53 Travel Health Essentials the Pros Swear By
The Global Wellness Summit's 2018 Wellness Trends report declared 2018 a "new era of transformative travel." A January 2017 report found travelers took 691 million wellness trips—defined as “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing”—in 2015, up from about 104 million in 2013.
Here at Travel + Leisure, we've also seen a shift in the destination spa category of the World’s Best Awards survey. It’s no longer just about endless pampering as travelers focus on finding time for fitness, nutrition, and nature on vacation. Health-conscious cruises and travel guide companies are on the rise. And the growing popularity of hotel workout classes and farm-to-table resorts are more than enough to tempt an escape from the bleary everyday-ness of our calendar-ruled lives.
If you’re not intentional about it, travel can truly wreak havoc on your health. The good habits you’ve worked hard to develop in your everyday routine—consistent sleeping patterns, regular workouts, summoning the strength to avoid ordering takeout—are easily upended on vacation.
Add to that the stress of long lines, tight connections, and close quarters with strangers, and it’s no wonder we’re craving getaways designed to refresh and renew.
While a weeklong trip to a spiritual retreat or a digital detox can be fitting short-term solutions, we need to be more mindful about incorporating wellness on every trip we take. That’s easier said than done—as most habit changes are—but there are tools to help you make healthy choices and feel less likely to derail physically or mentally when traveling, no matter where you’re headed.
Below, we’re sharing our favorite tried and true products to help you have more energy and less stress on your next trip.
Stock your carry-on dopp kit.
One of the best ways to make your flight more enjoyable is knowing you have everything you might need on hand. Bring a small pouch, like one of these, in your personal item, and fill it with all the in-flight essentials: hand sanitizer ($10; barneys.com), eye drops ($15; amazon.com), a toothbrush ($30; amazon.com) and toothpaste ($6; amazon.com), cleansing wipes (from $13; sephora.com), earplugs (from $5; amazon.com), hand cream ($15; nordstrom.com), and an ultra thick moisturizer ($26; dermstore.com) to apply in the restroom before boarding. You’ll look and feel much fresher.
Probiotics are your new best friend.
Probiotics help keep your digestive system healthy, and that’s pretty important when traveling—especially to when you're planning on scoping out the street food scene. No matter where you’re headed, we recommend taking probiotics daily for the two weeks prior to your trip. And thanks to handy travel-sized packaging like these new probiotic "pixy sticks" from SimplyBiotix, ($24; amazon.com) you can easily pack them with you to continue your regimen on the go.
So are Vitamin C and Ginger.
Vitamin C and ginger are both excellent for combating germs and illnesses acquired through travel. Our favorite product is Juice Press’ Ginger Fireball Blasts ($7;juicepress.com), as they combine high doses of the two ingredients; take one daily a few days before traveling, and continue to do so during your trip to help support immune health. Other great options are Airborne ($14; amazon.com) and Emergen-C ($10; amazon.com).
Chug an antioxidant packed green juice en route to the airport.
Frequent travelers like Momofuku Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi swear by chugging a nutritious green juice before boarding a flight (so does model Lindsay Ellingson, who told us that she often takes Juice Press’ juices with her to devour before getting on a plane). Juice Press and Jus by Julie both deliver their concoctions (pictured, above) domestically, so even if you don’t have a cold-pressed juicery in your hometown, you can get them sent right to your front door.
Combat cabin contagion with nasal mist.
During a flight, the air inside the plane tends to have a humidity level lower than 20 percent, as opposed to the 30 to 65 percent we’re used to in typical indoor environments. Not only will this dehydrate your skin, but it’ll also dry out the mucus membranes in your nose—which are essential for preventing illness—leaving you exposed to all of the non-ticketed pathogens on board, even if you’re heavy on the hand sanitizer. A quick spritz of natural saline nasal spray ($10; amazon.com) before you board will help.
Always carry a travel wrap.
Travel wraps are an easy way to keep comfortable during chilly flights in dry-aired cabins; without warmth, you may wind up catching a cold. Lying upon one can also help prevent germs if you’re traveling by train or bus and forgot a pillow, and they can also be used as sarongs, scarves, or blankets. So, basically, they’re the perfect multitasking garments. Can’t decide which one to splurge on? We’re here to help with our guide to the best wraps for every type of traveler. Interested in the wraps pictured above? From right to left: White + Warren ($298; amazon.com), Madeleine Thompson ($510; net-a-porter.com), and Long Cashmere Wrap ($150; ahalife.com).
Meditate in transit.
You don’t need to be any sort of guru to close your eyes and get your zen on when seated between strangers. There are several meditation apps—we like Headspace and Calm—that can guide you through a relaxation session to block out the stressors surrounding you, especially if you’re listening through noise-cancelling headphones (our favorites are Bose’s top-of-the-line QuietControl wireless headphones ($249; amazon.com). Continuing the practice on vacation, too, will lead to even more positive health benefits.
Abandon your pride and just use a neck pillow.
We, too, used to scoff at the inflatable neck devices some passengers deigned to use, but they. are. worth it. The first time you fall soundly asleep and stir back to life just as it’s time to disembark, you’ll be hooked just like us. Some of our favorites include the Infinity pillow ($39; amazon.com), the Trtl pillow ($40; amazon.com), and the Cabeau Evolution S3 pillow ($40; amazon.com), but we also have a guide to choosing a travel pillow based on how you sleep most comfortably.
Pack your own food.
“I’m always appalled at how expensive some of these first and business class tickets can be, and the food is still atrocious,” Padma Lakshmi recently told us. I’d just rather have something that I bring, know is going to fill my stomach, and tastes nice—whether you eat it at room temperature or hot. I bring my pre-made Padma's Easy Exotic rice because it’s not saucy—you just need a spoon and that’s it.” This advice is actually quite the no-brainer when you think about it—especially if you’re someone who hates airplane food. You’ll feel much better when you disembark by filling up on foods of your choice, rather than pre-made, sodium-packed meals (which, in addition to being quite unhealthy, are very dehydrating).
We've got 20 more healthy snack ideas right this way.
Post-flight, bathe and mask.
Every flight should end with a little R&R session, once you’ve checked into your hotel or Airbnb. The ultimate way to unwind (and get yourself back to feeling—and looking—your freshest) is a double duty bath and mask. Put on a deep purifying mask, like Tata Harper’s ($65; sephora.com), which expels all the toxins acquired on your flight, then stir up a calming bath to soak in. Kneipp makes travel-friendly sachets of bath salts ($10; amazon.com), which you can mix with the essential oil (from $7; amazon.com) of your choice (eucalyptus is ultra relaxing, so we recommend going with that). This will help detoxify and re-hydrate your skin, and leave you feeling ready for a day of exploring. Repeat the same process before bed (this time, apply a moisturizing mask—$22; glossier.com) to help fall into a deep slumber.
Carry no tension.
Getting a post-flight massage can beat jet lag, improve circulation, and release tension. If you can’t make it to the spa, these palm-sized massage balls ($13; jet.com) act like a portable foam roller to work out the knots and loosen tight muscles in your hips, back, shoulders, legs, et cetera. You can also use a tennis ball, but the crevice in the middle of this design is more comfortable to use around places like your spine.
Upgrade your sneakers.
Stay fit by packing lightweight exercise gear.
Smart jump ropes ($80; ahalife.com), resistance bands ($11, amazon.com), and ankle weights (from $20; amazon.com) are all easy-to-pack options for staying in shape on the go. Model and Wander Beauty Founder Lindsay Ellingson told us her tricks to the trade in her T+L Carry-On interview. “I have these great weights that I travel with—you can put them around your ankles, or around your wrists. They’re great for working out your glutes and your hamstrings. I think I do two and a half [pounds] on each ankle, and you get a really great workout. The best part is you can do it in your hotel room, or on the beach.”
Identify your bad travel habits, and fix them.
Linden Schaffer, the founder of wellness travel company Pravassa, has compiled her hard-earned secrets to rethinking the routines that drain you into "Living Well on the Road: Health and Wellness for Travelers" ($19; amazon.com). It takes an action-based approach to bettering sleep, fitness, food, mindfulness, and time management for on-to-go professionals.
Whatever your travel-induced health complaint (mental or physical) may be, there’s probably an aromatherapy aid for it. ArtNaturals just launched a collection of travel-friendly roller balls formulated with their signature essential oils. Try their “Signature Om” for nausea and anxiety, or their “Signature Serene” for all around relaxation. We also love Tata Harper’s Aromatic Irritability Treatment, which she uses to help combat stress (and let’s face it, who doesn’t get stressed when traveling?).
Aid sleep naturally.
While the sleep hormone melatonin ($7; jet.com) hasn’t been proven as an effective long-term sleep aid, it’s exactly the chemical signal your body needs to re-adjust your internal clock to a new time zone. A few days before your trip, start taking the supplement at the time that’s about to become your new bedtime to trick your body into winding down. Just don’t wash it down with a glass of red wine, because combining the hormone with alcohol may actually have an adverse effect.
Have the option to block out noise.
When the chirping coqui frogs cross from authentic to annoying, a pair of earplugs ($11; amazon.com) might help you get the shut-eye you need to feel refreshed in morning. We also love this white noise sound machine ($45; amazon.com) for creating a calming soundscape in an unfamiliar place. If you don’t have the room in your carry-on bag, try installing the SimplyNoise app instead.
Invest in a sleep mask that suits your individual needs.
Some people get headaches when they travel, and guess what, there’s an eye mask for that. Morihata’s Binchotan Charcoal Eye Mask ($26; needsupply.com) uses activated charcoal, embedded within the mask, to ease tension and pressure around the eyes. If you have trouble sleeping or just want some relaxing shut-eye, try Aromatherapy Associates Relax Eye Mask ($80;amazon.com), which is scented with calming lavender. Still not sure which eye mask is the best for you? Check out our hyper-specific guide to the best sleep masks for travelers.
Erase signs of aging with a silk travel pillow.
Sleeping on an anti-aging pillow is a great way to prevent signs of aging. Combat the side sleeper’s worst nightmare—pillow face, which can have long term effects on skin—by resting your head against a silk pillowcase, like this one ($79; sephora.com) by Silk. For extra comfort, we love Nurse Jamie’s Beauty Bear ($69; net-a-porter.com), which caters to both back and side sleepers.
Fend off allergies with a neti pot.
So, your nasal passages don’t love a turn-of-the-season backcountry hike as much as you do? Try using travel-sized neti pot ($7; amazon.com), a centuries-old sinus flushing practice borrowed from India, if you’re even the tiniest bit curious as to whether it would work for you. They’re also helpful when your body is transitioning to a higher elevation.
Bring a journal.
You are not immune to bad moods and mental strife just because you’re in a different part of the world. If you find yourself spiraling or feeling overwhelmed—which is especially easy to trigger in an unfamiliar environment—take some downtime for the OG form of word processing. Not only is writing surprisingly therapeutic, but it will also help you to remember not just what you saw and did, but how you felt on your trip. This set of passport-sized journals ($20; containerstore.com) will keep you covered through the many trips you’ve planned for this year.
Ignore your phone. We mean it.
Just like sugar, screen time is becoming harder and harder to pry ourselves away from even though we know it’s detrimental to our health. Give your eyes, mind, and thumbs a digital detox with the Moment app. It tracks how much you use your iPhone or iPad (and where you’re spending those minutes) and notifies you when you’re approaching your daily limits.
And most importantly, stay hydrated.
Every well-versed traveler knows by now (or at least, we’d hope) that the key to avoiding almost all the negative symptoms that come with traveling is to stay hydrated, especially in locales without easy access to potable water. A glass bottle like this one by Contigo ($15; amazon.com) is best for avoiding harmful plastics, but if you’re looking to be a little more conservative with space, try this collapsible one ($17; ems.com) that weighs a little over an ounce, but can hold a liter.
Yes, that means your skin, too!
The hydration rule applies both inside and out. Applying an in-flight sheet mask ($17; sephora.com) never hurt anybody, and don’t forget to bring a small thermal water mist ($9.99; dermstore.com) for in-flight use! Post-flight (or post-bath), lather up with a calming, moisturizing lotion—we love This Works Sleep Plus Dream Body ($46; net-a-porter.com), especially for nighttime use—and apply something ultra nourishing on your face, like Pestle + Mortar’s Pure Hyaluronic Serum ($69; amazon.com).