4 Ways to Set Your Mind & Body Up For The Best Vacation Ever

By Caroline L. Young, MS, RD, LD, RYT

Caroline L. Young, MS, RD, LD, RYT, is a nutrition coach, yoga teacher and freelance journalist. Caroline  is owner and founder of Whole Self Nutrition (WSN), LLC, which provides online nutrition therapy and coaching for people struggling with disordered eating, eating disorders, or chronic dieting, and people who want to develop healthier relationships to food, body and exercise. Within WSN, Caroline provides online public and private online yoga groups, and media services including writing and webinars. WSN's mission is to help people feel at ease in their skin and empowered around food, and live in alignment with their values. 

Did you have to cancel your dream vacation before the world shut down in 2020?
Chances are good there was at least one trip the pandemic prevented you from taking. Although COVID is still with us, it is now much safer to travel, international borders are open, and world travel has a proceed-with-caution message, since places have different risk levels and entry/exit testing requirements, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Whether you are staying nearby or crossing borders, stay-cations are becoming vacations again, and it’s time to get ready. So, here are four tips to help you prepare your whole self — body and mind — for your long-awaited vacay:

1. Focus on balance with food, not restriction.

It is a common belief that we need to “be good” before vacation, so we can “be bad” on the trip. In my work as a registered dietitian (RD), any of my clients who have taken this approach end up feeling out of balance, tired and preoccupied before the trip, and out of control around food when they are finally on the trip. My guess is that no one wants to prepare or start a vacation like that – what a drag!

What would it be like to prepare for your vacation with a food mindset of balance, not deprivation, so you are able to show up as your best self for it? 

All foods fall into one of the five food groups – grains, fruits/veggies, protein, fat and dairy – and they all have nutrients the body needs regularly. If we can step away from the notion that we’re good for eating broccoli and bad for eating bread, for example, and understand that both of those foods offer nutritional value, we can find a relative balance and nourish ourselves well.

Instead of cutting anything out, focus on including foods you like from all the food groups at each meal, and shooting for a balance of carbs (grains or fruits like crackers or a banana) and protein or fat (like peanut butter or peanuts). 

Here are some meal examples that include all your food groups:
  • Quesadillas made with tortillas (grain), shredded cheese (dairy), chicken (protein), spinach and salsa (veggies) and avocado (fat). 
  • Sriracha Thai Peanut Flatbread made with pita (grain), shredded cheese (dairy), peanuts and peanut butter (protein and fat), and carrots and onion (veggies). 
  • Thai Peanut Butter Grilled Burgers made with buns (grain), peanut butter (fat and protein), beef (protein). Serve with a green salad with crumbled cheese (veggies and dairy). 
  • Nourish Bowl made with couscous (grain), roasted chickpeas (protein), roasted vegetables in olive oil (veggies and fat) and spicy yogurt dressing (dairy).  

2. Hydrate well, get some movement & include fiber. 

Another unpleasant way to start a vacation is in a state of dehydration, which can create unclear thinking, mood changes and constipation1. So, in the days leading up to your trip, be intentional about drinking fluids regularly throughout the day. 

Speaking of constipation, since it’s common to get stopped up when traveling, another way to set ourselves up for regularity is to keep it moving. Regular physical activity can help prevent or resolve constipation2, so doing some movement leading up to vacation can help your chances of having a smoother transition. To learn about joyful movement, click here

And another way to set a foundation for regularity is to make sure your food intake includes fibrous foods, like fruit, whole grains, veggies, and legumes like peanuts, beans and lentils3.

3. Create intentions for your trip. 

To have the kind of trip you are needing and wanting, it can help to make a list of at least a couple of intentions and actions to support them. Here are a few examples to inspire yours:
  • I intend to be as present as possible with my family on this long-awaited vacation. To help me to do that, I am going to unplug from social media until I return. 
  • I intend to try new foods on this trip as I explore a new place. To help me do that, I am going to remind myself that all foods fit.
  • I intend to find space for me on this trip. To help me do that, I am going to take a few minutes each morning to take some deep breaths, drink a cup of coffee or tea, and read my book. 

4. Pack to support your wellness.  

Here’s a short list of items to consider putting in your suitcase, to support your physical and mental wellness:
  • Snacks! Having a back-up snack is never a bad idea when traveling. My go-to recommendations include energy bites and pre-packaged trail mix with a mix of dried fruit, peanuts and whatever else you like.        
  • Comfortable shoes for activity – walking is a great way to explore new places.
  • Reusable water bottle – for obvious reasons (see above)!
  • Clothes and accessories that you feel good in – pack clothes that fit you comfortably and that you feel most like yourself in. 
To learn some tips to feel well when you are on your trip, click here
And when you’re back, instead of going for a detox that will only make re-entry into real life more stressful, here are some tips to for smooth re-integration:
  • Get back on a regular sleep schedule.
  • Eat regular, balanced meals and snacks.
  • Hydrate.
  • Move your body moderately and joyfully. 
Here’s to a summer of feeling well on the well anticipated and overdue vacations! 

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