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Do you make it a priority to focus on self care while traveling? If the answer is no, we don’t blame you. In all the excitement that comes with preparing for (and going on) a trip, it’s easy to forget about your daily routine.
However, wellness should be a key part of your holiday plans, just as taking out travel insurance and drafting a packing list is. Healthy eating, keeping a regular sleep schedule, spending time recharging by yourself… There are many ways to still take care of your mental and physical health while crossing out destinations off your bucket list! And for those of us living with medical conditions, it’s especially important to ensure you can continue to receive medical care while traveling in case of emergencies.
So whether you’re jetting off to South America or planning a busy trip to New York, keep reading if you’re looking for ways to practice self-care while traveling! We’ve compiled our best travel tips and self care ideas to make your travel experience truly nourishing, both for your body and your mind.
Is travel a form of self care?
First things first: travel itself, and using travel as self care, is a great way to stay healthy. Traveling is an amazing way to break from all your daily responsibilities and remind yourself of all the beauty the world has to offer. It can allow you to step outside your comfort zone, create new experiences and build new memories, and learn about yourself and others.
Travel has even been proven to help reduce stress, improve your mental health, and even strengthen your immune system. However, it cannot replace a good self care routine – no matter how much we’d like to get on a plane every time we need to feel a little better! Sticking to the things that make you feel good at home will allow you to reap all the benefits of travel, without having to worry about feeling unwell or getting sick while on your holiday.
If you’re living with a medical condition or disability, chances are self care is already a big part of your life. Whether you take regular baths, stick to a strict diet, or practice mindfulness to help manage your symptoms, being kind to yourself is often key to staying in good health and keeping visits to the doctor to a minimum.
However, it may be that you’re still wondering what to do while traveling and how to bring your everyday self care to a new place. Read on for some tips for travelling as a medical patient while taking care of yourself.
10 self-care tips for travellers
Do you have a holiday coming up and are wondering how to start a self care journey? Here are our 10 top tips for self care, travel and wellness!
From learning about the importance of routine to slowing down and spending time with your own thoughts, each of the self care vacation tips below will give you insight into making your next holiday (almost) perfect.
1. Stick to a routine
If you’re thinking of going on a self care vacation, first establish your full self care routine and make sure you can sustain it while travelling. Start by doing your research before you book to find accommodation and activities that can support your needs. Do you start every morning with 30 minutes of solo yoga? Book a hotel room with enough floor space for a mat. Do you need to keep a close eye on how much salt you consume? Make sure to let the restaurant know. You’ll usually find that most places can accommodate your requirements if you speak to them in advance.
If you’re concerned about unexpected changes to your routine cropping up, like time difference messing with your regular medication schedule, speak to your GP or specialist care team. They may be able to give you some sustainable self care tips to ensure you can keep on top of your treatment while enjoying a well-deserved break. And if you’re wondering how to prepare your body for a trip, our related post on staying healthy while travelling has some more information.
2. Reduce screen time and try a digital detox
While it’s tempting to share every second of your holiday on social media, a digital detox might be just what you need instead.
Sure: phones, tablets, and laptops are essential items in our daily lives. But scrolling through Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook for hours on end (besides draining your mobile data) can also keep you from being present in the moment. And that’s the opposite of what a self care trip should be about!
Instead, try to disconnect from work or any other commitments waiting for you at home and keep screen time to a minimum, especially if travelling with friends or family. And if you absolutely need your phone with you to take pictures of all the stunning sights and amazing new foods you’re enjoying, put it on airplane mode to avoid unnecessary distractions.
3. Don’t be afraid to take things slow
Who said every moment of your holiday had to be jam-packed with activities that leave you exhausted by the end of each day? What if slowing down and just existing was enough? With how busy normal life can get, sometimes the best self-care while traveling is simply to rest. So if you’ll be doing a lot of sightseeing or travelling between locations, make sure to plan free time into your itinerary.
Building some free space into your holiday is a way to give yourself time to rest and recharge, without feeling guilty about ‘missing out’ or saying no to activities that don’t align with your interests or don’t support your wellbeing. If you’re travelling with other people, set clear boundaries and let them know when you’ll be needing time to rest.
For example, you could try a sightseeing trip one day and resting the next day so you get enough time to recharge your batteries, especially if you have a medical condition. Many medical conditions are hidden or not seen, so it is up to you to take time for your body and mind to rest up.
Taking things at your own pace can also mean embracing spontaneity. When you leave time for nothing, you’re also leaving time for something to happen. So if you find yourself full of energy during a free slot in your itinerary, why not go on a walk somewhere new and see what amazing sights you encounter? Often, those unplanned, low-key experiences are the ones you’ll remember for years to come.
4. Create some quiet moments with yourself
Sometimes we all need a moment to be in our own heads. When travelling with a group of friends, or especially family, it can be difficult to find the time to be alone. But when so much is going on, focusing on yourself for just a few minutes can really help ground you and give you an energy boost. That’s why we recommend setting aside ‘alone time’ to spend time with your thoughts and reflect on your travel experiences that day.
In those quiet moments, you may want to do some meditation or mindfulness, read a chapter of your book, or simply enjoy watching the sunset alone with a cup of tea. Or why not try journaling? In a travel journal, write down some thoughts about your day, some of your favourite self-care travel quotes, those song lyrics that have been stuck in your head all day… Whatever you choose to do with your alone time, check in with yourself and assess how your body and mind are feeling. We guarantee you’ll feel refreshed and ready to face another busy day of socialising!
5. Don’t neglect physical activity
When you’re so focused on rest and relaxation, it can be tempting to forget about all physical activity in favour of lounging by the pool to catch some sun. However, physical activity and exercise are essential to help you feel your best. And we’re not just talking about strength or appearance!
Regular movement is proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and can even improve self-esteem, memory and concentration. It’s also been shown to improve blood pressure and cardiovascular health, which can help protect you from a host of deadly conditions. And as we know, taking care of our heart and circulatory system is essential to living a long, healthy life, especially as we age.
Of course, exercise will look different for everyone depending on mobility and physical condition. (Not everyone needs to lift heavy weights or run marathons to feel their best.) Gentle movement like stretching, walking, or swimming may be enough to leave you feeling replenished and invigorated rather than exhausted.
6. Remember your water bottle
We can’t stress this enough: stay hydrated! While drinking plenty of water should already be a part of your everyday life at home, it’s especially important to keep in mind when travelling in a hot country.
Depending on your destination, you may want to bring a reusable water bottle with you on your travels – and keep it filled up! However, in some areas where it may not be recommended to drink tap water, stick to bottled drinks and make sure the seal isn’t broken before quenching your thirst. Eating water-rich foods like cucumber, watermelon, tomatoes or lettuce can also help you meet your hydration goals.
To get your hydration levels up in a pinch, or if you’re faced with the dreaded traveller’s sickness, carry some rehydration sachets in your first-aid kit or everyday bag. They’ll help you replenish your electrolytes after a long day of walking and avoid muscle cramps or spasms.
7. Choose healthy food options
Exploring a new destination also means getting to try exciting new foods and local specialties – and we love that! However, overindulging in too much sugary ice cream, greasy street food, or carb-heavy pastries will often leave you feeling sluggish and uncomfortable, and can also have an impact on your mental health. It’s also no secret that drinking too much alcohol can have adverse effects on both your mental and physical health.
Finding a balance between special treats and healthy meals will allow you to enjoy all the local cuisine has to offer while still focusing on self-care and wellness. On longer trips, why not choose to stay in a rental home like a villa or an AirBnb? Having your own kitchen and cooking your own healthy meals a few times a week is a great way to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need to feel your best, both physically and mentally. Avoid drinking too much alcohol and fill up your plate with fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats like avocados or fatty fish.
If you’re on a special diet due to your medical condition, make sure to research and identify the best dining options at your destination. Speak to the hotel restaurant ahead of time to ask for accommodations, or look for restaurants offering nutritious (and delicious) choices that can fit within your restrictions.
8. Get your beauty (and healthy) sleep
Travelling to a distant location (and potentially even through different time zones) will often do a number on your sleep schedule. Even if you manage to avoid suffering from jet lag, the stress of travelling can make it impossible to get some proper rest once you arrive at your destination. However, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule while on holiday is a key part of an effective self care routine – both at home and abroad.
The term ‘sleep hygiene’ refers to all the practices you can put in place to create the right environment in which to sleep every night – and like its name suggests, it’s just as important as brushing your teeth. Some travelling tips for good sleep hygiene include going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, limiting your exposure to screens at least an hour before bed, and avoiding alcohol or caffeine. (And yes, that means no espresso after dinner, even in Italy!) You may also want to improve your chances of falling asleep by using earplugs and/or an eye mask to block out disruptions, or bringing your favourite pillow or blanket from home to create a more comforting environment.
If you’re suffering from jet lag upon arrival at your destination, try exposing yourself to natural sunlight during the day (with SPF, of course) to help reset your body clock and align yourself with the local schedule. And avoid napping or oversleeping as much as possible, as this will make it harder to fall asleep at night.
9. Stay in touch with loved ones
While travelling alone is a truly rewarding experience, we know it can get a little lonely. Occasional homesickness is totally normal, and can even be a good thing when it helps you to feel more appreciation and gratitude for all the wonderful things (and people) you know are waiting for your return. After all, there’s no place like home.
However, you shouldn’t let homesickness or loneliness become a burden. To avoid feeling too disconnected from your home and your roots when spending extended amounts of time travelling, build regular contact with loved ones into your travel self-care routine. We recommend speaking on the phone or over video chat rather than text or email – hearing the voice of someone you love and care for can feel incredibly healing, in a way that reading words on a screen cannot match.
If feeling isolated from your friends and family is a concern to you, why not bring something that reminds you of home with you on your travels? Your favourite mug, a necklace your best friend gave you, or even a box of the tea you’re used to drinking every morning without fail… Keeping a little piece of home close to your heart when you’re so far away can bring a lot of comfort and help you face another day of solo travel with renewed energy.
10. Treat yourself
Finally, remember that your holiday is just that: yours. That means it’s a time for you to do the things you’re used to brushing off as frivolous or unnecessary. Who said that treats and new experiences out of the ordinary can’t also be a form of self-care? Whether that’s spending an afternoon getting pampered at the hotel spa, booking an adrenaline-pumping activity you’ve always been too afraid to try, or indulging in a Michelin-starred nine-course meal – treat yourself. (Within reason, of course – overspending and going over budget will only cause you stress.)
Before booking your holiday, make sure to leave some extra budget for this special purpose. Don’t plan, and don’t create expectations for what you’ll spend this money on – instead, see what opportunities present themselves to you during your holiday. And when you come home with your hair silky-soft and still smelling of Moroccan oil, your knees still shaking from the bungee-jump you booked last minute, and a huge smile on your face, you’ll know they were experiences worth paying for.
Summary On Self Care While Traveling
So, is travel really a form of self-care? We certainly think so! Travelling can help reduce stress and improve your mental health, which is especially important for those of us living with medical conditions or disabilities.
Among our top 10 tips above, sticking to an established routine, reducing screen time, eating healthy, drinking plenty of water and including gentle exercise in your day-to-day travel are all fantastic ways to prioritise your physical and mental wellbeing while on holiday.
If travelling alone, staying in touch with family and loved ones or bringing an item that reminds you of home can help keep feelings of homesickness at bay. We also recommend taking things slow and allowing yourself time to rest, particularly on active holidays where sightseeing and walking take up most of your day. And don’t forget to keep a healthy sleep schedule!
How do you focus on self-care during your travels? Do you have the perfect routine down? Let us know in the comments!
FAQ on Self Care While Traveling
Are you after more self care travel tips? The frequently asked questions below might have what you’re looking for!
Why is traveling so hard on the body?
Many aspects of travelling can put extra pressure on your body (and mind). Travelling by plane, in particular, can cause disruption to your blood flow, ear pressure, bloating or stomach pain, tiredness, dry skin, and more. This is because the air pressure at high altitudes is lower, meaning that your body takes in less oxygen than normal. This reduction in air pressure can also cause you to feel dizzy or tired, and you may even experience travel sickness, especially during turbulence.
And not only is sitting in tight airplane seats for long hours very uncomfortable, it can even cause swelling in your legs or ankles. To avoid the risk of thrombosis, we recommend wearing compression stockings on long-haul flights, as well as taking regular breaks from sitting down. If your legs feel uncomfortable, try walking up and down the aisle of the plane, or even doing some lunges and squats to really get your blood flowing.
Why is travelling so stressful for me?
We love travelling here (shocker, we know), but we won’t deny it comes with some challenges. There are many reasons why you may find the experience of travelling to be stressful – from feeling overwhelmed with the amount of planning you need to do, to worrying about your safety and how to stay healthy while travelling. Add to that the language barrier and potential culture shock at your destination, and you have a perfect cocktail for anxiety.
However, this doesn’t mean travel is off-limits for you. You can learn to overcome your stress by focusing on your mental and physical wellness and sticking to a healthy self-care travel routine. And don’t be afraid to ask others for help organising your trip if planning is too stressful for you! It may even be a good idea to reach out to travel companies or book a package holiday to completely let go of the responsibility and focus on enjoying your vacation.
How can I reduce stress while traveling?
Some of the most common stressful experiences you may encounter while travelling will be related to planning and organising. If buying travel insurance, making a list of all the things to be taken while travelling, or arranging activities in your itinerary is causing you to feel anxious, don’t be afraid to ask for help and share the load. The responsibility for travel planning shouldn’t be left to just one person! Speak to your travel companions, get them involved in the travel planning and make decisions jointly, and use our packing list to help you decide what to take with you.
Once planning is out of the way, make sure to give yourself plenty of time on your itinerary to catch flights, trains, or buses, as a missed connection can be incredibly stressful. If walking is difficult for you, arrange transport from the airport ahead of time to avoid any anxiety once at your destination – there’s nothing worse than having to navigate a foreign public transport map when all you want is to get to your hotel. Finally, communicate with your accommodation about your expected arrival and departure times to ensure a smooth, stress-free check-in and out.
How do you stay fit and healthy while traveling?
If you’re an exercise enthusiast wondering how to keep up your strict fitness regime during a holiday, don’t panic. Staying active, fit and healthy while travelling is easier than you think. First, stick to a healthy diet and drink plenty of water, especially if you’ll be spending time at the beach or walking under the hot sun. To incorporate exercise into your holiday itinerary, why not go out for regular walks and explore your surroundings, swim in the sea or lakes near you, or play beach games with friends or family?
If having access to specific exercise equipment is important to you, book a hotel with a gym or look for outdoor fitness trails in your local area. If all else fails, incorporate some gentle body weight movements into your morning routine – starting each day with a sequence of push-ups, squats, and crunches should help keep you on the right track.
How does traveling alone help mental health?
It can be hard to know how to start travelling on your own. Insecurities, worries, and doubts often get in the way and try to convince us we’re not capable of doing it alone. So we’re here to remind you: you are. In fact, travelling alone can do wonders for your mental health, self-confidence, and overall satisfaction with your life. Going on a solo journey and using travel to find yourself can help you grow, learn, and build trust in your own skills and abilities
Because travelling alone forces you to be more outgoing, it can allow you to meet new people and make connections you wouldn’t have considered back at home. Research shows that social interactions trigger the release of serotonin and oxytocin (aka the happy hormones) in the brain, instantly giving you a boost of happiness and enjoyment. Spending time alone can also be fantastic for your mental health, as it gives you opportunities to self-reflect and discover your emotions, needs, and feelings.
How do you stay mindful while traveling?
Mindfulness is a pretty hot topic in self-care and wellness circles. Put simply, it means focusing your awareness on the present moment and noticing what is happening in your mind, body, or emotions without judgement. However, it can be difficult to be present when all your thoughts revolve around travel itineraries, activities, and dinner plans – basically, everything happening in the future. Focusing on staying mindful while travelling can turn a stressful holiday into true relaxing bliss.
You can practice mindfulness while travelling by setting an intention to stay present over the course of your holiday. But do not feel guilty if that focus slips at any point! Simply remind yourself to stay open to the feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations that occur within you. Slow down and take in each new experience fully, appreciating what it is teaching you. You may also want to reflect on these experiences at the end of each day in a travel journal to allow yourself to take that mindful attitude into the next day.