Healthful Travel Advice For Summer Family Vacations

by Jim Meyer, Nutrition Specialist
University of Missouri Extension

Spring and summer months are the perfect time to squeeze in a family vacation. Too often, however, we return from our travels feeling exhausted and weary from an “unfit” vacation. The reasons are many: overeating, trying to log too many miles, sporadic sleep schedules and too little exercise.

Here are a few tips on how to combine fun activities and healthful eating habits to help you and your family feel great, both on your trip and after the return home.

  • Pack some healthful snacks for car travel. A small cooler or ice chest works great to keep beverages and perishable items cool and tasty. Popcorn, pretzels, fresh or dried fruit, yogurt cups, bagels, vegetable sticks, 100 percent fruit juice, whole grain crackers and string cheese are all satisfying and healthy snack choices.
  • If you’re traveling by plane, drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your flight. Minimize any beverages containing caffeine or alcohol, since these can dehydrate you. Bring your own bottle of water on board, if permitted.
  • Stick with lower fat or light meals and plan in advance if possible by either eating before getting on the road or stopping somewhere with choices other than just fast food. Try not to skip meals while you are on the road. You’ll be less likely to overeat later in the day.
  • Restaurant eating can become monotonous and costly, and kids may not always appreciate the unfamiliar menu options. Why not make a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up breakfast cereal, fruit, milk and bagels for an easy nutritious meal you can put together anywhere.
  • If you’re camping, plan for healthful meals in advance. Think of MyPlate and include a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein and dairy.
  • Help your family meet their daily calcium requirements – about three cups of milk, yogurt and cheese. For nutritious convenience, bring along grated cheese to add to spaghetti, tacos and burritos; dried milk to add to pancake mix; fluid milk for cereal; and yogurt for snacks.
  • Here are some tips for staying active while on the road.
  • Whether you’re camping or staying at a resort hotel, take advantage of the great outdoors and go on a nature walk or hike with the entire family. See who can spot the largest variety of birds along the way. You’ll reap the benefits of fitness and each other’s company.
  • Take along sports equipment for the entire family. A badminton or croquet set, a volleyball or Frisbee, snorkeling gear (for any nearby water attractions) and tennis racquets, all of which add up to fun and exercise.
  • Ask your children to plan an activity the entire family can do while on vacation: a kickball game, catch, relay games or tag.
  • Plan time for exercise – a mid-day bike ride, morning nature walk or afternoon swim at the hotel pool will help you stay on the fitness track even when you’re on the road.
  • If you’re booking your vacation at a hotel, be sure and ask about available fitness facilities. Many have a pool for swimming laps, aerobics classes, weight-training equipment and jogging/walking maps of surrounding areas.
  • Pack exercise clothing, walking or jogging shoes, comfy clothes and a bathing suit.
  • If you’re doing a lot of driving, bring your bikes and stop for a ride through the countryside. Don’t forget to pack your bike helmets and sports bottles to carry along thirst-quenching water.

To view this article online, go to missourifamilies.org