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Ten tips to help stay well while traveling

  • May 3, 2017 10:26 AM EDT

    Despite making the commitment to slow down, find balance, and travel less in 2017, it seems that I have taken the opposite approach!   During the last few months I have spent more time out of town than in my own apartment in Calgary, with days spent traveling, mostly by plane, to different parts of the globe.  All of my time spent traveling and away from home has led me to cultivate strategies to ensure that I remain healthy and well, despite hours on airplanes, in airports, and at other highly trafficked public hotspots.  Read on for 10 strategies that you can practice while traveling to ensure that you continue to foster your health and wellbeing. 

    1. Pack healthy snacks: Despite some improvements at large airports or other travel spots in the realm of healthy eating options, fast food is still a common reality when traveling.  Avoid purchasing unhealthy on-board or airport terminal options by bringing healthy snacks with you.  My favorites are fruit (if not crossing the border), Greek yoghurt, hard boiled eggs, nuts/seeds, cut vegetables, and hummus.

    2. Bring a refillable water bottle: Most airports have bottle refilling stations or water fountains that you can use to fill your bottle (once past security) and stay hydrated.  I always aim to finish my bottle of water before I get off the plane so that I can fill it up again once I’m in the terminal.  Remember that water is always a better choice compared to pop/soda or alcohol.

    3. Invest in a travel yoga mat: Several months ago I bought a travel yoga mat (weighing < 3 lbs) and now I take it with me everywhere.  I love that I can roll it out in my hotel room and do an online class or my own practice whenever I want.  If you do not have a travel mat, you can still lay a towel down in your hotel room to do yoga, stretching, or ab workouts. 

    4. Wear comfortable footwear: Depending on where you are traveling and connecting, long treks through the airport are sometimes required.  I’m always careful to wear comfortable shoes that I can run if need be, or better yet, take the stairs rather than escalators in order to get some movement in between sitting for hours on a plane.   
    5. Visit the hotel gym: Most hotels have a gym stocked with a couple of cardio machines, free weights, and sometimes resistance machines.  Even if you are not an avid “gym buff”, plan to visit the gym for 20-30 minutes of a cardio workout (e.g., intervals on the elliptical or treadmill) or some weight-lifting exercises.  If you would rather avoid the gym, you can always do an ab or low-impact workout in your hotel room (I highly recommend Fitness Blender videos on YouTube). 

    6. Schedule activity each day: Especially if you are traveling for a conference and spending a lot of time sitting on a plane or in a banquet hall, plan some sort of physical activity into your day, whether it is a walk to dinner, pre-bedtime stretch, or visit to the gym.  Getting outside for some sunlight exposure is especially beneficial for sleep hygiene and is highly recommended. 

    7. Plan on a 5-minute meditation daily: The benefits of meditation are immense and include physical (e.g., immune boosting), cognitive (e.g., memory enhancing), and emotional (e.g., responsive rather than reactive behaviors) payoffs.  Even the busiest of travel schedules will allow for a 5-minute meditation after waking up in the morning to set the tone for the day.  Air Canada even provides access to Headspace recordings on their in-flight TV for those who want to learn more about starting a meditation practice or experience flying-induced anxiety.  

    8. Stick to a routine as much as possible: While it’s okay to aim for more sleep while you are on vacation or traveling away from family (no kids waking you up!), try not to get into the habit of staying up late and sleeping in late.  To foster good sleep hygiene, it is important to stick to a bedtime and morning alarm within 1 hour of when you would normally go to bed and get up, respectively.  If you do want to get more sleep, try to get to bed earlier and get up when you normally would. 

    9. Avoid too much indulgence: It is tempting while traveling, even if for work, to indulge in meals, beverages, and activities that we would not normally do at home with our normal routine.  As much as possible, try to keep alcohol consumption, desserts, and any other indulgences (e.g., venti caramel macchiato) to a minimum so as not to double your calorie intake while away. 

    10.  Stretch and breathe: When you travel often enough, hiccups are sure to occur such as unexpected delays or cancelations.  Try to stay mindful while traveling and notice when your body becomes tense or you’re holding your breath.  Take moments to relax your shoulders, stretch, and take deep breaths to re-center.  Remember that these travel glitches are out of your control and it does not do you any good to worry about them! 

    Marie K. Holowaychuk, DVM, DACVECC is a small animal emergency and critical care specialist and certified yoga and meditation teacher who also has an invested interest in the health and well-being of veterinary professionals.  She organizes Veterinary Wellness Workshops & Retreats for veterinarians, technicians, and other veterinary care providers.  To sign up for newsletters containing information regarding these events and veterinary wellness topics, please click here.  More information can be found at