Whether it's one more story from Aunt Mildred or yet another plane, train or automobile ride, the holidays — and all the traveling that accompanies them — can be hard on your body. But you don't have to wearily slog through the coming weeks of delayed flights and long car trips. With a little extra planning, you can conquer the dreaded fatigue of the holiday travel season. Heed advice from these health and travel experts and you'll greet the New Year feeling refreshed rather than exhausted.
Before you book your tickets for that holiday cruise or trip back home, think about where you're headed. Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder of travel-planning site Indagare, advised scheduling your travel and flight times to maximize daylight hours in your final destination. This will help you adjust your eating and sleeping patterns. "If going west, I would suggest leaving as early as possible, and if going east, leaving as late as possible," Bradley said.
Stephanie Mansour, a private trainer in Chicago and CEO of Step it up with Steph, suggested packing a snack for the road, such as a protein bar, which helps keep your energy and blood sugar levels balanced, and wards off any unhealthy cravings at the gas station or the airport.
It's also a good idea to stow some healthy, non-perishable snacks in your suitcase in case whoever you're staying with has little more than sweets in his or her cabinets. Vanessa Cunningham, author and CEO of Unhealthy No More, suggested packing nuts, seeds and dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa).
Maintaining a healthy diet on the road, especially during the holidays, is easier said than done. Cheryl Forberg, a registered dietician and the nutritionist for "The Biggest Loser," teamed up with Omni to create a series of web videos with healthy travel tips. According to Foberg, staying healthy while traveling is about more than just your eating habits; you also need to get plenty of sleep and exercise.
Try to enjoy holiday meals in moderation, managing portions (apps like the one provided by Weight Watchers can assist in tracking what you're eating throughout the day) and drinking plenty of water to help your stomach feel full. Supplement with your pre-packed healthy snacks between meals to keep from overeating at lunch and dinner.
When flying, Dr. Kristine Arthur, internist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, suggested avoiding large, heavy or fatty meals, which are difficult to digest and can leave you feeling sluggish or trigger indigestion. She also advised steering clear of carbonated drinks, which can cause gas. "Try to eat several smaller meals of foods you're used to eating," Arthur said. "Choose low-salt snacks while flying to help combat water retention and the dreaded puffy look that sometimes comes from long flights."
Neglecting to hydrate can also be a big mistake. If you're flying, it's even more critical, as planes are especially drying. "I bring a large bottle on board or ask for multiple bottles at once," Bradley said, and she doesn't drink coffee or alcohol, which can dehydrate. Arthur advised drinking 8 ounces of water for every hour you fly.
It can be tough to fall asleep when you're not in your own bed. To get comfortable, Arthur recommended bringing a favorite pillow along for a reminder of home, using a sound machine or phone app for white noise, and carrying ear plugs if you need complete silence. (These items can also come in handy on noisy planes.)
Exercise can be a surefire way to maintain your energy, especially if it's fueled by healthy foods. And if your family is getting on your nerves, a walk can provide some much-needed stress relief. You'll get some fresh air and burn a few calories in the process.
Many hotel brands, such as Westin and Omni, offer wellness programs that allow guests to borrow gear (think dumb-bells, yoga mats and exercise clothes) to help maintain their at-home fitness routines while on the road. If your chosen Westin doesn't have its own running concierge, use the 3- and 5-mile local running maps each property provides guests.
If, despite your best efforts to eat, exercise and sleep well you're still out of gas, there are a few other remedies you can try.
Luc Schlangen, lead scientist at Philips Research, suggested seeking blue light found in LEDs. "Using the right amount of light at different times throughout the day can help you feel more rested, alert and productive," he said, noting blue-rich light is the most effective.
Aromatherapy is also a simple remedy to help you relax and unwind, or be more alert during daytime activities. "Peppermint and rosemary essential oils are refreshing and can help increase alertness and mental clarity," said C.G. Funk, vice president of industry relations and product development for Massage Envy Spa. Lavender and vanilla can be calming, while citrus scents can help lift your mood. Look for beauty products, candles and sprays with these scents.
Many people turn to caffeinated beverages for a quick pick-me-up. Arthur said caffeine is fine in moderation, but check the list of ingredients in the drink to avoid high salt content, as well as sugars and artificial sweeteners. Because caffeine is dehydrating, she also recommended drinking a glass of water for every caffeinated beverage and keeping track of your total caffeine consumption.
Here's where it pays to stay at a hotel rather than with your family. Several properties around the U.S. provide specific treatments and packages to help jetsetters survive the rigors of holiday travel.
Island Hotel Newport Beach offers a Travel Recovery Massage, while AKA extended stay properties across the U.S. tout an AKA Sleep School, which helps guests get back into their REM schedules. It includes customized accommodations and evening Sleep School seminars, among other features.
The Guerlain Spa at The Towers of Waldorf Astoria New York has a signature jet lag package that can include a hydrotherapy treatment, a reflexology massage and a facial to help you recover after traveling across time zones. And if you need help acclimating to the mountain elevation in Vail, Colorado, opt for a High Altitude Adjustment Massage at the Four Seasons Resort Vail.
Finally, The Emerson Resort & Spa in the Catskills has a Healthy Holiday Package to help guests combat holiday weight gain through spa treatments, a nutrition class and activities like snowshoeing, cross country skiing and more.
Remember, the holiday season is only about a month long. Put one foot in front of the other until Jan. 1 arrives and you can get back into your normal routine.
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