It’s been just over a week since we returned from our family trip to Mexico and I am already on the road (again) with business travel. In fact, I just finished my second trip since our return. While I enjoy traveling, the hardest thing about it is maintaining my health while I am on the road.
So how do I make sure I stay healthy while I am on the go?
I have learned over the years that there are three factors that contribute to my health when I travel. These are: 1) my ability to sleep and get enough of it; 2) my ability to eat healthy; and, 3) my ability to exercise. It’s as simple as that.
Let’s take the first factor – sleep. Right now, I can tell you that I am not getting enough of it. We have all heard news reports telling us that adults should get at least seven hours of sleep every night. And, children should get up to twelve hours. The reality is that many of us are not getting the recommended number of hours of sleep on any given day. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 40% of adults are getting less than the recommended seven to nine hours a night.
When you throw in travel with pre-dawn flights, long layovers, delays, late night arrivals, and changing time zones, it can be difficult to get any meaningful sleep. Here are a few things I do to help me get the rest I need when I am on the go.
Let’s say I am traveling on a pre-dawn flight, as hard as it may be, I try to resist the temptation to stop at a cafe to purchase a cup of coffee and an early morning snack. Once I am on the airplane, I use the travel time to catch up on a sleep. In fact, I tend to fall asleep before we even take off.
If I am traveling to a different time zone, I like to build in some recovery time by limiting the commitments on my itinerary during the first day. This allows me to rest and recharge for the days ahead. I also use the same approach for my return home. I try to limit morning commitments the day after I return from a trip, especially if I have returned home late at night.
During an overnight international trip or a red-eye flight across the United States, I try to skip the in-flight entertainment and sleep during the journey. An eye mask, earplugs, and a travel pillow all come in handy to help make sleep easier during these flights.
Healthy eating is one of the hardest things for me to do while I am on the road. I love food, I love to eat, and I believe that sharing a meal with others is one of the simplest ways to connect with people and experience a place. However, when you are traveling it’s easy to overeat.
When I travel, I try to make the same healthy choices I would make when I am at home. I may limit myself to one larger meal a day. I decline the breadbasket (if possible), limit the amount of alcohol I may drink, and the amount of dessert I am eating. I also make sure to use the electronic tools on my phone to track the type and amount of food I am eating. All of this helps keep me on track and prevents me from overeating while I am traveling.
One of my favorite ways to get exercise when I travel is to simply get outside and walk. This may mean walking to a meeting location in place of taking a taxi, train, or bus. It may mean walking around the block after a large meal. It may mean finding some free time to explore the city that I am visiting.
Last week, I headed to the National Mall in Washington D.C. to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. My walk included a full loop from the U.S. Capitol Building to the Washington Monument. Not only was the walk good for my health, but, I got to take in a few of the major tourist sites of the city. And, it was energizing watching D.C. life unfold throughout my journey with tourists, runners, and groups of friends and colleagues playing soccer, softball, kickball, and pétanque along the mall.
Throughout my travels, I have found that exercising not only helps keep me fit, but it also helps my body adjust more easily to a new time zone, it helps me sleep better, and it helps me burn off any excess calories I might have consumed along the way.
Seeking medical care
What happens if you’re feeling under the weather while you are away from home? What do you do?
This is a really important question for me personally and when I travel with my family. If the first aid/medicines kit that I packed isn’t able to meet our needs and I have to seek non-emergency medical help, then I turn to a few of the web-based tools out there today. These tools are easy to use and can connect you with a doctor while you’re away from home.
A really terrific web-based tool that I have recently discovered is called Find a Doctor. This tool will let you search for a doctor in any part of the U.S. based on your location, insurance, and personal preferences. And, it will even book your appointment at a convenient time for you.
Find a Doctor is something I’ve already asked my dad to bookmark and download as he prepares to travel cross-country to visit us and see the 100th running of the Indy 500 on Memorial Day weekend. My dad has a chronic disease and having access to a tool like Find a Doctor will give me peace of mind knowing that he can access care along his journey and in Indianapolis if he needed it.
Stay tuned for more travel stories and travel tips for you and your family.
Dorothy Hoffman is the creator of the travel blog, Squirts and Seniors. She is a Gen X-er who writes about traveling at home and abroad with her young son and aging parents.