Summer is here at long last. And with it comes the thing you’ve been waiting for all year: vacation. You probably can’t stop thinking about it. You’ve been planning it for months. But the past three years’ vacations have either made you sick or unable to fit into your regular pants for the following month. So, in the name of health and sanity, we’ve compiled a few tips about how to stay 57 percent healthier on your next trip. Yes, 57 percent exactly. And you just might enjoy your trip a little bit more.
1. Fast food requires research.
The lure of fast food is that it is quick and easy—you’re in, you’re out. But you’re also five pounds heavier by the time you get back home. The best way to eat fast food is to do a little research first. Most restaurants have nutritional information on hand, so spend a little time studying the pamphlets to find out what would satiate you without destroying your intestines and your health regimen. Make a list of acceptable options and be ready to choose quickly whenever the time comes.
2. Grocery stores are great.
If you’re feeling especially dedicated to being healthy while traveling, the best thing to do is nix the fast food altogether. Pick up one of those $50 coolers that plug into your car’s cigarette lighter or bring your own from home. Hit the grocery store before you leave town and stock up on things that don’t require much assembly or cooking. A few of my favorites are yogurt, nuts, deli meats and cheeses, rice cakes, grapes, granola and protein bars. You can even bring along some milk and your favorite cereal, and you’ll be far better off than if you picked up a McMuffin every morning (although an Egg McMuffin is the healthiest choice off McDonald’s breakfast menu).
3. Exercise does a body good.
It’s your vacation or your work trip or your time to spend with family, and you do not—absolutely do not—want to exercise. I know. But do it anyway. If you’re a member of the YMCA, you can probably find a gym in whatever city you happen to be in. Most of the time, you can work out there for free. Sometimes they charge a few bucks to use their facilities, but it’s worth it. Look up locations at their website. If you’re not a gym member, you can walk or run outside, provided you’re in a safe area and are up to the challenge of the local climate/altitude/potholes. You don’t have to go to an aerobics class at 6 a.m. like you do at home; just do something.
4. Sleep is your friend.
Some people use vacations to oversleep, while others use them as an opportunity to spend every waking moment taking in the sights of their new surroundings. Whatever your style, try to get at least six to eight hours of sleep per night. Your body will be tired from traveling, and it will be more susceptible to germs and illnesses. This is especially true if you are in another country.
5. Changes in latitude mean changes in eating times.
The world is a beautiful and diverse place that can really mess with you if you don’t know what’s coming. When you travel to other time zones, you’ll need to do the math to figure out when your body should be eating. For instance, if you’re a West Coaster and you take a trip to New York City, your body is going to want to eat dinner sometime around 10 p.m. That’s probably a bad idea unless you’re naturally a late-night person. Adjust accordingly instead of just eating when you’re hungry. For higher altitudes, drink more water. Lots more water. And no, coffee doesn’t count. Otherwise, you’ll get a headache that will make your trip less than pleasant. If you’re having a few drinks on your trip, you’ll also want to consider the altitude, because alcohol goes a lot further when there’s less oxygen.
If you study up ahead of time to familiarize yourself with your journey, you’ll be far better off than if you just mindlessly wander through the week. Hopefully, you’ll actually come home feeling refreshed instead of bloated. But either way, you’ll probably still be a poorer, sunburned version of your former self. Enjoy!
Tara Leigh Cobble is a full-time singer/songwriter who lives in New York City during the 65 days per year that she’s not touring. This article originally appeared in Radiant magazine.