle a day in your bag such as carrots, snap peas, and celery sticks
  • Fruit that you can keep from being crushed
  • Nut butter packets (or a jar in checked luggage)
  • Nuun drink tablets – I love these for hot climates when I really need electrolytes midday but do not want to drink the high sugar options in super markets
  • Coffee packets
  • Tea bags – Tea is great for so many reasons. It is great at helping me avoid other snack foods when I just want something in my mouth, I can sip on a nice tea rather than getting crappy food. It also helps me stay hydrated, and can help stave off colds that are commonly transported in travel. At $3 or more for a purchased tea, many cups on a layover will really add up, but coffee shops are happy to fill my mug with hot water for my sipping pleasure when I travel prepared.

2. Plan Your Treats

Hopefully you will have some awesome meals on your vacation. It’s a great opportunity to try new foods and enjoy some great treats. But if you plan those treats ahead, you take control over what they will be. Without some pre-planning, I know that I can end up overindulging and feeling horrible at the end of the vacation. This planning will be different for every individual because we have different comfort levels with treats and guilt, and of course different desires in the treat department. For example, this last trip I was able to eat well for most meals, but then enjoyed local rum with pineapple juice in the evening–intentionally and without guilt.

3. Move

My favorite vacations focus on movement (hiking/backpacking, skiing, and diving). But I don’t get to do those all the time. And I am never able to do the same type of training or exercise that I am doing at home. So, I focus on whatever movement I can; and I think that for overall health, it is movement that is the most important. Vacation can be a time, out of the office, to walk around much of the day – leisurely enjoying yourself, while giving your body a great benefit. I usually run or walk in the morning before others are up (unless I know I will be moving all day), but also make sure it is okay mentally if some days I cannot move as much. Try walking 30 minutes each morning on your next vacation (if in an area where it is safe to do so) and see how you feel both physically and mentally!

4. Cook for Yourself

Here again, I am fairly extreme and prefer to cook for myself even on vacation with just the occasional meal out. It’s cheaper and healthier for us, and we can still incorporate local foods. This past trip we stayed in condos with well stocked kitchens and brought my cooler with lunch each day – salad or vegetables and hummus for me and sandwiches for my traveling companions, along with cold drinks and other snacks. And I was able to start each day with a huge green smoothie, which was an awesome way to get going. I was in heaven. But even with fewer amenities, you can prepare some meals on your own that can at least be lighter than typical restaurant fare. For example, overnight oats or chia seed pudding make for a simple and quick hotel breakfast if you have a refrigerator, or a salad bar or bagged salad from a grocery store make a nice lighter lunch or dinner.

5. Practice Intentional Self-Care

This goes back to being intentional about what YOU need. In our culture of obligers, many people feel selfish about putting their needs and self-care as a priority, but it is actually a gift to those around you. When your needs are met, you are more present and able to give more to others. I have just recently discovered the power of being intentional about my own self needs. On a recent trip I decided beforehand that I would walk two hours a day. I split it up throughout the days which were spent visiting different family members and doing chores. But if I hadn’t set that goal ahead of time, I would have felt too guilty to get out and just walk by myself mid-day. Once it was my goal, I flipped that and would have felt guilty if I didn’t get my walking in. By going out and walking to take care of myself, others were not negatively affected. Quite the opposite; my time spent with family that trip was more valuable because I was more present with them, having my own needs met. For you that might not mean walking, and it will probably be different for different trips and different demands (on that trip for me, the walking was great mentally and physically, many other trips I don’t have that kind of time and my self-care might be a 30 minute high intensity workout first thing in the morning; but this can also mean that you take 30 minutes each morning to read or meditate or something else that will help you in your day but that might not involve your traveling partners). Think ahead and pick at least one thing you will do each day just for you!


Bottom line – enjoy yourself and keep in mind that reducing stress and sleeping more is so good for your body and mind, and may just allow your body to let go of some stored fat regardless of activity level or a less healthy meal.

Let me know if you try any of these tips and how they work for you, and share your own healthy travel tips!

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