You’re relaxing on the beach, half asleep, half listening to your favorite podcast, silently debating if you need to apply more sunblock when you spot – a runner. She’s huffing it on the packed part of the sand; GPS watch beeping, sweat glistening on her perfectly toned body. You quickly brush the chip crumbs off your towel and start feeling guilty about the amount of “treat yoself” and “it’s vacation” that you’ve been partaking in this trip. You check your bank account and hope you’ve got money for a juice cleanse for when you get back to the real world.
Years ago, that was totally me. One minute living up my holiday, and the next minute ruining my relaxation, worrying if I’d worked out enough while I’d been away and brainstorming a meal plan for when I returned back to the home. I took a terrible “all or nothing” approach. Spending my entire trip consuming any and everything I saw and then napping/refusing to move the rest of the day or packing my suitcase with nothing but workout gear and passing up delectable foods that I might not ever get to try again.
Yoga helped me find a better balance in my everyday life, and eventually I learned how to take that steadiness on the road with me. I’ve picked my favorite methods for staying well on a trip, and I’m sharing them with you. So go ahead, have your cake and eat it too (even on vacation!).
Come Prepared (part 1)
You’re probably not going to be able to do much physical activity (and a lot of the things on my tip list) if you only packed your tightest jeans and your sexiest dresses. (though I do suggest making room for at least one thing you’d wear to a fancy restaurant.) So you need to pack clothes you feel comfortable moving in. Which is why I highly suggest investing in some athleisure- especially when it comes to packing a suitcase for a trip. Gone are the days of trying to pack a suitcase full of “workout clothes” and “regular clothes.” Now you can pack athleisure and literally be ready for a yoga class or a day at the museum. Some of you might be eye rolling right now, but I’m going to do a blog post about how I pack for a trip so you can see exactly how to make a pair of shorts look less like you’re headed out for a run and more like you’re headed to an awesome brunch spot. Athleta even has a campaign right now called, “Do More, Pack Less” where they basically give you a grocery list of 7 cute items that can function for any activity anywhere in the world. (I exaggerate, but still!!).
And don’t forget about footwear. Your dad’s all white New Balances can stay at home, but do bring a pair of shoes that will support your soles as you gallivant across the world. These Ugg high tops are an absolute go to of mine. Check out Zappos and find your own style. Free ONE DAY SHIPPING and easy returns- HOW CAN YOU SAY NO TO THAT!? I’m not sponsored, they just have an awesome selection and the box arrives at your door the next day. Its seriously magical.
Come Prepared (part 2)
I have a demon inside of me that wakes up as soon as I walk into any airport. And it always says, “buy the six dollar sour patch kids.” For the sake of my wallet and my tooth enamel, I try really hard not to feed the demon- and it’s a lot easier to do if I’ve packed a few of my own snacks. I pack a bunch in my carry on for the airport, but then also check snacks in my bag for during the trip. If a car ride gets too long I’ll have an option other than what’s in the rest stop vending machine or if I’m feeling a little veggie deprived I can bust open some of the green powder I packed and get myself back on schedule – if you know what I mean. 😉
Most major cities in the US and a ton abroad have bike share programs. For a small fee of around $15 a day you can rent the bikes (for usually up to half an hour at a time) and pedal all over the place. If you’re new to biking it can take some getting used to (feel free to message me for tips! I’d love to help), but it’s totally worth facing your fears. C and I almost always use bikes as our main source of transportation when we’re in a big city. It’s cheaper than Uber and allows you to get to know the city more than if you were in a car. And I always feel a lot less guilty pedaling to bakery for a treat than riding there. Plus, navigating from bike station to bike station almost feels like a scavenger hunt or an episode of the Amazing Race, which definitely adds to the fun.
Organized Racing for the Win
I’m a creature of habit. I have a 3 mile route around my Midtown neighborhood that I’ve been jogging for the last 6 years. (a serial killer’s dream, I’m sure). So when I leave town I’m not really sure how to go for a run. A hotel treadmill is def not an option (I usually make it about one tenth of a mile on those things). Do I just run until I’m tired? How will I get back to the hotel? What if I end up somewhere shady? Will people look at me? That’s why whenever I schedule a trip I hop on the good ol’ google machine and search races in a 25 miles radius of where I’m headed. C and I spur of the moment ran a 10K in New Orleans one weekend that is still one of my favorite races I’ve ever completed. It also made my beignets taste extra sweet.
Get Your Greens
Let one meal a day be green. Maybe you knock it out with a kale filled smoothie at breakfast (this is usually my option; I may hold the record for Yelp reviews of smoothie shops) or perhaps you dig into a massive spinach salad at lunch. You can even swap your side of fries for vegetable soup at dinner. It doesn’t matter when, and it doesn’t matter how, but put some nutrient rich and fiber filled food into your body at least once a day on vacay. This keeps you feeling more energized, less bloated, and fuller longer. You’ll feel better about how you’re taking care of yourself and less worried about digging into the BBQ place you’ve been dying to try. If you’re in a place where munching on a salad makes you feel nervous (when I went to India the last thing I wanted was to spend my trip in the bathroom) see my tip about coming prepared part 2.
Find a Bakery Buddy
I’m super lucky that my main squeeze and top travel companion also enjoys lots of the same foods that I do. When we’re out exploring new places and want to try something, we usually order once and split it down the middle. (Unless I know it’s going to be delicious and then I’ll order my own and refuse to share) It makes it really easy to sample everything I want without feeling wasteful or like I have eaten too much. If you’re solo travelling or with someone who has taste buds opposite yours opt for doggie bags, appetizer portions, or mini sizes of things.
Plan Active Activities
Working out doesn’t have to be work and sight seeing can involve way more than your eyes. Lots and lots of places offer free walking tours. The best ones will post a time and place to meet on their website, and then an awesome local who gives tours simply because they love where they live will show you around. At the end you can tip what you can afford or what is fair. It’s inexpensive, active, and you usually end up seeing spots you don’t see on the paid tours. Or, pick an attraction that you’re dying to visit and map out a challenging, but feasible foot route from your hotel or a near by coffee shop. Walking isn’t your forte? Check out bike tours. Or take a kayaking trip (I did one in the bayou of Louisiana and learned a ton of stuff I didn’t know). Or paddle board. Or go axe throwing. You get the idea.
Before I take an extended trip I usually download a bunch of 15 – 30 minute yoga videos onto my phone. When I know I’ll be sitting or indulging a lot I’ll do one of saved classes in my hotel room. My body gets some movement and I set the tone for a mindful and enjoyable day. The best part is you can download any kind of workout – it doesn’t have to be yoga. Find what works for you
Go All Out
Some of my favorite vacations have been health centered ones. I did a yoga retreat in Mexico that changed my practice and my life. I did an organized, 6 day biking tour in India that allowed me to see places I’d never see on my own and test my physical limits at the same time. Occasionally, it’s worth the investment to pick a place that let’s you get away and come home feeling physically stronger and mentally refreshed.
Duh. These are tips for REAL wellness and REAL life. You might not be able to check every box every time you spend the night away from your bed. You might not even be able to muster half of them. Good news is, that’s not the point. The point is to find enough balance in your life so that when the time comes to let loose – you can do it. Happily. Guilt Free. Even if you see a runner.
If I close my eyes and imagine my, “I just won the lottery”, dream vacation it’d probably look something like morning hiking, afternoon rooftop pool lounging, a luxury spa treatment, and a grand finale of Four Seasons room service in my giant California King surround by at least sixteen pillows. Unfortunately, one day like this would most likely wipe my vacation budget for three years so I try to follow some budget friendly travel rules I’ve made for myself. One of these tips, being forgoing the glamour of bellboys and concierges, and setting up a campsite instead.
While it’s not the comfort of a temperature controlled suite, there are some ways to make camping less roughin’ it and more relaxing. Backpackers and adventurers avert your eyes, and everyone else keep reading for my glamping guide.
Location, location, location!
Before I get going with all the tips, I want to just clarify that this is car camping (aka driving your car to the site and parking it there) – you’re going to want room to bring gear and get around. It may sound opposite of any camping you’ve ever done, but when I’m searching for campsites my first thought isn’t usually the view, but how accessible it is to town. Not that I don’t enjoy a good s’more (or six), camp food just doesn’t always cut it. If I choose a campsite that’s only fifteen minutes or so from town it’s not a big deal to hop in my ride and grab a coffee at the local Starbucks instead of heating up some hot water on the little gas stove and stirring up an instant mug. And the closeness to the main road isn’t just convenient for coffee, but lunch, dinner, and even late night drinks.
Another bonus of being close to town vs. out in the wilderness is that you’re less likely to encounter any anxiety inducing wildlife. When darkness falls and it’s time to hit the hay, it’s nice not having to analyze every leaf crunching sound outside of the tent and get some actual rest.
Size does matter.
I wasn’t always a camper, and C spent a solid year trying to convince me that it was “fun.” Even though he worked hard, it wasn’t his salesmanship that persuaded me, but the purchase of our Eurkea! 6 Person Tent, which I have rightfully dubbed “The mansion tent.” It weighs in at a whopping 30lbs, easily fits a king sized air mattress, and is so tall I can stand up inside of it. Trust me, nothing feels more luxuriously than changing your clothes, fully upright, in the privacy of your very own mansion tent. Not kidding, I’ve even unrolled my yoga mat in there and comfortably hit a few chataranguas in that thing. The mansion tent is a true camping game changer. PLUS, setting the monster up is a true test of your relationship bonding exercise for you and your camping partner.
Get your beauty rest.
Two words. Air. Mattress. My most trusted and essential glamping tool is my air mattress. It’s nothing fancy (this is the one I own, I got it at walmart and it has lasted me a few years now) and it gets me up off the ground and into a full night’s rest. I know they make those lightweight, packable egg cushion type things or “extra squishy,” sleeping bags, but once you’ve slept on an air mattress, there’s no turning back. It’s wonderful. And if I had to throw a third word in there it would be pillow. Not a tiny pillow that came with your sleeping bag, or a thirty-year-old pillow your mom gave you because she didn’t want to throw it away. A nice, fluffed to your liking, can’t wait to rest your head on it, pillow.
You can only look at the stars for so long.
The moon is incredible. Its round and bright, and the fact of the matter is, I could probably stare at that thing for a solid 20 minutes before I got bored. The stars are cool too. They’re not something I often get to seriously gaze at in Midtown, Atlanta so when I’m camping, I always test my middle school constellation knowledge. But, because I’m not an astrologer or an aspiring astronaut all that night gazing eventually wears off. And I’m wide awake in the pitch dark with nothing to do. Or at least I was, before I discovered the magic that is downloading Netflix shows onto my ipad. Say what you want about the sanctity of unplugging and connecting with nature, I just won’t be listening because I’ll be catching up on Grace and Frankie in my mansion tent.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness.
Just because you’re camping does not mean you need to forgo hygiene. I always stash these face wipes and these body wipes in my bag. If I know its going to be a particular warm trip or active trip I’ll also bring some armpit assistance. If you’re particularly ripe, but not feeling the campsite showers (I can’t recall a time I ever was feeling those flip flop required restrooms) find a fancy workout to do. Exhale Spas, Soul cycles, Core Power yogas, and other boutique fitness studios offer amazing fitness classes and even more amazing showers and bathroom amenities. For me, $20 is super fair for a workout AND a shower with the fixings. Walk out the gym feeling fit and clean- and no one will ever guess you’re staying at a campsite.
I love to travel. (I mean, duh, I’m a millennial). But seriously, as much as I LOVE Atlanta there is something about new scenery that gets me more in the present moment and less in my everyday anxieties.
In 2017, I took an average of 2 trips a month, and saw over 30 new cities. When I get back from these weekend getaways and extended vacays the question I get asked most often is not, “what did you like best?,” but “how on earth do you afford to travel so much?!” I’ve compiled some of my top tips below, and good news, none of them involve being rich, hitch hiking, or staying in hostels (which, I at first spelled hostiles, and that seemed appropriate based on my experiences in them).
1) I almost never have a set destination in mind when I’m planning a trip.
When I’ve got a free weekend, or a break from work, I don’t pick a place and then start planning. I start googling, and then pick a place. Seriously. If it’s a short weekend and I’m taking a road trip I get on hotels.com, priceline.com, or the hotels tonight app and start googling hotel prices in a drivable radius. $300/night hotel in Asheville? Pass. …. $52/night hotel at the beach in Jacksonville, FL. Sold. If I have a longer period of time to get away, I do the same thing with flights. Get on Google flights, set your departure city and dates and just hit explore. I visited Bogota, Colombia for a $247 direct flight on Delta this way and it was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. Last November I went all the way to Mumbai for less than $700, on Delta, with only one stop. Do I really want to visit Croatia? Heck Yes, but I’d rather cross other locations off my list before I drop two grand on a plane ticket there.
2) Your origin city doesn’t always have to be where you live.
I live in Atlanta, home of the world’s busiest airport- but not always the world’s cheapest flights. If I have a week or longer of vacation time to play around with I’ll search flights from nearby (ish) airports. Last summer the price difference in a flight to Mexico city from Orlando vs. from Atlanta was over $600. It was worth the money for me to drive and park. Most recently, I mega-bussed the two hours to Birmingham to fly to Mexico city for 15,000 skymiles. The same flights was 60,000 skymiles from Atlanta! It’s not always easy or glamorous, but get to calculating and weigh the savings vs. the time spent getting to the alternate airport. May totally be worth it.
3) Cheap flights aren’t always round trip.
A very hot tip when working your search magic is that it is often cheaper to purchase two one way tickets (lots of times on different airlines) than one round trip flight. Sometimes the first leg is in miles, the second leg cash. Sometimes the way there is Delta, the way home is American Airlines. There isn’t an exact science, and it takes a little bit of effort, but for me it’s worth the (often) massive savings.
4) Camping is your friend.
OK, before you say you’d rather stay in a hostel, hear me out. I used to loathe camping, but with a little hacking, I’ve found a system that makes it totally manageable. I pick drive up campsites (aka car camping) that have facilities like toilets and showers and are never more than about 15 minutes from a starbucks. I blow up my air mattress and then spend my entire day exploring. I have way more camping hacks to share, but I’ll save them for their own article. The tent is just home base and a place to sleep and it costs around $20/night for a nice KOA campsite vs. upwards of $100/night for a hotel. Just be sure where you’re headed has camper friendly weather.
4) Travel credit cards are NOT a rip off.
If you are responsible enough to own and use a credit card, I highly recommend getting one that comes with travel benefits. I love my Delta Skymiles, but I’m based out of Atlanta so I can fly virtually anywhere on Delta so it makes sense to earn my miles with them. Get online, there’s lots of websites that’ll compare cards and help you choose the best one for you. You’ll rack up miles (that you can use without a set destination in mind **see tips 1-3) and lot’s of them even offer a free checked bag (more room to pack your camping gear **see tip 4).
5) I don’t always visit the spa (or the fancy restaurant) when I’m on a trip.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good massage. And I really love a good five course dinner, but the reality is I don’t always make these things a priority while I’m travelling. Why? They’re expensive, and I’d rather be able to travel twice a month on a budget than once a year with all the fixings. (You may choose the latter, and that’s fine, I’m just doling out my personal tips). While these things make vacations more relaxing, memorable, or exciting they’re usually not a part of my itinerary. See tip 6 for what I do instead.
6). I do eat well and enjoy myself.
I would never starve myself (those who know me can attest to this). I also would never eat ramen for breakfast lunch and dinner. When I travel, I plan on eating one “bigger” meal (at a place I’m dying to try) spend the rest of my day snacking. For example, when I was in Houston Ninfa’s on Navigation was at the top of my eatery list. So I had coffee with protein powder from home for breakfast, a smoothie bowl and some kale chips from a local place for lunch, and then an early evening feast at Ninfas. I wasn’t too full or too broke to enjoy it. If there are lots of places I want to sample (cough, cough NYC, Mexico City, San Fran) I’ll peep the menus and locations online and spend the day hopping to eateries and munching on appetizers in between my other activities. Cheaper than an entrée and won’t weigh you down as much as you explore.
7) Free is fun.
I’m not sure what exactly people did before the internet, but I am glad I’ve planned the bulk of my travel with it. Once I book a trip I get online and search the name of the place I’m visiting with the dates and the word free. Lots of fun and interesting stuff pops up, and I sift through to find the things that interest me the most. Sometimes it’s a parade, sometimes it’s a festival, sometimes it’s museum passes, sometimes it’s something I never couldn’t have imagined until I found it. If nothing on that list peeks my interest I’ll google the city name with things like “parks, hikes, trails, bikeshare, walking tours, (you get the picture). Still nothing? Dude, you might be sick of Groupon at home, but it works like a charm when searching for quirky fun while traveling.
8) Plan ahead if you want to get spendy.
Sometimes you visit a place and you absolutely have to buy a dress at the store that’s only in that city, or see Hamilton, or take the private boat tour. And I say do it. Do the thing. Espeically if it’s a far away place that you probably won’t be back to anytime soon. Just plan ahead. Put a little more in of the “manicure money” in the “travel fund” leading up to your trip. And revel in your financial responsible-ness as you enjoy whatever fancy thing that you totally deserve.
Check out this article I wrote for The Fit Atlanta … and find out how much my yoga pant collection is really worth.