The Wellness Traveler's Packing Guide
There it is in front of you: your empty suitcase.
You depart on your next epic adventure in a matter of days, which means the time has finally come to put your plans in motion, starting with the sacred task of packing.
That empty container before you looks almost palatial… the huge mesh zippered pocket on the inside of the suitcase lid, the several expandable pouches on the front face, the cavernous rectangular space of the main compartment… there should be plenty of room everything, right? Your yoga mat, the 5 bottles of supplements you take every morning, at least 3 different sets of workout clothes, and all the specialty diet-specific food products you can’t live without...
But five minutes later, when you’re staring with horror at a suitcase piled as high as your kitchen table, you realize some substantial cuts will have to be made. You realize you need a solid game plan to efficiently fit both your travel gear and your healthy living essentials into a single manageable bag that will zip closed!
If you’re someone who prioritizes your health and wellness, packing a suitcase to maintain these values can be daunting. But with this healthy essentials packing guide, you’ll have all your nutrition, fitness, and wellness needs covered and still have enough room in your suitcase for all those souvenirs you pick up along your way!
Packing for Nutrition
Sticking to healthy eating habits while traveling is hard.
You’re out of your carefully crafted routine, away from all the foods and products you know work for your body. Suddenly you’re either at the mercy of the most convenient food source your destination has to offer (think terrible hotel restaurants) or surrounded by all the foreign delicacies so far outside the realm of your normal diet that you’d never even consider them when home. Though you should absolutely experience the cultural cuisine of your travel destination, the unpredictability of your schedule and surroundings increase the risk of feeling less than your best, so it’s important to pack some items to help keep your body going strong.
I’ve touched on this one before, but I’ll keep repeating it until I’m blue in the face because it’s one of the easiest nutrition travel hacks: pack quality snacks. There will be moments during your trip when your stomach starts growling and you need something to eat - fast. When you have that familiar protein bar ready to go in your backpack, not only are you ensuring that your body is getting nutrient dense fuel to energize you throughout your day, but you save time and money, and eliminate the risk of choosing that sugar filled snack from the nearest convenience store.
Ellen’s Picks: protein bars (Epic Bars, RX Bars), gluten free granola bars (Larabars), beef jerky (The New Primal, VT Smoke & Cure, Steve’s Paleo Goods), dried fruit (sulphur and added sugar free), trail mix (just nuts - no added sugar)
A Water Bottle
Water keeps our bodies hydrated, our tissues and joints lubricated, our digestive system running smoothly, and aids in cleaning out our cells. Water is essential to human survival, so it’s pretty safe to say you’ll be consuming this liquid every day on your adventure. When you pack a water bottle, you set yourself up for success in several ways:
- You have a visual reminder to drink water
- Water is accessible whenever you are thirsty
- You save money! By filling up your water bottle in your hotel room or at drinking fountains throughout the day, you eliminate the need to purchase bottled water, saving you anywhere from $2-$10 a day.
Ellen’s Pick: S’well Bottle (This bottle is tall, slim, durable, lightweight, and doesn’t produce condensation, making it ideal for a backpack)
“Spork” isn’t just a fun word to say, it can actually be a life-saver. When you have a set of reusable utensils in your arsenal, you’re prepared for almost any set of dining circumstances that are thrown your way. Which means, you can eat your food and fuel your body when hunger strikes. With reusable utensils, you’re ready to eat last night’s dinner leftovers for breakfast without leaving your hotel room! You’re ready to chow down on that chopped salad you just realized the cafe forgot to give you utensils for! You’re ready to nosh on that chicken salad while you’re trapped in that window seat on the plane! And bonus: think of all the disposable plasticware that isn’t headed to the landfill, thanks to you!
Ellen’s Pick: Bamboo Ware (compact, durable, eco-friendly, and unlike a spork, you can use the fork and knife at the same time!)
I joked about it earlier, but I do believe in traveling with your supplements - just not 5 bottles worth! Things like vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B12 (especially for vegans and vegetarians), and probiotics are essential for human function and depending on your diet, your body may not be getting everything it needs from the food you consume. When you travel you take your body out of its routine, exposing it to new foods and new bacteria, which makes it even more important to take your supplements, thereby giving your body every advantage possible to keep it healthy and resilient in unfamiliar environments.
When it comes to packing, I would recommend minimizing the amount of space your supplements require by counting out the specific amount of supplement pills/ capsules/ etc you need for the number days you will be traveling and consolidating them into a small container or plastic bag. One word of caution: if any of your supplements look so similar you can’t tell them apart, put them in separate bags so you don’t run the risk of ingesting more than the appropriate serving size.
Ellen’s Picks: You know what’s right for you - so pack it!
Allergy Translation Card
If you have a food allergy, it is essential that your travel wallet contains a card (or several) that clearly states your allergy and what you cannot eat in the language(s) of your destination(s). Feeling like crap is not fun, especially when globetrotting, so don’t take the chance. Go prepared to advocate for your health needs.
Ellen’s Pick: Printable allergy translation cards
Packing for Fitness
I’ll be the first to admit, I love my workout accessories. As a crossfitter, I hit the gym with an entire bag of gear that enhances my workouts - gloves, lifting shoes, a weight belt, etc. But when streamlining your travel packing, there’s no room for these add ons! Travel workouts are about bringing fitness back to basics and relying on just your body to get your sweat on.
This concept might sound intimidating, but there are an infinite number of ways to get a challenging, intense workout using only your meatsuit! Get some cardio in by going for a run or creating a high intensity interval training circuit (HIIT) by doing sets of 3 to 5 of these bodyweight-based cardio exercises. Or if strength training is your forte, try these 101 bodyweight exercises for a good burn! And of course, is there a more quintessential bodyweight workout than yoga? Your options for bodyweight workouts on the road are limitless - don’t be afraid to ditch the security blanket of your gear!
So with that said, here’s your fitness packing list:
Choose one set of workout clothes. Yes, ONE. Pick your favorite athletic shoes, socks, bottoms, tank top or T shirt, long sleeve layer, and for the ladies, a sports bra. I know what you’re thinking: “but I’m going to work out more than once during my trip...” Here’s where it’s time to be hardcore: either wear your stinky gym clothes again and own it or wash them in the hostel sink post-workout and hang them up to dry overnight. Suck it up.
Packing for Wellness
Now that you’ve got your nutrition and fitness necessities in your suitcase, there’s only a few more items you need. These are your general wellness items, a small arsenal of preventative measures and holistic remedies, which can be used at any point in your travels to keep your health on point.
I call this the “oh shit” capsule. According to Dave Asprey, author of The Bulletproof Diet, “For over 10,000 years, healers from Chinese Medicine, Ayuredic Medicine, and Western Medicine have used activated charcoal to soak up poisons and improve intestinal health through a process called “adsorption” which means “to bind to” rather than “to absorb. [Activated Charcoal] is a highly adsorbent material with millions of tiny pores that capture, bind, and remove poisons, heavy metals, chemicals, and intestinal gases...” Essentially, activated charcoal is very effective at cleaning out any unwanted toxins from your system.
So when to use activated charcoal?
- After a questionable meal from a street vendor
- After a long night of drinking and partying
- After a flight
- If you’ve been poisoned (yes… but really, get to the nearest hospital STAT)
Activated charcoal is a great detoxifier, but do be aware that its binding capabilities are extremely powerful so it should be used sparingly. Not only will activated charcoal absorb the toxins in your body, but it will also absorb the nutrients, which you need to keeping your body operating at its peak.
Ellen’s Pick: Coconut Charcoal Capsules
Coconut oil is a staple when it comes to cooking, but it also has a number of incredibly useful applications ranging from cosmetic to holistic remedy.
Here are just a few ways you can use coconut oil:
- Make Up Remover
- Soothe sunburns and itchy skin
- Emergency snack
- And even as a personal lubricant!
These multipurpose qualities makes coconut oil a highly functional addition to your packing list. But don’t just throw your kitchen jar of coconut oil in your suitcase. Instead, look for individual 1oz packets at your local health food store or online. This way, your coconut oil will be TSA compliant, it’ll take up less room in your pack, and you’ll keep the mess to a minimum by disposing the individual packet after each use!
Ellen’s Pick: Artisana Organics Raw Coconut Oil
A Wellness Traveller’s Essentials
The wellness traveller’s packing guide might seem like an intimidating list, but in reality, it’s a few highly effective wellness focused items carefully curated to help maximize your nutrition, fitness, and overall health while easily fitting into your suitcase. You’re the only one who truly knows what works for you, so feel free to tweak this packing list to fit your individual needs. But when packing your personal health arsenal, always take the time to scrutinize each item and determine if its benefits justify the space it requires in your bag. By packing with a critical eye, you’ll save yourself the hassle and expense of an overweight bag, while setting yourself up for an adventure full of health and happiness!
Read more from Ellen on her blog.