Traveling is fantastic — and I’d argue critical — for nourishing the soul and opening the mind. But no matter how awe-striking the viewpoints or how gratifying the hikes, traveling can definitely take a toll on our bodies.
From germs to dehydration to limited food options, travelers often put their bodies second in the pursuit of sightseeing. This can end in illness, fatigue, or, at the very least, a lackluster return home. With just a small bit of effort and preparation, you can travel healthier and return feeling refreshed and grateful for this great big world.
Without further ado, here are five ways to travel healthier on planes, cars, and trains.
1. Don’t skimp on sleep.
Not only does lack of sleep lead to mood swings, burnout, cravings, and potentially poor decisions, it also leaves you more susceptible to colds and infections by putting a damper on your immune system.
It’s clear that sleep is critical for healthy travel, but you might feel exasperated if you’re a light sleeper or have trouble catching ZZZs when you’re in an unfamiliar environment.
If that sounds like you, try out these tips:
- Get as much sleep as you can on the few nights leading up to your departure.
- Use noise-canceling headphones or earbuds to drown out distractions during travel.
- Bring along a portable white noise machine or download a white noise app onto your phone.
- Don’t worry about looking silly. Use the sleep mask!
- Use a travel pillow to increase comfort.
- If you’re driving and have someone in the car with you, devise a plan to switch off at regular intervals so you can both get some rest.
If sleep just isn’t arriving for you, you can at least try meditating or listening to soothing sounds like ambient noise with your eyes closed.
2. Don’t skimp on water, either.
Give or take, your body is about 60 percent water. Adequate hydration varies for each person and depends on a number of factors, such as body weight and activity level. However, everyone can agree on one thing: Dehydration is no fun.
The first signs of dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, decreased urine output or dark-colored urine, headaches, and fatigue. Soon after follow dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion, memory problems, and difficulty focusing.
Avoid dehydration by drinking enough water so that your urine remains a consistent pale yellow (clear urine might mean you’re over-hydrating). If you’re traveling by car or train, fill up plenty of reusable bottles or buy a couple of plastic gallons that you can use to refill bottles en route. If you’re traveling by plane, you’ll have to purchase a plastic water bottle after you get through security.
For an extra-hydrating boost, fortify your water with electrolyte or mineral mixes.
3. Pack smart snacks.
A big part of traveling healthy is eating healthy. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it. There’s a common misconception that you can’t take any food through airport security, but you actually can pack a variety of foods, including:
- Wrapped sandwiches
- Whole fruit
- Granola bars or protein bars
- Beef jerky
- Trail mix
If you’re traveling by car, increase your options by bringing an iced cooler. Then you can bring all of the dry goods above, as well as healthy snacks like avocados, berries, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and more.
4. Stay clean and moisturized.
The vessels we travel in wouldn’t look so pretty under a microscope: Floors see thousands of feet, chairs are sat on a thousand times, handrails see thousands of hands. And with each step walked, seat taken, or handrail grabbed comes an unsettling number of germs.
Fight the close-knit nature of planes, trains, and cars by disinfecting surfaces like seats, armrests, and handrails before use. Also make sure to either keep hand sanitizer with you or wash your hands whenever you get the chance — hand washing can reduce your risk of a cold by up to 21 percent.
Speaking of fighting off viruses, did you know that your skin is your immune system’s first line of defense? When it’s not in tip-top shape, your skin can leave you more vulnerable to viruses and bacterial infections. Staying moisturized is essential when traveling, especially on planes where low-humidity air recirculates over and over. If you’re traveling by car or train, your skin might dry out as you move through different climates. To combat, keep a travel-sized moisturizer on hand.
5. Stand up and shake out.
Most of us have experienced the uncomfortable swelling that comes with long trips. Anytime you you sit for long periods of time, no matter if it’s at a desk or on your way to Paris, blood and water can pool in your legs. This causes that familiar and unpleasant swelling sensation, which comes with a risk of blood clots, not to mention the other scary side effects of sitting for too long.
Plus, moving your body releases feel-good endorphins, and you should take advantage of any opportunity you have to stand up and shake out your muscles, bones, and joints.
On planes and trains, many people think they can’t stand up unless they need to use the restroom. That’s simply not true — stand up and move whenever you get the chance, even if that just means a quick overhead stretch in the aisle next to your seat.
If you’re traveling by car, plan to make a pitstop every couple of hours (three at most) for some light movement. Make the most of it by stopping at a rest area where you can get out and move around, use the restroom, and eat a snack.