Eating healthy and staying active can be difficult at the best of times when you’re at home with a fully stocked kitchen, a nearby gym, and a solid routine. But when you’re away from home in another city, another state, or another country, it can be almost impossible. Luckily, there are things you can do to stay healthy when travelling and not gain a few kilos in the process!

The first big setback to staying healthy when travelling for either business or pleasure is hotels. Unless you’re staying in an apartment-style hotel, a full kitchen usually isn’t part of the package and cooking your own food is out of the question. Emma Esslemont, the founder of Wellbeing Worldwide, understands this all too well. “Living out of hotels and working in a foreign city is a recipe for letting healthy habits fall by the wayside,” she says.

Emma started Wellbeing Worldwide when on a holiday to South America. A self-confessed health junkie and personal trainer, Emma was finding it difficult to maintain her healthy lifestyle on the go, where she didn’t know the best places to eat or where the nearest gym was. An idea struck her for a website with a database showing where healthy cafés, gyms, yoga studios, and fresh food markets are all over the world. On returning home, she set up Wellbeing Worldwide to fulfil this purpose, and has found great success.

With her experience in travel, healthy eating, and exercise, Emma knows all the tricks to making sure you can feel good and healthy when travelling. Longhaul flights can be especially draining on your health, with aeroplane food and sitting down for long periods at a time. After many flights, Emma believes she has found the key to making you feel a little better after a long time in the air.

“I always do two things on the day of a longhaul flight. The first is exercise—there is nothing better than one final sweat session at the gym before a 15-hour flight. The second thing is to have a big meal, full of all my favourite things; that way, I’m not relying too much on plane food. The other thing I always do is pack a full change of clothes to sleep in, and clean clothes for the other end. You can feel pretty average at the end of a 15-hour flight, and being able to freshen up a little before you land is a must and can put you in a good mindset.”

The key once you’ve reached your destination is to make mindful choices. Even at a conference or eating out, you can choose the healthier option of something salad based or with lots of protein. Stay away from things with lots of sauce or carbohydrates, as they usually contain excess salt and sugar. “Try and eat like you would at home,” Emma advises. “Most restaurants or pubs have a healthier option that you can choose from—steak and salad is always a good option. Stay hydrated. We all know a business trip can involve long client lunches and maybe a little too much wine over dinner, so make sure you drink plenty of water. Dining out doesn’t have to be a three-course indulgence.”

It’s also easier than you think to get some exercise in while travelling. Walking through a city when you might have otherwise taken a taxi is incidental exercise, as well as letting you experience the city you’re visiting in a more authentic way. Doing your research on local gyms, or booking into a hotel with a gym, also helps make exercise just as easy as if you were at home. “Pack your exercise clothes,” Emma says when asked about how to exercise when overseas. “They won’t be any use to you back at home; at least, if you have them in your bag you are one step closer to doing some exercise while you are travelling. Know where the nearest gym is to your hotel, or make sure your hotel has a gym inside.”

The other aspect to staying healthy is getting checked out by a GP before you go overseas, especially if travelling to a place where tropical diseases are common. Getting immunisations before travelling, a prescription for malaria medication, or just checking in to make sure you’re in good health can save a lot of trouble later on. If you do have an ongoing prescription, make sure you take a photocopy of the paperwork with you to show to customs officials if requested.

One of the biggest traps, even for people who are trying to stay healthy when travelling, Emma explains, is availability. It can be difficult to find healthy options, so don’t beat yourself up about it if you can’t eat clean 100 per cent of the time. In the end, if you’re on holiday or travelling for work, don’t worry if you slip up a little. You’re away from home, and part of the point of being in another city or country is to experience the food and culture. But remember these tips so you can still maintain some of your healthy lifestyle and not put on too many kilos while away.

Top tips for healthy travelling

  • Take a drink bottle with you so you always have fresh water on the go.
  • If you can’t find a gym, there are tutorials online that show you how to work out at home—check out ‘Blogilates’ videos on YouTube.
  • Pack healthy snacks to take with you on longhaul flights.
  • Check with your GP before you travel for immunisations and prescription refills.
  • If unsure of a meal at a restaurant, steak and salad is usually a sure bet.
  • Walk through cities when you can—you get to see more and get exercise.