It’s not always just about the destination — traveling during the holidays can be an exciting (and hectic) time. Between crowded airports and mile-long traffic jams, it probably feels like a million people are on the go, just like you. Turns out, that’s not an exaggeration. In 2017, roughly 107 million Americans traveled at least 50 miles away from their home between December 23 to January 1.1
Whether you’re visiting friends and family, jet-setting to a new country, or taking a quick trip to get out of the cold (hello, Florida!), your holiday travels can sometimes start to feel a little chaotic — from the planning to unexpected surprises that may arise along the way. But with a little preparation and thoughtful self-care, you can stave off stress and enjoy your trip — and all the events in between.
Practicing self-care, especially while traveling during the holidays, can sometimes mean the difference between a fun or frustrating trip. Here are our top 5 self-care tips for holiday travelers.
1. Get plenty of rest.
With all the hustle and bustle around the holidays, it might be tough to squeeze in some shut-eye. To feel your best, you’ll want to rest before, during and after your travels. If you have trouble falling asleep in a hotel or a friend’s home, you’re not alone — you might be experiencing the “first night effect.”2 Having a bad night’s sleep the first time you stay in a new place is normal. Here’s why: one side of your brain rests while the other remains alert to sense potential threats, according to research.2 By the second night, the brain is more likely to relax, allowing you to sleep more deeply.2
To keep a sleepless night from affecting your holiday plans, try arriving earlier than the day before an event to give yourself (and your brain) time to settle in.2 And if you’re traveling across one or more time zones, your circadian rhythm, or your body’s natural internal “clock” might be thrown off, making it difficult to stay awake or fall asleep. To get back on track, try getting some sun during the daylight hours in your new time zone.3 Sunlight may help to balance your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep4 and may help you get back to your regularly scheduled Z’s.
2. Make time for movement.
No matter how you choose to travel, try not to get stuck in your seat for hours on end. Sitting in one position for too long, especially if you’re in cramped conditions, may leave you feeling sore and achy when you reach your destination. Try to stand up and stretch every hour. On a plane or train? Take a stroll down the aisle to stretch your legs. Once you’re back at your seat, do some calf and shoulder raises, or a few neck rolls to stay loose. Riding in a car? Take a quick break from driving to stop at a scenic overlook and enjoy the view while going for a short, brisk walk. No matter how you choose to get your blood pumping, it’ll help banish travel jitters, boredom and might even burn a few calories.
3. Stay hydrated.
You’re probably used to drinking more water in warmer weather, especially when you sweat or feel hot, but sweating isn’t the only way your body loses H2O. When you cover your mouth and nose with a scarf and head out into the cold, the condensation that collects underneath is a product of respiration. Breathing that cold, dry air in the winter can actually cause you to lose more water through respiration than you would in a warmer season.5 Plus, chilly temperatures may make you feel 40 percent less thirsty than usual.6
Prevent the side effects of mild dehydration during your travels — headaches, muscle cramps and dry mouth7 – by drinking plenty of water. Make sure to also avoid consuming alcoholic beverages and limiting your caffeine intake while up in the air.8 Being dehydrated can make jet lag feel even worse, so don’t be shy about asking your flight attendant for an extra cup of water.8
4. Pack for your comfort.
Layer lightweight, breathable clothes that you can easily take on or off during your travels – hooded sweatshirts, long-sleeved shirts and leggings are all great options. Bring an eye mask, a pair of earplugs and an inflatable pillow for a restful sleep. Stash a pair of over-ear headphones and a phone charger in your carry-on to keep the tunes playing. Anything that helps you feel relaxed will help make your trip more enjoyable!
5. Snack smart.
Steer clear of the unhealthy foods served on planes and at gas station rest stops, which can be loaded with salt, unhealthy fats and unwanted sugar. In fact, airline meals typically contain 30 percent more sugar or salt to improve the taste of the food.9 Eating snacks that are high in sodium and fat may make you feel bloated and uncomfortable — probably the last thing you want while you’re traveling.10 Instead, pack fresh snacks like a handful of cherry tomatoes, a hardboiled egg or a small apple. The protein and fiber in these foods will help keep you feeling full and satisfied, since they’re digested more slowly than the refined carbohydrates you’ll find in white bread or sugary drinks.
Make your holiday travel plans as smooth as possible by practicing a little self-care. It’s the best way to start your holiday on a positive note. Take some time to get comfortable, pack a healthy snack and a water bottle, stretch and get a good night’s rest to help make your trip smooth and enjoyable. Once the holidays are over, keep up with your self-care; it’s a relaxing way to treat yourself any time of the year — and you deserve it!
Looking for some more healthy holiday weight loss and self-care tips to start the New Year? Contact a Jenny Craig consultant to book your free appointment today.
Stephanie Eng-Aponte is a copywriter for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, CA. They’ve focused on writing within the health and wellness space for the last several years, but have dabbled in the tech and environmental industries. Stephanie graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Media Studies. Stephanie employs a “eat first, write later” approach to food blogging and enjoys the occasional Oxford comma. Outside of writing, you can find Stephanie photographing a muttley crew of rescue pups, brewing kombucha, or exploring San Diego.
Favorite healthy snack: Green apple slices with sunflower butter.
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