By Dana Bender
I love to travel to new destinations and experience new cities, cultures, and cuisines. If you are similar to me and exercise is an ingrained daily habit, the question becomes, “how do I stay active and exercise while still enjoying myself on vacation?”
A standard solution that fits many people’s needs is staying at a hotel or resort that has a fitness center, especially one that has a wider variety of equipment. This first solution is one that I recommend, especially if you are training for a specific event or have a particular fitness goal in mind. This solution allows you to maintain a regular exercise routine with minimal disruption dependent on the goal and equipment available.
However, if you are looking to stay active on vacation without compromising time spent enjoying your destination, I highly recommend planning an active vacation instead. This second solution maximizes time spent exploring or in the outdoors and minimizes time spent indoors at a hotel fitness center.
It is essential to mention that there is no right or wrong in either approach. I have planned vacations where I made sure I had a fitness center available, and I have planned vacations where I would rather get my exercise through other means to make the most of my time in the new destination. If this second approach sounds like the right fit for you, listed below are options to consider:
1. SIGN UP FOR WALKING TOURS
If you are exploring a new city that is walkable around significant downtown attractions, look into walking tours. Some hotels and hostels will even provide this as an amenity of staying with them. I find walking tours helpful to schedule that first travel day for a few reasons. First, it starts the vacation with an attainable movement goal that meets the needs of a group, especially one with different fitness levels. Secondly, most walking tours range from 1-2 hours and can give you the “movement boost” you might need if there is a time difference that first day or two.
2. LOOK INTO LOCAL HIKES
Another way to stay active on vacation is by researching local day hikes based on your current fitness level and prior hiking experience. Before planning to hike, I recommend that you read reviews and research the intensity level of the hike and how much time you need to complete it. This will determine if it will fit within your schedule. If you are newer to hiking, make sure to start with beginner hikes and always research safety and wildlife concerns for where you are traveling. This will help you know what to bring with you and how much you might need extra clothing or gear, food and water, and sunscreen and insect repellant.
If you are not keen on or don’t have much experience hiking by yourself, another option is to find group day hike tours that you can sign up for. A benefit of this option is that a guide would be there to make sure you stay on the correct trail and can arrange pick up and drop off depending on the tour.
3. BIKING OPTIONS
If you would instead cycle on your vacation than walk or hike, another option is to find local places to rent bikes from. Whether you plan to bike along a beach boardwalk, around a local suburb, or you prefer mountain biking, the options are endless. The good news of choosing to bike versus walking or hiking is that you can cover more ground more quickly, depending on where you are. Lastly, bike excursions along a beautiful river or on a trail in a forest preserve could be the stress management boost you need for R&R while on vacation. If you would prefer not to plan the bike route yourself, find day-trip bike tours, which can range in the timeframe from a couple of hours to an entire day.
4. MOVEMENT BURSTS
If none of these options feel right for you, another alternative is to plan for bursts of movement throughout your day that do not require a fitness center. For example, a plan to do 15 or 30-minute movement bursts once or twice during the day. For this option, I highly suggest planning for one of them to be cardiovascular or dynamic stretching and the second to be mostly body-weight resistance exercises such as pushups, squats, and planks. This dual movement burst approach allows you to prioritize some training still but doesn’t require as much time spent within a fitness center.
5. FIND LOCAL OUTDOOR CLASSES
If you are traveling somewhere that is warm, you might be able to find free or fee-based outdoor classes that you can take advantage of while on vacation. Examples include beach yoga or tai-chi, or a boot camp class along the lake. Depending on the time of year and your interest level, research what options are available at the destination you are traveling to. Similarly, look into which hotels provide class options like these, and plan to stay at that hotel to make it even more likely you will attend an outdoor fitness class.
6. MAKE THE CHOICE PERSONAL AND RIGHT FOR YOU
While making your decisions, there are essential questions to ask yourself. First and foremost, what types of activities do you or those you are traveling with enjoy? Secondly, what is the right choice based on current fitness levels, skill, and experience, and what is appropriate for the destination you are traveling to? Next, what windows of time could you fit in these types of activities? This answer might determine which options are most practical for your travel itinerary. Lastly, does your travel destination have attractions you can see by walking, hiking, or biking? If yes, the final step is to figure out your top choices and research accordingly.
Overall, as you plan your active vacation, enjoy and remember to have fun and be safe along the way.