Don’t let the travel get in the way of enjoying your destination.

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where associate nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

After some time off, this year many people are returning to travel for the holiday season. They're traveling to spend time with family or loved ones, or simply to take a much needed vacation. Regardless of where your travels take you, making the trip takes some doing (logistically and physically). If you're traveling by flight or going to a different time zone, the journey can be especially draining. But, don't let the stresses of travel diminish the joy and excitement of a winter respite. These simple tips will help you stay healthy and feel your best while in transit. 

Young woman with cell phone and earphones walking with a suitcase
Credit: Getty Images / Westend61

1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Beyond travel, there are numerous reasons to stay hydrated. It's important for your brain, heart, joints, skin and more. Not to mention, dehydration comes with some pretty nasty side effects: headaches, depleted energy reserves, and a higher risk of stroke, to name a few. No thanks. Bring a refillable water bottle with you and be sure to regularly take sips. This is particularly important when traveling by plane, as the artificial climate control can have a humidity as low as 10 to 20 percent (much lower than the natural environment), making it easier to get dehydrated. If you need to switch it up from water, avoid dehydrating drinks with a lot of added sugar or alcohol. Instead, opt for seltzer or herbal tea. 

2. Choose Fruits & Veg When You Can

Airport and airplane food are...not the best. But, they have improved in recent years. Most airports have at least one kiosk with fresh fruit and vegetables for a quick grab-and-go purchase, and most restaurants have salads on their menus. If you're driving, pack your own fresh produce snacks that travel well: celery and peanut butter, carrots or apples and hummus, and oranges or grapes. It's a great chance to up your produce intake as well. The nutrients in fruits and vegetables will help keep your body fueled and nourished and your immune system will thank you. Plus, fresh produce has a high water content, which helps with hydration. 

3. Find Gentle Movement

Whether traveling by air, car or train, sitting for long periods of time is inevitable (unless you can afford fancy first-class seats with beds… we are not the same). Sitting all day has plenty of undesirable side affects. Among the most common and avoidable are back pain, headaches and joint pain. Not to mention, the energy zap from not doing anything for hours. To help combat this lethargy, try to enact some gentle movement when possible. Take a walk around the terminal or at rest stop. Arrived at your gate early? Do some light stretching before boarding. You can even walk a few laps on the plane, especially on long flights, if the seatbelt sign is off, of course. This will help get your blood flowing and muscles firing, which can boost energy and help you get ahead of sitting's negative effects. 

4. Stay Mentally Stimulated 

One way to feel better while spending a lot of time in transit is to keep your mind stimulated. Read a book or magazine, or play a game with your travel companions or your self, like sudoku or crosswords. If you're more inclined toward smart phone or tablet games, remember to download the apps ahead of time. Journaling or trying out a meditation app are great ways to reflect on the previous year and to contemplate the things you're grateful for (like the ability to travel). Not only will these suggestions help pass the time, they may also help you avoid doom-scrolling for hours on end (not the best way to get in the holiday spirit). 

5. Skip The Booze

I know, I know, after a long year, you're finally on vacation and it may be tempting to unwind with a drink. While the occasional alcoholic beverage can definitely fit into a healthy lifestyle, travel might not be the best time to indulge. Wine or hard liquor can have an especially dehydrating effect because of their higher ABV in comparison to beer. Alcohol can also have a greater effect on us when we're at 35,000 feet because cabin environment and altitude can perpetuate dehydration, making the alcohol feel more potent. Indulging on or before your flight can lead to a pre-vacation hangover, and who wants that? Save the celebrating for when you arrive!