7 Health Habits for Travelers

Whether you travel for business or pleasure, you want to feel good and be mentally sharp. Travel takes us away from our normal health habits. I discovered that doing a few simple things can make a huge difference to how I feel on the trip and back home.

I’ve flown over 100,000 miles a year for the past 6 years. Being on the road a week a month used to wreak havoc with my personal health habits.

I lead interactive training, so the day after I land in a place I’m “on” all day long. I’ve got to be energetic and sharp. But too little exercise and eating amazing but fattening meals expanded my waistline and didn’t give me the energy I needed.

After one particularly exhausting trip, I decided to put into practice many of the health habits that do at home. They needed to be adapted for travel, but they work.

7 Health Habits for Travelers

  1. Lower stress with better organization. Use travel apps like TripIt to store all your travel details in one place. You can access it from your phone or a computer. And others back home can also see all your details. FlightTrack Pro automatically imports TripIt data and follows your flights to let you know if there’s a time or gate change. More than once FlightTrack Pro sent me flight delays a few minutes before the airline announced the change. That was just enough time to be at the head of the line and have more options for rerouting the flight.
  2. Drink a lot of water. The air onboard an airplane literally drains your body of water. You need the water to stay hydrated which regulates body temperature, flushes body wastes, and increases blood flow to your organs. The US Army in Iraq had a rule of thumb, if you don’t have to pee, then you’re not drinking enough. Don’t wait for the flight attendant to bring you water on long flights, carry an empty water bottle and ask them to fill it when they are not busy.
  3. Exercise everyday including while flying. I regularly take 8-12 hour flights. To keep my circulation healthy, I get up and walk once an hour. Find an open place near an emergency exit to stretch and move. Do a few squats. Reach your hands up to the ceiling. Roll your head, your shoulders. Twist side to side. Touch your toes. At your hotel, use the gym, take walks, do the airplane exercises, adding planks and push-ups.
  4. Sleep. One studies shows that a lack of sleep impairs your cognitive functions the same as if you were drunk. Get a good night’s sleep before your trip by packing ahead of time. Use earplugs and an eye shade to sleep on the airplane and at your destination. Avoid too much alcohol, as it actually interrupts sleep.
  5. Outsmart jet lag. I book my flights with jet lag in mind. Arriving early morning, means you’ve got to keep busy and work all day. Arriving in the evening, you can exercise, eat something, and then get some sleep. Get on the new time zone schedule as soon as possible. Regardless of the time difference, I try to stay up until at least 9 or 10 p.m. and stay in bed until 5 a.m. Doing this, exercising, and keeping busy during the day makes it easier to beat jet lag.
  6. Save your back, use wheels. I’m always amazed seeing travelers lugging 20 pound bags over their shoulders. That’s guarenteed to cause neck and shoulder strain. Get wheeled carry on. Attach your purse or computer case to the wheeled bag. For suitcases, always use a cart. The 3 bucks you spend to rent the cart is a small price for a healthy back.
  7. Listen to your mother and eat your vegetables. When traveling we have the luxury of someone else preparing our food. I find it difficult to choose my usual oatmeal instead of a full English breakfast. Lunch and dinner present the same dilemma. By the end of a trip, if I don’t watch out, I’ve eaten twice my normal calorie intake. Instead, choose light meals, vegetables, salads and low fat dishes. Avoid heavy dairy and fatty foods, which make you feel lethargic. Avoid snacking. Just because a desert or drink or snack is offered doesn’t mean you need to accept it.

Applying these health habits will make your travel more enjoyable with the payoff of more energy and metal alertness. Pick one or two of these habits to do on your next trip. Let me know what difference it makes for you!

Question: What do you do to stay healthy when you’re traveling? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

    Keith is an author, speaker and Professional Certified Coach. He helps on-the-go leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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    • Good advice Keith. I drink lots of fruit juice at every opportunity – a super large bottle of orange or apple juice per day stashed in my hotel room. I also increase my intake of vitamins B & C while on the road, normally twice per day. Avoid the tempting “full english” breakfast in favour of fresh fruit and yoghurts. Walk outdoors as much as possible (weather permitting of course!) – I try moderate outdoor exercise for one hour per day if possible. Don’t cheat your sleep – get as much as you do at home if at all possible and remember to intentionally catch up the lost jet lag hours even if the sun is shining.

      • Thanks for sharing Gavin. Stay healthy!

    • Mike

      I wash my hands often, carry sanitizer, and keep my hands away from my mouth and nose. In dozens of overseas trips, I have only gotten ill one time.

    • Cathy

      I have never found it possible to sleep well before a day of travel; however, I then plan to sleep on the plane whether it’s a long ot short flight. I also have found cortisol a natural hormone that re-establishes circadian rhythm which I take at night for the first week or so after flights abroad. Getting into the new time zone as soon as we take off helps me, too. (just returned from a three month, ten country African trip)

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    • Mary Verstraete

      I like the tips! A well seasoned traveler gave me this tip and I found that it works well for overseas trips. One the day of the flight, put the time zone your heading to…into your schedule…by eating and sleeping according to that time zone when you’re on the plane. I found this work exceptionally well when traveling to a seven hour time difference. It gives a jump start in helping your body switch over to a new norm.

      • Yes, I’ve used this technique too. I’ve found that getting as much sleep as I can on the plane matters more than sleeping on the plane in the correct time zone. (I don’t sleep much on planes unless I’m bumped up to Business Class.) After landing, I work hard to adjust my sleep to the timezone and always think in local time, not the time back home.