Traveling is often an exciting event that gets us out of our day-to-day routine and allows us to see people and places we do not see regularly. I love traveling across the country to visit loved ones or journeying to the woods for a camping or cabin trip. Despite my love for travel, I have learned over the years that my fragile Vata-Pitta system does not travel well. Instead of giving up on my explorations however, I have learned many tricks over the last couple of decades that allow me to stay healthy and (relatively) in balance when I am away from the comforts of my home.
Like most holistic practices, traveling “healthy” takes a bit more thought, time, and preparation. But if this means I can travel without the stress of getting sick (during or after the trip), experiencing digestive upset, losing sleep, or coming home with a “travel’s hangover” then it is well worth it for me. I always begin my packing a couple of days ahead of my departure and making a list of all of my essentials to cross off as I go. This includes clothes and toiletries, but more importantly herbs and food-related necessities.
I am a bit of a purist and can be very particular about what I put in my body. I also have a fairly sensitive nervous system, so I rarely steer away from my grounding self-care practices. This is no different when I travel. You may find that all of my “essentials” do not pertain to your own needs, but hopefully, you will find a couple that are relevant to you. I encourage you to give them a try for your next adventure and see the difference for yourself!
NOTE: The more you are already imbalanced in a certain area (e.g. digestion, sleep, body pain, weak immune system, Vata, etc), the more important it will be to be strict with the related recommendation(s).
Healthy Tips for Healthy Travel
1. Prepare food for your day of departure.
If your departure involves more than a couple hours of travel time, it will be important to prepare healthy but travel-friendly food for your flight, road trip, or whatever the case may be. You may feel that if you are flying, bringing food is not permitted due to security, but this is not true. You can bring any food through security, assuming it is NOT in a liquid form (like soup or oatmeal) or spreadable (like hummus or nut butter).
Here are some foods that I often pack for the airplane:
- “Sturdy” and not-too-messy fruits such as grapes, cherries, or cut-up papaya
- Steamed veggies
- Quinoa, black bean, and kale (tupperware) bowl
- Roasted root veggies (great for grounding Vata!)
- Chilled quinoa “salad” with sautéed veggies and pumpkin seeds
If you are planning a road trip you will have even more options; pack a cooler and you can eat well the whole way!
2. Eat healthy during your stay—it is possible!
If you hope to eat healthy during your travels, it will be important to eat home-cooked meals as much as possible. With the help of Air BnB and other accessible vacation home rentals, having a full kitchen stocked with cookware and utensils is no longer a rarity. Even many hotels now offer suites with a full or partial kitchen ready for use! And to be honest, when I was a poor student, I would often stay at cheap motels when traveling, yet I would still bring my hot plate, a small pot, and minimal necessities to make my morning porridge and kitchari during my stay.
Since I always plan on cooking during my travel, I make going to the grocery store a priority soon after arriving. If I am visiting family, I will often send them a grocery list a few days before my trip to save any hassle straight away. Whatever the case, I always make sure to stock up on clean water, fresh veggies, dry bulk foods (rice, beans, etc), and other minimal cooking necessities.
Despite going grocery shopping, I often bring my own spices (such as my Agni Churna and Breakfast Spices) since I cannot live with them. I also may pack my own mung dal, quinoa, and flax seeds since these are often unavailable at many grocery stores. And although it may look a bit odd, packing dry bulk foods is permitted in the airport for checked or carry-on bags!
Of course, you can still indulge in eating out a time or two, but eating out a couple of times a week rather than three times each day will make a HUGE difference in keeping your digestion and elimination in balance for your trip. Not to mention avoiding the common weight gain travel brings.
If you find you have no choice but to eat out for most of your travel, you can still minimize the damage by keeping things light. Do your research and find healthier restaurant alternatives. Aim to order oatmeal rather than eggs and bacon for breakfast. Eat mostly plant-based meals, avoid appetizers, avoid fried foods, avoid excessive carbs (such as pastries, bagels, pasta, and bread), and request no added salt.
But most of all—do your best then don’t stress!
3. Stay hydrated with clean water.
No matter where you’re going or how you are getting there, staying hydrated is more important than ever. Staying well hydrated will help you reduce jet lag, fatigue, and constipation issues. I always drink well before leaving, during my flight, and throughout my entire stay. I aim for drinking about ten (8 oz) cups each day.
Equally as important is to drink clean water. Ensuring a source of filtered water is one of my first lines of action when arriving at my destination. This is likely just buying gallons of filtered or spring water (generally available from any grocery or convenience store) as soon as possible after my arrival.
I have recently switched to drinking alkaline water and was very excited to find this travel-size alkalizing Infuser Stick that fits into most water bottles. It is from the same small company that I use for my alkalizing water pitcher and I really like them both. I have personally tested both products and they transformed my 5.5 pH reverse osmosis water to about 9.5 to 10 pH. I highly recommend the infuser stick for your travels if you are into alkaline water too!
1. Reduce your workload before and after your trip.
We often kid ourselves into thinking we can work until the day of travel and then go back to work the day after coming home (admit it—we all have done this!). After countless times of “learning my lesson”, I have now established a pretty set rule to reduce my workload at least 2 days before leaving. This means I may work half days, but I always save extra time to pack and prepare without added stress or late nights.
Secondly (and possibly more important), I make sure to have a reduced workload, ideally consisting of one to two full days off, after coming home. This allows me time to rest, reset, unpack, and organize rather than toughing through a hectic week of work without any downtime until the weekend. I say this is most important since we are often jet-lagged, worn-down, and less resilient after travel making it a common time for sickness to sneak in.
2. Keep moving!
Just because you are traveling does not mean you have to stop exercising. I love to exercise and although I am happy to take rest days when needed, I still enjoy keeping my body moving when I travel. My exercise regimen may need some modifications, but even taking a 30-minute walk each day is a great and accessible option!
Here are some travel-friendly exercise ideas:
- Suitable YouTube videos featuring equipment-free cardio or bodyweight exercises
- Walking or hiking
- Swimming (if accessible)
- Biking (if accessible—many places offer bike rentals or you can borrow a friend’s)
- Yoga (self-practice, YouTube, or local classes)
3. Take time to stretch every day.
Most people that travel have experienced the added body aches and soreness that can result from sitting in a car or plane for extended hours, sleeping in uncomfortable beds, and simply the increased Vata that results from travel. You can keep these aches and pains to a minimum by taking time to stretch out each night before bed and again upon awakening. You can find some great stretch routines on YouTube, or make up your own!
Here are my essential stretches during travel:
- Seated forward fold (restorative version)
- Standing forward fold with legs bent to stretch out the spine
- Supported Supta Badhakonasana (great for digestion too!!)
- “Happy baby” pose
- Reclined spinal twists (example)
- Halasana (plow pose) and Shoulder Stand (if appropriate)
- Legs up the wall
- Child’s pose
4. Stick to a regular eating and sleeping routine (according to your current time zone).
One of the hardest parts of travel on our physical bodies can be the change in timezone that often results. If it is only an hour or two, this may not be too detrimental, but if it is more than this, it is sure to bring confusion to your circadian rhythm and overall balance.
The best way to transition into your new time zone is to keep to a consistent and “normal” eating and sleeping routine. This means eating three meals a day at their ideal times (no skipping meals or snacking through!), going to bed by 10 pm (or earlier), and waking by 7 am (give or take). It may take a couple of days, but your body should soon adjust and you will be much more harmonious for it!
5. Keep Vata calm no matter where you may be!
Vata is the main dosha to get provoked during travel due to the airy, spacey, and mobile nature of it all. Everything is different—different foods, different time zone, different climate, different bed, different environment, etc—and all these changes increase Vata. With this being said, it is not surprising that the most common symptoms of travel are related to high Vata including gas and bloating, constipation, fatigue, and trouble sleeping.
Knowing this ahead of time, you can take the proper precautions to soothe Vata before it takes over. The best way to ground this kinetic energy while traveling is through calming self-care practices.
Here are some travel-friendly, Vata-soothing practices:
- Nightly foot massage using a grounding oil such as Vata Oil or warm sesame oil
- Full body oil massage with Vata Oil
- Restorative Yoga poses or gentle stretching
- Legs up the wall before bed (or anytime!)
- Alternate nostril breathing or deep belly breathing
- Meditation (even 10 minutes each morning will be effective!)
- Peaceful walks in the fresh air
- Spending time nature
- Laying in the grass
- Warm-hot baths
- Sauna soaks (look for an “infrared sauna near you” or try a local gym)
- Take some downtime each day alone
1. Don’t forget the ginger!
Ginger may possibly be a travel’s best friend. It is great for preventing digestive distress and discomfort, and equally as beneficial for warding away illness while your immune system is sent to battle. If you are feeling a slight tickle in your throat or worried about coughing during your flight, ginger is very effective for relieving both. If you tend toward motion-induced nausea, ginger will provide relief for this as well!
My favorite way to take ginger has recently become eating it by the slice. This may be a bit potent, but if you can handle the “ZING”, it is the easiest, and most effective way to take ginger, in my opinion, and super travel-friendly. If you are new to taking ginger this way, I suggest starting with very thin slices and working your way to slightly thicker ones if appropriate.
Directly before leaving on my trip, I will peel and slice a medium size rhizome of ginger, place the slices in a small tupperware, and pack them in my carry-on bag. I will take a slice or two before leaving and a couple more while in transit. Since fresh ginger is not available at all grocery stores, I also pack several large rhizomes (not peeled or sliced) to use for cooking and as medicine (to make ginger slices and teas) throughout my stay.
2. Build your own herbal necessities travel pack.
As I have mentioned, traveling often brings weakened immunity, digestive complaints, and sleep issues. If you are susceptible to any of these symptoms, think ahead and be prepared by packing all your (travel-friendly) herbal necessities to help you stay in balance while away.
Since I am (unfortunately) susceptible to all three of these common ailments, I will share my personal “herbal traveler’s kit” that I never travel without. You may have your own potions to pack, but at least you can get some good ideas!
- Immaculate Immunity Tincture (the 2 oz bottle can even be taken on flights!)
- Mahasudarshana Churna (for immunity)—this has saved me so many times, I never travel without it!
- Digestive Tonic Tincture—take before each meal (the 2 oz bottle can even be taken on flights!)
- Soothing Sinus Nasya—this is also great for applying directly before leaving for your flight to keep away airborne germs!
- Allergy Relief Tincture (to help with my allergy-induced asthma I often get in new environments)
- Sleep Easy Tincture
*Although I may pack some powdered formulas, I try to keep to tincture since these are easiest to take on the go!
3. Never leave home without your Triphala.
Traveling is often rough on digestion which can result in sluggish and stagnant elimination. Triphala has many great uses, but the reason why I never travel without my Triphala is because of its great ability to support healthy, daily elimination.
Triphala is a mild laxative that is safe, non-habit forming, and not overly powerful. It is often taken at night to encourage healthy elimination the following morning. Since constipation can really cause a lot of discomfort during your travels, it is recommended to take Triphala before your day of departure and continue throughout your entire visit.
If you are new to Triphala you can begin with 1/2 teaspoon nightly mixed in 1/2 cup of warm water. If you already tend toward constipation, you may try to increase this dose to 1 teaspoon. Some individuals may even need a second dose in the morning (on an empty stomach). It is usually best to start small, however, and only increase if necessary and appropriate for you.
4. Keep up with your Vitamin D and Zinc!
Although you may be able to keep a handful of supplements at home while you travel, you should definitely keep up with your Vitamin D and Zinc to keep your immune system top-notch. You can even take a bit extra zinc on the day of travel (leaving and coming back) if you are flying and are worried about getting sick. I always go for the liquid form of vitamins and mineral supplements since they tend to absorb more readily. Luckily this makes taking them even easier during travel!
Here are my favorite Vitamin D and Zinc supplements that come personally recommended:
NOTE: You may also find you have other supplements that you should not go too long without (e.g. iron, magnesium, B12); I fully recommend bringing any essential supplements (according to your needs) and leaving the extras at home!
*These are Amazon-affiliated links but are truly the supplement I use daily. Thank you for your support!
Traveling is an important, fun, and exciting event in life. Although this is generally a time for relaxation and “letting go”, going too far in this direction can leave you sick or run down by the end of your vacation. It can also create digestive distress that lasts much longer than the trip itself. So the next time you are planning a get-away, take a few moments to decipher how you can keep your body, digestion, and mind in balance throughout your trip. You may not need to follow this entire list “to a T”, but instead pick out a couple of recommendations that pertain to your needs and seem accessible to you. Once you experience the positive results firsthand, these recommendations may just become a natural habit for you and your travels!
*By ordering directly through these links, you are helping to support Svastha Ayurveda – Thank you!!