For many of us, “vacation” conjures images of lounging poolside with banana daiquiri in hand, the only physical exertion coming from turning the pages of the latest best-seller. As pleasant as that sounds, returning to real life can cause an even bigger sense of dread than it usually does when you’ve done what most folks on vacation do: indulge, and then indulge some more. Along with the t-shirts and souvenir snowglobes in your bags, you lug back an extra five pounds and a guilty conscience, vowing to get back on the wagon. Starting next week. You swear.But getting some R&R doesn’t mean you have to check your healthy habits like so much luggage at the gate. There are a few ways you can make exercise and wellness part of your vacation, if not the centerpiece.
Plan your trip around activities you love or have always wanted to try.
Instead of booking an all-inclusive cruise with sundae bar and bottomless mai tais, you could plan a vacay that has fitness as its focus. Early-morning boot camp may not sound like everyone’s idea of a vacation, but snorkeling the islands or Costa Rican surf camp have a pretty nice ring to them and will keep you active. Not looking to get wet? Treat yourself to a shiatsu-inspired state of zen (the affordable Sewall House yoga retreat in Maine gets great reviews) or throw your sneaks in a rucksack and head for the hills for some self-guided exploration, like walking from inn to inn along the English coast. Or pick a central spot and tackle the adventures around you at your own pace. New York’s Lake Placid is a great hub for hikers, with easy access to the Adirondack High Peaks for advanced trekkers and tons of easier trails for families and beginners. We love the rustically luxe Lake Placid Lodge, where guests are encouraged to swim, kayak, snowshoe, fly fish and mountain bike to their heart’s content. Or just set up a tent and get DIY about it.
Bring your routine with you.
If you have a regular running or walking routine, there’s no reason to leave it behind. It’s a great way to explore a new place and is a lot more inspiring than your typical hotel gym. You can research routes ahead of time on sites like mapmyrun.com, which offers detailed routes in locales from Beverly Hills to Bangkok.
Eating well is part of any healthy routine too, and a hard one to maintain when your options are hotel breakfast buffets and dining out nightly. Wherever you go, consider renting a house or condo and cooking for yourself. Not only is it more budget-friendly, you can also eat what you want when you want it, and it’s a great excuse to check out local markets and interesting native ingredients. (Breadfruit, anyone?)
Find cool ways to incorporate some activity into your vacation.
Or maybe you’re planning a vacation that doesn’t exactly scream “exercise.” You can still find fun ways to make sure you keep moving. Heading to wine country? Try biking it instead of driving. Australia’s Barossa Valley is beautiful countryside with fantastic wines and without too many buzz-killing hills. You can book a full-fledged bike tour or map out a day trip of your own. California’s renowned Sonoma Valley also makes for great pedal-pushing. Wine Country Bikes will set you up for a self-guided tour or an organized group trek around the vineyards.
If you’re heading to urban environs, try walking to the sites instead of taking a tour bus or taxi. It’s a great way to get the lay of the land and familiarize yourself with different neighborhoods. And it can’t be said too many times: a good pair of walking shoes is key. Parisian women may strut in their stilettos, but your dogs will be barking after wandering cobblestone streets in search of that bistro Lonely Planet raved about.
If you have the family in tow, you can find some fun ways to keep the kiddos moving too. Many cities have kid-friendly (or even kid-centric) tours, like London’s Harry Potter walking tour or Washington, D.C.’s Bike and Roll Tours, which leads family-oriented biking tours around the monuments. And if all else fails, there’s always the hotel pool.
By fitting some fitness into your vacation, chances are you’ll come home feeling more balanced, more healthy and more relaxed than when you left. Which is what vacation is all about.
Have you taken any vacations that made exercise and wellbeing the highlight? Or do you have any suggestions for keeping your routine while on a trip? We’d love to hear about it.