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How to Optimize Your Next Vacation

June 12, 2017 by Ginger Hultin MS RDN

Plane tickets- check, lodging- check, sunscreen- check, but don’t forget to pack your sneakers. Preparing for any vacation takes thoughtful planning and consideration. Regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a planner, or if you like to be spontaneous and figure it out as you go, make sure to incorporate physical activity and healthy eating into your vacation plans. After all of my experiences traveling, I wanted to share with you my top 4 strategies on how to optimize your next vacation.

Vacations don’t have to simply consist of pure decadence. No one wants to return home from a trip in an unhealthier state than they left in. Of course, when traveling, you may eat differently than when you’re at home and you may have more alcoholic beverages – of course, vacation is also a celebration!

I feel about vacation similarly to how I feel about the “holidays” – we need to find a way to have fun and enjoy social events without gaining weight and being inactive! If you’re like me and you enjoy a good party, travel a lot, or eat out quite often, you find ways to adapt to that lifestyle but maintain your health. Here are my best tips for how to have an active vacation and still have an absolute blast.

How to Optimize Your Next Vacation

4 Strategies on How to Optimize Your Next Vacation

Choose an active location

Get creative with choosing a naturally activity-friendly option. I may be among the few people willing to travel to the arctic circle in the middle of winter, but Finland in February was a blast! We were able to be outside every day downhill and cross country skiing, taking long walks in the snow and even dog sledding. Alternatively, seek a vacation where you have warm outdoor activities like swimming, golfing, hiking volcanoes, snorkeling, or scuba diving. Even if thrilling activities aren’t your speed, you could find an activity-based cruise, somewhere with rolling hills to explore or seek a yoga or fitness retreat where you can go at your own pace. The possibilities are endless!

Make physical activity part of each day

Even on travel days, get out there and get active! My Fitbit has been very helpful in understanding my activity levels on different days when traveling. I understand that if you’re flying, you’re sitting but take advantage of doing some laps at the airport or hitting the ground running with a fitness class or hike is critical for these big days. I will drop into an Orange Theory or Soul Cycle class when I’m on the road – check out my posts about how to do that with ease.

Taking public transportation is an easy way to get more activity and also see the sights when traveling. Go on an active tour – some of my most memorable ones have been Alcatraz in San Francisco, Dachau in Munich, a biking tour of New Orleans, and a hike on the bluffs in Mallorca. When you plan an educational, sight-seeing activity, you stay on your feet and also have powerful experiences learning about the place you have traveled to.

Make the best choice you can at each meal

It’s not always easy – I know it! I have some food allergies and some specific dietary needs and certain places are easier to accommodate that than others. One thing I DO know is that you make a serious choice at least three times per day regarding what you put into your body. When you’re looking at a menu, choose the healthiest thing you can while also exploring local cuisine. When we landed in Finland, I was happy to learn that they have lots of veggies there and fresh perch as well. I had some lovely salads with those foods as well as Finnish cheese and local berries – it was wonderful – and lighter than a slab of reindeer (I didn’t imbibe). New Orleans was a sincere challenge and when you find yourself in a decadent culture, manage your portions, make the best decisions you can and feel free to indulge a little without guilt.

Focus on sleep

The only way to truly be active is if you feel well enough to do it. Jet-lagged and low energy or sick, you’ll be spending time indoors instead of out exploring. If you’re flying across several time zones, strategize sleep on the plane or staying awake when you land so that you can adjust quickly. If it speaks to you and you’ve checked with your doctor, you can always experiment with a supplement like melatonin. Create normalcy to your sleep schedule. On the plane, get “ready” for bed by brushing your teeth, drinking tea, or any other rituals that may help tell your body that it’s time for rest. Travel with an eye mask and earplugs and have an app or calming music ready if you need it. Focus on sleep to optimize your physical activity on vacation.

How to Optimize Your Next Vacation

How to Get Started

-Choose a destination where you can easily incorporate physical activity as part of your sightseeing plans. No matter the season there are always unique activities you can find that can really add to your travel experiences.

-Once you’ve booked your next trip, you should start carving out time each day in your schedule to ensure you stay active. Whether it’s intentional like a fitness class or part of the transportation to get to the desired location, find ways to incorporate enjoyable physical activity.

-Experience local cuisine by making healthy choices at meals. I recommend sharing plates to allow everyone to get a taste of something different on the menu. Enjoying smaller portions of indulgent foods can help alleviate some of the guilt.

-Make sure to prioritize your sleep when traveling, it is an important part of self-care. Rest allows your body to energize and supports your immune system while you travel.
When you are traveling, here are some great portable recipes to take with you on the go Calming Smoothie for Runners, Cran-Almond Energy Bars, Coconut Cherry Energy Balls, Pineapple Cucumber Mint Infused Water.

What do you think? What are your strategies to optimize your next vacation?


  1. dixya @food, pleasure, and health on June 13, 2017 at 9:31 am

    love the idea of finding active locations. it is always nice to walk and explore little cities when possible.

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Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO

Integrative nutrition specialist helping clients navigate complex health conditions to reduce inflammation and feel better.

Thanks for visiting! If you're struggling with a cancer diagnosis, autoimmune condition, gut health problems, or even a medical mystery, nutrition can make a HUGE difference in your day-to-day life. I run a virtual, concierge private practice where I partner with my clients over time to help them improve their health through nutrition. Be sure to visit the blog for easy, plant-based, anti-inflammatory recipes and our "Resources" page for a variety of self-paced programs, books, e-books, and nutrition podcast episodes.

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