Like many people, you may be facing holiday travel. While it’s exciting to visit with family and friends, getting there and back can be stressful. It can also be unhealthy. Congested traffic, flight delays, poor quality food, and disrupted sleep can all take a toll on your health — especially if you are traveling by plane, which exposes you to germs in an enclosed space.
When preparing for holiday travel, it’s important to plan ahead for meals, exercise, and sleep routines, so that your body can stay strong during the festivities. The last thing you need is a post-vacation cold or flu. Let’s take a look at some tips for staying well as you embark on holiday travel.
Pack healthy snacks. More than half of air travelers buy food in airports. That can lead to fast food, candy, chips, and other less-than-healthy options which weaken your immune system and leave you vulnerable to illness. Instead, plan ahead! Bring apples, oranges, bananas, or a healthy meal for the flight. Opt for a fresh salad; some high-protein snacks like sliced veggies and hummus; raw, unsalted nuts; or high quality, low-sugar energy bars. Avoid packaged processed foods with added sugars and heavy oils, as well as sodas and alcohol. Bring an empty water bottle to fill once you get past security.
Stay hydrated. Pure water, fresh fruit, and raw vegetables will keep you well-hydrated on the plane, and will help keep your sinuses from dehydrating — leaving you less susceptible to viruses. Try to drink plenty of water throughout your trip.
Keep moving and stay active. If you have time before your flight, take a brisk lap around the terminal. If you're staying in a hotel, use the exercise room or swimming pool. Bodyweight exercises are excellent for holiday travel. They offer an effective, equipment-free, no-cost workout. All you need is 20 minutes and some space to move around. Bodyweight exercises include squats, lunges, sit-ups, burpees, planks, jumping jacks, push-ups, and bicycle crunches. You can create your own circuit workout: do 12 to 20 reps of each, with little rest in between. This will get your heart rate up while building strength.
Prioritize sleep. Make sleep a top priority, especially during the nights before you travel. Aim for seven to nine full hours of sleep (absolutely no less than six), even when you're traveling, and take naps as needed. Sleep allows your body to heal, rest, and recharge each night, and is vital to good health and stress resilience. Research shows that skimping on sleep — even a few hours — leaves you more susceptible to catching a cold or flu the next day. And if you are taking a road trip to your destination, adequate sleep the night before is essential to staying alert while driving.
Wash your hands. Frequent hand washing, especially during air travel, is key to avoiding viruses and infections. When you cough or sneeze, do so in the crook of your elbow, and avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and nose unless you’ve washed your hands.
Indulge mindfully. Enjoy your favorite holiday treats, just don’t overdo it. Fill 80 percent of your plate with steamed and fresh vegetables and fruits, and leave 20 percent for those foods you want to indulge in. Dark chocolate is a great indulgence that's easy to pack and has health benefits. If you want to avoid overly rich and sugary desserts, have a few squares after dinner, and really savor them.
Enjoy yourself and manage stress. Take time to fully appreciate and enjoy the company of your loved ones. Focus on quality time and fun activities. If certain family members are a source of stress for you, take breaks. Go for a walk outside, catch a quick nap, or retreat for a meditation to reset when needed.
With a few simple strategies, you can enjoy holiday travel while keeping yourself healthy. The better you feel, the more energy you will have to enjoy the season.