Whether flying occasionally for leisure or commuting every other day for work, we all experience the stress-inducing elements of travel that can disrupt normal wellness routines. But we don’t have to let that happen: Long gone are the days when airports offered only fast food options, and a restful trip required a pricey first-class ticket. Airports now cater to the health-conscious traveler with amenities such as yoga studios, express spa services, meditation spaces and juice bars. Terminal shops stock a range of products to counter common travel-related symptoms like fatigue, dehydration and anxiety.
While racking up more hours in airports or on planes than in my own home, I have learned to stay grounded in my wellness goals, giving new meaning to having fresh perspective from 35,000 feet.
On long flights and road trips, you do not have to skip meals, subsisting on snacks or, even worse, airline food. Plan ahead and bring your own favorite foods or research your options prior to departure. You can now find anything from sushi to vegan fare in many airports. You can find healthy options in the most unlikely places too, grabbing fruit from a coffee stand or a hearty salad at a wine bar.
Regardless, whether you are taking a quick trip or a cross-Atlantic flight, the key to maintaining healthy habits is hydration. Dehydration can exacerbate jet lag, disrupt sleep cycles and weaken your immune system. Luckily for travelers who are used to carrying a reusable water bottle, the option to refill in airports is becoming more prolific. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has recently debuted new “hydration stations,” offering water from pristine reservoirs in Yosemite National Park. So, ditch those single-use bottles and step up your water intake.
Once you have landed at your final destination, you will likely be overwhelmed by the excitement of a new adventure and less focused on your next balanced meal. Incorporate healthy eating habits by making reservations beforehand at restaurants that accommodate your dietary needs. Searching for farmers markets is also a good way to sample the local fare, while eating organically and seasonally.
Also, check out, Food Tripping, an app that helps you find alternatives to fast food in the area. The suggestions range from coffee shops to farmers markets and allow you to be more informed about your food choices, while away from home.
Extended travel, including lengthy layovers, can cause fatigue and disrupt normal fitness routines. You can only walk around an airport terminal so many times. Now, you may be in luck: A handful of airports, including San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth, Newark and others, have created yoga and meditation rooms, where you can keep your practice steady on the move. Feel free to bring a mat or use some of the provided props to add a little “ohm” to your c’ohm’mute. (That’s some travel humor, for you.)
The more readily accessible your preferred form of exercise, the more likely you are to continue your routine away from home. As a frequent hotel guest, I have experienced gyms that rival Olympic training centers and those that look like supply closets. However, many hotels have stepped up their game recently, providing rentable workout gear, clothing and sneakers. Every time I have used this service, I have been pleasantly surprised to receive brand new items that cost only $5 to $10 a week to rent. Leaving my bulkier workout items at home also alleviates the back strain of a heavier carry-on bag.
Since I take a gamble with each new hotel I try, I always make sure to research local yoga studios, dance classes and, in New York, the latest out of this world fitness experience (which, as I write this, is Naked Yoga). If my time in a new place is brief, I resolve to walk anywhere and everywhere—not only for my health, but also to see that city in its entirety and get the lay of the land.
Check out, Findery, an app that compiles personal stories from users to create a hyper-local database that fosters discovery. As you run, walk or bike through a new city, open the app to find detailed stories about the places around you.
Rest & Relaxation
An important element of a healthy trip is getting enough sleep, which is often compromised to make the most of adventuring in a new place. Maximize your sleep prior to a trip if you anticipate de-prioritizing rest during your vacation or business jaunt. Work with your hotel beforehand to identify a quiet room or floor for those rare hours when you do hit the sack.
Treat yourself to body work and beauty appointments before a flight to reap lasting benefits all trip long. A massage may relax you enough so that you fall asleep in your squished seat, and a pre-flight facial can combat the lack of humidity onboard. Most airports have express spas now, and you can make the most of even the shortest layover with a foot massage or other treatment.
While you may think to pre-book a reservation at a restaurant before your arrival, beauty and body treatment appointments are often an afterthought. Look local to determine your best bet for pampering. In Thailand, don’t miss a traditional Thai massage, in Iceland soak your toes in the natural hot springs, in Israel soak yourself in the mud of the Dead Sea—the list goes on.
Check out, Beautified, an app that helps you book last-minute beauty appointments at local salons and spas for blowouts, haircuts, massages, facials and other services. You can only book the day of, which makes it perfect for out-of-towners.
Travel does not always offer a mental break, especially if you are constantly on the road for business. Long work hours followed by flying and subsequent jet lag put stress not only on our bodies, but also our minds. Stress has a way of manifesting physically, whether we hold tension in our necks and backs or get headaches from constant worry.
It is important to stay grounded, even when spending more time in the air than on land. Similar to the yoga rooms that have popped up in airport terminals, select airports also offer meditation spaces, where peace and quiet is the norm. By selecting a mantra to keep you focused or following a guided meditation, you can remain centered as you enter the chaotic world of travel.
We know jet lag puts our bodies in a physical slump, but it also lands us in mental stupors. Wherever your final destination, try to make contact with the grass or sand with your bare feet to create a physical grounding to the earth. The more sunshine you get on the day you land, the easier it will be to sleep in a normal cycle. And you should plan to rest luxuriously for one night to help your body rejuvenate.
Check out, Simply Being, a voice-guided meditation app that can be combined with natural sounds to create a peaceful jumping off point for meditation. This is a soothing way to fall asleep or seek clarity in the present moment. You can customize your meditation session too. This app is great for centering yourself in stressful times.
Live, Love & Exploration
Overall, the goal while traveling, whether for business or pleasure, is to remain in the moment and in touch with all of your senses and sensations. Tapping into your highest consciousness helps you avoid the pitfalls of unhealthy habits on the road. If you follow the above tips, it is possible to travel mindfully and maintain a routine that will leave you as balanced as when you left home—maybe even more.