Travel is not just good for the heart and mind, it’s apparently meant to be good for your overall health, too. But that won’t be the case if you’re going a million miles an hour to see and do everything you’ve ever wanted to do at your dream destination. In fact, travel can become hard work.
Hauling heavy bags, breathing artificial environments and being stuck in the same position for hours on planes, crossing time zones and walking for ages on the ground can take a toll on your body. And that’s not even taking into account people who may be physically challenged.
However, there are quite a few ways to ease the strain on your body and make travel restorative and invigorating – as it’s meant to be.
Making sure you have the right equipment is important. Compression socks for long-haul flights should be on your list. As too should rolling suitcases and bags – or at least lighter luggage that’s easier to carry around (or one that carries you around).
To avoid eye-strain, especially when reading or watching movies on a plane, you should pack your reading glasses. Sunglasses are also essential for sunny holiday spots. And if you take medications, ensure you have a handy pill organiser; but keep some medicines in their original packaging, along with prescriptions for countries with restrictions even on over-the-counter drugs.
Pack an inflight kit that contains medicines, reading glasses, a face mask, earplugs or headphones, a light scarf, travel pillow, hand sanitiser or wipes and maybe some refreshing rose water spray to keep your skin hydrated.
If you have sinus issues or find that your nose dries out while flying, pop in an over-the-counter nasal spray, which will help shrink your sinus tissues and minimise pressure on your ears.
When booking or checking-in, find the best seat possible and, if you need extra legroom, invest in the upgrade to premium economy or ask for the extra legroom seats at exits or the front of the cabin. At the very least, choose an aisle or window seat. The aisle seat will give you a little extra breathing space and legroom and the window means you can lean your head against the plane’s interior for easier nap times.
A basic economy fare may seem the most attractive option at the time of booking, but many’s the time I wished I spent the extra money on a premium economy or extra legroom seat. If you can’t afford it, just ask nicely at the check-in counter and your airline staff may swing you a good seat for free.
When choosing flights, again, super early flights and later flights will often be cheaper, but very early or late flights can get your holiday off to a poor start. It’s also wise to leave plenty of time between connections, so you’re not having the stress (or extra expense) of making (or missing) your next flight.
Driving to the airport can also be quite stressful, so opt for a cab, rideshare or airport shuttle instead. When you drive yourself, you have the pressure of making a flight through traffic, then the expense of long-term parking, so add up the cost versus the benefit of arriving on time with someone else doing the stressing.
Leave plenty of time for your flight, whether it’s from your hotel or your home.
While checking-in bags on budget flights can be expensive, on a long-haul trip it’s a must. But even on a shorter flight, letting the airline staff handle your baggage will take the weight off your shoulders – literally.
When you’re at the gate lounge, line up to get on the plane early, so you get overhead bin space for your carry-on bags. If your bags are on the heavy side, ask flight staff or someone seated near you to help lift it into the locker.
Have a plan to deal with jet lag. Headaches, nausea, sore eyes and insomnia are common symptoms of jet lag, which can get your holiday off to a sluggish start. Supplements such as melatonin may help, as too could adjusting your sleep schedule ahead of time. At the very least, you may wish to set an easy itinerary for your first day, to give you time to adjust to a new time zone.
When it comes to the day-to-day holiday activities, as tempting as it may be, try to pick your priority places of interest and leave plenty of time between activities and sites. It may also be better to spend more time in fewer countries, rather than cramming seven nations into a 10-day holiday. Also, try to plan a relaxing day in between the hustle and bustle, with a spa day, nature day or an afternoon people-watching in a plaza.
Make sure your accommodation is accessible. Older hotels may not offer the best access, so make sure yours has elevators to the upper floors or isn’t at the top of a steep hill.
If your hotel has early check-in and late check-out, take them up on the offer, especially if your flights leave you with plenty of gap time between traditional check-in and out times.
When you travel, you’ll often be a little lax with your diet. But it will catch up with you on holiday as it would at home. So as tempting as it may be to pig out on pastries and pastrami sandwiches each day, make sure you’re getting your share of fibre, protein and nutrients. Also, don’t be afraid to try new things, but if you have a delicate constitution, steer clear of unfamiliar foods – or at least introduce them slowly – or risk a case of traveller’s diarrhoea.
If you have a long day of walking and touring ahead of you, it may pay to do some light stretching in the morning and a ‘cool-down’ stretch session at night. It’s also great to go for your morning walk around a strange town or take advantage of the hotel pool for a bit of easy exercise.
Read more about making travel easier at www.smartertravel.com
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