Front view of landed airplane in Istanbul International Airport
Health + Wellness

16 Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling

Whether you’re worried about catching a cold, getting out of shape, or letting stress overwhelm you, we’re here to help. Here’s our ultimate guide to staying healthy while traveling.

Note: To prevent the spread of COVID-19, follow the CDC's travel advisories and take extra precautions when traveling.

Stay Healthy On the Plane:

Pack sanitizing wipes

One study by Travelmath found that the tray table—yes, the one you eat food off of—is the germiest place on an airplane. Other icky spots: the toilet flush button, the seatbelt buckle, and the overhead air vent. It only takes a few seconds to clean the surfaces with an antibacterial wipe, and it could save you from catching a cold, flu, or who knows what else.

RELATED: 18 Wellness Products That Help You Stay Healthy While Traveling

Take a walk before takeoff; wear compression socks in flight

When you sit for long periods of time in a cramped position (thanks, Economy Class), you’re more likely to develop blood clots in your legs—and those who are over age 50, overweight, or on certain birth control pills are at greater risk. To lower your chances, there are a few steps you can take, according to WebMD. First, go for a long, brisk walk before takeoff (that’s often already taken care of if you’re running late to your gate!). On the flight, wear compression socks (they encourage blood flow), and stay hydrated. Finally, get up from your seat for walks down the aisle when you can, or at least stretch your calf muscles while sitting (try flexing and pointing each foot with the leg slightly raised) if the seatbelt sign is on.

Get quality sleep

On a long or red-eye flight, you’ll likely want to take a snooze. But before you nod off sideways and wake up with a cramped neck, situate yourself with a travel pillow that keeps your head properly aligned. Doing so is better for your body and ensures a sounder sleep. 

Protect your ears

Exposure to airplane-level sound (typically 85 dB) for more than eight hours a day can lead to temporary hearing problems, according to The National Campaign for Better Hearing. And—spoiler alert—turning up the volume of your music is not the best solution. Instead, opt for noise-cancelling headphones to reduce background noise, and invest in filtered ear plugs. Especially important for those prone to airplane ear (that feeling of stress on your eardrum that occurs during pressure change), wearing these during takeoff and landing can prevent serious damage and perforation. 

Exercise While Traveling:

Download a fitness app

Need some motivation to work out on your vacation? Enlist in the help of a personal training app like Kickoff or Future. Both pair you with a certified trainer who will design custom workout plans and check in for extra encouragement. If you’ve got the willpower on your own, try the free Nike Training Club app to track your progress.

Pack plenty of activewear

If you’re the type who looks for any excuse not to work out, don’t let your fitness attire stand in the way. Try packing your favorite athletic wear—as many outfits as you’ll possibly need—so you’ll be prepared and ready to go. Because, hey, if you made all that room in your suitcase and lugged the clothes all the way there, it’d be a waste not to use them, right?

Find a workout class on ClassPass

ClassPass, the monthly membership program that lets you easily book workout classes of all types, is now available in over 2,500 cities around the world. From dance cardio to strength training, you can find whatever workout you love most, wherever you are.

Walk whenever possible

The simplest way to stay fit while exploring a destination: walk! Whether you’re headed to a major city or a sandy beach, building some walking time into your schedule will help clear your mind and get your legs moving. Plus, you’re bound to uncover hidden gems in the area.

Eat Healthy On the Go:

Pack nutritious, hydrating snacks for the plane

The best way to support your body (and skin) is to stay hydrated, says plant-based nutritionist and author Summer Sanders. Drinking water is important, of course, but hydration can come from snacks, too. Sanders recommends melon, cucumber slices with a squeeze of lemon, fresh veggies and a simple vegetable pâté, and salads packed with greens.

Look for the nearest grocery store

If you can, pick a hotel that’s close to a grocery store so you don’t have to rely on eating out for every meal. You may want to dine out for dinners to experience the area’s restaurants, but you can grab simpler, nutrition-packed breakfast and lunch items from a local market for a healthy start to the day. Bonus: if you’re in another country, exploring its groceries can actually be a great way to get a sense of local life and food culture.

Stick to the basics

When you do choose to eat at restaurants, order meals like simple salads, healthy grains, and wild fish—basics proven to keep you feeling good. Ready to take things to the next level? Pack your own dressing and even salt. “Table salt can give you terrible water retention and make you look and feel puffy,” Sanders says, recommending Celtic or Pink Himalayan Salt instead.

Take supplements

In addition to a nutritious diet, boost your health with supplements specific to your needs. On Sanders’ packing list: QuintEssential Ocean Mineral Replenishment for hydration, Moon Juice Brain Dust and Dream Dust for staying sharp and adjusting to time zones, and LivOn Laboratories Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C to fight off colds.

Don’t Neglect Mental Health:

Plan ahead to minimize stress

If you’re someone who gets easily frazzled on the go, take some extra time before your trip to plan ahead. Research your destination, create a list of places you want to see or things you want to do, then sketch out a timeframe or loose itinerary. If there’s a certain attraction, museum, or tour you know you want to check out, consider buying tickets before you leave. Finally, make copies of your passport, important documents, emergency numbers, and travel insurance cards—just in case something goes awry.

Download a meditation app

Travel can be overwhelming, but practicing mindfulness can make a big difference. If you’ve never meditated before, try an app like Headspace or Calm to walk you through the basics. Through guided meditations, you’ll learn how to stay collected during times of stress—which we all know can be plentiful between navigating airports, new cities, and stepping outside our comfort zones.

Try gratitude journaling

Journaling is one of the most popular tools for improving mental health—evidence has shown that it reduces stress and improves your mood. Even if nothing’s gone wrong and you’re feeling perfect on your vacation, gratitude journaling in particular can lead to greater happiness. Reflect on what you’re thankful for, and reap the psychological rewards.

Use Talkspace in a pinch

For those who regularly see a therapist, or those who don’t but experience anxiety around travel, Talkspace is a great resource to use on the go. The online program matches you with a licensed therapist based on an assessment you take, and from there, you can send texts to them whenever you want and receive daily responses. You can also schedule video chats for more in-depth discussions.

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