As much as I love travel, it takes its toll on my body. More often than not, I end up getting a massage the week following. As enjoyable and relaxing as a vacation can be, it’s more the act of traveling that induces stress and sore muscles for me. The more I travel, however, the more I understand the importance of self-care. And so I’d like to provide some tips for you (as well as for me to stick to!).

Before Travel

Seems odd that you’d need to take care of yourself before you travel, but planning and packing is stressful to mind and body, and can jeopardize your immune system, not to mention tighten up those neck muscles!

A week or so before a trip, I try to clear my schedule. So no appointments, meetings, or meals out. Having something on my calendar stresses me, especially when I already have a ton to do to get ready for my trip. (I write this fully realizing I’ve broken this rule completely; I had a filling the week before I left for Italy!)

I also eat healthy. Not only do I want to save calories for vacation indulgences, but it also helps me feel better and keeps me from getting sick when I don’t put crap in my body. Speaking of getting sick, I listen to my body as well. If I feel run down, I slow down. Because if I don’t, I’ll get sick, and being sick while traveling is no fun.

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I also like to stick to my regular exercise program as best as I can. It can be a challenge if I’m busy preparing, but I know my schedule will get out of whack while I’m traveling, so I figure every workout counts.

If I’ve done my job, I have minimum stress and a boosted immune system, and I feel good when I board that plane!

During Travel

I always envision the plane like a germ factory. Every sneeze from a fellow passenger feels like a death sentence (I dramatize). So I take Airborne before and during my flight to build up a defense against those germs.

Sometimes I like to have an alcoholic beverage on the plane, but if I do, I make sure to also consume lots of water in the sky.

If I travel internationally, I try to be awake walking around in the daylight a few hours before taking a 2-hour nap. It can be hard to get over jet lag (and I have been known to get up and eat smoked salmon from the fridge when I get insomnia at 2 am), but I’ve found that melatonin can help.

I always tell myself I’m going to do yoga while I travel. After all, I don’t even need any equipment! What’s the problem? And yet, I don’t. So I try to cut myself some slack and get exercise by walking or hiking. I’ve easily walked 5 miles or more a day in Paris and other cities. I do try to do some gentle stretching, since if I don’t, my hips cry out when I get back to yoga post-trip.

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As best I can, I try to stick to a regular meal schedule. I’ve been hangry in too many foreign places, and it’s not pretty.

After Travel

In addition to the stress of flying again, likely with a heavier suitcase full of things I bought, returning home means returning to reality, and that’s no fun. My first day back (possibly even two), I do nothing. I need to reacclimate myself to being home, and maybe do a load of laundry or five. No plans.

I keep my work schedule light for my first week back. There’s nothing worse than being slammed with work as soon as I return, and checking 500 emails is bad enough! I do the same for my social calendar. 

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I also book a massage to get the kinks out from sitting on a plane for hours (and carrying a backpack for weeks, as I’m doing in Italy right now).

This is all really easy to do, and I guarantee you’ll have better travels as a result.