When I was 18 and went to Paris for the first time, I ended up in the emergency room on the first day. It was my first overseas flight traveling alone and I barely drank any water. After struggling with my oversized suitcases (another rookie mistake) at Charles de Gaulle and pounding the streets trying to find my hostel under the summer sun, I fainted, fell, and split my chin open. Next thing I know, I’m in a French hospital with eight stitches. Not exactly the most romantic introduction to Paris. Plus, I had to find a hospital in Rome six days later to get them taken out.
Ever since then, I have committed to staying as healthy as possible on the road. For me, it isn’t about dieting on the road or maintaining the workout schedule I do when I’m home. I don’t have time to hit the treadmill for an hour while traveling, when I’d rather be out walking, seeing, and doing. I also don’t want to miss out on all the incredible food along the way.
What I want to avoid is feeling sluggish and of course sick. Misery is having a cold on a transatlantic flight, and discreetly trying to blow your nose. The only thing worse is if it’s the person sitting next to you hacking away as you slather hand sanitizer on your hands. I don’t want to have planned out my itinerary for months, only to be sidelined by a bug.
Here are some tips about what’s worked for me on the road:
1. Get A Green Juice Before Hitting the Airport
Nutrient-rich green juices made with some combinations of kale, spinach, celery, ginger, lemon, and apples seem to be everywhere now, and I make a point to seek them out before any trip. My friend Sarah Evans Thelen, who always manages to stay healthy (and look beautiful) while visiting clients around the world, introduced me to a new way of getting greens. “I’m a sucker for green juice but I can rarely find it in an airport,” she said. “3 Fl oz is my favorite site for travel-sized beauty products and they sell David Kirsch super-charged green packs.” You just pour it in water, and, voilà!
2. Bring Food, But Make It Good
I need the food I bring while I’m traveling to be really good, or I’ll sit there like a petulant child, looking longingly at the nearest airport Chili’s. I pack foods that will make me happy about what I’m eating into disposable containers and carry plastic bags full of homemade or store-bought energy bars. I also love individual packs of almond butter, the perfect pairing with airplane pretzels. Obviously, there’s great food to be had in almost every destination around the world, but I feel better having some familiar food from home to last the entire trip. No one wants to see me hangry (hungry-angry).
3. Limit Bellinis
I say Bellinis because it’s hard for me to turn one down. Of course, I’ve been known to indulge in a good glass of wine, champagne, or beer (especially in the Czech Republic), but when I have a full day ahead of me on the road, I don’t have the tolerance to have a couple of glasses of wine at lunch, leading straight into cocktails at happy hour, followed by more liquor at dinner and after-dinner drinks. I usually limit myself to one alcoholic drink a day, and I’m okay with that. All I have to do is think about the next day’s schedule and how I’ll feel.
4. Don’t Eat It If It Isn’t Good
I’ll only eat what’s truly delicious on the table and not waste my energy on something I don’t love. If there’s a loaf of bread on the table that is bordering on stale, I won’t mindlessly butter a piece and eat it. But if I’m at Spago in Maui, where they bring out focaccia rolls with sweet caramelized onions baked in, you better believe I’ll be eating that. After our nosh, my sister declared, “It’s sad that I won’t ever have a piece of bread like that again.”
5. Observe the Three-Bite Rule
After three bites of dessert, any sweet — no matter how delectable — starts to lose its luster. So I try to stick to my three bite rule. I always think “Will I regret NOT finishing this?” The answer is usually no.
6. Spend Time at Local Markets
Local markets provide a great introduction to any city — and almost always entail fun conversations with vendors and fellow shoppers alike. Carrie Vitt, publisher of Deliciously Organic, one of my favorite food blogs, says she prefers to stay in places that offer small kitchens. “I find a grocery store or market, buy a knob of good cheese, some fruit, nuts, and call it a meal,” she said.
7. Keep Sickness at Bay
When I feel a cold coming on, I down my sure-fire sore-throat killer: a mix of lemon juice, fresh ginger, and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Vitt always travels with a small jar of good quality coconut oil. “Coconut oil has antimicrobial and antiviral properties, so if I start to feel sick, I immediately have a spoonful of two,” she said. “My husband even takes coconut oil with him when deployed with the military. It’s a miracle oil!”
- Nat Geo Expeditions
8. Pack Sanity Savers
Thelen packs lavender oil for the flight. “For my sanity, I dab lavender oil on my pulse points before I take off,” she said. “It relaxes me and I love the smell.” I bring a loaded iPad with TV shows, books, and movies, which I think definitely keeps my brain healthy and my sanity intact during long delays and long flights.
9. Find Time to Work Out
Even if you walk for hours in a city, there’s nothing like getting your heart pumping out of your chest for at least a few minutes a day. I try to pack in 20 minutes at the hotel gym if I can do nothing else. I always pack sneakers, but some hotels, like Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, offer programs that provide workout apparel, shoes, and gear.
10. Have a Cappuccino Every Morning
Okay, this might just be for me. But especially in Italy, where the cappuccinos are smaller than their American counterparts — less frothy and more addictive — I always order a cappuccino with breakfast. It makes me feel energized and ready for an adventure each day I’m on the road.