We used to have a pretty good routine for traveling. In fact, that’s how we were able to manage our anxiety enough to see the world. Now, we’re starting over and things are more stressful and unpredictable than ever. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to self-care while traveling.
What’s in this post:
- Invest in Comfortable Masks
- Keep Your Hands Clean
- Prepare for Jet Lag
- Plan Mask Breaks
- Learn Deep Breathing Techniques
- Keep Your Plans Simple
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
- Get Enough Sleep
- Start & End Your Day with Stretching
- Get Some Fresh Air
- Eat Well, Then Indulge
- Take a Social Media Break
- Travel Solo or Take Time for Yourself
- Say No or Slow Down
- Let Go of Expectations
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Invest in Comfortable Masks
We’ve worn masks for years (well before the pandemic), but the practice is new to many. Some people who really, really hate masks, which is their right I guess, but if you want to travel to a destination, you need to respect the rules. If they require masks and you don’t want to wear one, choose a different location or stay home. It’s that simple.
For those of us who are willing to wear masks, it’s a good idea to invest in ones that provide adequate protection and are comfortable. This is especially important if you’ll be on a long-haul flight since you’ll have to wear a mask for the duration, as well as in the airport before and after. This is the first act of self-care while traveling because if your mask fits well, it will be one less thing to think about.
Keep Your Hands Clean
This goes without saying these days, but I’ll say it anyway — keep your hands clean! One way to do this is to avoid touching things unnecessarily. Can you pay with your phone or through an app? Need to sign for something? Bring your own pen. Does your hotel offer digital room keys?
Wash your hands frequently, especially after interacting with people or being in busy areas. If you can’t wash them, then sanitize. Don’t eat without cleaning your hands first, and avoid touching your face particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Prepare for Jet Lag
There’s nothing worse than losing several days of your trip to jet lag. We’ve found ways to minimize it, though. Here are some quick tips to help you get started:
- Adjust your sleep schedule before your trip.
- Rest before your flight.
- Sleep on the plane under the right conditions.
- Stay hydrated.
- Regulate bright light exposure.
- Take “No Jet-Lag” pills.
If you’re interested in learning more about preventing jet lag, read our blog posts Long Haul Flight Essentials with Travel Anxiety and The Ultimate Guide to Avoid Getting Sick While Traveling.
Plan Mask Breaks
Even if you’re enthusiastic about wearing a mask, it’s important to take breaks. What this looks like will depend on you, your comfort level, and schedule. When planning your itinerary, look for green spaces where you will be able to socially distance and get some fresh air. Not possible? Plan a midday break back at the hotel so you can unmask for a while.
Taking a long-haul flight with connections? If so, you could also choose a connection with a longer layover to give yourself time to step out of the airport and remove your mask. You’ll have to go back through the security checkpoint, but it might be worth it.
Learn Deep Breathing Techniques
One of the best ways I show myself self-care while traveling is to use deep breathing when things become overwhelming. Whenever I feel myself getting anxious or stressed, I focus on my breathing. Usually, it’s shallow and ragged. When I slow down and take deeper breaths I start to feel better and more in control. Read more about this in our post Deep Breathing for Anxiety While Traveling.
Keep Your Plans Simple
There have been times when I board my return flight completely exhausted but deliriously happy about all of the things I managed to do. I realize, though, that right now might not be the best time for that kind of trip. We need to be gentler on ourselves and the destinations we visit.
Even if you’re feeling like you could go full-throttle, understand that many businesses are understaffed, landmarks are closed, and people are mentally, physically, and emotionally tired. If you’re lucky enough to be out of the house and doing something fun, be grateful for that and keep it simple.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
There are so many good reasons to focus on hydration while you travel. The first is that airplanes will really dry you out, so you need to replenish your fluids. Second, we all feel better when we’ve given our bodies enough water.
Get Enough Sleep
Easier said than done, but it’s so important to get enough sleep. When you’re feeling worn down and ragged, it’s hard to have fun. Plus, a lack of sleep can impact your immune system (and you don’t want that!).
In addition to doing deep breathing before bed, we always pack a diffuser with us when we travel. Then, we use calming essential oil blends to help us drift off to sleep. For a natural option, you can also try melatonin (but talk to your healthcare provider first!).
Start & End Your Day with Stretching
Being in an airplane, car, bus, or train for extended periods of time can be hard on the body. One of the best ways to practice self-care while traveling is to stretch your body thoroughly as soon as you reach your destination. You might even feel sore later, but it’s worth it.
Then, every morning start your day with a few minutes of stretching. Do the same thing before you head to bed each night. If you’re familiar with yoga, go ahead and try some poses but it’s not necessary. Just a few simple stretches will work!
Get Some Fresh Air
We love Las Vegas, and one of the reasons is that we spend a ton of time exploring resorts, eating in restaurants, and seeing shows, but we also do a lot of walking. We’re out walking the Strip between activities, so it all works out.
Take a look at your itinerary and make sure you’re not going to be indoors all the time. If so, try to incorporate more time outdoors so you can get some fresh air and sunshine on your face.
Eat Well, Then Indulge
Have you ever gone on a vacation where you literally eat anything and everything you want from the moment you land until the time you fly home? I have, and while it’s fun to enjoy local foods, I didn’t always feel my best.
When you’re planning your trip, identify the meals, restaurants, and treats you absolutely need to try. Then incorporate healthier options at other times to keep things balanced. You’ll feel much better and the indulgences will taste that much better.
Take a Social Media Break
Lately, I’ve been seeing more and more people (friends and celebrities) posting things after the fact. Even when I went to see BTS in concert in December, I put my phone away. We’ve been through such rough times, when we finally get to do something fun, let’s live in the moment.
You don’t need to keep your social media followers updated on your every move. You don’t need to respond to chit chat or texts. Let everyone know that you’re taking some time away, and then be present. You won’t feel like you’re multitasking which will help you relax.
Travel Solo or Take Time for Yourself
We’ve written about the amazing benefits of traveling alone, because it’s true. Heading out on a solo adventure gives you the autonomy to set your own schedule so you can do only what you want to do. Doesn’t that sound delicious? If you can’t or don’t want to do that, make some time for yourself. Chances are, your travel companion will also enjoy a little free time to explore their own interests!
Say No or Slow Down
Don’t be afraid to say no to travel companions if they suggest something you don’t want to do. We’ve all been through enough over the past few years, when you’re on vacation take good care of yourself. That means you need to have boundaries, and that’s okay.
While we’re on that topic, it’s also fine to say no to the pressure you might feel to do something extravagant on your trip. How can I go to Florida and not visit Disney World? How can I travel to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower? If you go somewhere and just want to lounge on the beach or walk the streets eating an ice cream cone, do that. You don’t need anyone’s permission to slow down and enjoy your life. Just do it.
Let Go of Perfection
Your flight is delayed…oh wait, it’s canceled. Your room doesn’t look exactly like the pictures. The restaurant you’ve been excited to try? It’s closed. Travel during COVID will likely include a lot of changes that could make you feel disappointed.
And if it happens, that’s normal. Give yourself a few moments to process what’s happening (and be sad), and then let go of the need for perfection. You might have been able to come close before, but these are new times. To travel during a pandemic, you’ll need a lot of patience and flexibility. Roll with the punches and you might not have the adventure you planned, but it could be just as good.
End Each Day with Gratitude
Ultimately, the best type of self-care while traveling is the one that’s invisible. It involves a shift in our thinking that may be hard to do in some situations. All the same, it’s very important. Rather than focusing on all of the things we don’t have, we need to be thankful for what we do.
At the end of each day on your vacation, think of all the things that went right (even if it was something very small). Some days might be so rough that the only thing you’re grateful for is that you’re alive. After all the loss we’ve seen over the past few years, isn’t that enough?