Healthy Holiday Travel Tips
Getting together with family and friends can be a great perk of the holiday season, but staying healthy while you travel can be tricky. Use these 11 healthy travel tips to stay balanced.
Packing can always be a stressful endeavor, especially during the holidays. Not only do you have to remember the essentials like your toothbrush, pajamas, and extra socks, but you might also have to change time zones or account for totally different weather.
About 75% of Americans plan to travel at some point between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, according to Orbitz.com. And staying healthy during your trip is not always easy. While you might have a great yoga practice at home or feel good about your food choices, traveling during the holidays comes with a lot of temptation to break your best habits. Try these simple, healthy holiday travel tips to help stay on track.
1. Pack light.
Many tend to overpack during the holidays, especially if you don’t allow enough time for getting ready. Instead of waiting until the last minute and throwing all of your clothes into a heavy suitcase, spend a few minutes thinking about how many days you will be away and how much stuff you really need. Don’t forget you can get by with packing a lot less if you know you will have access to laundry. Having a lighter bag is easier on your body (less lugging) and you’ll have less stuff to worry about while you travel.
2. Bring healthy supplements.
Aged garlic extract is a great supplement to help ward off germs when you are traveling. People have used garlic for centuries to prevent infection and the sulfur compounds found in garlic supplements help destroy the ability of germs to grow and reproduce, according to Nutritionist Elizabeth Somer.
Stabilized probiotics (meaning they can travel at room temperature) contain beneficial bacteria to keep your gut strong and help boost your immune system. Harvard Medical School researchers have found that good bacteria can influence the immune system. They can also help you digest heavy meals or unfamiliar foods. Additionally, probiotics can reduce the risk of traveler’s diarrhea in adults.
And an Ayurvedic herbal remedy called triphala can prevent constipation—a common side effect when your schedule is turned upside down from traveling, says Ayurvedic expert Vasant Lad, the founder of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
3. Do your research.
Almost every town has a few healthy options when it comes to grocery stores or restaurants. Make it easy on yourself and do a little research before your trip, so you know you can eat a few healthy meals while you’re away. Plan to go to the store when you arrive at your destination and restock your healthy snack supplies.
4. Prevent motion sickness.
An hour before you leave for your trip, take a ginger capsule or put a dropper of ginger extract into an ounce of water and drink it, suggests Lad in The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. Ginger can help prevent motion sickness on flights, cruises, and car trips.
5. Choose the aisle.
Depending on your mode of travel, try to pick the option that allows for some movement throughout the trip. If you’re on a plane or a bus, pick the aisle seat so you can get up to stretch or go to the bathroom as often as you need. If you are driving, plan your total travel time to include some rest area breaks where you can get out of the car and stretch your legs.
6. Drink water.
Staying hydrated will help offset the effects of spending hours in cold, dry air if you’re on a plane and help you manage your blood sugar. Dehydration can actually raise your blood sugar levels, which makes you feel lethargic and crave sugary foods. Be sure to carry a water bottle with you. Fill it up every night before bed so you can drink fresh water first thing in the morning and stay hydrated throughout your travel. If you’re traveling out of the country, consider bringing a pocket-sized SteriPEN Traveler, a water purifier that uses UV technology to destroy harmful bacteria, viruses, and microbes.
7. Eat less.
Whether you’re in a car or on a plane for hours, you are more sedentary when you travel, so there’s no need for heavy meals. Try eating lots of small snacks and including as many fresh fruits and veggies as you can. Pack snacks for your trip like chopped carrots and celery, a trail mix of raw nuts and dried fruit, or buy small packets of almond butter or hummus. Try to limit your sugar and caffeine consumption as they can cause fluctuations in energy levels and cause mood swings.
8. Beat jet lag.
When you’re traveling across time zones, remember that sunlight reduces jet lag by resetting your circadian clock to the local time. If you arrive at your destination during the daytime, sit or walk outside in the sun for 15 to 20 minutes, suggests Lad. This can make you feel more alert and decrease your desire to take a nap or go to bed too early (which will prolong jet lag). If you need another boost, look for a jet lag supplement to help your body adjust. Or make an Ayurvedic jet lag tea, Lad writes in The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. Mix 1/3 teaspoon each of chamomile, mint, and jatamamsi, and steep in hot water for 10 minutes.
9. Prevent a cold.
Do a nasal wash with a neti pot to rinse away dust, germs, and other airborne contaminants and moisturize the nasal membrane after spending time in planes or in heated or air-conditioned rooms. The nasal wash can also remove excess mucus when you’re congested, quelling or perhaps even preventing a full-blown cold. Watch this video to learn the simple, soothing practice. And be sure to use sterilized or distilled water in your neti pot, warns the FDA, or boil tap water for 3-to-5 minutes and let it cool to lukewarm temperature. (In rare cases, the New York Times "Well Blog" has reported, using water straight from the tap for the nasal wash can cause life-threatening infections.)
10. Stick to a bedtime routine.
Try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning, suggests yoga therapist and ayurvedic expert Kathryn Templeton, a regular contributor to Yoga International. And nurture yourself with a bedtime routine. Turn the lights down and unwind with a little yoga, tai chi, or meditation—even if you only practice for 10 minutes, she says. Or give yourself a head-to-toe massage with comfortably warm, organic scented oil. Then take a warm shower or bath and climb into bed.
11. Quell insomnia with yogic breathing.
If you can’t fall asleep or if you wake up in the middle of the night, practice a yogic breathing technique called 1:2 breathing, says Templeton. While you’re lying on your back, gradually deepen your breath, focusing on a seamless transition between each inhalation and exhalation. After a few minutes, slightly contract your abdominal muscles and begin to lengthen your out-breath, until it’s about twice as long as your inhalation. Make sure that it’s comfortable; if you’re gasping for air, you’ve gone too far. Continue 1:2 breathing in a relaxed fashion for five minutes or more. According to the yoga tradition, the 1:2 breath quiets the nervous system, reducing insomnia and sleep disturbances. Sweet dreams.