11 of the best healthy holiday ideas you’ll read this year…
One of the downsides of enjoying your work is that you tend to forget to take breaks – I’m very guilty of this, and in 2017 I intend to consciously seek healthy holiday ideas for real rest and relaxation.
Towards the end of last year I burnt myself out, became run-down and rather miserable.
The trips I took in 2016 weren’t actually holidays. While they were amazing (Stockholm for a conference and a super quick trip to Malta in the summer), I was pushed for time, over-indulged (because it seemed like a really fun option at the time), and ended up more tired than before I’d stepped on the plane in the first place.
Increasingly the pressures of modern-day life mean we’re always ‘on’, and Cooper and I are arguably becoming wiser with age, because our new world view incorporates happy, healthy holiday ideas where we want to have energy to explore, the chance to rest and the capacity to express our discoveries creatively but without overdoing our time spent online.
Healthy holiday ideas we now seek, mean that we’ll come back home feeling refreshed in mind, body and spirit.
11 of the very best happy and healthy holiday ideas
Worry-free ways on how to rejuvenate in mind, body and spirit in 2017…
Whether you’re heading off on a road trip, coach tour or spending a week in a Tuscan villa, we’ve discovered the easiest healthy holiday ideas to implement include planning your meals and excursions ahead of time.
Lack of planning (or even boredom) often leads to impulse buying that spirals into unnecessary spending (and subsequent financial stress), plus food or alcohol intake that’s well beyond what was intended.
Then you feel sluggish for the duration of your holiday. Not fun.
Scheduling your time also means making the best use of it, so you can mix up hours spent exploring and being active, with time for simply chilling out and ‘being’.
In our experience, it’s easy to get tired when you’re travelling; your routine is different, you’re often on the go and that impromptu pint of beer is always an excellent idea … not!
For our recent trip to Ibiza in Spain though, I’d spent just a little bit of time planning where we could explore on foot from our accommodation, and I used the weather as a guide to determine which would be good days to be out and about (when it was sunny) and when would be better to just laze about (cloudy or rain forecast). It worked a treat!
Tip: Sign up for the local version of a deals site like Living Social or Groupon in advance of your holiday, and gather discounts on tours, dining, spa packages and local experiences before you go.
Shop at a supermarket
This is one of our best healthy holiday ideas that we share with everyone, and for good reason. It seems so simple, but a lot of holiday-makers fail to act on taking that quick trip into Lidl or Aldi.
By buying your own beverages, food and planning meals ahead, you’re taking control of budget as well as what you are putting into your body.
That is, you know exactly what’s going into each meal in terms of ingredients and calories; you have the choice to balance healthy snacks (e.g. fruit and nuts) with cheeky holiday indulgences (bring me corn chips, cheese and Prosecco!), and it’s much cheaper than getting to the point where you’re hungry so you pop down to the corner store for something over-priced and under-nourishing.
You don’t need a gym on hand to be active.
Of course, you could travel to a destination specifically to take part in a well-being retreat like yoga in Italy or Turkey. But if not, take advantage of modern technology and services like meetup.com to find running clubs, yoga classes, cycling groups or hobbyists who enjoy things you do (for example, bird watching, meditation, hiking).
Signing-up for meet-ups happening during your visit has two advantages – you can enjoy physical and mental activity while meeting locals and finding out more about the destination you’re visiting.
Explore on foot
City breaks, island adventures and regional escapes all have something wonderful in common – the best way to explore is on foot.
Certainly, you’ll possibly need to intersperse this activity with a local bus ride, hop-on-hop-off city sightseeing coach tour and even a bike or a boat ride, but to really see and feel a new place you’ve got to get on the ground and wander.
The other obvious benefit of this is the incidental exercise you get!
When we visited my brother and his wife in Japan we couldn’t have eaten any more food if we tried (so yummy, try a Watami restaurant for a large Izakaya menu, and Sukiya for delicious curries), but we walked so much that we went home lighter than when we arrived!
Additionally, when we visited Ibiza, nothing much was open as it was low season (winter) but that didn’t bother us because there were plenty of places to explore on foot, and even hiking was an option for those who are so inclined.
As mentioned, plan ahead to see what your options are; bring maps with you or take some from a tourist information centre or airport (be prepared in case you cannot access data on your phone when you’re out and about).
If you suffer knee or foot pain, ensure you pack appropriate footwear, support or even strapping if required, so that your adventure is safe and comfortable.
Many cities in the world offer walking tours that showcase the famous, quirky and interesting highlights of the place.
A lot of these options are either free or very inexpensive, run by locals who know their backyard and are keen to share their insider-secrets with enthusiastic travellers.
Once again, you’re enjoying incidental exercise by getting active; you have the chance to learn about a place and ask questions, thus putting the curious mind to work, and you’re saving on financial worries through this cheap tour option while also contributing to the local economy.
Win. win. win!
Before you leave for your destination, simply Google ‘walking tours in…’; research and contact your preferred operators and plan the excursion into your itinerary.
Remember to also search for niche options that interest you, which might be ‘walking ghost tours’, ‘walking history tours’, ‘quirky walking tours’, ‘insider secret walking tours’ and so on.
Pencil in ‘me time’
What is the one thing that you have discovered brings more light into your day?
Is it morning meditation, twenty minutes free-writing, drawing, reading or sparing some time to watch or listen to a motivating broadcast (e.g. on YouTube)?
Make time for this activity during your time away, in fact if you can, prioritise it.
Journaling is a pastime that I feel always brings benefit to my life, but I often lack the time to do it around my day job.
On our recent trip away, I made sure I took some time out each afternoon for this activity.
All you need is ten or twenty minutes a day, but making time for something that lights you up will help to invigorate your spirit in time for a return to the home and work routine.
Unleash your inner creative
A rising trend in the travel industry is that of ‘creative tourism’ which caters for the ‘creative traveller’.
This means that many of us are using holidays and travel adventures as opportunities to express ourselves creatively.
Maybe it means that you use some of your time away to work on writing your book or blogging?
I get just as much enjoyment these days out of writing and photography (and Cooper is really into producing vlogs) as I do taking the actual vacation. It’s one and the same, and we’ve both had conversations about how invigorating it is to indulge in our creative side while being inspired by different landscapes and experiences.
You don’t need to have a website or YouTube channel to delve into this though; creative art, cooking, writing, language and even fashion courses are on offer in many parts of the world now – simply research online whatever takes your fancy.
You could search by destination, or, many travellers are actually selecting destinations based on the creative experiences available to them there.
European regions including Tuscany, Costa Brava, Ibiza, Barcelona and the French Riviera are particularly leading the way on this front. Take a look at the Creative Tourism Network for more information, or contact the local tourism authority in an area you’re keen to visit to enquire about options. Elena Paschinger has also written a lovely book on the subject, The Creative Traveler’s Handbook.
Switch off tech
The ultimate in healthy holiday ideas is to take a break from technology. While Cooper and I obviously need and like technology for blogging and vlogging, we schedule time for it now.
We’re aware it’s important to step away from online engagement so we actually have time to engage with each other, our friends and family!
Our big tip here is to set boundaries for when computers, phones and tablets should be put away, for example, within two hours of bedtime and/or not switched on first thing in the morning.
While we are aiming for happy and healthy holiday options now, we also don’t believe in worrying about what we’re consuming. It’s all about planning ahead (as mentioned above), being sensible and mindful.
I freely admit – when I’m excited about a platter of cheese and a large glass of red being placed in front of me, I tend to guzzle without thinking about it!
I’ve recognised this pattern, so now I write myself little calendar reminders on my phone that pop up to say, ‘slow down’, and I also ask a trusted travel companion like Cooper to remind me to mindfully enjoy my food and to savour the wine. It’s not a race, after all.
Being mindful during meal or snack times means you’ll slow down on consumption and are likely to get much more enjoyment out of the experience.
Make your intentions clear
If you feel in need of a healthy break away and want to make the most of your next holiday in ways I’ve discussed here, it’s important to let your travel buddies know of your intentions, or carefully choose who you travel with.
That is, try to spend time with people who have a similar mindset and who also want to take time out to reinvigorate mind, body and spirit while enjoying all the perks of a holiday.
You can all support each other in achieving this if the group’s intentions are similar and/or clear.
Give to receive
There’s no better way to replenish the soul than by giving, and in our case rarely are we happier than when we’re surrounded by animals (particularly dogs, though I would seek elephants and monkeys too)!
This idea might not be viable everywhere, but it’s worth looking into ethical animal experiences or volunteering options that will give you an authentic experience and one to ultimately be proud of.
Our friend Amy offers an excellent example in her blog where she tells of how she volunteered in an animal welfare centre in Thailand.
We also know that if you’re visiting Whistler village in Canada, you can offer to walk the dogs who are being taken care of in a shelter not too far away. I’d suggest there are opportunities to help in many destinations because all charitable organisations need a hand (but especially smaller ones).
If you have time, ask around where you’re staying and see if there’s a chance you can give your time (or money, if/where relevant) to support what locals are doing to make the destination you’re visiting a better place.
By giving, you will inevitably receive a beautiful experience, positive feelings associated with the helping of others, and if you believe in this as I do, good karma too.
We got so excited about this topic we decided to check-in with a couple of inspiring friends who are also wellness experts. Happy and healthy holiday ideas, they say:
You are on holiday so the most important thing is to relax. Listen to your natural breath wherever you are to calm a busy mind – this can also ease an upset tummy. Busy day sightseeing or long flight? Then lie on a bed and put your feet up the wall – this relieves tired legs and stimulates the restful part of the nervous system. And laugh – it’s good for the soul!”
–Flavia Munn, health journalist and yoga teacher (and guest blogger here with a story about attending a yoga retreat in Turkey).
Particularly if you’re on a long holiday, it can be beneficial to try and keep up some of your home routines, though, without being too rigid and not allowing time to enjoy some decent rest and relaxation of course! I like taking a travel yoga mat with me for holidays like this. Having my mat around encourages me to make some time for my practise. It’s light and folds up small, so it’s easy to travel with. Even if I just do a couple of sun salutations or a few simple poses it helps me hold onto those positive habits or regular practise and more easily settle back into my usual rhythm when I return home again.”
–Sarah McFadden, yoga teacher.
We’d love to hear from you with your advice, suggestions or questions about happy and healthy holiday ideas. Please drop us a line in the comments below.
Last year, 21-year-old Jordan Lea Hart, embarked on a once-in-her-young-lifetime trip abroad. While she’d enjoyed a holiday or two closer to home and with family, this was her first significant trip overseas – just she and her best friend, Rachael. We’d spoken to the girls a few times about travel and life abroad, and were very excited to hear when they took the massive step to book and confirm it all.
Jordan Lea and Rachael enjoyed the same tour of Europe with Expat Explore that we did in 2011 (on just the second 26-day itinerary since the group launched it), and I was keen to find out more about the experience, their tips and stories of travel and friendship. Most importantly, I was keen for insights into why they too, advocate taking the chance to travel, live and learn!
When did you travel to Europe?
In July and August 2015, European summer time.
This was your first major overseas trip – how did the decision come about to do it?
Throughout high school, my best friend and I always talked about travelling to Europe, specifically London, because we love historical buildings and English boys! Once we finally had enough coin we booked it.
When did you decide what type of travel option to pursue?
I wanted to do a coach tour as it just seemed like the most cost-effective way to get a taste of each country. Originally the plan was to go on a month tour, then rent a car and road trip around Ireland, Scotland and Wales, however that didn’t end up on the agenda due to work and study commitments.
We decided on Expat Explore’s 26 Day Ultimate Europe Tour because it is great value for money (even considering the conversion from Aussie dollars).
One of the first things our tour guide, Will, said was, “You guys are travellers, not tourists, we are not going to hold your hand everywhere you go, it’s up to you. YOU create your journey, we just guide.”
It was awesome because that’s exactly what he did – told us the way to our hotel, how to get home, and what time we would be leaving for the next trip. We never considered a party-type tour, we really wanted to make the most of our travels, not spend the time in bars 24/7 and hung-over every day! Not to say we didn’t have a few cheeky drinks.
Was there anything you were worried about prior to taking this big trip so far away from home?
I was worried about missing home too much; I was in a brand new relationship so this trip was a massive test on us. I missed him terribly but we survived it, thank God for Viber.
Do you think you were well prepared for the trip, or did you learn along the way?
Prior to us leaving I quit my job! I was treating this trip as a fresh start for me, to get perspective on what I really want. I had to be very careful with my money, budgeted a lot, made trips to the local supermarkets to get fresh fruit and snacks for the long coach journeys.
Clothing was something I was not prepared for. I was under the impression Europe would have cold days, and I would only need so many shoes or pairs of socks. The little things ran out fast, and I packed about 10 jumpers and no summer clothes. That was a massive wake-up and I spent a lot of money buying summer basics (most of Europe is hot in summer!). But I learned little tricks after a few weeks, like washing delicates in the sink then rolling them up in the bathroom mat so they dried a lot faster.
I also thought this would be a great best friend trip, just myself and Rachael the whole time! But we met some lifelong friends, we created ‘the squad’ after two days on tour – myself, Rachael and three rowdy British girls – we were inseparable.
What were three highlights of Europe?
The whole trip was a highlight but I do recall a few special moments.
Our first stop was Amsterdam, and Expat scheduled an optional activity for day one on the road. Everyone else on the bus went except Rachael and I; We ditched it. Woke up late, caught the train into the city centre, wandered around just taking it all in for six hours. We walked away from all the tourist areas and went local. We found all these amazing hidden cafes and lunch hot-spots. It was beautiful and so peaceful to just wander and soak up all the culture. Once we got back to tourist-central, we naturally tested the devil’s lettuce from the local coffee shop (not to be confused with cafe) and ended up having the wildest night of our lives.
Sneaking into random hotels, running along the canals and eating the best yogurt and fruit anyone could ever have – our first day was done right.
The second highlight for me was meeting the squad, Alice, Anya and Sara. Here are five girls with completely different backgrounds and we clicked instantly as if we were long-lost soul-mates. We had one night in the Rhine Valley where we all had too much wine, ended up smashing karaoke with a Spice Girls comeback, and we were almost as good as the real thing. So many nights were unforgettable with these girls!
Barcelona was an absolute highlight for me personally; the culture of that place blows my mind! Oh and the sangria!
The last highlight, even though bitter-sweet, was our final night of the tour in France, sitting under the Eiffel Tower and its 9pm light show, drinking mini bottles of wine, with our cheese dips and chocolate.
Some England highlights?
The UK was a short but sweet stay, four days in total, but so full of life. We went to the markets, Harry Potter studio tour and stayed walking-distance from Oxford Street. Also spent a night drinking cocktails with some of my favourite people. It was the perfect end to our trip.
What did you learn about yourself through this experience?
That if I set a goal to do something it will be achieved. And, that I can successfully catch public transport in any country! It helped me also appreciate how lucky I am to have had the chance to do this at 21. Most people don’t get that chance, even couples on our tour said this was their first holiday overseas and they were well over 50.
How has such a significant travel experience shaped the way you are now planning for your future?
It only makes me want to plan for more! I have the thirst for travel, the way it opens your eyes is something else. The world is a fascinating place.
What’s your advice for anyone planning to travel or tour Europe in the summer?
You need a reliable water bottle, sunscreen and good walking shoes.
Be warned of the crowds in Italy, it will have you feeling like you’re suffocating, so go see all the major sights in the afternoon, because in summer the sun doesn’t set until 9pm so it’s nowhere near as hot then.
Learn the underground in European cities. Local trains usually work like clockwork and will take you anywhere you need to go. It all works in colour lines so don’t worry about not knowing the language if you need to get around.
In France, buy souvenirs from the salespeople on the street, not stalls; the sellers are lovely and you get the same thing but for half the price!
What are your essential travel planning websites and apps?
In Europe, always search for the city metro map and have a screen copy on your phone for reference. In London, download the app Kabbie. I would have been lost without this – it’s like Uber but cheap. Another helpful tip is to buy your food and alcohol for your trip. This saves you so much money; the supermarkets have everything you could ever need! Don’t get stuck buying supplies at expensive bars or corner stores.
Would you recommend a tour and why?
Yes! Especially if you have never travelled to that country before, it helps you get your bearings and you have a whole coach support system; a tour guide who you can bother with a thousand questions as they know all the good spots, and you meet amazing people. Once you have done a tour, you can go back the places you enjoyed and you’ll already have knowledge to get around like (nearly) a local!
What does travel mean to you now?
A world of opportunities! I have found what I want to do: work, save, travel.
Late last week I got talking to a lovely young lady who is excited to be heading off on a five week European / UK adventure with her partner at the end of the year. The only downside of this plan is the cost. She and her partner freely admit to being ‘newbies’ when it comes to planning a big, international trip like this, so they trustingly took the word of a travel agent and organised most of the trip via an agency − total spend, already at $20,000 which only covers four weeks travel, flights (return from Australia) and some meals.
While I am one of ‘those people’ who books everything online, I do appreciate travel agents often have access to better deals and inside knowledge, and therefore still do provide a very valuable and hassle-free service. But, the more my new friend talked, the more it seemed that in this instance, she and her partner had been taken advantage of for being a bit naive on this front. She agrees wholeheartedly, and had even done a little research herself when her gut was telling her something wasn’t right, only to discover that various prices had been inflated and unnecessary elements of the trip booked.
In this case, they are going to cut their losses and do their best to save while travelling. She’s more confident on the options to save from now on, as we’ve outlined many ways to cut costs on the road in both the UK and Europe. Inspired by this sticky travel issue though, I wanted to share these seven ways to avoid being ripped off, for beginners at the long haul adventure trip:
1. Get a second opinion. There are plenty of travel agencies out there, each with their own affiliations, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it is imperative you discover the best deal for your circumstances.
2. Trust your gut. Most of the time you’ll be treated well and fairly (I’ve consistently had excellent experiences with helpful travel agents). If you feel something is wrong though, see point one − seek another opinion and further information. Don’t book until you’re 100% content with the itinerary and that the price is reasonable.
3. DO compare and research. There’s really no excuse not to. Read reviews, search flights, accommodation, tours … there’s a lot of great options out there (bookable from within and outside of your home country) and it’s worthwhile investigating whether you’re actually getting a good deal or not.
4. Ask questions and query costs − don’t just assume somewhere like London, Tokyo or New York, for example, is expensive, just because you’re told it’s so. After a little practice, you’ll discover everywhere is indeed expensive if you’re travelling like a tourist un-armed and unprepared with knowledge; and on the flip side, using a little nouse will take you a long way to travelling really economically without compromising fun.
5. Call out to friends on social media and/or those linked on TripAdvisor. Ask for their tips on what to do, how to get around and any outstanding experiences with accommodation, tour operators, destinations you’re considering and so on.
6. Don’t always feel obliged to eat in a restaurant if you’re on a tour (if it’s not already included in the price you’ve paid). Supermarkets and convenience stores are awesome overseas – cheap, and offering delicious meals and snacks. Stock up where possible; this includes alcohol!
7. Buy clothes for a different climate when you get there. If you’re heading to the UK, Europe or USA from Australia, for example, the climate is totally different, and in Australia you’ll pay a fortune for clothes that might end up sitting in your suitcase because they’re either too warm or not warm enough. Believe me, the last thing you want to be doing is dragging heavy and unnecessary winter clothes around while travelling! And, why would you buy expensive scarves, beanies, hats, jackets at home, when you can buy on your trip (for probably a third of the price)? By buying ‘on the ground’ you’re not only better equipped to find a great deal and buy appropriately for what’s actually happening weather wise, but you get to enjoy the fun of a shopping trip as well! Win-Win. On this note, whatever you do, pack light. Remember, it’s cheap enough to buy toiletries and many basics on the ground, so don’t carry ‘spares’ of everything – it’s inconvenient and you will discover that you won’t use most of it!
Extra info: our top picks for travelling and touring in the UK and Europe
Toiletries and travel essentials: Boots and Superdrug – everywhere in the UK
Warm clothes, essentials and accessories – Primark, UniQlo, H&M (particularly for basics, footwear and warmer thermals), Zara, Accessorize or markets like Camden Markets in London(for scarves, hats, gloves…)
Jackets – if you only need a warm jacket for the duration of your trip, why not score a bargain at thrift stores/pre-loved shops like TRAID or Oxfam in the UK (and you’re helping out charitable organisations as well). You’re sure to find a warm, stylish coat, appropriate for the climate, but at an unbeatable price. If you don’t need the item(s) at home, drop back into a charitable donations box before you leave.
Tours – check out Expat Explore; or consider a cruise – we had a good experience with MSC Cruises
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