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Staying healthy while traveling for work

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

As you reach for your suitcase to pack one of your shirts—fresh from the dry cleaners—you realize that the suitcase hasn’t been properly unpacked for almost two years. This week it’s London and last week it was Dubai.

While your 20-year-old self would have cheered with joy at the opportunity to travel for work, your current self is tired of it. It disturbs the routine, adding jetlag and stress. Not to mention that it’s so hard to eat healthily with all the airplane food, restaurant lunches, dinners and snacks. And when you come home again, you’re too tired to get back into your workouts or be active during the weekend. Sound familiar?

Even though flying to another time zone for only two days is disturbing to the body’s natural rhythm, there are ways to make your work trips both healthier and more zen. It all begins with the packing. We all think about packing only the essentials when taking off on a work trip. As much as it’s good to pack ultra-light, your luggage should also contain some “luxury items.” These items are for the sake of your peace of mind and well-being during the trip.

The first mission is making sure that you are able to sleep on the airplane if you are booked on a long-haul flight. Bring a very comfortable travel pillow, ear plugs, cotton socks and sleep mask. A big cashmere scarf can serve as an extra blanket too. And for extra comfort you can make a playlist of audio meditations and bring a scented face mist. Don’t hesitate to go through your normal bedtime routine in a plane. Brush your teeth, take off your makeup and hydrate your skin to the maximum with a cream. Then curl up under your blankets and get that beauty sleep.

You are already a master of packing every outfit for every meeting on the trip. But you don’t usually take into consideration the fact that you may want some me-time to unwind before bed or when you wake up in the morning. Think about bringing some bath bubbles, a face mask and body lotion.

Why not relax and unwind after a long day of work in the bathtub? Or bring a bathing suit and workout clothes.

Instead of rolling out of bed and into the dining hall for that huge continental breakfast, make your way to the gym. There is nothing like starting the day in the pool or in the gym followed by the steam room and a shower. Having that blood pumping early in the day will give you an energy boost and make you naturally tired in the evening before you go to bed.

One of the most disturbing things while traveling for work is not being able to eat healthily. Airplane and airport food carry little nutrients. That all-you-can-eat buffet at breakfast is too tempting. Then you get pulled around like a rag doll all day and forced to eat restaurant lunches and dinners with colleagues and business partners.

At the end of the day, you feel five months pregnant and unable to sleep because you’re so full. It’s almost impossible to eat perfectly on work trips because of work obligations and no access to cooking facilities. But there are ways to eat better. Make sure that your minibar is stocked up on water and on healthy snacks like fruit. Your body can get dehydrated easily during airplane travel so make sure you drink a lot during the whole trip.

Skip the continental breakfast. This is the only meal that is usually optional during a work trip, so make the most of it. See what the healthy options are and make it light. If you find oatmeal, yoghurt, fruit or a smoothie, you’re off to a good start.

When lunch comes, here’s something to remember: Your eyes think your stomach is the size of a melon so don’t let them fool you. Eat slowly and stop eating before you get too full.

Dinner is usually the biggest meal. As you will be going to bed soon, keep it light. Don’t order something big that you feel obligated to finish. And take it easy on the alcohol. Abstaining is best, and you will thank yourself in the morning. Also try to practice mindfulness and meditation when you can.

It takes a bit of effort to integrate healthy habits into work travel, but when you succeed, you will cheer as much as your 20-year-old self would!


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