Hello, vacation! You’re ready to kick back and relax, maybe sip a few margaritas by the pool. Heaven, right? Until you step on a scale and realize you’ve toted home more than just kitschy souvenirs. About two-thirds of frequent travelers say that exercising and eating healthy while on the road is stressful, according to a . So what’s a weight-conscious jetsetter to do? Follow these 10 simple strategies when you’re planning your next getaway.
Rent a condo or hotel room with a kitchen, mini-kitchen or at least a mini-fridge (which may cost a small fee), so you can stock healthy foods. “Then, you can eat some of your meals in, which can be healthier since restaurant meals tend to be larger and higher in calories,” says Molly Morgan, a sports specialist dietitian in Vestal, NY, and author of . Since dining out’s part of the fun, Morgan suggests eating breakfasts and lunches in your room and heading out for an occasional dinner.
If you know where to get good-for-you eats before you go, you won’t be stuck with the first (inevitably unhealthy) place you see when hunger strikes. “Often, you can review nutrition data and determine if a particular restaurant offers menu items that fit your healthy intentions,” Morgan says. Check airport restaurants too, and if you’re traveling by car, guesstimate where you’ll be stopping for gas and search online for nearby restaurants with healthy options, like Subway and Panera. To find other healthy eateries, download apps like HealthyOut and Restaurant Nutrition to your smartphone; they’re free on iTunes.
A treadmill in your suitcase isn’t going to fly, so carry these lightweight and easy-to-pack items. They allow you to strengthen your whole body from the convenience of your hotel room or condo. Need help figuring out what moves to do? Find free resistance band workouts on or YouTube.
Getting motivated to move may be your biggest travel challenge. So give yourself something to look forward to, like new music and audiobooks you can listen to as you sweat, says Nikki Glor, personal trainer in New York City and creator of the . And if you’re torn between exercising or reading that book you haven’t had time to open, listening to an audiobook while moving can address both desires. Check out for free music downloads and for audiobooks.
People give every excuse in the book for not exercising while traveling, but the one Glor’s heard most frequently: “I didn’t pack my sneakers.” By wearing tennis shoes on the plane, train or bus or in the car, you not only eliminate that excuse but also save suitcase room. Bonus: If you’re flying, you’ll be dressed to log laps in the airport, and if you’re driving, you can walk more when you make stops.
Studies have shown that morning exercisers are most likely to stick with their fitness routine. The same rule may apply for exercising on vacation. “If you can work out first thing in the morning, you won’t mess up everybody else’s schedule,” Glor says. And don’t worry if you can’t slot in time for your regular-length exercise; a shorter workout, even just 10 or 20 minutes, is better than nothing, especially on vacation, where your main goal is to stave off weight gain.
Even if you can’t fit in a formal workout, you can still toast some calories on active excursions. Go hiking with a pack (to burn about 490 calories in an hour), cycling (to burn about 420 calories) or rock climbing (to burn about 563 calories). Even better, book a resort where activity is a priority. Glor recently opted for a bikini boot camp–themed resort, and seeing other people do yoga, kayak and play beach volleyball made her want to join the fun. Or locate a tour operator that offers running (or biking) tours of your destination, so you can sweat off vacation goodies while learning about the area.
You know you should take stairs over elevators, but make that even more challenging on vacation by requesting a hotel room on a high floor. Then, use the stairs as much as you can. Also, ask for a room farthest from the elevators. “It cuts down on noise so you sleep better (and better sleep equals better fitness), and you walk more during your stay,” Glor says. Other ways to rack up the step count: Choose restaurants within walking distance and hoof it to attractions whenever possible.
You don’t have to worry about packing workout accessories if you choose a hotel that provides these goods. For instance, Westin Hotels & Resorts gives you shoes and apparel for a small fee. At Sheratons, you can request a free Gym-in-a-Bag, which includes an exercise mat, stretch band, massage stick and exercise foam roller. And Kimpton Hotels stock a yoga mat in every room and offer free on-demand yoga and Pilates channels. Wherever you stay, ask about fitness classes when you book or check in. Many resorts offer group runs and yoga and Pilates classes, which are often complimentary.
Numerous hotel chains, including Fairmont, Kimpton and Westin offer these. There’s a hidden bonus: “Jogging through a new area, once I confirm it’s safe, is the best way to get to know a destination step by step,” says Trish Friesen, editor-in-chief of TripStyler.com, a travel lifestyle publication for aspiring jetsetters. If your hotel doesn’t offer maps, download an app like MapMyFitness or WalkJogRun to find routes.