Are you jetsetting again for work? Have an upcoming trip for a graduation, wedding, or getaway. These are the top 10 do’s and don’ts you need to know from packing to arriving to departing.
First, if you have not already, please read my previous post on this topic:
You first definitely want to download my DAOFitLife Travel Workout Playlist on YouTube, which goes with the light resistance equipment that I list to pack. I also have other playlists that are great for travel: my DAOFitLife Yoga playlist, my DAOFitLife Abs playlist, and a lot of other no-equipment playlist options on my YouTube channel, which you can subscribe to in order to get updates. All the workouts I note in this blog post are on my channel in the corresponding playlist noted above.
Now, let’s dive in. Travel is stressful enough without having to stress about how far you are going to fall off the wagon from your workouts and healthy eating. The good news is, you don’t have to stress. DAOFitLife has your back. Just follow my 10 do’s and dont’s and you will be the one everyone wants to copy the next time you go on a trip!
#1 Do pack like a fitness pro
No one knows how to pack a suitcase like Marie Condo! Get as much clothing in for as little space as possible. Checking bags makes trips way more complicated, so a travel on carry-on packed properly can save you a ton of time and headaches in the event of a lost luggage. Here is her video on how to pack (lots of clothes rolling techniques):
Wherever you are going, you have to be prepared to do your own workout anywhere (#5). So you need your own gear. Here’s what you should pack to be workout ready:
- Workout clothes: I recommend mostly dark gear so that you don’t have to worry about it getting stained; I usually pack a few pairs of dark leggings and tanks with built in sports bras and a long sleeved cover shirt because hotel gyms are notoriously cold
- Snacks: For several reasons. One, you never know what they are going to have on the plane, and two, you need to have some snacks around in case you miss the breakfast at the hotel, or you are not really excited about the catered food, and especially to make sure you keep on track with getting the proteins and fats you need (see tip #8). My top recommendations are Madi K’s salted almonds which come in individual serving sizes that you can buy in bulk. I also would recommend protein bars. Normally I am more a fan of protein from whole foods,
- Body bands : Before your next trip, order some body bands, like theArena strength super bands and the woven knit booty band. If you have never worked with a woven band, you are in for a treat! Because of the woven knit, momentum will not swing your body into positions and thus the right muscles have to do the right work! (See,e.g., the thruster and the pushup moves)
- Sliders: Besides body bands, sliders can be idea for different kinds of workouts including core, HIIT (slider mountain climbers!) or strength training.. Lastly regarding cost-space-effective equipement are Synergee Core Sliders- Dual Sided. This slider/glider is excellent for a total body workout or even just inching out into an assisted inchworm; it is particularly versatile in its ability to work on a hardwood floor or a carpeted area. Another benefit of the slider is that it is moving in a way that you might not be used to and keeps your body guessing. They can be used the same way that megaformer is used in popular Solid Core classes!
- Sneakers: These usually take up a lot of room in the suitcase, so I wear them whenI travel. I really love this pair by Hoka, the rincoins.
- Peanut – A peanut is a great way to roll out knots in your neck, shoulders, and hip flexors and because it’s dipped in you can mash it between clothes in your suitcase and hardly notice the room that it takes up.
- Satin Pillowcase: The hotel pillowcases are usually pretty rough on the skin, and you honestly don’t know how clean they are, so I always bring my own satin pillowcase from Kitsch that you can get in pink or gunmetal grey. Incidentally, you should use this at home to prevent raggedy breaking hair and wrinkles.
Here is an image of the shoes I take when I travel:
- Shower pill body wipes – these are an awesome way to quickly freshen up after a workout in case you are short on time to shower.
- Super Goop Glow stick for face, chest and arms – this is a sunscreen that is a solid stick you can rub on like deodorant but on your body and face. You don’t have to fit it into your liquid bag, which is a bonus. I have it and it dries quite quickly, and dragging it over your cheekbones doubles it as a highlighter.
- Supergoop mineral face powder – another great sunscreen no liquid hack, this also helps eliminate shine and set your makeup. You definitely want to make sure especially if you are traveling for business that you don’t look like a hot mess when you go to the gym in the morning, so a little bit of tinted moisturizer or bb cream with powder like this to set it is a must.
- R&CO badlands dry shampoo paste – Dry shampoo is also a hack for post-workout freshening up; you can also apply some to your roots to make your freshly washed hair last longer. Enter this pomade from Rusk, which adds texture to your hair and is airplane friendly (aersol cans have a chance of exploding, no bueno!)
- Coola Dew Good SPF serum – I love this because it’s light on your face and provides a really nice glow, especially for how dull your skin can get after a flight. Bonus – if you mix it with your foundation or tinted moisturizer, it makes you look really fresh and dewey! I do this every day in my routine regardless.
- You will want to get a huge and utilitarian handbag. This article from tripsavvy lists the best picks. My pick is the Madewell zip-top transport tote; if you are looking for low-cost hand really practical, I recently ordered the ZOOEASS Women Fashion Large Tote from Amazon.I t has a wide strap that avoids digging into your shoulder and I can carry two laptops in it, plus lots of compartments including a small one for your umbrella. Nothing fancy, but for travel I definitely favor understated utility. A big tote with a designer name can make you a target, plus putting that stuff on the floor of the plane and airport lounge is not such a great idea.
- Remember, you can only have ONE carry-on and one personal item. So take a small purse, ideally a crossbody mini bag that is just big enough to hold your phone, some credit cards and some lip gloss (like this one from Tory Burch, or this one from Gucci, or this super practical and inexpensive one from Lululemon). This way you can put it inside your larger handbag and use that for when you go out to dinner or walking around town.
- Take your liquids in a bag like this one from Sephora Beauty on the Fly TSA reusable bag. It’s much less flimsy than the plastic sandwich type of bags and surprising holds a lot of material. For beauty products, I accumulate free samples and tuck them in this bag so I have a ready to go supply when I travel. I also make sure to buy the travel size of my preferred fragrance so it will be ready to go.
#2 Don’t go sightseeing hungry
Even if the trip is business, you usually have some time on the front end or the back end to go sightseeing or just walk around. If you do that when you are hungry, you might as well be a human walking trash compactor. Every street food stand, pastry shop, gelato and food eye candy you see through a window is going to scream your name. You will have a lot less discretion on making healthy choices because many touristy cities cater to Western tastes and know that we (as a culture) like junky, sugary, deep fried food.
This does not make this food off limits, but if you have a good meal in your belly from a proper sit-down restaurant or the hotel breakfast, you are going to be less likely to focus on random food impulse buys and will have a better time seeing the actual scenery.
#3 Don’t wear workout clothes outside of working out
Besides the fact that this makes you look like a total tourist (especially when the ensemble includes a baseball cap), you totally should wear fitted clothing that zips when you go out. This keeps you accountable in what you decide to eat or drink, as opposed to elastic and spandex which can stretch and make you ignorant to how much you might be stuffing yourself. In Europe, skinny jeans are always in – and they are called skinny jeans for a reason!
#4 Do drink a lot of water
Dehydration is commonly confused with hunger, and there is no question travel dehydrates you no matter how much water you drink before nad during. Usually hotel rooms have a couple of complimentary waters but that’s not going to cut it. One of the first things I do the day I arrive is find the nearest store and buy several one-liter water bottles to keep in my room. Keep some water in your bag as you travel around and
#5 Do have a workout gameplan before you go
It’s so important to be prepared for travel from a standpoint of nutrition and exercise, because your routine is totally thrown off. If you are traveling for vacation, it can be tempting to see this as a vacation from everything, including caring about fitness. If you are traveling for work, you could get caught up in everything and blow off working out easily, given that days usually start early and end with client dinners. Here are my tips to make it possible to still enjoy yourself and be productive while having a workout game plan. For app recommendations please check out my prior articles before you head out:
- Plan on walking as much as you can: While scheduling a bus or boat tour is a great way to get oriented in a new city, on-foot exploration is the easiest way to get LISS cardio. Because you are so distracted by the new environment, you will often walk 5 or 6 miles without even realizing it. This is one major reason why people report losing weight while on vacation. The only catch is not falling into the trap of overestimating how many calories you are burning, as I discuss in my post on NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). Sightseeing is the ultimate form of NEAT. If you want a HIIT option, you can do a video like this one from Mad Fit so there is no jumping. This is a great option in case for some reason you don’t have the right shoes, you can do this right in your hotel room in your socks or barefoot.
- Have a prepared workout weekly goal. It’s super easy if you follow my 4-3-2-1 exercise formula for success. The 3 days of cardio per week can easily be knocked out by walking, and probably will be exceeded. The 4 days of strength training can be a quick morning hotel room workout or trip to the gym if the hotel has one. Precision training, like Pilates and Yoga, can easily be done in your room, by the pool, or even with a class some hotels offer. For international travel it’s trickier to find a common workout chain like SoulCycle, but you definitely can find local places with the MindBody app, which automatically detects your location and shows you options of different workout studios – best yet, you can sign up and pay directly through the third party app, so you don’t have to worry about losing your spot or dealing with weird credit card restrictions. If you are still lost about what workouts to do, you can consult my DAOFitLife Travel Workout Playlist, which has workouts using the Arena Bands and Sliders, that can take the place of a gym resistance training routine (temporarily).
- Yoga is an excellent way to keep up your strength and flexibility, and wind down after a long travel journey. You can work off of my DAOFitLife Yoga playlist, where you only need floor space (you can use a hotel towel for a mat). The best workouts for post air-travel include this detox and reset yoga flow workout and this workout for your head neck and shoulders, which are likely jammed up from bad sleeping positions. Both feature Adrienne, who is a warm and friendly instructor that does not have too much hype going on and has this adorable dog Benki in her videos (who does exactly what my dog does when I do yoga – lie down by the mat and chill).
- Keeping your core strong is important as you probably will be doing a lot of sitting if you are going to business meetings or conferences. If you barely have time to get up and go, try one of these 10-minute ab workouts from my DAOFitLife Abs Playlist.
- If you want to try some apps, head to my Fitness App Decision Tree post and my speciality post recommending apps for Yoga (and barre and pilates, if that is more your jam). The nice thing about apps is that usually you can download the workouts, and if you choose the free trial optio, you can workout on the app for free for up to 7 days.
- If you want to find in person fitness classes, you can download the Mindbody app (which works US and internationally). Do this before you go while you are planning your schedule. Especially if you are traveling for business, you already have a daily itinerary usually, so you can look for early morning or later afternoon/evenining classes. Or, you can wait until you get to the hotel and input your location so it finds the nearest places.
#6 Understand the metric system (i.e., what everyone else in the world uses)
Nutrition labels and free weights in the gym are going to be in kgs and in grams for serving sizes, so know these conversions:
- 1 kg = 2.2 pounds
- 100g = 3.5 ounces
Usually nutrition labels display kcals. You are also going to want to learn the local word for “fats” – like in Italian and French it’s usually gras/grassi. You can also google translate labels from any language into English by taking a screen image.
Another fact to be aware of is that milks and yogurts tend to have misleading labels like “semi-skimmed” milk, which sounds super lean. BUT IT’S NOT. Look at the percentage of fat which is usually also on the carton, and it’s usually north of 7 percent. That’s 3 percentage points over the 4 percent fat that’s in whole milk. So be judicious with your serving sizes and cappucinos.
The trend of non-dairy milk is definitely taking over in Western Europe, so you can usually get almond or coonut milk, or at least soy mile. Another major brand you want to learn is Canderel, which is a European brand of Stevia. They do not have this everywhere, so when I see it I stock up on packets or you can also buy the dispensable tablets at the grocery store. I also as a backup usually bring my own liquid Stevia.
#7 Don’t skimp on sleep
It’s tempting to want to skimp on sleep to get more work done or to want to explore your surroundings, but lack of sleep is the number one thing that can throw you off and cause you to make poor food and alchohol choices. An important thing to do is to not sleep during the daytime and get on a nightly normal sleep schedule. Try doing a wind down yoga video like this one:
Another trick is to ease off caffeine even more early than you normally would, so it does not keep you up at night. After client dinners, there is usually a stop at the hotel lobby for a nightcap, but use this chance to take a graceful exit so you can get an early start and wake up early the next day to fit in a workout.
#8 Do eat a lot of healthy fats and protein
Especially in Europe, sweets and pastries are a huge attraction. By focusing on your protein intake (at least half of your bodyweight), you will feel more full and by focusing on healthy fats, you will crave less sugar and be less susceptible to that gelato stand by your hotel. Definitely apply the 80/20 rule. If gelato is what you were dreaming of before your plane was even wheels up, then plan on that for being your “20” treat for the day.
#9 Don’t overdo the alcohol or hotel breakfast buffet
There are two things people fall into the trap of overdoing when they are traveling – the free drinks and the hotel breakfast buffet.
The elegance etiqutte guru Anna Bey has a great video on how to gracefully navigate the breakfast buffet and ordering morning room service.
Anna’s etiquette points are well taken, so I highly encourage you watch this. Particularly if you are having breakfast with colleagues or clients, you don’t want to act like a starving refugee and pile up your plate with everything that is being served on the buffet.
Remember the Little Black Dress Meal Planning Method? What I told you in this post is true – you can take it with you anytime, anywhere and that’s why it’s so sustainable. It’s the same application here;. Look for the proteins, carbs, and then fats. So it could go like this, from foods that are usually available at a buffet:
- Smoked Salmon
Note with eggs, try to get the hardboiled or softboiled. The omelet station, scrambled and fried egg depot usually is SOAKED in olive oil. If it’s shiny, avoid. If there are no eggs, try the smoked salmon or plain yogurt as a better bet, or ask that your omelet be made with minimal oil.
- Whole wheat toast
- Egg yolks
You can also apply the 80/20 rule here, so that you can have your treat of choice (but pick one). So that can be one of the small pastries, some bacon, or a pancake. The key here is not ALL those thngs.
Also, have your coffee and fruit first so that you have some fiber in your stomach and a chance to have a natural appetite suppressant before you start eating. It also forces you to slow down. Just because breakfast is included doesn’t mean they include the cost of having to buy bigger pants!
#10 Do plan your routine for when you get back.
You want to make sure you hit the ground running, literally. Give yourself a day to unpack and settle back into your routine – so if you arrive back on a Saturday, take the rest of that day and Sunday. Then on Monday, sign up for a workout class either at your gym or where you take them, or make an appointment with your trainer. You can’t make sure that you have accountability to show up whatever you plan on doing so that jet lag or whatever else is throwing you off doesn’t keep you off track altogether. A great way to reset is to take a yoga class because it’s both going to help your body relax and your nervous system calm down. Also, your muscles will be really tight and cramped from being in an uncomfortable sitting position for hours, whether it is the plane, train or car, so the best thing you can do is increase the space in your body. Follow that up with a long hot shower, drinking a lot of water, and having some lavender or chamomile tea, and you will feel like new the next day.
For your diet, don’t go on some extreme crash even if you feel like you did overindulge. Get back into assessing your metrics like I describe in my macros post and just follow your calories and macro guidelines. Look to add more fruits and vegetables to get yourself back on the healthy eating train, but that does not mean you have to subtract all other foods.
The most important thing is getting back into your sleep routine. If jet lag is causing you to stay awake, try taking some melatonin for the first few nights you are back. Use a soft sleeping eye mask or blackout shades if you need to in order to maximize the quality of your sleep. Inadequate sleep is one of the top stressors and reasons for weight gain. It is also proven that when we have a lack of sleep, we tend to make poorer decisions about food, including for more fatty or sugary options.