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Destination Relaxation

Forget last-minute mayhem and arriving at your destination frazzled and jet-lagged with these stress-free travel tips.

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Getting there isn’t half the fun—it’s half the stress.

You get up early, rush to the airport, wait in at least three different lines, squeeze into your airplane seat, then realize you’re thirsty and hungry. You might get a glass of water, but don’t expect to be offered any food on a domestic flight, unless you pay big bucks for first class. And back on the ground, you’re pretty much stuck with two options: fast food and junk food.

So what are you gonna do?

I travel a lot to lecture on nutrition topics, and I’ve honed my travel habits to a fine art. I’ll share my flight-tested tips to help you to get to your destination feeling good. Many of my recommendations will also work for car or train trips.

1 Take Melatonin to Reduce Jet Lag

If you’re planning to fly through two or more time zones, start taking melatonin a couple days before traveling. Melatonin is your sleepy time hormone and it also helps regulate your body clock. Timing is the key: take 250 to 500 mcg at what will be early evening at your destination. For example, if you usually go to bed at 10 p.m., and you’re flying from California to New York, start taking melatonin about 5 or 6 p.m. for two days before you fly. If you think you’ll need some extra help falling asleep at your destination, take extra melatonin one to two hours before you hit the sack.

2 Eat Right Before Your Trip

Jet lag isn’t just about melatonin and circadian rhythms. Sharp blood sugar fluctuations can increase feelings of fatigue. It’s easy for regular meal times to get messed up when traveling, either by plane, car, train, or cruise ship, and blood sugar problems are often compounded by unhealthy food choices. So for at least a day before you depart, and on your travel day, stick with higher protein foods, higher fiber veggies, and avoid sugary foods, soft drinks, and alcohol.

3 Pack Your Own Food

This is the only way to ensure that you’ll eat a nutritious meal. Just about the only options at airports are fast-food and candy bars, and the choices don’t get better on road trips with convenience stores and greasy-spoon diners dotting the landscape. Pack a high-protein, healthy lunch like homemade chicken salad, along with an apple, napkins, and a plastic fork (word of warning: blue ice packs will be confiscated by airport security). Or pack a cooler or lunch bag with sandwiches on sourdough bread, which has been shown to improve blood sugar.

4 Bag Your Trail Mix

Before trips, I buy some raw and unsalted nuts and organic raisins at a natural foods market. I mix them together, bag them, and pack my trail mix in a carry-on bag and more in my checked baggage for the return trip.

5 Stay Hydrated

Invest in a reusable stainless-steel or BPA-free plastic water bottle. Make sure it’s empty when you go through airport security, then fill it up. Bring some green tea or herbal tea bags to brew en route or at your destination.

6 Wear Comfortable Walking Shoes

Most airports mean long walks and a lot of standing around before you get on your flight. Sightseeing at your destination means a lot of walking as well. Dress for comfort. And don’t be afraid to take your shoes off during a long flight.

7 Bring Your Own Music

I bought my first iPod to tune out the background and engine noise. Some of today’s MP3 players aren’t much bigger than a credit card, and they can hold thousands of songs.

8 Take a Nap

I have had to get up by 4 a.m. to catch an early flight, and I’ve learned to take naps on planes to make up for lost sleep. Bring a neck pillow (sold at most airports) and a small blanket.

9 Bring Reading Material

Wherever you go or however you get there, it’s a great time to catch up on your reading, and will prevent you from feeling bored, restless, or frustrated by time delays. Bring a book with you or buy some magazines at the airport.

10 Walk and Stretch

Some people have a higher risk of developing blood clots if sitting for extended periods. So, if you have the time, go for a leisurely walk at the terminal before boarding a plane or train. If you’re on a long trip, get up from time to time to walk up and down the aisles.

11 Pack Your Vitamins

It’s easy to pack vitamins in a pill box or small plastic bags. If you fly in the winter, bring some immune-enhancers to protect against cold and flu such as N-acetylcysteine (NAC), vitamins C and D, probiotics, L-lysine, and zinc lozenges.

12 Finally, Use a Packing List

Type up a packing list. Print out a copy for each trip, and check off the items as you pack them. Be sure to include last-minute things to do around the house, such as turning off the lights and adjusting the thermostat. The more organized you are, the easier your trip is likely to be from start to finish.

Supplement Survival Pack

Help prevent motion sickness, aches and pains, or a case of indigestion from sidetracking your vacation

Travel almost always means indulging—and sometimes overindulging—in local eats and treats. A high-quality digestive enzyme will boost digestion after overindulging; try Solaray Super Digestaway or Garden of Life Omegazyme Ultra. And if you’re still suffering, Hyland’s Homeopathic Indigestion Tablets can ease heartburn and stomach acid.

Bumpy flights, winding roads, and boat trips can set off motion sickness. Combat it with ginger; some studies show it’s as effective as anti-nausea drugs. Crystallized ginger is best for kids; grown-ups, take powdered ginger capsules. Or sip a soothing tea: ginger, peppermint, or fennel offer fast but gentle relief; Yogi Tea Stomach Ease contains all three.

Dehydration, lack of exercise, and unfamiliar foods can lead to constipation. Homeopathic formulas offer gentle relief, even for kids; try King Bio or BHI constipation formulas. Herbal laxative tabs with senna and/or cascara sagrada (try Swiss Kriss), or ground psyllium seed are also effective for constipation. Or snack on flax; it’s a safe and simple way to keep your system on track, and get a dose of omega-3 fats.

Stretch regularly during long flights to stay ache-free. In your seat, tilt forward from the hips, reaching your fingertips down to the floor and relaxing your head downward to stretch your lower back. Then, move your feet apart, wrap your arms around the backs of your calves, hold on to your ankles, and gently pull your body downward. And pack a formula like Rainbow Light Pain-Eze. Look for ingredients like magnesium and manganese to relax muscles.

Lisa Turner

Happy Travels!

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