A road trip can be the most memorable vacation you ever take. You get to choose where you stop, what you see and how you get there, all while saving a ton of money on airfare.
That said, the sedentary aspect of a road trip isn’t the best for your health. It’s fun to hang out and relax in your car at first, but after a few hours pass, it can get old. It’s all too easy to fall back on bad habits.
Thankfully, there are a few simple ways to stay healthy on your next big road trip.
1. Plan Everything
Good news — you’re already on your way to a healthier road trip. The first step everyone should take is to plan your trip by thinking through what you’ll do on the road.
That means putting more thought into your trip other than what books you’ll read or movies you’ll watch in the car. Think about what you typically do while on the road. Do you sleep most of the way to your destination? Do you tend to snack more because you’re bored?
Take some time to remember past excursions and what aspects of them made you feel unhealthy. Whatever it was that inspired you to learn about healthy habits is what you should work on avoiding first.
2. Skip the Fast Food Joints
When you’re pressed for time and just want to grab food and go, it’s tempting to slide your car into a fast-food drive-thru line. Although it’s a quick solution, it’s not the healthiest. Foods high in fats and carbs will leave you feeling sleepy and bloated, as well as raise your blood sugar and quite literally weigh you down.
Instead, get quick meals at healthier places. Delis and salad restaurants are often quick and don’t require you to sit down to eat. Panera is a great example since you can order healthy foods like salads and wraps while in their drive-thru.
3. Remember to Stay Hydrated
On days where you’re running errands, working or taking care of your kids, it’s easy to remember to drink water. You’ll feel active and thirsty – but not so much when you’re sitting in the car.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated on the road. It’s tempting to avoid liquids to minimize bathroom stops, but your body will thank you for the water. Otherwise, you’ll experience a range of symptoms like dizziness, dark colored urine and extreme thirst.
You’ll also probably feel your mood go sour and everyone around you will be grumpier for it. Set an alarm once every half hour to an hour to remind yourself to drink some water if you feel like you might forget.
4. Pack Healthy Snacks
For past road trips, you may have gone to the grocery store to load up on potato chips or stopped at a gas station for candy. Sometimes it’s fun to eat those foods as a treat, but if they’re your main snack for the entire day, you may feel sick by the time you reach your destination.
Instead of relying on sugary foods, pack a number of healthy snacks like:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Protein bars
- String cheese
- Snap peas
- Baby carrots
Pickier eats may enjoy traditional trail mix, peanut butter sandwiches or cups of applesauce as well. Healthy snacks will feel easy to bring on a road trip if you take some time to pack them in a cooler the day before you leave.
5. Do Hotel Room Workouts
Another reason why people live lazier lifestyles while on vacation is because they’re away from home. Without your favorite gym right down the road, you may be inclined to sit all day in the car and lounge around once you get to your hotel.
You shouldn’t feel forced to be sedentary when you can do hotel room workouts. The right moves will have you breaking a sweat in front of your TV, so you don’t even need to go to the gym if one’s available.
6. Bring Some Sunscreen
You may have already packed some sunscreen if you’re taking a road trip to the beach, but it’s an easy thing to forget if you’re going anywhere else. You could even get sunburned by sitting in the car, depending on how much sunlight gets through the windows.
Pack extra sunscreen on every road trip you take. It’s best to be protected from UV rays even when you don’t think you need it. Spray some sunscreen on after getting out at rest stops for additional protection.
7. Get a Full Night’s Sleep
The anticipation of leaving the next day for a road trip is exciting, which is why many people often can’t sleep before their first day of vacation. Even after you’ve arrived at your destination, you may not sleep well because you’re in an unfamiliar hotel room or city.
To sleep well before and during your next road trip, the first thing you should do is not stress about it. The anxiety will only make sleep harder to achieve, so take a deep breath and realize it’s something that everyone deals with.
Sleep helps in more ways than one. It lowers your blood pressure, which lets your heart rest while you sleep. Lower blood pressure is also related to a decreased risk for heart diseases, so it helps you in the long run.
8. Get Out and Stretch
It can feel like a personal, unspoken challenge to see how long you can stay on the road without stopping to use the bathroom or fill up on gas. That’s really unhealthy for you to do, so avoid it during both long and short road trips.
When you sit for a long time, your muscles tense up and store the anxiety and stress your body feels while it’s limited in movement. Getting out to stretch frequently relaxes these muscles and lowers the tension in your body. You’ll be better prepared to continue, which helps make you safer on the road.
Remember What You’ve Read
You’re reading about healthier road trip habits because you want to feel better during your next vacation, but will you remember what you read? There’s always a chance that after you get on the road, you’ll disconnect from what you were doing and focus only on what’s around you.
Write down the tips you want to use during your next excursion so you remember what you’ve read. Pack snacks the day before and look up places to get out and stretch. These tips will make any road trip more healthy and enjoyable for you.
Dylan Bartlett, aka, The Regular Guide, writes about health, the outdoors and similar topics on his site. Check out Just a Regular Guide for more, or follow Dylan on Twitter @theregularguide to get updates on his work.