My sister in law once said to me, “Vacation calories don’t count.” I always like to think of this whenever I am somewhere new and stuffing my face with the local delicacies. When you’re traveling, you don’t really want to be thinking about how to stay active or whether what you’re putting in your mouth is high in calories, or transfat, or gluten. But there are still ways to practice fit travel, even when you’re traveling with your family.
Making fit travel work for your family
Enjoying your meals while you’re on the road undoubtedly means that you’ll be packing on a few extra pounds by the time you return. If you’re like me, you are most likely the garbage can for your kids when you travel. I’m always finishing their half-eaten meals because I can’t really take home any leftovers back to your hotel.
For our family, we’ve found that fit travel involves doing physically active things. This helps balance out the weight we gain from eating. If you think this is impossible to do, here are eight practical tips and suggestions for practicing fit travel with your family.
Go on a hike
I didn’t used to be a nature girl, but now that I have kids, I love spending time in the outdoors. Hikes are a great way to spend time outside AND be physically active. The best part about it is that you can do it anywhere: the mountain trails at Whistler, the jungles of Sumatra, and even the streets of New York City (urban hikes, anyone?). It doesn’t really matter where you go, just that you’re outside walking and enjoying the world.
Play at the beach
Despite my confession of never being much of a nature person as a kid, there is one part of nature that I absolutely love: the beach. My kids love playing in the beach too, just as much as I do. The best part about it is that you don’t really need much to enjoy it. Whether it’s a warm, tropical Southeast Asian beach, or a cold Washington state beach, we love running along the shores and chasing the waves. This is an easy way to enjoy fit travel, and get a tan in the process!
Play at a park
We also love visiting local parks. They give the kids a chance to run around and let off some extra energy. For parents, instead of sitting around watching the kids, why not play with them? Climb the monkey bars, play on the swings, run around and play tag. Not only will this give you an excuse to do fit travel, it also gives you a chance to bond more with your kids.
Rent a bike
My kids are still too young to ride a bike without training wheels. However, if you have an older kid, consider renting a bike (or several) and getting to know the city that way. Many big cities have bike rental places, and even destinations overseas also have places where you can rent bikes for several hours or for a day. About nine years ago, I visited Angkor Wat with some friends, and we rented bikes for three days while we were there. It was a fun way to go from temple to temple, and also allowed us to practice fit travel during the day.
Walk all over the place
The easiest way do fit travel is simply by walking. Coincidentally, this is also the best way, in my opinion to get to know a city. If your kids are still too young to walk for an extended period of time, consider bringing along a back pack carrier or a lightweight umbrella stroller. We have found that many cities, such as New York City and Singapore are quite walkable.
During our last trip down to California, we stayed at a hotel that had a pool. It was a fairly small pool, but still just the right size for us to splash and swim around. For me, swimming is a great way to have some quality family bonding time. Our younger kids are still too young to swim on their own. However, I’m sure it will be no time at all before they can start doing laps with me. But even if it’s just a leisurely swim, there’s something about splashing around in water that just makes you feel like a little kid. Especially in tropical destinations, a cold dip in a pool is a nice way to end a hot day.
Travel for a race or competition
We recently came back from a weekend trip to Spokane, WA where we participated in their annual 12k race, the Lilac Bloomsday Run. It’s a race that draws around 50,000 participants. In our opinion, it’s just an all-around fun family-friendly event. My husband, step-son, and I ran it together this year. But in previous years, we’ve had our younger kids also participating, albeit while being pushed in a stroller or carried in a backpack carrier.
This year, the kids got to do some running of their own. They raced in the Marmot March, a 1 mile race around Spokane’s Riverfront Park. Doing a race with your kids is so much fun to do, and it encourages them to engage in fit travel with you. Our kids got a ribbon at the end of the race, and they were so proud to show it off!
My last tip for practicing fit travel is to visit temples or historic places. During our last trip to Indonesia, we visited some pretty amazing places like Tanah Lot in Bali, and Borobudur temple and Prambanan in Yogyakarta. When we visited Paraguay back in 2013, we spent an evening walking around the Jesuit ruins in the town of Trinidad. Many of these historic places are spread out, and require a great deal of physical activity to explore. For young kids, they’re practically a giant playground with all sorts of structures to climb on and cross over.
No matter where you travel, it’s easy to incorporate physical activity into your family travel adventure. Whether it’s walking around a city, swimming at a beach, or exploring an old ruin, there are plenty of opportunities to get moving and get active. By engaging your kids in physical activity, you not only help them develop healthy ways to travel, but you also cultivate valuable bonding experiences with them. And it allows you to stop worrying about all the food you’re enjoying on your travels! So go out there and explore the world with the kids!
What are some ways you and your family practice fit travel? Share your tips in the comments below.
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