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Wellness Toolkit: 9 Travel Essentials

Staying consistent with our wellness routine enhances our energy and enjoyment as we explore the world around us.

Whether we’re gearing up for big travel or a small weekend getaway, planning ahead is key to staying focused on our wellness goals. Staying consistent with our healthful habits keeps us looking – and more importantly, feeling our best – while we explore the world around us.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t splurge on some of the truly special food and drink unique to the places we’re visiting – after all, that’s one of the most enjoyable parts of travel. But, if you’ve been diligent with your nutrition and workout regime pre-vacay, don’t let all of that hard work go to waste. Not to mention, it can take weeks – or longer – to get back on track and feel as good as we did pre-holiday.

Here’s a rundown of what I always pack to help make healthy travel easier than ever.

Vitamins + supplements. There’s no way I’m packing a bunch of vitamin bottles, so instead I put a day’s worth of vitamins and supplements into small packets that I can just grab each day. I’ll often use fold-top sandwich bags, and tie at the top. Or snack-size zip-top bags (which I save and re-purpose, since they always seem to come in handy during travel).

Apple cider vinegar. It has a variety of health benefits, including better blood sugar control, as well as potential for improved blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol. Apple cider vinegar also has a natural diuretic effect, helping to combat fluid retention.

At home I start my day with an ounce or two of apple cider vinegar in a cup of hot green or chili tea. I don’t pack it for travel, though, because – well, it’s vinegar. No need to risk that disaster in a suitcase full of clothes. If I’ll be in one spot (or at least not flying) for several days, I’ll stop at a local store to buy an unfiltered apple cider vinegar. If I’m just going to be away for a few days, I bring ACV stick packs like Squeeze Dried Apple Cider Vinegar. Each portable stick pack is filled with dried apple cider vinegar, lemon, cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, probiotics and stevia, providing the equivalent of one ounce of apple cider vinegar per packet.  

Collagen + protein powder. Collagen is essential for healthy joints, as well as hair, skin and nails. It’s also beneficial for our GI system, helping to heal and protect the lining of the GI tract and improve nutrient absorption and digestion. The amino acids in collagen also help us feel fuller, longer.

I like to use both collagen and protein powder, together, often in an afternoon iced coffee, or blended with unsweetened almond milk for a breakfast or snack. If you’re traveling within the US, these are pretty easy to find in most major cities. But for small towns, or international travel, your best bet is to bring your own. I consolidate into smaller containers, since the canisters they’re sold in are often so gigantic, with a lot of wasted space inside. Many brands also offer single-serving sample packs, although these can easily get pricey.

Protein bars. Depending on where you’re headed, protein bars may or may not be easy to find – and regardless of where you are, you may not be able to track down your favorite ones. Most grocery stores, drug stores and even gas stations in the US now carry some type of protein bar, usually at least one option that’s high in protein and low in sugar. But outside of the US, all bets are off.  So if you’re a protein bar type of person and you’re traveling out of the country, bring a stash of your favorites with you.

Mini fridge. No, we don’t mean to pack one, but do ask for one. If you’re staying in an Airbnb type of place, more than likely you’ll have access to a refrigerator. But if you’re in a hotel, odds are about 50-50. And that’s where asking comes in – most hotels can accommodate with a mini fridge upon request, even if it’s not a standard part of the room’s amenities.

And here’s why I love it: Having access to a fridge means we can head to the local market to stock up on healthful basics for meals and snacks. It saves money, plus we don’t have to rely on a grab-and-go solution like a protein bar if we want something nutritious. Take advantage of this opportunity to fuel your body with real, whole food, ideally food that’s indigenous to the region.

Workout bands and tubes. They take up almost zero space in our luggage, but this simple gear gives us so many more workout options that we can do in our room, the hotel gym or a local park. Available online or at sporting goods stores, many brands also come with workout instructions and ideas, or you can download any number of apps and videos to show you how.

Athletic shoes that can also double as stylish street shoes. Then use them. Walk instead of driving when you can. Not only will you get those extra steps in, we also see and experience so much more on foot than we ever would from an Uber or a taxi. Download Google Maps for offline use to give you complete and total freedom when it comes to directions and navigating your way in a new space.

Eye mask. Good sleep is essential for whole-body wellness, but not always easy to achieve when we’re out of our usual element. The ideal sleeping climate is cool, quiet and dark, but many hotels – and most Airbnbs – don’t have blackout shades, so I always pack a sleep mask for travel.

A versatile backpack. This really doesn’t have anything to do with nutrition or exercise, but it’s something that can make our lives, especially our travel lives, so much easier. Find a backpack that can pull triple duty as a carry-on, gym bag and laptop case. My favorite, hands down, is UnderArmour Undeniable 3.0 Backpack. They don’t pay me to say that I love it, this is just really my go-to bag for everyday use, making it a cinch to transition between workouts and the workday, and it’s perfect for travel.  I’ve also noticed a big improvement in back health, since I’m not lugging an overstuffed workout bag or carryon slung over one shoulder.

The bottom line: Vacation doesn’t have to mean ditching our otherwise healthful routines. And there’s no doubt that when we stay consistent with our healthful habits – even when we travel – we’ll maximize our energy and our enjoyment as we explore the world around us.

Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s columns + TV segments at www.mollykimball.com.

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