How I Stay Healthy While Traveling

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Spider-walking in Karijini National Park in Western Australia.

The following branded content post is brought to you by RXBAR. I’ve been eating roughly two RXBARs per day since the beginning of the year, and their team noticed on social media — so they reached out to do a giveaway together! Working with companies I love is my best-case scenario, so I’m very pleased to share this post here with you.

At the beginning of this year, I made a decision to reclaim my health and get back into a diet and fitness routine. For the month of January, I stayed in New York and got into a solid routine. But one of the most difficult parts was when I started traveling again.

Yes, it’s one thing to be healthy when you’re at home — but what happens when you travel?!

I was so nervous when I went to Florida with Cailin in February. This was my first trip since committing to a new gym, an exercise routine, a personal trainer, and an 80% paleo diet. How was I going to manage in a theme park famous for its milkshakes and turkey legs?

I made it through security at JFK Airport and felt like crying. I was hungry and surrounded by forbidden foods. The old me would have gone for a latte and a pastry at Starbucks, or maybe a giant bag of Cheez-Its if I felt indulgent. Was I going to fail after so much hard work?

It’s okay, Kate, I told myself. You can keep up your diet here. I went to a fountain and filled up my portable water bottle. I went to a newsstand and bought a banana. And then I reached into my RXBAR stash and pulled out my favorite flavor: Coconut Chocolate.

Yes. I could travel and stay healthy.

SUP Yoga in Key West, Florida

How I Stay Healthy While Traveling

Over the past seven months, through trial and error, I’ve gotten much better at staying healthy on my travels. These recent trips have been some of my healthiest yet.

But didn’t you eat a ton of key lime pie on those Keys trips? I sure did! But I balanced things out. I would rarely eat more than a few bites of pie. I would eat healthy fish dishes the rest of the day. And I made sure to work out like crazy while I was there! I worked out in gyms, I kayaked, I did the 7-minute workout over and over in my room, I even went to a Zumba class where I was the only participant. (That was a bit awkward.)

Here are some of my best tips for staying healthy while traveling:

On a…bicycle kayak?…on South Africa’s Garden Route.

   
Establish healthy habits at home first.

There are a number of people in the travel blogging community who are super into fitness. You see them scaling mountains, running on beaches, rocking self-made bootcamps at various playgrounds in different cities. How do they do it?

Their secret is that they prioritized fitness at home before they hit the road.

The same truth holds for you, too. If you want to be in shape while you travel, you should commit to fitness at home long before you hop on your flight. The road is full of temptation — discipline at home will keep you on track while traveling!

Sipping on a black iced coffee — maybe 5 calories? — while strolling the reservoir in Central Park.

Hydrate Frequently and Limit Caloric Drinks

So much of your health rests on hydration. It helps your body work better, it keeps you alert, and perhaps most importantly, it staves off hunger. Very often we think we’re hungry when we’re actually thirsty.

Make an effort to drink water constantly. Bring a portable water bottle to cut down on trash. And if you want to drink something else, stick to drinks with few calories: black coffee, herbal tea, seltzer.

Cut back on lattes, alcohol, and delicious fruit juices and you’ll pack on fewer pounds. I say this with regret as someone who loves lattes, alcohol, and delicious fruit juices.

Pack Healthy Snacks And Use Them Often

The old me would buy a roll or two of Oreos and eat them all on a six-hour bus ride. I don’t do that anymore.

RXBAR: The Ultimate Healthy Snack for Travel

When I got into fitness at the beginning of the year, I tried all kinds of paleo protein bars. Seven months in, there’s only one brand that I still eat regularly: RXBAR.

I first noticed them at the gym, with labels reading, “3 Egg Whites. 6 Almonds. 4 Cashews. 2 Dates. No B.S.” By “No B.S.” they mean no dairy, no gluten, no added sugar, no soy, no artificial colors or flavors, no preservatives, and no fillers.

I got hooked on the bars at the gym — and then started buying them in bulk. (FYI, they’re cheapest at Trader Joe’s — even cheaper than Amazon!) My favorite flavor is Coconut Chocolate, followed by Mixed Berry and Chocolate Sea Salt. All are paleo and fit the criteria for Whole30, excluding Peanut Butter Chocolate, as peanuts and other legumes are off the paleo menu.

All the bars are gluten-free and vegetarian; some but not all flavors are paleo, Whole30 compliant, and Kosher. None are vegan due to the egg whites. See more details here.

Today I eat them constantly. In fact, the reason why RXBAR reached out to me for this campaign is because their staff noticed I was eating them all the time on Snapchat!

How I use RXBARs While Traveling

I bring a huge stack of RXBARs with me when I travel nowadays — usually two for each day. No joke, when I went on the cruise earlier this year, an entire shelf was devoted to my healthy snacks.

I pack them into my carry-on backpack. Snacks on planes are usually junk food and some airports are severely lacking in healthy options (hello, Fort Lauderdale), so they are vital on some flights.

I have them for breakfast. Each bar has roughly 200 calories, which makes them a good start for the day before grabbing a mid-morning snack.

I have them for pre- and post-workout snacks. Before the workout, they give me energy; post-workout, their 12 grams of protein helps me recover. (My trainer likes me to have 20 grams of protein after a strength workout, so I’ll often have a bar and a half after.)

I hold onto them for long rides in transit. Whether it’s a half-day bus journey or an hourlong subway ride, I keep a bar or two in my purse in case hunger pangs hit.

I bring them on road trips. When my friends and I drove out to Montauk a few weeks ago, I came bearing bars. “Coconut Chocolate, Mixed Berry, or Chocolate Sea Salt? I brought three of each!” They both went for Coconut Chocolate.

Surfing at sunset in J-Bay, South Africa.

Sign up for a fitness activity or tour.

Have you always wanted to learn how to surf? Or whitewater raft? Or rock climb? Now is the perfect opportunity to learn! I guarantee you it will be one of the most memorable activities of your trip. Plus, once you come home, you’ll have a story in your back pocket about that time you went surfing in South Africa during a pink sunset.

Another option? Try a fitness-oriented tour! Bike tours are already popular in many destinations, and running tours are starting to become popular in cities as well.

Enjoying one of my favorite restaurants on the planet: Red Snapper in Koh Lanta, Thailand.

Limit your indulging to once per day.

Definitely be sure to indulge in the local cuisine when you travel — it’s one of my favorite things to do! But balance it out. If you’re having a heavy meal for dinner, get a salad or some simple protein and vegetables for lunch. If you’re having dessert, don’t have three glasses of wine.

Let yourself live — but save the indulgences for some of the time, not every meal.

The most difficult hike of my life: the Alps surrounding Innsbruck, Austria. I hurt so much the next day!

Walk everywhere — but remember that walking is not cardio.

When you’re on the road, especially when visiting cities, you’ll be walking all over the place. You might clock upwards of 20,000 miles per day. And that’s fantastic — but walking is no substitute for cardio. Walking keeps you active, but you won’t be bringing your heart rate up much.

Is walking better than nothing? Of course! But you shouldn’t be considering it your workout for the day if you’re comparing it to your usual spin class or HIIT. Try to add some actual cardio in between the walks.

A heart rate monitor might help you here. I recently started using a Fitbit Alta HR, and while it’s not perfect, it does let me know which kind of activities get my heart rate up.

Bike riding in Caye Caulker, Belize.

Rent a bike or kayak.

Whether in a city like Berlin or a tiny island like Caye Caulker, Belize, renting a bike can be a great way to explore more of your surroundings in a healthy way.

Kayaking with Wren on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

Another fun option? Rent a canoe or kayak! It may not be the most efficient to get from town to town, but it’s a lot of fun. Plus, you’ll get new perspectives for your photos.

Trying out Anti-Gravity Yoga in New York.

Join a fitness class in another city.

One of my favorite things to do in different cities is to spend my days as if I lived there. So I visit coffeeshops, I read in parks, and I occasionally join a fitness class at a local studio. Zumba, yoga, kickboxing, spinning, barre — I’m game for anything that isn’t completely terrifying!

Above all, I recommend yoga. Yoga classes are easy to find around the world, and even if you don’t speak the local language, they usually say the name of the pose in the usual Sanskrit! Plus, yoga is all about letting go and focusing on your inner self. Nobody judges you at yoga class.

Hiking to Jesus in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, with Alex.

Grab a fitness buddy for company.

It’s much more motivating to work out alongside a friend! If you’re traveling with a friend, see if you can plan some kind of fitness activity during your trip. If not, there are other ways.

If you’re staying at a hostel or hanging out in a neighborhood with lots of backpackers, ask around. Don’t be scared — this is what people used to do before smartphones! Backpackers are often looking for something cool and different to do, especially if they’ve been traveling long-term.

Alternatively, ask on the local Couchsurfing or Reddit forum for your destination or join a Meetup Group. You never know what you might find!

On a surf and yoga retreat in Sayulita, Mexico.

Consider going on a fitness-oriented group trip.

Back in 2011, I went on a yoga and fitness retreat in Mexico. At the time, I was grotesquely out of shape and thought I would be the resident lump amongst a dozen lithe women.

But you know what? It wasn’t like that at all. All the women on the retreat were interested in fitness, and some were in very good shape, but most of them were average-sized women who wanted to go somewhere warm in the winter — and justify their nightly margaritas.

We began and ended the day with yoga. In between we’d do boot camps or go surfing. And throughout we were served delicious, mostly vegan food with a bit of fish thrown in. I felt so healthy at the end of the week!

Every retreat is different, and you should research in advance to find out what the day-to-day is like. But don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

Just after caving and swimming in Khao Sok National Park, Thailand.

Take care of your body.

Know when you’re pushing yourself too hard. Don’t go out drinking every night. Get a good night’s sleep whenever possible. And when you feel the faintest beginnings of a cold, get yourself to the nearest place serving homemade chicken soup.

Rock climbing — and hating it — in Railay, Thailand.

If you mess up, that’s fine. Just do better tomorrow.

Fitness is not like addiction. If you mess up, it doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym tomorrow and announce, “It’s been one day since I was healthy.” It’s okay to fall short, to eat way too much dessert or to spend a day sedentary in a cafe. We all fall short sometimes. God knows I do.

Likewise, it’s okay if you try a dream activity and end up hating it. I tried rock climbing in one of the most beautiful places to do so — Railay, Thailand — and hated the experience, start to finish. From the way-too-tight shoes to putting my life in the hands of a dude named Stinky Pete (seriously), it was not for me.

That just means you need to make the conscious decision to do so again tomorrow. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Win a Travel Pack Worth $500+ from RXBAR!

RXBAR is giving away a travel pack to one of my readers, and this prize is excellent. Here’s what you’ll get:

To enter the giveaway, go to @adventurouskate on Instagram and leave a comment on my latest photo — the one with the RXBARs. This is open to US residents only. The RXBAR team will be choosing the winner at random. Good luck!

How do you stay healthy while traveling?

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28 thoughts on “How I Stay Healthy While Traveling”

  1. Love this! I LOVE RxBars and Lara bars (esp. the cashew and cherry ones)!

    I think you mean 20,000 steps per day and not 20,000 miles 😀

  2. I always pack healthy snacks for the transit portions, and bring my running gear- no matter where you are, you can always go for a run. I also have a few downloaded workout videos (from amazon prime) so I can do things in my hotel room if I need to/

  3. This is so inspiring to me! I am 100% paleo and have been for 3 years. I have a strong urge to travel but have been holding myself back because I wasn’t sure how I would something to eat at every meal. Thank you for sharing such great and helpful tips!

  4. What an interesting post! Thank you for sharing. My number one problem is what to eat and how to stay healthy. This is the first thought that comes across when I open up my eyes in a morning. Especially difficult to stay away from junk food while traveling. Thanks for the tip on RXBAR, never tried it before. Very inspiring post, I have more carriage now to stay gluten free. And by the way I have such sweet tooth my favorite is chocolate sea salt, will try now the coconut one now:) thanks and keep it up

  5. Great tips! I try my best to walk as much as possible when I travel and I end up seeing more of city that way =o) I am definitely less strict on my diet when I travel, trying to indulge as often as I can put remember to watch my portions =o)

  6. I agree with you when you say that it’s important to make fitness your priority before you hop on your plane. If you are disciplined at home, that would help on the road as well. Drinking plenty of water and walking are the easiest things to do. I guess that’s the least one can do to stay fit.

  7. I’ve been following along with your fitness journey since you started back in January, so inspiring to see how far you’ve come and that you’re making it work while not having to comprise while traveling! I’ve been trying to get back into a fitness routine before heading off to SEA and Australia for a year, definitely need to get a routine set before leaving!

    Bummed the contest isn’t open to Canadians, what a great giveaway for one of your readers 🙂

  8. I have also kayaked on Lake Atitlan and biked on Caye Caulker! I love being active during my travels, and great giveaway. However, I think there is a little typo here because it’s impossible to walk (or run or bike or even drive) 20,000 miles in a day:

    “When you’re on the road, especially when visiting cities, you’ll be walking all over the place. You might clock upwards of 20,000 miles per day.”

  9. Yes! Health is Wealth! Kudos for putting up such determination and discipline to stay healthy while travelling. It’s really difficult to do most especially when you see all sorts of food in every corner. Yoga is also very interesting since it does not only bring physical benefits but it is also a good form of distressing.

  10. Excellent post! Thank you for the tips, you’re totally right, sometimes we travel way to much and we forget our eating habits and that’s important, especially drinking water (Oh, don’t you think I forgot about those amazing bars, I’m so going to buy them), but whilst traveling is cool to do a yoga class here and there, rent a bike and do some cardio or something like that!

  11. As a travel writer and blogger, I travel frequently, and that’s what caught up with me. In the beginning, it always felt like “vacation” which meant indulging in whatever for a while – too much of that really piled up and I ended up gaining almost 20 pounds in two years. I was determined to lose it and had to figure out various ways of sticking to my diet while traveling, so many of the things you mentioned are what I’m doing now. In addition to bringing healthy bars (I use a different kind but will have to try Rxbars) I started bringing a single-serving blender so that I can use it to make a smoothie for breakfast or lunch whenever I stay at a place with a kitchen. I save the indulgences for dinner and squeeze in ways to exercise whenever I can. I still have 4 or so of those pounds to lose, but am hoping they’ll be off by the end of 2017.

  12. I totally agree with this post! Water and walking are the best way to go. I often try to do hiking when I travel. I believe it gives you amazing views of the place you are visiting and is amazing for cardio.

  13. I was pretty regular with Yoga but it all stopped when I was backpacking across Europe for 3 months. It took me a year to get back to my routine! Your post is inspiring me to keep the routine going. Cheers!

  14. Totally agree! One thing that concerns me when I’m back on road is my fitness. Back home I would hit the gym in routine. But when I travel, I don’t really do exercise and my body shape that I built before starts to get fatty! Moreover I love to try new food, any food. So..it’s pretty overwhelming. Thanks btw for the post, I’ll try to do at least few workouts. Thanks for your tips!

  15. Hi Kate!

    I got a sweet tooth just like you and let me tell you, when I got into paleo at first and then finally into keto, I was crying on the inside all the time. I couldn’t eat all the things I wanted, the softdrinks, cake, ice cream, candy, sweet coffee, cheezies. Basically all types of comfort junk food, I had to let go.

    One thing I learned though is that our taste buds adapt to flavors pretty quickly. If you slowly lessen the amount of sweets that you eat, you’ll get used to it and the next time you go on a sugar feast, you’ll feel the difference. Cravings disappear, is what I mean.

    Hope this helps!

    All the best,
    Eden

  16. Hi Kate! Your article about keeping healthy whilst travelling solo really spoke volumes to me. When I think about solo travel, I usually think about over-indulging on most things like shopping, relaxing and most importantly on food. A lot of the time, I usually look at my healthy diet and throw it out the window when I go away and treat myself more than once a day with carb-fuelled meals, processed treats and endless scoops of gelato. Aside from empowering women to do their own thing whilst they’re overseas, it’s also really important to make sure we’re maintaining our health. Without it, we wouldn’t find ourselves in the places we’ve roamed, right?

    I really enjoyed how you advocate to keep hydrated and that bringing a refillable water bottle is crucial not only for hydration, but also creating less waste and saving money. I also benefited from taking healthy snack bars with you all the time, because I agree, it can be so difficult to find fresh and healthy options whilst in an airport or service stations on the road. Overall, I think our health is a priority when we travel solo because I could not imagine being ill and alone whilst overseas. Thank you so much for putting this article out there because it’s definitely a topic solo female travellers overlook when thinking about being on the road.

    I’ve actually recently started a campaign that aims to tackle the gender inequality that exists between men and women travelling solo by empowering young women to travel fearlessly on her own. I think your overall perspective on travel upon reading your blog would really inspire my audience and you could perhaps give them tips on how to ace solo travel as women. If you ever have time, my blog is solosisters.wordpress.com and all relevant social handles are provided on my main site. I’d love to have someone so inspiring be on there to educate and inspire my audience.

    Have a fantastic week!

    Many thanks,
    Patricia (Sydney, Australia)

  17. Hi Kate, it is a very interesting post about healthy habits while travelling. I am also a travel blogger and you have a very nice blog. I could relate to the struggle to keep healthy eating habits. As when travelling as you said there is a lot of temptation. Fast food everywhere and in airports there are rare healthy stuffs to eat. For my next trip, I will try to apply your tips. As I want to stay in shape and have a good lifestyle. Travelling is so much fun I don’t want it to be the reason why I cannot stick to a healthy lifestyle. The first tip is to have good eating habits long before the trip. It is a really good advice as the brain need to train itself to new habits. It is all about discipline, it is true that it is hard at times but you succeeded and stick to your plan. It should motivate others also. Another interesting tip was to choose a fitness activity, it is true that it will change the experience in the country. As it will enable another perspective to visit the country while biking. Unfortunately, not all countries provide bicycle for rent because of huge traffic for example. But your alternative of kayak or walk climbing is quite good. Thanks for inspiring other travelers with this post. Keep it up!
    Kind Regards,
    Anaelle

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