12 Stay-Fresh Tips for Packing Workout Clothes

Whether it’s a business trip or a family vacation, travel has a way of throwing a wrench into even the best of exercise intentions. But if you can maintain your fitness regimen on the road, you’ll find it much easier to stay on track when you’re back home. To avoid using your trip as an excuse to skip workouts, the key is smart preparation.
When you’re struggling for suitcase space, it may be tough to find room for those stinky sneakers among your sundresses or pantsuits--but with the right preparation, you can bring along your gym clothes to any time zone, without worrying about unwelcome odors. With these tips for toting along fitness gear, road warriors won’t have to give up the fight for fitness.
  1. Wear a workout outfit on the plane. This is one of trainer Mandy Enright’s travel tricks. "That way I already have my sneakers with me so they don’t take up room in my suitcase, and I know I at least have one outfit to wear when I want to work out."
  2. Wrap up your shoes. As any outdoor runner or walker knows, athletic shoes can pick up mud and muck along the route. Trainer Kat Haselhorn recommends using small dog waste bags (like these) to wrap around each shoe before packing. "They're the perfect size, and they keep dirt and grime away from my other clothes." You can also invest in a bag that has a separate compartment for those sneaky stinkers.
  3. Don't waste space on air. Personal trainer Kim Schaper swears by vacuum-sealed Space Saver Bags, which compress a lot of workout gear into a smaller package.
  4. Roll, baby, roll! "Roll up those workout pants, tops and sports bras to take up less room," Enright recommends. "Since they don’t tend to take up a lot of room, they can fit into smaller nooks and crannies of your suitcase."
  5. Squash the stink. The last thing you want is for your suitcase to start smelling like a gym bag. Haselhorn's smell-good strategy is to take a few paper towels and lightly mist them with a mixture of water and peppermint oil, then tuck them into the bottom of her bag. The fresh, minty scent helps to mask any odors. Trainer Cheryl Russo packs essential oils or black tea bags to get rid of sneaker odor. Enright relies on Woolite’s travel-size packets for quick washes in the hotel sink or tub, then air-dries clothes on the hotel balcony.
  6. Go high-tech. Many athletic apparel companies, such as Lululemon, are coming out with anti-microbial and anti-bacterial fabrics, designed to squash sweaty stench before it settles in. Enright prefers clothing and socks made from quick-dry material, such as nylon, spandex or Lycra. "Think about things that you would wear for hot yoga," she says. "They will dry quickly and have limited odor. Cotton clothing is definitely the most difficult to travel with, because it absorbs the sweat and takes longer to dry out."​​​​​​
  7. Keep toiletries close at hand. You never know when you might be able to squeeze in a quick workout. (Delayed flight? You could power walk a few laps around the airport.) Schaper always brings the toiletry bag that she uses at the gym, stocked with everything she might need for a quick refresher. "It has three-ounce bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash, so it's a breeze to get through security," she says. And don't forget travel-sized sunblock for those impromptu outdoor treks.​​​​​​​
  8. Choose clothing wisely. Schaper plans all of her travel workouts in advance, so she knows exactly how many outfits she'll need. She also packs thinner garments that don't take up as much room as bulkier clothes. Remember to check the forecast at your destination, so you're not stuck in long sleeves in 90 degrees.​​​​​​​
  9. Let workout clothes air-dry. If you have the time and space, rinse sweaty clothes after each workout, wring them out and hang them to dry. The dry clothes will be less likely to stink up your suitcase. "I pack my lightest dri-fit tanks and shorts so they will dry quicker after a sweaty workout," says Russo. "When I went on a cruise, I brought magnetic hooks with me to put on the walls and hang my shirt and shorts to air dry."​​​​​​​
  10. Separate the small stuff. There's nothing more frustrating than digging through a suitcase at dawn, feeling around for your earbuds and running watch. Keep all of your little fitness essentials in a sealed plastic bag, so you can easily grab them and go.​​​​​​​
  11. Do double-duty with dryer sheets. This is a popular one, and the price is right! Stockpile a few dryer sheets after doing laundry, then stick them inside your tennis shoes to neutralize any odors. You can also stick balled-up socks into the shoes to keep the sheets in place (and to save space in your suitcase).​​​​​​​
  12. Bring an empty laundry bag. After each workout, toss your sweaty garments into the bag and cinch it shut to keep them from mingling with your clean clothes. And if you forget to bring one, most hotel rooms keep disposable bags in the closets for laundry service. 
With a little planning and a few clever tricks, you don't have to leave your fitness goals at home.