How to Eat Healthy While Traveling by Car

9 Tips to Take on the Road for Holiday Travel or Anytime.

If you’re going to be traveling this holiday season, you very well may have decided to go by car in order to have more control over your surroundings and situation. If that’s the case, continuing to maintain healthy eating habits while you travel will help you to feel your best and ensure that if you are exposed to any viruses, your body is in a good place to tackle them head on. As someone who has done this both successfully and learned the hard way why it is so important, I’m sharing my top 9 tips for how to eat healthy while traveling by car for holiday travel or anytime. 

Photo by Harrison Haines from Pexels

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Keep eating as normally as possible while on the road

Continuing to eat healthy while traveling is quite simply less of a shock to your system than loading up on convenience store and fast food if that’s not something that you’re used to. While I’m usually fairly good about this, I did the opposite recently and was not in a good place by the return trip home. I did not plan ahead and thought that I would be able to find plenty to eat along the way. There was plenty to eat, but it was not healthy, and my digestive system suffered. 

Take a cooler

A large cooler is a healthy traveler’s best friend. I’ve taken food for an entire week before while living out of a hotel room and been just fine. It allows you to take plenty of food for the road as well as if you need to buy and store items when you arrive at your destination. Pre-made salads, hummus, beans, cut up chicken and vegetables are suddenly an option just by having a good cooler. It also lets you store sandwich meat, which isn’t necessarily the healthiest choice but is better than much of the fast food that you might get. 

Use ice packs, not bags of ice

It took me a while to figure this one out, but ice packs are much easier, cleaner and less expensive than packing your cooler full of ice. The brand that I highly recommend is Cooler Shock (affiliate link). I have 4 of their 10 x 10 mid-size freeze packs, and they really do stay cold for the advertised 24 – 48 hours. 

Stay in a hotel with microwave and mini-fridge

If you’re staying in a hotel, make sure when you’re making your reservation that it has a microwave and mini-fridge. If you do this, eating healthy while traveling is easy. That’s especially true in 2020, when most hotels that might usually serve hot breakfast options are having to serve items that can easily be packed to go instead. If you need some ideas on how to best make use of your microwave and mini-fridge, be sure to check out The Fun Sized Life’s 30 Healthy Meals to Make in a Hotel Room While You Travel

Take lots of snacks

Whether you usually snack or not, you can count on doing it more than normal while traveling. That’s why it’s important to have plenty of healthy options on hand for everyone that’s traveling with you. Not only is this healthier for you overall, it’s also much cheaper than buying snacks at a convenience store. My general rule of thumb is to take twice as many snacks than I feel like I would normally need because as I mentioned, we simply snack more when traveling, especially by car. 

Take refillable water bottles

Toting around cases of plastic water bottles may seem like the easiest option when traveling, but it’s not good for our health and it’s certainly not good for the environment. Taking two large refillable water bottles per person is a much better way to do it. These can be filled up at the beginning of the day and stored in the cooler. They can then be refilled as needed at restaurants or convenience stores. While I love Klean Kanteen’s Classic Stainless Steel 40-ounce Water Bottle (affiliate link), I can also recommend Takeya’s Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle(affiliate link). My son has one of these, and it literally still has ice in it the next day. 

Plan stops for meals

If you’re going to stop for a meal or go through a drive-thru, plan ahead enough that you can gauge where you’re going to be at the approximate time that you’ll want to stop. That way, you can look ahead to see what types of restaurants are available that serve healthy or healthier options. You can even place a “to go” order that will be ready when you arrive as opposed to having to settle on whatever is available at the exit where you happen to stop. 

Take griddle

If you have a griddle, your ability to eat healthy while traveling just expanded greatly. While you don’t want to cook anything that will give off a lot of smoke in a hotel room, scrambled eggs, protein pancakes, whole wheat toast and healthy hash browns are all potential meals. If you have a car outlet adapter, you can even pull off at a park or rest area, plug in and make your meal there as well. 

Stay in a hotel with a kitchenette

If you’re in a hotel with a kitchenette, the sky is the limit when it comes to eating healthy while traveling. While I would limit fixing major meals to when you are not on a rushed timeline, making simple meals can be a time and money saver in addition to a way to eat healthy. My recommendation is to buy the food you’ll need ahead of time and store anything perishable in your cooler so that you can simply pull it out when you arrive at your hotel. After a long day of traveling, the last thing that you’ll want to do is to stop at a grocery store and then fix your food. 

Bottom Line on Eating Healthy While Traveling

The goal of eating healthy while traveling is not to be too strict with yourself. If you can only do it part of the time, that’s certainly better than not doing it at all. The goal is that you’re able to feel your best and enjoy the experience. 

If you have any other tips for eating healthy while traveling, feel free to add them in the comments, so that we can all learn from each other. 


Mental Benefits of Planning a Vacation During a Crisis

Practical Ideas for Using Vacation Planning as a Way to Mentally Escape.

For many people, one of the most enjoyable parts of taking a vacation is the planning. That’s the point where we get to dream, create and escape to our heart’s content. All very healthy ways to boost our level of joy anytime, but especially during a crisis. During our current situation, many of us have had to cancel long-awaited travel plans or at the very least, put them on hold. While it may seem counterintuitive at this point, thinking about those plans in a hopeful way or starting to envision new ones may be one of the healthiest things that you could be doing for yourself right now. In fact, there are many mental benefits of planning a vacation during a crisis and some practical ideas for how to use this process as a way to boost your mood and escape to happiness.

Photo by Anne McCarthy from Pexels

Planning a Vacation Boosts Happiness Anytime

Even during so-called “normal” times, planning a vacation is a proven way to boost happiness, with the enjoyment starting weeks or even months ahead of time1. A report in the journal Psychological Science shows that “Waiting for an experience tends to be more pleasurable and exciting than waiting to receive a material good2.”

Dr. Shannon South, LPC, ThD

Another vacation planning-related study, this one focusing on UK tourists, was published in the Journal of Vacation Marketing. It found that “Those who are waiting to go on a holiday are much happier with their life as a whole, experience less negative or unpleasant feelings and thus enjoy an overall net positive effect or pleasant feelings.” Transpersonal therapist Dr. Shannon South, LPC, ThD, told me that she wholeheartedly agrees. “It’s very stabilizing to the nervous system to have something that we’re excited about. I think it connects us to our more creative, joyful self.” 

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric from Pexels

Why Planning a Vacation Can be Used as a Mental Escape During a Crisis

Finding ways to connect with that joyful part of ourselves is key during a crisis. We can’t sugarcoat or simply overlook whatever it is that’s going on but finding things to look forward to helps to prevent us from getting stuck in negative feelings or emotions. It gives us an escape.

Sonja Hoyt

That’s where planning a vacation, no matter how far in the future or if it’s an unknown travel date, comes in. Sonja Hoyt is a travel writer from over at The Happy Travel Bug. She says that even though she has had several big trips cancelled because of our current crisis, being able to look forward to future trips is a source of hope for her.

According to Dr. Shannon, planning for something good that we want to happen in the future is a strategy we can all call upon during any crisis to use as a source of hope. Planning a vacation and the resulting sense of anticipation is a way to stay creative and hopeful and gives our brain a bit of a boost. “Like a little vitamin or antidepressant image.”

Dr. Shannon says that when we’re constantly bombarded with negative images, news and information, “It’s important to have positive images that we have in our subconscious and in our mind.” They can be a resource to us during stressful times when we’re seeing and hearing the same things over and over again. “We need that positive stimulation. We need that drive. It stimulates us on a different level when we have things to look forward to.” 

Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels

Practical Ideas for Using Vacation Planning as a Way to Mentally Escape

We now know that we can use planning for a vacation as a way to mentally escape and give our body what Dr. Shannon calls “joy hormones,” but how exactly do we do that in practical ways? Here are some suggestions from our experts.

Create a vision board

Shannon says that when we give our subconscious mind positive images, it helps to “rewire our system for joy.” It’s good to have pictures of wherever it is that you want to go and whatever it is that you want to do there. Whether it’s a family sitting around a fire if you like to camp, bikers biking through the woods, or sitting on the beach, any image that resonates with you will help to increase serotonin and dopamine levels which will boost happiness and motivation.

Learn all about your ideal destination

Sonja says this is one of her favorite parts of planning a trip. She says that many people go somewhere and don’t really know all that the place has to offer because they haven’t done their research. They don’t really know about the culture, history or natural beauty of their destination. If there was ever a time to do this type of research, it’s during a crisis. When you’re having a low moment, take time out to watch a video about your place. If you’re feeling okay but have a few minutes to spare, read about your destination to keep those positive thoughts coming.

Plan all the details

Shannon says that “the more details we plan about our future vacation the better because then we really get into it and the more senses we get engaged.”

Sonja recommends doing online research to help you think about the following:

  • What types of activities do you want to do? Are there museums, shops, hiking, historical excursions, outside adventures, etc. that fit your family’s interests? Let everyone involved pick one thing that they really want to do, and everybody learns about that activity.
  • Where do you want to stay? Do you want to camp, rent an apartment or house, stay in a luxury lodge or stay in a central location for everything that you want to do?
  • How will you get around? Do you want to rent a car, travel by train, rely on taxis, limit your activities to walking distance or a combination of all of the above?
  • What will you eat? Learn about the local cuisine and the most authentic dining options for different types of scenarios such as picnics, informal and formal meals. If you’re thinking about renting an apartment or house, think about whether you want to cook some for yourself or eat out all of the time.

If you’re traveling to a different country, learn a few phrases in that language

Sonja says that this can be as extensive or as simple as you want. If immersing yourself in a language provides a welcome distraction for you, then by all means, go for it. If learning just a few key phrases is enough to help you get a feel for the destination, that’s fine as well.

Cook an authentic meal to reflect your destination

With the help of the internet, recipes that reflect many different cultures and cuisines are available at your fingertips. You can also decorate your table or dining area to represent your destination.

Watch a movie that is set in or depicts life in your ideal destination

This is an effortless way of putting yourself somewhere else without having to leave your current location.

Sonja says that if you even do just some of these things, when the time comes to actually make your reservations, you’re going to be so knowledgeable and prepared that it will probably be the best trip of your life.  And best yet, you will have used these strategies to help get you through this and any other crisis with a more positive outlook and healthier mental wellbeing. Dr. Shannon believes that this isn’t tricking the system. It’s nurturing the system. “It’s a way to nurture ourselves when we can’t actually be on vacation right this moment.”

Lean on Your Community

Has the current or any other crisis caused you to change travel plans that you had been looking forward to? If so, feel free to let us know in the comments below how you’re coping with that? If you use planning a vacation as a way to boost your mental wellbeing, let us know that as well – what your ideal destination is and which strategies you used. We can all get ideas and inspiration from each other.

Sources:

  1. Nawijn, J., Marchand, M.A., Veenhoven, R. et al.Vacationers Happier, but Most not Happier After a Holiday. Applied Research Quality Life 5, 35–47 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-009-9091-9
  2. Kumar, Amit; Killingsworth, Matthew A.; Gilovich, Thomas. Waiting for Merlot: Anticipatory Consumption of Experiential and Material Purchases. Psychological Science. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797614546556
  3. Gilbert, David; Abdullah, Junaida. A Study of the Impact of the Expectation of a Holiday on an Individual’s Sense of Well-Being. Journal of Vacation Marketing. 2002. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/135676670200800406

Hotel Fitness Center Tips

6 Ways to Stay in Shape While Away from Home.

You’re traveling for work or pleasure, and the hotel fitness center looks like your primary means of getting in exercise. What can you do to make the most of what equipment is available? Plenty! You just have to get a little creative. While hotel fitness centers can vary, most have fairly standard pieces of equipment that you can count on. Keeping those in mind, here are six ideas to get you started so that you can stay in shape while away from home.

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