Tips for a healthier holiday

The sun is shining, the beach is beckoning and you are teeming with excitement at the thought of taking a well-earned break. But leaving everyday life behind doesn’t mean you have to abandon a healthy lifestyle.

Holidays are a time of indulgence, relaxation and adventure. No one wants to lose focus on the fun stuff, but sudden changes to diet, exercise and your environment can impact your wellbeing.

So we asked our fitness, nutrition and wellbeing experts for some tips to a healthier, relaxing break.

Before you go

Prepare your body
Keep up a good fitness routine right up until you leave, that way you’ll be ready for a recovery week. You’ll only need to keep up lower intensity exercises like walking, steady-paced swimming or cycling once you reach your holiday destination.

Boost immunity
Try to keep a healthy diet before you set off – freshly cooked, well-balanced meals with plenty of varied, brightly coloured vegetables and fruits (containing the immune supportive vitamins A, C and E). Including natural yoghurt with beneficial bacteria will help you to fight off any nasty bugs you might encounter on your travels.

Listen to music to reduce muscle tension and decrease stress hormones while you pack. Sing if you feel like it – you’re headed off on holiday!

Gear up
Don’t forget to pack active-wear. If you don’t pack appropriate gear you’ll have a ready-made excuse not to exercise when you arrive.

Pack to pamper
If you’re taking a flight, pack travel size essentials to treat yourself on board – moisturiser, cleanser, eye mask and deodorant, for example. Try rubbing lavender essential oils on your temples; it can help to alleviate migraines. It’s also handy for sunburns, aches, bruises and it’s a great insect repellent too.

The journey

Keep up your fluids
Dehydration is your number one enemy on holiday. Get off to a good start by balancing any coffee or alcohol intake during your journey with a glass of water.

Handle your baggage carefully
The last thing you want is to injure yourself before you leave so don’t over pack your bags. You shouldn’t have to struggle to lift them. Bend your legs and keep your back straight when loading the car or picking bags off luggage carousels.

Keep moving
Take a stroll in the terminal prior to flying and while on board, relax your muscles with gentle stretches and walk up and down the aisle where you can. If you can’t leave your seat, keep your circulation going by repeatedly lifting your heels off the floor and lifting your knees. You can also place your heels on the floor and roll your feet around, drawing imaginary circles with your toes.

Limit screen time
It’s all too easy to pack your work phone and ‘check in’ – don’t. Holidays are a time for relaxation and to connect with family. As long as you’ve set up an ‘out of office’ you’re safe to unwind. Attaching yourself to a screen also has other negative effects. It can be tempting to catch up on a bunch of back-to-back movies while on a long flight but you need to allow the nervous system and your adrenal glands to slow down. Minimise the effects of jet lag and optimise your energy levels for when you reach your destination.

While you're there

If you’ve travelled a long way, don’t over plan the first few days of your holiday. Take it easy. Enjoy a chance to power nap, it can ease the effects of jet lag.

Savour the flavour
Be aware of how you eat and not just what you eat. Appreciate the flavours and truly savour the food, the setting and the company. Chew your food well - it takes about 20 minutes for us to register when we are full.

Indulge in seasonal and local cuisines
Be adventurous and try local and seasonal food such as fish, fruits, vegetables, herbs or fresh bread. Oily fish is a wonderful summer meal in particular, great for the skin and digestion. If you’re in the Mediterranean, embrace the diet of olives, fish, oil and cheese – it’s great for your joints, skin and brain health.

Change up your breakfasts
Wherever you are it is still the most important meal of the day. Go for a savoury and protein packed breakfast for a change. Why not treat yourself to smoked salmon and eggs on a freshly baked wholegrain roll with a side of spinach? Or, keep it cool and refreshing with local yoghurt, nuts, seeds and fresh fruits. This will keep you full and energised whilst satisfying your taste buds for a few hours.

Pack snacks
Don’t be famished by dinner time, you’ll only overeat. Pack nuts, oatcakes, or take some fruit from the hotel when you head out on a big day.

Be sun smart
Exposure to excessive heat can cause dehydration. Drink a lot of water throughout the day – at least two litres. Avoid drinking alcohol during the heat of the day, wear lots of sunblock, and seek shade whenever you can.

Two-for-one drinks!
Top up your water, not just your wine. Alternate glasses of water with alcohol to stave off dehydration and ease hangovers.

Break routine
Take advantage of the break in routine to try new activities that are both fun and keep you active. If you’re near water why not give stand-up paddle-boarding or kayaking a go? Otherwise, cycling is a great way to see the sights and break a sweat at the same time.

Get your money’s worth
If your hotel has a pool or a gym make sure you use it. You don’t have to do your full routine, but do a little bit of cardio each day to keep your base-level fitness.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself
We can all get a little carried away while on holiday, especially when alcohol is involved. Jumping off cliffs into the ocean might look like a lot of fun, but it can result in serious injury. Always check the depth of the water before jumping in. Check your environment and weigh up the risks before leaping into the unknown.

Last updated Monday 30 May 2022

First published on Wednesday 8 July 2015