Depending on your personality, you might either find travel exhilarating or anxiety invoking. We just returned from a somewhat stressful business trip, which provided a perfect opportunity to test our own tips for staying healthy (and sane) when life calls for travel.
Jason is an expert traveler, he’s on the cusp of Delta’s coveted Diamond status from all his trips for Klugonyx and Dorai. He’s great at being flexible and departing from his routine, plus he’s got a fairly resilient immune system. If you’re like me and thrive on structure, as well as routine and quality sleep in your own bed, travel is much less luxurious. I also have an immune system of a bubble girl who catches a cold from a sneeze a mile away, which heightens my ‘fear’ of travel due to the exposure to foreign germ offenders. If you don’t like to travel, or struggle to stay healthy when flying, here are a few ways I make it more tolerable.
1. Create an Environment for Quality, Restorative Sleep
Doctors and researchers will tell you, there’s no way to ‘out supplement’ poor sleep. Sleep is the foundational pillar of recovery and wellness. Without the ability to control your environment, it’s better to come prepared with sleep accessories that help you get into your REM cycle (the deep, restorative sleep).
When traveling, pack a blackout mask to prevent light from under the door or electronic devices in the room. Here are two of my favorites, the Manta Sleep Mask and my secondary option is this simple black mask from Amazon. To prevent noise, bring moldable ear plugs and a small portable white noise machine. I prefer bringing this noise machine and keep my phone across the room or in the bathroom, as that can also disrupt sleep.
Even though it’s tempting to watch TV from bed, it’s a bad habit to get into and trains your brain to be alert (or entertained) versus sleeping while in bed. Instead, enjoy TV up to 1 hour before bed, then switch to a book or paperback Kindle. While the verdict is still out on melatonin, anecdotally we’ve found it helpful, especially when changing time zones. Keeping the lights low and taking 3-5mg of melatonin 30 minutes before bed can help induce the sleep hormones. There are a TON of sleep supplements out there, many of which we’ve tried and will share in another blog post, but we consistently use EmergenZzzz. I gave one of these to a family member who also struggles with sleep and he said it was one of the best sleep supplements he’s taken when traveling internationally. Honestly, it doesn’t have the best ingredient list but getting Vitamin C and melatonin in one drink is super convenient when traveling.
If you’re partaking in activities with alcoholic beverages, do your best to time your drinks for earlier in the evening and switch to water in the 3 hours leading up to bed to prevent sleep disruption. No need to be a hermit, but you’ll feel so much better in the morning and still get to enjoy the social aspects.
Last thing on sleep (Jason laughs at me every time, but benefits when he gets those quality zzz’s) cover up all the indicator lights on the TV, alarm, etc with towels to prevent sleep disruptions. We’ll go as far as sticking a towel along the gap at the bottom of the room’s door to prevent hallway noise or light. This will be a game changer for you!
2. Eliminate Excess Germs While Flying
While sleep is likely to blame for a less resilient immune system during travel, greater exposure to different viruses or infections while you’re in a compromised state may be the actual cause of sickness. To fully protect yourself you could mask up, but let’s be honest that’s not appealing, or you could be extra sanitary. This starts when you get to your gate, wash your hands before filling your water bottle, as you may be touching the lid region that comes in contact with your mouth. Once in your seat, wipe down the tray table, arm rails and seat belt with a cleaning wipe. Here’s a great, non-toxic wipe option that I keep in my backpack, purse and car.
It’s common to get bored when flying, making those snacks much more desirable. To prevent going to the dirty bathroom more than necessary, keep a non-toxic hand sanitizer in your seat back pocket to remind you to spray your hands prior to indulging. A few of our favorites are Touchland (which we backed on Kickstarter) and Clean Well, which can be found near the checkout of many natural grocery stores.
Finally, contrary to popular belief, it’s actually beneficial to open the air vent above your head and point it directly at your face. The air coming from the vent is filtered and will create an invisible wind path that helps block out the unfiltered air circulating on the flight. This may result in some goosebumps so always bring a sweatshirt and don’t be shy in asking for an extra blanket.
3. Adopt or Maintain a Immune-Boosting Morning Routine
One of the most helpful ways to adapt to a new timezone is waking up early and getting natural sunlight. Ideally this sun exposure is paired with some kind of movement like running or walking. Coffee in the hotel room is usually fairly mediocre, so use this as in incentive to walk or jog to a cafe a mile away for a more delightful cup.
As crazy as it sounds, I will usually pack a lemon in my suitcase because I like to start my day with a warm cup of lemon water, which has natural vitamin C to support your immune system. I will follow this up with a green powder (there are a bunch out there, Green Vibrance is my go-to), knowing that it’s hard to get all your nutrients from food while traveling. This also helps with any stomach irregularities common with travel.
One way we stay accountable with exercise is to sign up for a new gym or class that requires payment. It’s both a novel experience and you feel guilty paying for it without going. I use the ClassPass app on my phone to get access to a variety of nearby studios and Jason will typically find a local rock climbing gym and get a day or week pass. Trust us, it’s much easier to stay consistent with exercise when you enjoy the environment. It’s hard to ‘enjoy’ a crammed hotel gym, only enhancing your desire to skip it.
4. Stock Up on Healthy Staples in Your Hotel or Airbnb
Being a health conscious eater while traveling can be a bit of a maze. It’s become easier with the rise of many fast-casual options that cater to the health demographic, but the standard continental breakfast has a long way to go. Even when breakfast is included in the fare (and especially when it’s not), we’ll go to a nearby store to pick up reliable breakfast options and snacks. This both saves money, ensures you’re getting at least 1 nutritious meal a day, and gives you more time in the morning.
A few staples for us: instant organic oats or cooked quinoa, berries, bananas, trail mix, organic deli meat, nut butters, jerky, bars that are minimally processed, individual packets of protein powder (I usually buy these on sale while at home and save them for travel, VegaOne is a good all around choice), etc. And don’t forget the Halo Top, while it will melt after the first night it’s a delicious post-dinner treat to have in the room.
We also make a point to buy 2 gallons of clean water to refill our water bottles, because you can never trust a hotel bathroom sink for proper filtration. Let’s not forget a case of La Croix, because why create extra, unnecessary suffering when traveling. These can make for a weighted walk back to the hotel, but it’s worth it for the remainder of the trip.
Last insight from our recent trip to LA, we learned DoorDash delivers right to your room, which is extremely convenient when you’re exhausted after a long day on your feet. There’s a number of delicious and healthy options for diets of all types (this is coming from 2 picky eaters), and it’s an efficient way to try something new.