There’s no doubt about it — the holidays can seriously throw off months of good eating and fitness habits. Throw holiday travel into the mix, and keeping up with your healthy routine can feel downright hopeless. Of course, there are things you can do to prevent your travel schedule from overtaking your desire to stay on track during the holidays.
Here’s how to keep your progress steady, whether you’re visiting family or escaping for a much-needed vacation.
1. HIT THE GYM BEFORE YOU LEAVE
If you’re on a weight-loss journey, you know sitting all day doesn’t exactly work wonders at getting you closer to your goals. “Try to exercise before a long day of travel so that you can offset some of that sedentary time, whether it’s fitting in a workout before heading to the airport or out on the road,” suggests Alyssa Cohen, a registered dietitian and a personal trainer. She also suggests ramping up your routine a few days before you leave if you know you’re in for a day or two of sedentary traveling.
2. BE STRATEGIC ABOUT AIRPORT FOOD
When you know your food options are going to be limited, it’s ideal to plan snacks and meals ahead of time. To avoid heading straight for the food court, “pack travel-friendly snacks that can satisfy you during long trips if significant meals may not be possible,” suggests Mandy Enright, RDN, registered yoga teacher and creator of the couples nutrition blog Nutrition Nuptials. “Foods that are higher in fiber and protein will keep you more satisfied, so plan to bring along fresh fruit and veggies, PB&J, tuna packets, jerky and trail mix. All will safely get through security.”
And if you forget to bring something along? “Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts always have some kind of egg or egg white sandwich,” says Monica Auslander Moreno, RDN. “Buy a fruit salad and some raw nuts there, too.”
3. PACK A CAR COOLER
Even more tempting than eating unhealthy food in the airport, drive-thru fast food tends to be easier to justify when you’re on a long drive. “If you have a holiday road trip ahead of you, pack a cooler with meals and snacks to keep you fueled up,” Enright recommends. “You will save money and calories by planning your meals ahead.”
4. PLAN FOR DELAYS
When it comes to holiday travel, delays and traffic are basically par for the course. “If you only pack a small snack expecting to be traveling for only a short while, you may find yourself with few options in the case of a flight delay or heavy traffic,” Cohen points out. “If you pack shelf-stable items, it can’t hurt to throw in some extras. If you don’t get to them, you can eat them another time, and at least you’ll be prepared.”
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5. TAKE ACTIVITY BREAKS
“If you’re traveling in the car for a long time, plan breaks at rest stops where you can sneak in some activity,” Cohen recommends. Five or 10 minutes of jumping jacks, squat jumps or any other bodyweight exercise you like can break up a long trip and get your heart rate up. “Even a simple stretch and short walk will be beneficial and a welcome break from sitting in the car,” she says. “For air travel, try to stretch or walk up and down the aisles occasionally throughout the flight.”
6. BRING YOUR OWN WATER BOTTLE
Regardless of where you’re going or what you’re doing, this is a must. “Hydration is important no matter where you are,” Enright says. It sounds simple, but when you’re indulging in foods you wouldn’t normally eat, keeping up your water intake becomes even more of a necessity. “Pack a small, refillable water bottle to use during the trip to fill up on water for the plane or car, take to the beach or pool and keep water in your room.”
7. DO A GROCERY RUN
Whether you’re staying at a hotel or with family or friends, coming prepared with some foods that will help you stay on track is always a good idea. “Take a trip to the nearest store to stock up on breakfast and lunch items,” Enright advises. “Being able to make your own breakfast and lunch while traveling gives you more control over the calories you’re eating and how you’re spending your money. Plus it makes going out for dinner more enjoyable.” And by the way, if you’re staying in a hotel room with an in-room coffee maker, she recommends using it it to heat hot water to make oatmeal for a low-cost, low-calorie and high-fiber breakfast. Genius, right?
8. BUDGET YOUR ALCOHOL
When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s not that alcohol is off limits, but watching your intake is a good idea. Depending on your destination, it can be extremely easy to go off the rails with alcohol consumption, which is why Moreno recommends budgeting it carefully. “I like to set a meal limit,” she says. “One at lunch, two at dinner or zero at lunch, one at dinner, two at the club, etc.” Having a mental limit to stick to can make it easier to prioritize your goals.
9. EXPLORE ON FOOT OR BIKE
“Instead of jumping in a cab to get to your destinations, consider leaving extra time to walk around your new surroundings and get to know the area better,” Enright says. “Many cities and hotels now offer bike rental options, which is another fun way to travel that allows for more sightseeing and saves money.”
10. PLAN A FEW WORKOUTS
Of course, you don’t want to spend your whole trip in the gym — and you shouldn’t! “Traveling for the holidays gives you an opportunity to try new activities you may not typically do,” Cohen points out. “Try planning a hike or a bike ride, asking anyone you’re traveling with or visiting if they want to try an exercise podcast or series with you or some other activity that you may enjoy!” You can even research fitness studios in the area you’re visiting and book a few classes ahead of time to ensure you make it to your workouts. The point is to just get up and moving in a different way from how you would at home. That way, you’ll still be challenging your body, burning calories and experiencing something new.