Let's face it: Travel, particularly during this hectic time of year, is exhausting. Hitting the road for work or pleasure can disrupt your sleep, put the kibosh on your new exercise routine, and throw you into a knee-deep backlog at the office. It also compromises the immune system, setting the perfect stage for a seasonal encore of colds and flus. But a little effort to maintain a healthy routine while you're away will keep you in good shape from door to door. Here, 10 tips for staying calm and happy while in transit.
1. Get some exercise the day before you travel.
Adjusting to time changes and jet lag is never easy, but a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (via Men's Fitness) shows that working out before you dash off on a trip helps the body function and acclimate more effectively.
2. Stash your carry-on with essential oils, vitamins, and saline spray to stay healthy.
I recommend Flight Spray ($9.99 at Amazon) for keeping nasal passages clear. It's lined with turmeric, a natural antibacterial, and spearmint to clear congestion. Another of my go-to's, Aesop's Ginger Flight Therapy ($31 from Aesop), is formulated to boost your senses during the weary hours of travel: Apply a few drops to your neck, temples, and wrists for a mid-flight pick-me-up. Colleagues of mine also swear by Source Naturals' Wellness Formula ($21.39 from Vitamin Shoppe), capsules containing a combination of herbs, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. And several of our editors like to keep their skin hydrated while in flight by spritzing with La Roche-Posay's Thermal Spring Water ($9.99 for the 1.8 ounce size from Amazon).
3. Make those hostage-like hours on the aircraft more comfortable with a neck pillow, eye mask, and noise canceling headphones.
Travelrest's Travel Pillow, $26.95, effectively provides the support you need for a restful sleep. The Blackout Travel Eye Mask ($19.99 from Brookstone) lives up to its name, while the Binchotan Charcoal Eye Mask ($23 from Rikumo) stimulates blood flow to soothe the eye area. For headphones, Bose has it: their QuietComfort Headphones ($299 at Amazon) provide in-flight protection against toddler meltdowns and loud coughing.
Above: The ideal travel alarm clock? Our vote goes to the updated Braun AB1A Small Travel Alarm Clock designed by Dieter Rams with Dietrich Lubs, $32 from Amazon. For a bit of backstory, see Germany's Iconic Designer: A Day with Dieter Rams.
4. Change your watch to local time as soon as possible, and soak in the local sunlight at your new destination.
Allow mother earth to set you straight: Sunlight, fresh air, and the great outdoors are powerful mood lifters, time-change-enablers, and energy boosters.
5. Try to keep up a few of your routines while on the road.
Experiencing new things and breaking old habits may be a big part of travel, but our bodies and psyches crave routine. Whether it's maintaining your morning run or avoiding the "I'll eat healthy when I get home" tack, sticking to your usual feel-good methods will pay off over the course of the trip.
6. Bring a few of the comforts of home with you.
When I travel, I carry pictures by my children to help me feel closer to home—my daughter knows this and I often find drawings that she's secretly stashed in my suitcase as I unpack. Alexa says that her boyfriend's bandmate brings a small drip-coffee maker with him on long tours; it's an easy way to boost morning morale.
7. Keep your sleep as regular as possible.
Going to sleep and waking up at around the same time each day helps the body maintain its circadian rhythms. Within reason, try to keep your sleep patterns within your normal range. There is no such thing as catching up on missed sleep. But if you're on a true, relaxing vacation, I recommend: sleep, nap, more sleep, repeat. For more advice, see our previous post: 10 Secrets for a Better Night's Sleep and the National Sleep Foundation's article on Jet Lag Remedies & Sleep.
Above: Photograph of the High Line Hotel's bedside table from The Gothic Getaway, NYC Edition.
8. Bring something soothing for your bedside table.
As with tip No. 6, an item from home placed next to your hotel bed can signal the end of the day in a comforting way. You could pack a small candle or a framed photograph. A friend of mine even brings her own sheets for work travel—at the end of every day she plunges into her hotel bed feeling right at home.
9. Have realistic expectations for your trip: anticipate problems and delays.
It's best to under promise and over deliver, right? It's all too easy to grab your boarding pass and fly out the door assuming that your flight really will take off at 8:07, but realistic expectations can change the tone of your entire trip. Anticipate the snafus, but hope for the best.
Above: A well-stocked travel bag from The New Bookstore Model: Book/Shop in Oakland, California.
10. When travel delays strike—and they will—try to use the extra time to unplug and decompress.
Delays are out of your control; instead of feeling stressed, try to adopt the mindset that the extra time is a little gift. Grab a good book, slap on the noise canceling headphones, and be transported.
Looking for more tips for staying sane at home and away? See all our Happier at Home posts.