Summertime is here! Chances are you have a much deserved vacation planned – either by taking a car trip to the closest beach or hopping on a plane to visit family. Taking time off to catch your breath, get some rest, and enjoy time with family and friends is essential for our health and well-being.
However, traveling and being away from home can create some challenges when it comes to self-care. Quality food is less accessible at gas station rest stops, sitting on a cramped plane can make our bodies feel stiff and achy, and spending hours in the car with children can be a combination of beautiful memory-making and pure agony.
Much like preparing for a trip by making hotel reservations, buying your tickets, and packing your bags you can also prepare for how you will maintain some semblance of self-care while on vacation. Below I’ve compiled some of my favorite tips and tricks for eating well, moving more, and staying calm while away from home.
Salty Snacks– While traveling I personally tend to crave salty foods over sweets. Can you relate? Olives have now joined the more common nuts, crackers, and cheese as a go-to travel food. Several brands now sell them in convenient travel packs like Oloves and Mario. Plus, they really satisfy those salty cravings but are a better choice than chips or pretzels. Other great salty foods include Skinny Pop, single-serve hummus and roasted, salted chickpeas.
Granola Bars– Most granola bars are packed with as much sugar as a candy bar. When looking for a quality granola bar be sure to read the nutrition facts – you want lots of fiber and protein and as little sugar as possible (5 grams or less/serving is ideal). KIND bars are a great choice. They use whole grains and raw nuts so you have plenty of protein. The Cashew and Ginger Spice is a good choice at 4 grams of sugar. Plus, the ginger can help alleviate nausea or upset stomach during travel
Instant Oatmeal – Hotel breakfast usually leaves much to be desired. Waffles, bagels and pastries will have you hungry again in an hour. The rubbery eggs and greasy meat patties are not all that appetizing. Instant oatmeal can be a great alternative and hot water is readily available at hotels, gas stations and airports. You can pack instant oatmeal cups like these from Bob’s Red Mill, or, buy single packets if you think you can swipe a bowl or cup somewhere. You can often find honey, fresh fruit and granola at a hotel breakfast bar to jazz up your oatmeal. I suggest adding whole milk and butter to make it a very satisfying breakfast that will keep you full until the next rest stop!
Shoulder Push & Pull – While driving gently grip the steering wheel at the 3 and 9 o’clock on positions. Keeping your back firmly against the seat, gently pull your right shoulder forward, then push your right shoulder blade back into the seat. You should feel a slight stretch in your neck, collar bone and upper back. Repeat 3-4 times and then do it on the other side.
Travelers Cat-Cow – If you’ve done yoga you are probably familiar with the cat-cow posture that you do on your hands in knees. You can do the same movement while sitting in the car or on a plane – where we tend to collapse forward and hunch our shoulders. For this movement simply exhale and curl your spine and shoulders forward (imagine a classic black Halloween cat with an arched back). Then inhale, pull your shoulders back and arch your spine. Do this several times remembering to deeply inhale and exhale with the movement.
Gas Station Stretches– When we’re driving we sometimes become fixated on just getting to our destination. And, it doesn’t help when you have a chorus in the back asking, “are we there yet????” Despite the desire to rush through pit stops, take just 5 extra minutes to stretch your legs, back and arms before getting back behind the wheel. Stretch side to side with your arms over your head, put your hand on the hood, straighten your arms and stretch your calves, clasp your hands behind your back, straighten your arms and tilt your head from side, front and back. Take a few deep breaths and keep on driving! Here is a detailed article with pictures for several stretches you can do using your car.
CALM IN THE CAR AND PEACE ON THE PLANE
Breathe Deeply – While sitting we tend to take more shallow breaths and we sometimes hold our breath when stressed or tense. You can easily invite calm and clarity by taking a deep breath through your nose and exhaling slowly through the mouth. Repeat 3-4 times.
Get Present– Notice one thing at a time. Focus on the sound of the engine, feel the vibrations through your feet, your body in the seat, notice the distance between you and other passengers or drivers. If the flurry of the airport or the traffic your sitting in has you stressed out this is a good way to lower your blood pressure, calm your nerves and let go.
Explore a Podcast– Podcasts and books on tape are excellent ways to learn something new or be entertained while traveling. There are so many podcasts to choose from that it can feel impossible to choose. I enjoy Hidden Brain,TED Radio Hour, and On Being with Krista Tippett if I’m feeling curious or want to learn something. Meditation Minis with Chel Hamilton can be a great way to invite calm to an airplane ride. Two offbeat personal favorites are Armchair Expert and The Longest Shortest Time. If you have any other recommendations please share them in the comments below!