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holiday travel tips

Tips for Healthy Holiday Travel

December 15, 2023

By Emily Gao, MD

The holiday season is here, and for many of us, that means traveling to spend quality time with friends and loved ones. Regardless of the mode of travel, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can take a toll on your health and overall well-being, making your holidays anything but happy.

By incorporating a few simple tips into your holiday plans, you can maintain a healthy and enjoyable travel experience during what should be the most festive time of the year.

Stay hydrated: Traveling, especially if you go by plane, can lead to dehydration due to the dry cabin air. Ensure you are adequately hydrated to fend off fatigue, headaches, and irritability. Carry a reusable water bottle and refill it regularly throughout the day. Consuming excessive caffeine and alcohol can also lead to dehydration, so it’s vital to stick with drinking water as much as you can.

Pack healthy snacks: Airport terminals and gas station convenience stores are full of tempting but unhealthy snacks, which can contribute to holiday weight gain. Pack nutritious snacks like fruits, nuts, string cheese, or granola bars. These alternatives will fuel your travel adventures, helping you resist the urge to purchase snacks loaded with sugar and excess calories. Bringing along snacks will also save you some extra cash.

holiday travel tips 

Prioritize restful sleep: Maintaining a regular sleep schedule can be challenging at any time of the year, but especially during the holidays when sleeping at hotels, as a house guest, or if you travel between time zones.

Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day while aiming to get between seven and 10 hours of sleep a night will do wonders for physical health and, not to mention, your mood. Invest in a neck pillow and eye mask to make grabbing some extra zzzz’s easier while traveling.

Stretch: Traveling equates to long hours of sitting, which can lead to stiffness and discomfort. You can combat this by incorporating movement into your journeys. Doing simple stretches or taking a short walk at the airport or the rest stop can help keep your blood flowing. Incorporating some exercise – even just a little – into your travel schedule may help alleviate muscle tension and help you stay energized.

holiday travel tips 

Be mindful of what you eat (and drink): Holiday weight gain can easily sneak up on you if you’re not paying attention to what you put in your mouth. Sweets and other high-calorie foods are abundant during the holidays. Watch your portions along with the number of alcoholic drinks you consume. While it’s OK to indulge, do so in moderation. Better yet, take the focus off food during your holiday celebrations and instead concentrate on spending quality time with your friends and family.

Practice mindfulness: Holiday travel inevitably brings a fair share of stress and chaos. Missed flight connections, traffic jams, crowded airports, and lost luggage can make traveling stressful. It’s essential to take a moment and practice some deep breathing exercises to help manage any anxiety that may arise. Consider downloading a mental health app on your smartphone or taking a few minutes to focus on your breath, promoting relaxation and a sense of calm. Managing your mental health is just as important as your physical health to your overall well-being.

Give your immune system a boost: You are inevitably around more people and germs when you travel. It's easy for your resistance to go down during the holidays, especially while traveling. Washing your hands frequently, carrying hand sanitizer, and taking immune-support supplements like vitamin C can help boost your immunity.

It's also essential to stay current on all your vaccines, especially those for seasonal flu and COVID-19. Schedule any necessary vaccines before boarding a plane or buckling up for a road trip.

Stock up on COVID-19 at-home tests: Before hitting the road or boarding a plane, ensure you have some portable COVID-19 tests that haven’t expired. If you or a loved one is feeling under the weather – whether during your trip or at your final destination – having the tests on hand can provide added peace of mind in case you become infected and need to isolate yourself from others.

Remember to breathe: It’s easy to overdo it during the holiday season. Avoid the temptation to pack your schedule full of nonstop activities. You need to plan a little downtime and give yourself permission to relax and recharge, especially if you're recovering from jet lag or have a hectic itinerary. Taking breaks will help you truly enjoy the festivities and prevent burnout.

holiday travel tips 

Holiday travel should be a time of joy and celebration, not stress and exhaustion. By incorporating some simple steps into your holiday travel routine, you can prioritize your health and well-being, ensuring a more enjoyable and memorable holiday season with your friends and loved ones.

Emily Gao

About the Author

Emily Gao, MD is a Family Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold. She provides care for a broad range of chronic and acute conditions, including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, asthma, allergies, and thyroid disease.
Dr. Adesina from Kelsey-Seybold Clinic

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