Following a diet and exercise routine while on vacation may seem like a conflict of interest, but there are many ways to make fitness and travel peacefully coexist. You just need to plan ahead and use all the resources at your disposal. These 14 tips will help you maintain your fitness goals no matter where your travels take you.
1. Find a Hotel With Fitness Amenities
The most important tip for staying on track while traveling is to find lodging with impressive fitness amenities. Once you decide your next destination, immediately start looking for hotels with high-quality exercise centers with all the equipment you need. Hotels with pools, yoga studios and other recreational facilities are also viable options.
Researching each hotel’s accommodations is important because most places don’t have full gyms. Surveys show only 22% of guests use on-site fitness amenities, which means the owners don’t have much incentive to invest heavily in exercise equipment. You might need to do some deep digging to find a hotel fitness center that meets your needs.
The average hotel usually has one room with a row of cardio equipment, light free weights and a few isolation machines. This selection might be sufficient for a daily workout, but not if you follow a rigid exercise program that requires more equipment. Don’t settle for a gym with the bare minimum if you can find something better.
2. Look for Local Gyms
If you can’t find a hotel with the right fitness center, your next best option is to look for local gyms. Most public gyms have one-day guest passes, allowing travelers to stop for a workout. The pass might be more expensive than you’ like, but it’s worth the high price if you can access a proper gym. You’ll be able to follow your exact routine without missing a beat.
Even if the gym only has some of the equipment you want, you can always find alternatives to complete a similar workout. Although following a consistent program is important for tracking your long-term progress, shaking up your routine creates a new stimulus that helps your muscles grow. Variety also prevents boredom and complacency from setting in.
Use these exercises to include something new in your workout schedule:
- Chest: Barbell bench press, dumbbell bench press, chest press machine
- Back: Barbell rows, dumbbell rows, lat pull downs
- Biceps: Barbell curls, hammer curls, cable curls
- Triceps: Tricep extensions, skullcrushers, close grip bench press
- Shoulders: Overhead press, dumbbell lateral raises, cable lateral raises
- Quads: Squats, leg press, leg extensions
- Hamstrings: Leg curls, stiff leg deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts
- Glutes: Split squats, hip thrusts, cable kickbacks
- Core: Hanging leg raises, cable crunches, ab wheel rollouts
- Cardio: Treadmill, elliptical machine, stationary bike, rowing machine
Besides, you shouldn’t stress yourself out trying to follow every minute detail of your regimen. You’re supposed to be relaxing, remember? Allowing some flexibility in your routine will make your vacation much more enjoyable, especially if you’re traveling with family members and have a busy schedule for most of the trip.
3. Do Bodyweight Workouts in Your Hotel Room
If you exhausted all of your options and couldn’t find a decent gym or hotel fitness center, there’s another simple alternative — bodyweight workouts in your hotel room. These workouts might not have the same excitement or intensity, but that’s not such a bad thing on vacation. You don’t want to exhaust yourself with grueling workouts and feel tired the rest of the day.
These bodyweight movements are more than enough to create a stimulating workout:
- Air squats
- Mountain climbers
If you want to make these exercises more challenging, you can add some resistance bands to create a killer portable workout while only adding a few pounds to your luggage. Some people even bring heavy accessories such as portable pull-up bars and adjustable dumbbells, but you don’t have to get that extreme.
The only potential downside to training in your hotel room is poor ventilation, which can cause excessive sweating and foul odors. That’s why you should bring self-care items such as antibacterial aromatic spray and hydrating lotion to create a more amicable workout environment.
4. Find the Best Time of Day to Exercise
Most people exercise at the same time every day — typically between 4:00 and 8:00 p.m. — because of their work schedules. Since you don’t have to follow this schedule on vacation, you’re free to exercise whenever you want. It all comes down to personal preference, but the morning, afternoon and evening each have advantages and disadvantages.
Exercising in the morning can reduce blood pressure and stimulate your brain activity to start the day, making you more alert and productive. It also incentivizes you to eat a healthy breakfast. However, you might not be able to train in the morning if you stayed up late the night before.
Afternoon workouts can give you a great midday energy boost and elevate your workout performance, which can lead to better results. Unfortunately, you won’t have time to exercise on most afternoons because of your other vacation activities. You shouldn’t let your fitness goals prevent you from enjoying your travels.
Evening workouts can improve your performance because your body is sufficiently warmed up, but they’re just not practical for vacations. You’ll probably get caught in the gym rush hour and you won’t have the motivation to exercise after a long day.
Based on these pros and cons, the morning is the most optimal time to exercise while traveling. You might not appreciate the early wake-up call, but it’s better than training later and interrupting your other plans. You could go day-by-day if you’re traveling solo and don’t have any prior commitments, but otherwise, you’re better off crushing a workout before anything else.
5. Stay Active in Other Ways
Your training program isn’t the only way to stay active while traveling. There are many other ways to burn calories and maintain your fitness goals. Research your destination’s outdoor activities such as local sports fields, swimming areas and city bike rentals. You might even be able to sign up for group fitness classes.
If your vacation spot is near a mountain range, you can explore tourism opportunities from hiking to mountain biking to environmental conservation projects. However, these activities won’t present themselves to you on a silver platter. You must do prior research so you bring the right equipment and don’t have any scheduling conflicts.
You might not even need to work out if you choose the right outings. For example, going on a skiing trip will keep you physically active for the whole vacation, eliminating the necessity of a daily workout. Who wants to go on the treadmill after a day of propelling yourself down a mountain?
If all else fails, you can always walk along the beach, stroll through a park, or explore your vacation town and talk with the locals. Walking is a great low-intensity aerobic activity that improves your cardiovascular health and overall endurance. It’s also great for your mental health, acting as an effective stress reliever.
6. Bring Your Own Food
Staying physically active on vacation is straightforward enough, but managing your diet is more of a challenge. It’s easy to slip up and start eating junk food when you’re in such a relaxing environment. That’s why you should bring healthy food from home to ensure you stay on track.
Contrary to popular belief, travelers can bring all kinds of food products and personal items onto flights. As long as the food isn’t part of your carry-on luggage, you should have no issue bringing these dry food items on an extended flight:
- Protein bars
- Canned foods
- Dried fruits
- Beef jerky
- Nutritional supplements
Make sure you pack these items in leakproof containers and fit them into your checked luggage. The baggage fees might increase due to the extra weight, but it’s worth the extra expense if you can maintain good eating habits. Plus, your baggage fees for the journey home will be less expensive if you eat all the food during the trip.
Along with bringing your own food, you should also shop and eat locally as often as possible. Go on a grocery store run after you arrive and stock up on local meat and produce. This shopping strategy will help you save money, get great nutritional value, support the town’s economy and reduce your carbon footprint.
7. Have a Flexible Diet
Many travelers go on a strict diet during the months leading up to their vacation, only to start loading up on junk food once they arrive. Such an extreme change in eating habits in a short time can undo weeks of progress. It will also make you feel bloated, drowsy and unmotivated to do outdoor activities.
Some people are also guilty of the opposite strategy. They stay on a strict diet during their vacations to avoid losing progress, which prevents them from getting the full travel experience. They have low energy levels, can’t drink alcohol and can’t even eat at certain restaurants. What kind of vacation is that?
You need to take a moderate approach and have a flexible diet while traveling. Allow some room for junk food and a few alcoholic beverages. Try to eat healthy foods as much as possible, but don’t worry about tracking your calories. A slight increase might actually be a good thing because you’ll have more energy and your workout performance will improve.
Diet flexibility is especially important if you want to travel to foodie spots with unique local cuisines. Don’t subject yourself to severe restrictions at the cost of your trip’s experience. Scale back your diet and enjoy all the food and drink your destination has to offer, even if they’re “unhealthy” by your usual standards.
8. Try Intermittent Fasting
Trying new food is one of the best parts of traveling to other countries, but you need to control your calorie intake. One effective way to control your daily calories is intermittent fasting. For example, fasting between 1:00 and 6:00 p.m. will help you avoid those tempting mid-afternoon snacks, and save room for dinner and drinks later in the day.
Intermittent fasting has several mental and physical benefits. Most importantly, it can boost your metabolism and improve your body composition by helping you maintain muscle and lose fat. If you commit to fasting during your travels, you might look better at the end of your vacation than you did before departing.
Other benefits of intermittent fasting include improved blood pressure, better resting heart rate, a lack of cravings, higher alertness and more consistent energy levels. You might think not eating for five-plus hours will make you tired and cranky, but for physically active people, it has the exact opposite effect.
9. Drink Alcohol in Moderation
It’s not a secret that most people drink more alcohol than usual while on vacation. Having a few at dinner won’t have much effect on your workout routine, but getting drunk every day certainly will. In fact, heavy alcohol consumption inhibits protein synthesis, which prevents adequate muscle recovery.
You must drink alcohol in moderation to maintain your fitness goals while on vacation. Keep tabs on how many drinks you have. Steer clear of high-calorie options like beer and sugary cocktails, and instead have low-calorie mixed drinks that won’t make you bloated. Most importantly, remember to stay hydrated and eat something before bed to prevent a hangover.
Money is another persuasive reason to avoid overdrinking. Buying drinks at restaurants can significantly increase your travel spending and cause you to exceed your budget. You can save hundreds of dollars during an extended vacation just by steering clear of overpriced restaurants and drinking in moderation.
Increasing your alcohol intake on vacation is normal, but you must drink responsibly if you’re serious about your long-term health. Plus, there’s no reason to risk getting alcohol poisoning and derailing your entire vacation.
10. Don’t Worry if You Miss a Workout
You’re going to miss a workout at some point during your travels. It might happen because you oversleep or your schedule is full of other activities. No matter the reason, it’s completely harmless if you skip one workout. Your body composition isn’t going to change overnight.
Medical studies have shown it takes about two weeks of rest for people with active lifestyles to start losing muscle mass. That means you can take an entire week off without losing progress — assuming you still have good eating and drinking habits. So, take it easy and stop stressing about completing a workout every day.
Besides, everyone needs a break from exercise. Even professional athletes take a few breaks from their busy schedules throughout the year. Your body needs adequate recovery to make long-term improvements. It might be due for an extended rest period, especially if you’ve been training and dieting hard for a few months.
Here are some physical and mental signs you should take a break from working out:
- Your resting heart rate is higher than usual.
- You have trouble falling and staying asleep.
- Your energy levels are low.
- You can’t focus on basic daily activities.
- Your attitude toward exercise is increasingly negative.
Taking a rest day can also reduce your carbon footprint because you consume less electricity from fitness accommodations. Riding a stationary bike or elliptical machine for an hour might be a great workout, but it also creates more emissions that affect the local community. Resting is good for the long-term health of yourself and the environment.
11. Train Heavy Before the Trip
You should also adjust your workout routine in the days leading up to your vacation. Training heavier than usual and increasing the intensity has several benefits. Most importantly, it will make you feel less guilty for eating junk food and missing workouts during your travels. Instead, you’ll feel like you’ve earned the right to slack off on your fitness routine.
Training heavier before traveling will also help you pack lighter luggage because you won’t have to bring heavy equipment like dumbbells. Completing heavy workouts at home means you only have to bring lighter items, like exercise bands and yoga mats. Every pound counts, whether you’re traveling by car or by airplane.
Another reason to increase your training intensity before your vacation is to strengthen your sleep habits. Heavy resistance training promotes better sleep quality due to the post-workout fatigue you experience. Solidifying your sleep schedule will improve your energy levels and help you keep up with vacation activities.
12. Exercise to Relieve Jet Lag
Speaking of sleep, you might feel tempted to take a long nap after reaching your hotel. Sleep might seem like the obvious solution to jet lag, but exercise can be more effective. Running, lifting weights, and doing other physical activities help your body clock reset and adjust to the new time zone.
To be clear, you don’t have to do an intense workout as soon as you arrive at your destination. Simply going for a walk or run is enough to make a noticeable impact. Your body will acclimate itself to the environment more quickly and you’ll have more energy to explore the area during the first few days.
However, exercise can’t completely overcome sleep deprivation. You should still try to schedule flights to airports with comfortable terminals so you can sleep during layovers and compensate for lost time. Taking this step to avoid jet lag will help you maintain your fitness routine instead of spending the entire vacation trying to catch up on sleep.
13. Pack the Right Athletic Gear
This travel tip seems like a no-brainer, but it often gets overlooked. Inexperienced travelers get too preoccupied with packing nice vacation outfits and as a result, they forget to pack functional workout clothes. You must remember to pack athletic shirts, shorts, socks, underwear and shoes.
You should also pack plenty of reusable items that will support your workout routine for the whole vacation, such as a water bottle and gym towel. Believe it or not, the average American uses 167 disposable bottles and only recycles thirty-eight. Bringing a reusable one will prevent you from needlessly burning through plastic.
If you’re planning any outdoor activities such as fishing or hiking, remember to bring the essential supplies — sunscreen, bug spray, first aid kit, extra clothes and protective coverings if necessary. Your vacation experience will be much more enjoyable if you come prepared with the proper athletic gear.
14. Harness the Power of Music
Once you settle into your hotel room and get relaxed, your motivation to work out will probably plummet. A simple way to deal with a drop in motivation and stick to your routine is to listen to music. If you don’t feel like working out, just put on some headphones and play your favorite tunes.
Music isn’t just a strong motivational tool — it can also improve your athletic performance by decreasing your perceived fatigue and helping you push through a tough workout. In other words, it can make you feel less tired and stressed. If you need to exercise but don’t feel mentally or physically ready, listening to music can instantly solve that problem.
Just remember to be a good hotel guest, and avoid blasting loud music or using your electronics all day. If you want to play music in your room, turn the volume down and use your electronics in moderation to keep your emissions to a minimum.
Maintaining your fitness goals while traveling certainly isn’t easy. Not only are you in a new place but your whole schedule is disrupted. Plus, you probably don’t have access to everything you usually do when you work out. Fortunately, there are easy ways to mesh your fitness regimen and journey somewhere new.
Following these 14 exercise, diet and lifestyle tips will help your workout and travel plans work together in complete harmony. No more conflicts of interest and no more missing out on memories with friends and family. With these tips, your next vacation will be the best one yet.
Jack Shaw has spent the last five years writing freelance and seeing as much of the world as he
can. He has a distinct love of traveling and exploring new cultures. Writings about his
experiences can be found on Modded, The Travel Magazine, Duluth Pack and more.