Backpacking through Europe for a month or road tripping across the West coast sounds glamorous and Instagram-worthy from the comfort of your air conditioned living room, but the reality can be a little...less so. Between jet lag, unfamiliar beds, temperamental hostel showers, and new foods, travel can really wear your body out. But anyone who's ever taken a long trip also knows that extended travel is the best way to really disconnect from the day-to-day and experience a new place and way of life. So, to help balance the great parts of extended travel with the not-so-great parts, here are some tips to keep you feeling your best no matter how long you're living out of a suitcase.
1. Pack a Vitamin C supplement
We all know airplanes are breeding grounds for bacteria, but that's not the only place you might pick up a nasty bug on your journey. Between hotel rooms, public transportation, and meeting new people, there's no telling what your immune system might be exposed to on the road. Plus, chances are you won't be as well-rested as usual or eating your normal diet, which can take a toll on your ability to fight off illness. To avoid spending your trip sniffling in bed, bring an immune system boosting supplement like Emergen-C or Airborne along with you.
2. Prioritize sleep
No matter how long your trip is, you may feel pressure to make the most of every moment, which can mean going to bed late and waking up early. While you should definitely try to take advantage of everything your trip has to offer, you won't be able to enjoy it fully if you're completely exhausted. Choose specific nights to turn in early and leave certain mornings free to let yourself sleep in. While you may be worried you're missing out on something spectacular, we promise you're actually improving the quality of your trip by staying well-rested.
3. Bring extra medication
Whether you're someone who takes multiple medications every day or someone who only pops an occasional Advil for muscle pain, make sure you have plenty with you. Even if you don't think you'll need a certain medication, like an inhaler or ointment, it's best to have it, just in case. While you may think you can get everything you need at your destination, you'd be surprised to find how much drug stores vary from place to place—it's better to be safe than sorry.
If you're staying somewhere more than two nights, take the extra 15 minutes to unpack your suitcase. You might think it's more trouble than it's worth, but digging through a suitcase of wrinkly clothes every morning will add stress and make you feel uncentered. Having all your outfits and toiletries neatly organized will make you feel more ready for anything and help you start each day on the right foot.
5. Don't overpack
On a similar note, it's important to only bring what you know you'll need on an extended trip, particularly if you have multiple destinations. You'll never remember that you wore that pair of statement pants that one night in Berlin, but you will remember how much you struggled to lug a heavy suitcase through the London Tube. Bring comfortable, diverse basics you can wear over and over again. If you decide you need something you didn't bring, pick it up at your destination. You'll be happy for the souvenir and glad that you didn't lug around an overstuffed suitcase.
6. Try to create a routine
Travel is all about the unexpected, but one of the best ways to be ready for anything to happen is to establish a routine. While that may sound counter-intuitive, it actually makes a lot of sense. If you plan to wake up at a similar time every day, exercise a certain number of times a week, and eat at similar times every day, then you'll keep feeling your best—which means you'll be ready for something exceptional to come along that makes breaking the routine worth it.
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7. Listen to your body
This is probably the best thing you can do to make the most of an extended travel experience. If you're feeling worn out, take it slow for a day. If your stomach is reacting badly to all the new foods you're trying, eat plainly for a day. If you feel restless and like you're lying around too much, go out and explore from sunrise to sunset. There can be so much external and internal pressure to be up for anything when on a trip, but making the most of your travels is not about running yourself ragged or staying in your comfort zone. It's about finding the balance between the new and the familiar.