Once your trip is planned and you’re thinking about how you can cut back wisely (per the advice in our article “Travel fitness tips: You can stay fit if you adapt”), it’s time to start plotting. Should we say planning? Nah, plotting. It’s time to “plot” hotels, tours, sightseeing, travel departure times and all that other stuff so it doesn’t make fitting in even a short workout totally impossible.
This could be the most important part of your preparation to staying fit while traveling. You’ll need a few minutes with a calendar and your schedule while on the road. But also take some time for a few Internet searches, online map study time, and perhaps even an archaic phone call or two.
Knowing in advance what you’ll confront when you get there will help you work fitness into your day. What follows are some travel fitness tips that have kept Therese Iknoian, the “She” of HI Travel Tales, sane and fit over decades of worldwide travel.
Travel fitness tips: lodging and hotels
- Call the hotel before you leave to find out if it has a reasonable fitness center or pool and its hours. But don’t stop there: Make sure you ask what’s in the center because some hotel fitness centers are filled with junk not worth the iron they’re made of. Why make an archaic call? Because sometimes online photos of fitness rooms aren’t realistic. It’s easy to be tricked by mirrors and fish-eye lenses that make rooms and pools look bigger and fuller than they are.
- Also, ask if the hotel has an agreement with a nearby gym for guests’ workouts and whether there is a fee. This is often on a hotel’s website too – but not always. Sometimes clubs have a one-time or one-week guest pass on the web you can take advantage of.
- If you are a member of a club at home, ask about travel programs. Some have trade agreements with clubs in other areas. You may just need a special pass, such as with IHRSA’s passport program.
- Check out some hotel chains that tend to do a good job, such as the Kimpton boutique chain (which offers yoga gear baskets for in-room sessions) or Hilton and Hyatt hotels. Of course, higher-end chains like Four Seasons and many resorts will have these facilities – you get what you pay for.
- Choose hotels that are near places where you can workout easily. If you plan a 2- or 3-mile walk and you are staying a mile from any place decently walkable, you won’t be very motivated. I have favorite areas in a number of cities around the world because I can be in parks or on trails in minutes, allowing me to get in the quickest workout where most of it is actually pleasant. Sometimes large cities (like Paris or Los Angeles) can be difficult if you like to hit the streets (and we both hate dodging traffic). For example, in Paris, the Jardin du Luxembourg is a magnet for fitness enthusiasts – choose a hotel nearby.
- If you are a swimmer, make sure your choice of lodging has a pool – oh, and it’s not closed for cleaning! It’s happened….
- And if you are into biking (as is Michael Hodgson, the “He” of HI Travel Tales) it pays to know where you can rent a bike near the hotel and if they also rent helmets before you arrive. Some hotels have bikes you can borrow too. Or check out the growing number of city bike rental programs with pick-up and drop-off stations in key neighborhoods.
Travel fitness tips: city maps, local stores, regional information
- Study online maps of the city you’ll visit before you leave to find parks, recreation areas, fitness trails, community pools, or even quiet neighborhoods close to where you’ll be staying so you know where you can go. Look for green splotches on maps, or do a search on a community parks websites for maps and advice. You’ll be surprised how little hotel staff knows about an area. Even in concrete-paved, hotel-packed Orlando near Walt Disney World, there are a surprising number of dirt roads through old swamplands behind hotels – if you take the time to open your eyes.
- Contact a local running store or fitness club in the city where you’re going before you leave to find out about either group runs or walks, or recommended recreation trails, tracks, or neighborhoods. Always ask about safety too.
- Check newspapers or the Internet to pinpoint sunrise and sunset so you can better plan your time. Even from one end of the West Coast to the other, you might have an extra 30 minutes at one end of the day you hadn’t planned on.
- Also check newspapers or the Internet for the weather forecast so you can pack the right clothes. Today’s packable, lightweight jackets, fleeces, hats and gloves often don’t take a second thought since they take no space. (We’ll talk more about the kinds of things to pack in another story.)
Travel fitness tips for airports and travel
- Caught on a layover at an airport? Find lockers (if possible these days), stash your bag, and head out on a brisk walk along endless corridors. Some airports these days in bigger cities even have yoga studios and small gyms or nearby trails you can access during layovers. No lockers? Switch off with a traveling companion for a brisk walk or, if you have lots of time, go to the nearby airport hotel and check your bag.
- If possible, plan departures mid-day so you can fit in a morning workout before leaving, or try to arrive early enough in the day to do the same once at your destination.
Business trips don’t have to be the pits
- Mention to associates that you’re trying to fit in a workout. You might be surprised to find someone there has the same wish. You two can get a workout together instead of “doing lunch,” or a local person might take you to the gym.
- Size up your agenda before you leave (or as soon as you’re there) and mark in your fitness “appointments” with yourself.
- Some conference hotels have gyms and pools that conference attendees can use even if they aren’t guests there. Just ask!
- Consider skipping a lunch or breakfast for your workout. Just be sure to have some snacks handy for a quick bite afterward. I was at a meeting in Crystal City near Washington, D.C., and found a delightful recreation trail that is used more for bike commuters. I had to discover it on a map because the hotel staff didn’t have much of a clue.
Travel fitness tips for family vacations
- Look for chances to rent bikes, skates, or paddle boats. Or make a brisk hike, or a long tag game, part of the family’s schedule. That counts as exercise too!
If you haven’t read it yet, check out one of our other stories on travel fitness tips, “Travel fitness tips: You can stay fit if you adapt.”