You’ve been working hard all year — waking up early, heading to the office, coming home, sleeping, and repeating. But your road trip vacation is a week away, and you can feel the excitement start to bubble up inside you like an over-active puppy whose tail can’t seem to control itself. You’ve taken the time to map your route, written down your packing list, and reserve any hotel or camping spots that you will be staying at. You think you’re prepared. You think you’re ready to go. But one thing you may have overlooked is how you plan on staying healthy and well on your week-long road trip.
How do you plan on keeping fit and maintaining a (somewhat) normal diet on a road filled with diners, drive-through’s, and zero access to your personal trainer, not to mention how to combat the countless hours under the sun?
The answer: Just like every other part of your trip.
By planning out what you intend to do on the trip, like where to stop for food and what things to pack in your car, you can enjoy greater wellness on your vacation and spend less time worrying about your terrible single-sided sunburn and more time enjoying the sights.
This may seem like extremely simple advice, but the advantages of drinking enough water are limitless.
On long road trips, keeping hydrated can be more important to your health than you might think. U.S. News & World Report explained that “the journal Physiology and Behavior found that not drinking – water, that is – while driving may be just as dangerous as hitting the road after imbibing alcohol. Researchers observed that drivers with mild dehydration made just as many errors behind the wheel – lane drifting, late braking – as someone driving with a blood alcohol concentration at or above 0.08 percent.” This means that if you aren’t staying hydrated, your driving capabilities and judgement may become impaired.
So, having a constant supply of water on hand is imperative. Recommendations for daily total water intake are approximately 91 ounces per day (although this varies based on age, sex, and pregnancy or breastfeeding status), and this doesn’t change while on the road. So, a great way to remind yourself to drink is to take a sip or two after a certain event – for example, after every other song played in the car. If you aren’t a huge fan of music, you can always mark your water bottle with lines to where you should be at different times of the day so that you can keep track of how much you have consumed and how far you have left to go.
If you tend to have a hard time drinking water by itself, there are some easy ways to trick yourself into keeping hydrated, like adding healthy flavor to your water or eating fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
Choose healthy (-ish) foods
One of the most challenging aspects of road trips that people complain about is the lack of healthy food options. When you’re driving from town to town with nothing but drive-throughs and 24-hour diners in between, it can be challenging to eat healthy.There are a few things that you can do to help combat unhealthy temptations.
- Pack a cooler: Not only will this be helpful with your water intake. But you can also pack a bunch of healthy snacks like veggies, fruits, and lean-protein sandwiches with whole-grain bread.
- Pick better options: If you have to stop at diner of drive-through, go for the non-fried options. You can pick up a grilled chicken salad or get a burger without a bun and skip the sugary drink and replace it with a water or iced tea. If you stop at a gas station, choose balanced snacks like roasted nuts, beef jerky, low-fat string cheese, or fruit.
Protect your skin
On a road trip, you should feel free to roll down the windows and breathe in that fresh air. But, when you are spending countless hours with your left arm out the window or hours with the sun reflecting of off the hood of your car, you may get a bit too much sun on your skin. And, with nearly 53 percent of skin cancers in the US occurring on the left, or drivers' side of the body, it is very important to protect yourself against harmful UVA or UVB rays.
The key to keeping you and your loved ones safe is to pack multiple sunscreens in your car and reapply sunscreen frequently (approximately every two hours). If you have trouble remembering to reapply, you can always set a recurring reminder on your phone or reapply every time you stop at a rest stop.
Take a break (to exercise)
It can be very easy to continue along without making time for exercise while driving long distances. A great way to stay healthy and active on your trip is to find nature trails along the way and go on small (or long) hikes/walks to keep your activity level up throughout the trip. This can also allow you to get to know the surrounding areas better and see what nature has to offer.
If you can’t find any places to hike during certain parts of your trip, make a point to get out and stretch or walk around every couple of hours to ensure that your muscles have a chance to move to counteract stiffness.
You deserve to enjoy your vacation. Have a great time exploring the world, spending time with your family and releasing stress. If you think ahead and prepare, you will be able to not only have a wonderful experience but feel great when you get back.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.