What to pack for a healthy vacation

Maintaining fitness and nutrition goals while on the road

As much as I love the idea of lying on a beach for a week and indulging in all-inclusive buffets, I just can't do it. Even on a recent family trip to Mexico's Riviera Maya, where we barely left the resort so we could take advantage of all of its activities and offerings, I lasted maybe an hour a day in a lounge chair, and was otherwise walking into town (making it a 5-mile round trip), lifting weights in the hotel's fitness center, doing Zumba on the beach, or practicing yoga in a thatched hut.

Call me obsessed, but I really like to eat on vacation, and I don't want to return home several pounds heavier.

Even for trips that don't focus on wellness, such as spa stays or hiking weekends, I tend to pack my suitcase with items that help me keep my fitness and nutrition goals in check. Here's a peek at some items with which I regularly travel, no matter where I'm going:

Athletic shoes and exercise wear. Even if I have to wear my sneakers on the plane and cram one sports bra, a pair of leggings, and a quick-dry sports shirt into my carry-on bag, I'll make sure to pack at least some semblance of exercise clothes. With this attire in tow, I have no excuse not to pop in the hotel fitness center, or go for a quick jog around the block (or up and down hotel stairwells).

Swimsuit, swim cap, and goggles. If I know my hotel has a swimming pool, I'll bring along a sporty bathing suits and accessories to do laps. I don't swim regularly at home, so I'm always happy to change up my exercise routine a bit.

Exercise band and videos. Keeping up with strength training on the road is easier when I bring a stretchy exercise band to work muscles such as biceps and calves. Since I'm more motivated when someone is telling me what exercises to do (instead of, say, “doing my own thing”), I follow exercise videos on YouTube in my hotel room. Sometimes I pack a couple of exercise DVDs in my bag, too.

Viewfinder Tip: Tempted by mini-bar goodies in your hotel room? Simply ask housekeeping to remove the sugary sodas, candy bars, salty nuts, and other snacks and drinks you want to avoid.

Nonfat dry milk. I drink skim milk in my coffee at home, so I really don't like the taste of cream (or even half-and-half) in my morning cup. And I really don't care for those powdered, hydrogenated-oil creamers often found in little packets in hotel rooms. So I bring my own baggies full of dry powdered milk.

Oatmeal packets. In addition to being wellness-minded, I also am often budget-minded on my travels, especially if I'm flying solo. I prefer not to pay for pricey hotel breakfasts, and rather would find a coffee shop selling fresh bagel-and-egg sandwiches. When I know I'll be crunched for time, I make coffee-cup oatmeal (sometimes with protein powder), using heated water from the in-room coffeemaker and oatmeal from home. Don't forget to pack a spoon (or at least get one from the front desk).

Energy bars and nuts. Instead of paying for pricey, sugar-filled trail mix or candy bars at airports, I'd rather have my own energy bars or baggies full of unsalted almonds ready to eat during travel delays. Come to think of it, I typically have nuts or bars in my purse even when I'm doing errands around town.

Millies Savory Teas. I use these sipping broths—which come in flavors such as Tomato Basil, Indian Spice, and Thai Lemongrass—to hold me over between meals at home and on the road. They especially are delicious and comforting in cold-weather climes.

Disinfecting wipes. I mentioned bringing wipes in my “What to pack for a family trip” article last year, and I repeat this tip here because there's nothing worse than coming home from a vacation sick. I use heavy-duty Clorox wipes to kill surface germs on airplane armrests, hotel-room doorknobs, and remote controls. Wipes might not make me lose weight or build muscles, but “debugging” public areas gives me piece of mind—another kind of healthy!

How do you stay healthy while traveling?

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Kara Williams

Longtime freelance travel writer Kara Williams concluded her tenure as an Expedia Viewfinder blogger at the end of 2015. Kara covers destinations for family vacations, wellness trips, romantic escapes, and girlfriend getaways not only for her own blog The Vacation Gals (which she co-owns with travel writers Beth Blair and Jennifer Miner), but also such publications as Luxury Las Vegas, Ski Canada, Ocean Home, Interval World, American Eagle Latitudes and Fodors.com. Outdoor adventures, national parks, luxury hotels, and spas are her other favorite beats. A member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), she makes her home in the Colorado Rockies with her husband and two children. Learn more about Kara and her work at www.karaswilliams.com.

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