How To Stay Fit While Traveling

This post was last updated on 2024 April 21

Note: This post was inspired by consistent questions/comments I’ve gotten about my fitness. I don’t want it to come off as me thinking I’m some kind of expert, or the next Miss America! Just wanted to share what helps me stay fit while traveling, in hopes that it might work for you as well :)

I’d like to pen a new slogan: Travel does the body good.

independent travel

NOT milk, ok? Milk does NOT do the body good. Dairy wreaks havoc on your insides. Diary in no way contributed to the body in the above photo (which is mine, in case you weren’t sure).

But travel – and adventuring in general – has definitely helped shape my body and contribute to my overall health. I am extremely health conscious in my everyday life, but it’s not always possible to maintain the same diet and exercise habits when I’m on the road traveling.

Which is okay, because I’m not usually one to follow routine anyway. I don’t go the gym back home. I don’t have designated days where I *work out* or am physically active. I don’t count calories. I don’t need to carefully structure my diet and exercise regimen because I’ve trained myself to automatically *think healthy* EVERY SINGLE DAY, no matter where I am.

When traveling, my options for food and exercise are no doubt different from the ones I have back home – but I’m equipped with the right tools to know which ones are best for me. And you can be, too, if you take to heart my tips for diet and exercise while traveling:

Food While Traveling:

When I travel, I always eat less than I would back home. This isn’t a conscious effort on my end, but it IS something I’ve noticed and come to accept as one of my adventure travel habits.

keeping fit while travelingA few reasons for this:

  • Portion sizes are usually smaller
  • I don’t always have time to eat a proper meal (i.e. I’m too busy adventuring!)
  • I don’t always have the means to eat a proper meal (e.g. I’m stuck on a train or plane during mealtime)
  • I don’t want to spend a lot of money, so I just stick to 2-3 small meals a day
  • I don’t have a fridge/cabinet full of snacks to munch on throughout the day

Though I’m eating less, I ensure that most of what I DO eat is of high quality (i.e. filling and nutritious), which is no different from what I do when I’m at home. I was following the paleo diet for 10 months before I left for Asia and have carried many of those eating habits to my travels. Some loose guidelines I follow:

  • Avoid dairy – mostly because I suspect I’m now lactose intolerant, but also because dairy isn’t good for your insides. (Though I occasionally make exceptions for especially delicious cheese or ice cream!)
  • Avoid anything fried – if it’s not healthy at home, it’s certainly not healthy on the road. Also, why would you have fast food in other countries when you could be sampling authentic food from a local hole-in-the-wall?
  • Avoid processed foods – packaged snacks are convenient when I’m on the go traveling, but they are in no way healthy for me, nor do they fill me. I’d rather just eat a bigger, more satisfying meal that’ll last me through the day rather than munch on some unsatisfying chips or cookies. Note: Nuts are one healthy packaged snack – minimal ingredients and full of healthy fat and protein!
  • Minimize sugar intake – fresh fruit juices/shakes/smoothies are always good because of the vitamin benefits, provided there’s no added sugar. I will usually try to limit myself to either one smoothie OR one cocktail per day, just so I don’t overdo it on the sugar or spend too much money on beverages. I’ll also allow the occasional splurge on dessert – no way would I go to France and not sample a chocolate croissant, or Italy without trying gelato!
  • Minimize gluten – it’s hard to eliminate it entirely, since I don’t always know how dishes are cooked in other countries, but limiting breads and pastas is a good rule of thumb.
  • Maximize vegetable intake – different countries have different ways of preparing their vegetable plates, whether it’s stir fried, curried, or in soup or salad form – and the flavor is always different as well, so you can sample all sorts of vegetable dishes while staying healthy, without getting bored of it!
  • Aim to have protein with every meal – eggs, meat, tofu, nuts, etc. Protein is what keeps me full the longest, which is what I want when I’m on the go.

Exercise While Traveling:keeping fit while traveling

When I travel, I do not deliberately work out. I’m of the mindset that the world is my gym.

My #1 tip? Walk everywhere. Just head out into a new city and walk until your feet feel like they’re gonna fall off. Don’t take any taxis or buses – you’ll get more exercise AND you’ll save money! I never think twice about walking 45 minutes or more when public transport is inconvenient.

For slightly more intentional exercise, you could incorporate the following into your daily frolicking:

  • Walk up and down escalators instead of just standing on them
  • Carry your own bags (aka be a backpacker)
  • Try out an adventure sport that’s popular in the country you’re in (e.g. surfing in Bali/Hawaii, hiking in Nepal or Peru, skiing in the Alps)
  • If you’re vacationing on a beach: do laps in the water, or go for long walks in the sand (the added resistance gives you an extra boost in the exercise department)
  • Hike up to viewpoints in whatever city or town you’re in – there’s always a good view to be had from above (and a good hike to that view!)


Final Remarks

To clarify: I care about keeping fit because I care deeply about my health. I don’t do it to “look good” – I do it to FEEL good. And usually when you feel good, the looking good bit follows :)

I can’t promise that all of my tips will work for everyone, but take whatever works for you and rock it! Here’s to staying fit while traveling!