Nutrition Articles

The Healthy Vacation Guide

Eat and Exercise the Right Way, Away From Home

Vacation season is here! You deserve a break, after spending the last few months becoming a fitter, healthier you, right? While vacation is a time to relax and take a break from work, stress, and the usual routine, it shouldn’t be a break from your healthy habits.

With a little planning, you can enjoy your vacation and still maintain your current weight and fitness level. Whatever your plans – a family road trip, a tropical cruise, a sightseeing tour, or relaxing on the beach – you can avoid packing on those dreaded vacation pounds by packing some healthy foods and workout gear instead.

If you’re traveling by car, you’ve already spent a lot of time planning your course. We all want to make good time, but it’s also important to schedule several breaks into your itinerary, especially if you have kids:
  • Pack a cooler full of healthy snacks, and even complete meals. Chopped veggies, fresh fruits, bottled water and juice, low-fat yogurt, peanut butter sandwiches, popcorn and pretzels make easy travel fare.
  • Don’t skip meals, and try not to go more than 4 or 5 hours without eating. Being famished at mealtime may hinder your ability to make healthy choices and trigger overeating. Plus, constant energy levels will keep you alert at the wheel.
  • Avoid eating full meals in the car. Take time to stop, relax and enjoy your meal. This way, you can pay closer attention to your hunger and satiety signals.
  • Plan exercise and stretching breaks as well. Just three 10-minute pit stops add up to 30 minutes of activity. Go for a quick jog or walk, stretch and run around with the kids. Back in the car, you’ll be more alert and energetic.
  • Avoid coffee and caffeinated drinks. While they do give you a short energy burst, the drop when caffeine wears off can make you even more tired. For stable energy levels, drink plenty of water and eat healthy, whole foods that keep blood sugar levels from spiking and dropping.
  • Be wary of fast food and roadside restaurants. If you have no other options, choose the healthiest possible items and keep portion sizes small. One way to avoid excess calories and fat is to hold the mayo, special sauces, cheese and dressings. Also opt for non-breaded items and kid-sized portions. Read up on more "menu watch words" here.
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

Member Comments

    I found a travel yoga mat, only 700g and folds, so brought with me for the first time on hol. Perfect for ironing the kinks out after a long flight and a long drive, wish I'd done it sooner!

    My husband tends to 'borrow' my motivation on hol, which means neither of us slack off and we fit in an hour a day for a run and shower each day - it's great, and getting home feeling more rested AND fitter (and slimmer) after a hol is a real joy. It just takes prioritising your health as part of the gift you give yourself on hol, an indulgence we don't always have time for at home.

    I'm not th only one, a friend confided she and her husband hit the hotel running machines first thing, and she finds it sets them up for an enjoyable, energy filled guilt free day after that. It's easier to move than to starve... - 3/14/2015 12:09:50 AM
  • Good advice. - 6/20/2014 6:02:20 AM
  • Great useful tips even for taking weekend daylong excursions. - 2/24/2014 10:58:34 PM
  • I don't fear gaining a little on vacation, I fear gaining a lot. So while I'm on vacation I set my calories to maintenance mode and try to not go over by much. My goal is to be able to lose whatever I gain the following week. I try to keep the damage to something I can easily undo. - 6/12/2013 5:11:12 PM
  • Take the stairs, always.
    Walk the halls. Hotels have long halls.
    Definitely stock your own fridge. Get some pre-made meals and heat in microwave if you need to.
    - 6/12/2013 11:14:01 AM
  • Vacations are the best, for I always lose weight. Especially cruises. There are so many walking tours as a side line, plus it's swim suit time. don't want to not fit in a suit.
    The European trips , so much walking, never have to worry.
    But over here in everyday weeks, thats more of a challenge.
    I try to get in a jog or 2,3 mile walk every morning, that helps, even if the rest of the day is hectic and can't fit in to much more exercise. I have found nice brisk walking to be so energizing and sets me up for the rest of the day. - 6/12/2013 11:07:45 AM
  • Super advice - 6/12/2013 9:57:19 AM
  • my experience has always been weight loss on holiday - eating only once or twice a day, and doing a lot more exercising - walking - sight seeing, etc.
    too bad i am not always on vacation - i would have NO weight problem - 6/12/2013 8:19:47 AM
  • For the last couple of trips that we have taken I have made sure to get a room with a mini frig and microwave. Then I go to the grocery store and pick out a few healthy things that I can easily prepare. As I eat six mini meals each day, this has really helped me stay on track. I also carry some fruit and pre-measured bags of nuts so that I am prepared for whatever might happen. - 5/10/2013 8:44:55 AM
  • I became a vegetarian one year ago and started asking for vegetarian meals when I take a plane. I wish I did it before! wow! The food is so much better! Of course, it depends on the company, but I have had some really good ones. They are a lot more healthy than the regular ones! Usually, they serve veggies, rice and some sauce. And the best: they don't differ vegetarians from vegans, so they sually don't put anything with milk in the meals. Which means while the persno next to your has a chocolate for desert, you get fruits. Be prepared! - 3/15/2013 10:48:01 AM
  • I'm finding more and more accommodations with small fridges, no mini-bar. However, if the hotel does offer a mini bar, I ask them to empty it so I can keep my food in it. I just tell them I have special dietary requirements, and they usually are ok with it. We also make it a point to pack healthy foods in a cooler (we have to empty the fridge before leaving anyway!) and stopping in smaller towns. It's relatively simple to find a park, have a picnic, stretch our legs. So much better than stopping in a noisy restaurant! - 6/9/2012 4:02:47 PM
  • We do a lot of traveling and I know these are all great suggestions. A homemade peanut butter/banana sandwich tastes better than anything you can buy on the trip. And we never stop for a big meal. Hubby prefers to munch carrots, celery, red peppers and apples as they keep him more alert. A big meal makes one sluggish and tired.
    Thanks for a great article!
    Remember, there is a Spark Team called Vacation/Travel which I have found helpful. - 7/15/2011 10:41:22 AM
  • MARTY32M
    Good advice except for refusing the minibar key. Of course I avoid the snacks. But studies show that moderate drinkers live longer, on the average, than teetotalers. Check the minibar menu; I have found liquor prices at the minibar that are comparable to prices at the hotel lounge (though both are far more expensive than buying a bottle at a nearby liquor store). Moderation is essential, but where and how you exercise your moderation is up for grabs. - 4/2/2011 11:27:58 PM
  • I'm going to Disneyland in 60 days, 4 hours, 24 minutes and 13 seconds!!!! YAY!! Not worried about the plane trip...will only take an hour flight time...don't have to worry about getting any exercise...we'll be in DISNEYLAND! It will be three days of concentrated exercise! And at the Disneyland resort there are many healthy choices for meals, as well as fruit carts all over the place. We don't eat fast food at home, we don't eat it at the Park, either. (I hate "burgers") So, I guess that makes the Happiest Place on Earth also the Healthiest Place on Earth for me!!! ZIP A DEE DOO DAH!!! - 3/22/2011 10:40:14 AM
    Great tips...all of them! Many I put to use this past week when I went with the Grandkids to Disneyland for 5 days. I was pleased to of lost 2 pounds while on vacation.... - 3/22/2011 1:31:56 AM

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