20 Ways to Stay Fit While Traveling
When you travel, do you leave your healthy habits at home?
On business trips, it’s easy to overdo it with sedentary meetings and expense account dinners. (It’s networking, right?) And pleasure trips are all about cutting loose and living it up.
But do you really want to return home feeling worse than when you left?
With a few simple changes to your travel habits, you can fuel your body and mind with all the things that keep it running at its best. Here’s how to stay fit while traveling.
1. Pack Workout Gear
Even if you’re not planning a formal workout, have your gear on hand in case the opportunity arises.
“Nobody wants to be an overpacker when you have to pay extra for everything these days, but a decent pair of sneakers is worth their weight in gold, and workout clothes tend to be light and easy to pack,” says Jen Bridwell Oppenheim, IWLC, CPT-BCS, a wellness coach at Transformation for Every Body.
“Resistance bands are an inexpensive addition to your luggage, but can dramatically improve the effectiveness of in-room strength sessions,” Oppenheimer adds. That’s why they’re one of our favorite pieces of portable exercise equipment for traveling!
2. Get it Done First
After a long day of sightseeing — or meetings, or trade shows — you’ll probably be too exhausted to think about exercising. So plan on getting at least some activity first thing in the morning, even if it’s just a 10-minute circuit.
“Before you head out for the day, treat yourself to a quick, no-equipment-required workout,” Oppenheim says. “If you don’t do anything else active for the rest of the day, at least you’ve done that.”
3. Stream a Workout
You’re probably traveling with your phone, iPad, or laptop — or all three. With streaming workouts, you can do a quick workout before you head out to see the sights or after a long day of business meetings.
If you’re working out in your hotel room, try Just Bring Your Body for a 30-minute, equipment-free, total-body workout.
Or join an Every Step live class while walking around the area, getting your bearings, and making note of sights you want to explore in-depth later.
4. Explore on Foot
If you really want to get a feel for an area, walking will give you a chance to see sights you might have missed if you were whizzing past in a cab or on a bus.
If you’re on a business trip, skip the cab and walk to meetings whenever possible (unless you’re running late, the weather isn’t cooperating, or the route just isn’t walkable).
If you’re on vacation, consider a walking tour. “I’ve met some incredibly interesting people from all around the world, and learned and seen things the guidebooks and bus tours skip,” Oppenheim says.
Bonus: “Being preoccupied looking at buildings and landmarks is a good way to distract yourself from the exercising that’s getting done,” says TJ Mentus, CPT and member of the expert review board at Garage Gym Reviews.
5. Take Advantage of the Hotel Amenities
Some hotels even have personal trainers available to help you learn the equipment, follow a structured workout, and experience your daily workout as a novelty and a pleasure.
6. Go Back to Basics
“One of the most important things to me is to be able to get some exercise without leaving my room, in case there’s no hotel gym, I arrive at night, or I’m in an area I don’t feel comfortable in,” says Kekua Kobashigawa, ACSM-certified personal trainer.
Her go-to exercises are bodyweight-only calisthenics. “Think old school gym class — squats, push-ups, and Turkish get-ups,” she adds. “You can create more intensity by making some of the exercises plyometric, like turning the squat into a squat jump or adding a high-knee run in place.”
7. Head to the Park
“Try to take 20 to 30 minutes from your routine every morning to go to a nearby park,” says Tyler Read, CPT, founder and CEO of PT Pioneer.
You’re likely to see walkers, joggers, and pop-up exercise classes. You may even come across a pickup game of soccer, ultimate frisbee, or basketball that you can join in.
Or find some playground equipment and try this 20-minute workout from travel vlogger Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness.
“This will not only keep your health in check, but you might hit it off with someone, and then you’ve got a new travel buddy,” Read adds.
8. Take the Stairs
This one’s easy. Strive to never take the elevator unless you’re schlepping luggage. No excuses. It doesn’t matter how many flights up your room is. In fact, book a high floor — better views from the room, and more calories burned to get there!
“I’m not going to say it doesn’t suck a little bit when your room is on the 12th floor, but the commitment really pays off,” Oppenheim says.
9. Use Geography as Your Gym
Whatever your destination, there’s probably some kind of sport or physical activity that’s popular in the area:
- Go skiing, hiking, bouldering, or climbing if you’re in the mountains.
- At the beach, take a surfing lesson, go bodyboarding, or at least get off your beach blanket and swim in the ocean.
- Near a river or lake? Spend an afternoon canoeing, sailing, or rafting.
10. Check out a Local Studio
Big cities are rife with climbing gyms, martial arts dojos, yoga emporiums, and dance studios. Think how much more fun your museum day would be if you capped it off with a salsa lesson!
“Find a new style of yoga to take, try a bootcamp class that’s not offered in your area, or go for a bike tour of the city,” says Scott Schutte, CPT, co-creator of the Healthy Behavior Institute. “Ultimately you need to stay active, and there’s no better way of doing that than making it a memorable experience with a good story to share.”
11. Rent a Bike
Get around your destination on a bike, and you’re sure to see more of it.
Many cities have “smart bike” arrangements with checkout stations all over town that allow users to pick up a bicycle in one location and drop it off in another.
Beaches and other tourist destinations typically have bike rentals available by the hour or by the day. Have you been curious to try a recumbent bicycle or a tandem bicycle? Rent one. Take it for a spin up and down the boardwalk and see what you think.
If you’re traveling by car, load up the bike rack and vow to leave the car parked once you arrive. In crowded resort towns, you’ll be pleased as punch as you pedal past cranky tourists stuck in high-season traffic.
12. Indulge With Intention
Eating can be a key part of the vacation experience — especially if you’re traveling somewhere that’s known for its cuisine. To avoid going overboard at every meal, save your splurges for must-have local foods.
“I have a ‘worth it’ bar,” Oppenheim says. “A chain restaurant I could dine in at home? No thanks. Give me what the locals eat!”
13. Maintain One Non-Negotiable Healthy Habit
True, vacations are meant to be a break from the routine — but consider maintaining at least one healthy habit while you’re away to keep your momentum going. For example:
- Go to bed at your normal time.
- Stick to your daily yoga or meditation practice, even if that means doing seated yoga poses on your next road trip.
- If you typically eat the same healthy breakfast every morning, keep eating it every day.
Make a promise to keep one good thing going, and then follow through on that commitment. This will create a powerful sense of control and continuity that will make it easier to get back on the fitness wagon when you return home.
14. Follow the 80/20 Rule
Maybe you overdid it a little with that fourth mai tai or third helping at the buffet. It’s vacation — it happens. Instead of stressing about it, just commit to making your next meal a healthier one.
“As long as you stay on track 80 percent of the time, you can indulge yourself (within reason!) the other 20 percent,” says Trevor Thieme, CSCS, senior director of fitness and nutrition content at Openfit.
15. Make Time to Meditate
This can be a great way to pass time on a long plane ride or center yourself after a long day.
“The stress of traveling can be pent up in our body after sitting for long stretches of time,” Kobashigawa says. “Sometimes, the best thing we can do for it is to just stretch and release it.”
16. Go Beyond the Hotel Breakfast
Instead of grabbing a lackluster continental breakfast in your hotel lobby, walk to a local breakfast or brunch spot. You’ll start your day with some exercise and likely get a more satisfying meal to fuel the rest of your day’s travels.
Plus you’ll have the chance to see some street life on the way — businesses opening their doors, sidewalks getting swept, locals hurrying to work.
17. Savor Your Food
The American lifestyle tends to be fast-paced and frenetic, so it can be hard to downshift into vacation mode. Slowing down, savoring your meals, and practicing mindful eating is a great place to start. Plus, it can help you make healthier food choices and avoid overeating.
Remember, you’re on vacation — there’s no rush for you to finish eating, so relish every delicious bite.
18. Treat Yourself
Bodywork is definitely a part of keeping fit and healthy. Your hotel may have a great sauna or steam room, or they may offer spa services that are new to you.
Schedule a Thai massage, a reflexology session, or any other spa treatment that sounds relaxing or rejuvenating. You’ve earned it!
19. Shift Your Mindset
Instead of stressing about how to stay fit while traveling, Read says, reframe it as an opportunity to try a new activity (like rock climbing or paddleboarding) or kickstart a healthy new habit (like taking a 30-minute bike ride each morning).
“You’re in a new place, away from your monotonous routine, and everything that you do now will only elevate your mood,” Read says. “Use this getaway as a chance to make your fitness routine fun and exciting.”
20. Go on an Adventure
Before you go on autopilot and book the usual beach holiday (and all-inclusive calorie bender), ask yourself: What’s your dream vacay?
Have you always wanted to….
- charter a sailboat in the Mediterranean, or go rafting down the Colorado River?
- cycle through New England…or from Saigon to Angkor Wat?
- dive in the blue waters of the Caribbean, the Pacific, or the Indian Ocean?
- refine your yoga practice at a retreat in India, Costa Rica, or upstate New York?
- go climbing in the Swiss Alps or hiking in Vermont or Utah?
If you’ve been taking good care of yourself — working out, eating right, getting enough sleep — then you’ve been training for these real-life adventures. You have the strength and the energy, so go for it!
You’ll remember these eyes-wide-open, active experiences for the rest of your life — and you’ll return home feeling exhilarated, recharged, and inspired.