Ever return home from a great vacation only to realize your jeans don’t fit you anymore? Ever have a hike up a mountain planned for the end of your trip, only to realize you let your fitness go during your adventure and now that easy hike feels next to impossible? Don’t worry. You can have fun during your vacation, and keep up your workout! Even if your hotel or hostel doesn’t have your 7 AM yoga classes or the weights rack, you can keep up your fitness workouts on the road without any equipment at all.
Note: There are absolutely zero affiliate links in this post. Zero! So feel free to click on any links, but know that it doesn’t benefit me in any way. I just put them up for your reference and convenience!
Working Out on The Road CAN Be Done
So you’ve packed. You’ve packed all your clothes, you’ve sorted out your jewelry so it won’t tangle, and you are ready to go on your vacation. But, the problem is, that you don’t have any plans set in place for how you are going to stay healthy and fit on the road. You can’t take your full gym and workout with you like Dwayne Johnson, so you’ll have to figure out some other way to take the exercise on the road without hurting your carry on weight limit.
Yikes. Is that even possible to do? Yes. Yes it is. You can take a workout to-go without bringing any heavy equipment. You just have to get a little…creative. But it can be done, and it’s worth it!
Learn how to work hard when you are on the road and far away from your favorite gym equipment so your workout takes your breath away as much as the views of the water from your balcony do!
Work hard all year
and get one month off
So you must be careful
that your hard work at the gym
isn’t stripped away at the buffet
I’ve Struggled Staying Fit On The Road
I’ve gone on a few great solo adventures to other continents- I’ve been to The Netherlands, Panama, and Japan. They were all great experiences in their own way, but something stood out about all of them.
When I go on trips with my family, we normally go for gentle strolls in a national park or theme park or around museums, and a good bit of driving back and forth tends to be involved when you are going from your room out to the sights when you travel in the US. It’s definitely true that we have a country set up for cars, so it would be fairly difficult to do any trips if you depended on just a bike or public transport to get you anywhere, especially if you do some traveling in any less populated places. Even mid-sized US cities, like Salt Lake City or Milwaukee, really depend on having a car.
But trips to anywhere outside of the US are almost guaranteed to involve 8 hours straight or more on your feet. Which is fine for me normally, but is not so great if I spend the month on that trip slacking on my exercise routine. Which, honestly, I always do. Unless you are a business traveler or nomad who basically lives on the road, I feel like almost everyone skips doing any of their workouts when they are in tourist mode.
But for my sake, and your sake, I looked up basically thousands of different articles specifically about working out while traveling and about other things that I realized would work great for different travel situations. Then I put all of that together and boiled it down to just a few points so you can read this, get fit, and move on to your next great adventure in no time flat.
Now I have a lot of options for workouts I can choose from, including one weird thing I use my packed socks for.
Then I took the draft of this post on the road. It worked! I was able to stay fit without digging into too much of my fun time. Read on to learn what I did!
In This Post We’ll Learn
One sentence or maybe two
- Workout Without Equipment
- Workout Without Space
- Boost the Results of Your Workout
Workout Without Equipment
Travel Workout Equipment
There are some pieces of equipment that are basically standard at this point for frequent travelers to stay fit. You may have heard of most of these, in fact I hope you have, but these are still great equipment to get a workout anywhere in the world.
- AquaBells is one of the, if not the, main companies that sell travel dumbbells you can empty to be light and small in your luggage and fill at your destination for up to 16 ibs of weight.
- If you want to workout with a lot more weight, then travel kettlebells are for you. Another thing that makes me prefer kettlebells over dumbbells in general is that you can workout more muscle groups and stabilizing muscles as well as the main muscle groups that dumbbells focus on. Plus, kettlebells just seem more fun to me! And as far as travel workouts go, these are easier to fill and empty in a hotel sink, and you have the option of filling with rocks instead of water if you are traveling in a water restricted area like California, Arizonia, or other deserts and don’t want to waste a limited resource on your workouts.
- Travel kettlebells are basically dry bags that are customized and sold specifically for travel workouts, so you can easily diy this with a regular dry bag to save space in your luggage, but if you want to lift heavier weights I’d recommend doing the real deal above.
- Resistance bands are basically giant rubber bands for working out. You probably know what resistance bands are, and may already have a few tucked away at home. You can pick these up at just about any sports store.
- Jump ropes aren’t just for schoolyards and playgrounds! Jump ropes are great for adults to do HIIT jump rope exercises. A word of caution though, be careful which building you jump rope in. Older buildings and your average Airbnb or home are not a good choice for jump roping, and if you are on a higher level apartment you will seriously annoy your neighbors. You can still get in a great jump rope exercise, just be sure to head to a backyard or local park to do it!
- I personally hate bringing a yoga mat with me on trips because it takes up as much room as two pairs of rolled jeans- and I don’t pack any jeans at all because of how much space they take up in my suitcase! If you love your yoga practice you can still bring your mat along and sacrifice other things from your bag to make space. Alternatively, what I like to do is use a microfiber travel towel as a yoga mat- it packs really small, it absorbs sweat, and it’s washable. This works great for some downward dog in my hotel room or in a park or backyard.
- Note: they do make travel sized yoga mats. I find them to be so small they are useless, and I also don’t like to pack single function items when I travel. I prefer the travel towel because I can use it for yoga OR use it as, you know, a towel.
- Alternatively, you can use a sit upon just to cushion your hands in poses like down dog, or shoulders in shoulder stand. That way you have cushioning where you really need it, and no where else. These pads can take up a good amount of space in your bag and I only recommend this option if you are going on a camping trip and bringing this as a fire side seat anyway. (You can also diy a sit upon, if you’re interested.)
- I’ve also heard of a new product being sold that is basically just padded gloves advertised as “yoga mat on your hands”. I am a little skeptical, I admit. I’ve tried yoga gloves in the past, and they were almost useless. But those previous yoga gloves were meant for grip, which I always struggle with on a sweaty mat. The Yoga Paws are built for padding as well as grip, and they seem to be the most reputable of the sellers out there as far as I can tell.
- If you love to run for workouts at home it can also be a great way to experience a new city. However, running shoes can take up a good bit of space, so I like to pack trail running shoes so I can use it for hiking mountains or my daily workouts.
- Note that unlike in the US, people in other countries have not embraced the athleisure trend. That means you can’t really acceptably walk around in your running shoes or any other workout gear during the day once your run is done. There are some fashion running shoes out there, but most are not fashionable enough for European cities, Tokyo, or Seoul. You can try knit looking sneakers like this, or leather looking sneakers, but for the most part bringing running shoes means one less pair of shoes you can wear during the day.
- You can try putting running or sport insoles into leather shoes, or try looking for mary jane styled athletic shoes. These seem to be acceptable casual street wear in European cities. But the mary jane style does look too casual and lazy to me compared to what is stylish in my city to be comfortable wearing them in my area, so you may want to skip this option if you want to look chic on a trip to Washington D.C. and just wear normal nicely styled running sneakers instead.
FUN Workout Gear You Might Not Have Thought Of
I am all about having fun on trips. That is why my favorite things to pack for a trip are usually actually not technically made for working out at all. But you can still get a killer workout by having fun, and I aim to give you a few ideas to do just that!
- I’m certain you’ve heard of folding bikes. You can get a great workout from cycling, and it’s a great way to tour the city you are visiting without getting sore feet from walking for hours on end. When looking for a bike to travel with, be sure to get a really tiny folding bike that will actually fit into your carry on.
- Brompton folding bikes are some of the smallest out there and are known for fitting onto laps on public trains. A slightly larger, but still carry on sized, bike would be a Bike Friday– though it is large enough that it would be just about the only thing you could fit into your carry on. It can unfold to basically a full sized bike, and the brand also has options for folding tandems which is kind of a unique feature.
- Yes, a literal frisbee/flying disc. You can play ultimate frisbee with a group of friends, or just toss a disc back and forth and play catch. It takes up very little space in your bag, it’s lightweight, it’s cheap. It’s really the perfect travel workout, and if you are going on a trip with friends or planning to make friends at your hostel this is really all you’ll need to pack for getting fit on the road.
- Hula hoops are a childhood toy that can still be just as fun as an adult!
- Hula hoops became an exercise craze in the early part of the decade, but they still exist and they are still fun. Even better, they sell collapsible travel hula hoops so you can take it on the road. The Mayo Clinic recommends that if you do hula hooping for fitness, you should aim for at least 10 minutes of continuous hooping to really get exercise benefits from the activity.
- Check out Real Simple’s hula hoop routine.
- No, I am not kidding. Seriously. I am talking about literally just your socks rolled together.
- These rolls can be used to play hacky sack, or to juggle, or even to play catch with your kids or friends, which are all legit exercises that are also genuinely fun. Plus, you definitely will already have socks tucked into your luggage, so this takes up zero space in your bag and is totally multi-functional. #NoExcuses
- Note: This option won’t work too well if you take yourself too seriously or are bound to feel embarrassed in your hostel room when curious onlookers ask what you are doing. You may want to try another workout option if you struggle with being too self conscious.
Use Things You Already Have for a Great Workout
If you don’t want to take up space in your luggage, you can creatively use things already in your bag or at your hotel or hostel for a great workout. Some of these have been listed before in this post, but bear mentioning again for this section, and others are uniquely listed here, but either way you should find something useful here.
Creatively Use Things You’ve Packed
The Actual Suitcase
- Your suitcase filled with your stuff is a great built in strength workout. Practice lifting, holding, and moving your suitcase. You can easily adapt any old kettlebell form to use with your packed suitcase. Bonus- practicing lifting your filled suitcase during your trip will make it much easier to put it into the overhead bins by yourself on your return flight!
- You can roll your socks together and use them to juggle or play catch.
- Hold the towel between your hands and stretch it taut for a great upper body workout
- Put down a towel and use it as a yoga mat
- I personally always pack a waterbottle, because I am prone to forgetting to drink any liquid for days at a time when I don’t carry one in my purse at all times. I’d recommend at least packing a bottle when you travel even if you don’t have my drinking forgetfulness problem just because air travel can really dry you out. You can lift and use a filled water bottle just like a dumbbell. Be sure when packing for your trip to either pack your bottle completely empty, or make sure you’ve completely emptied it before you get to the security check in line, or you will probably be forced to throw it out which would be heartbreaking because you are hopefully using a good reusable water bottle.
- The dopper bottle is something I picked up as a souvenir in Groningen because everyone was carrying one. I’ve grown to love that it is the same size as disposable water bottle so it fits into the smallest purse, and it can untwist into a cup-which is handy for people who don’t like sipping from bottles or for when you need a cup for tooth brushing or swallowing pills on the road. Plus, it’s really cool!
Use Your Hotel, Hostel, or Rental Spaces Creatively For a Great Workout
Your hotel, hostel, or any other building you are staying in probably already has a lot of great features for working out. Not every hotel even has a bare bones gym yet with just a lone treadmill, let alone weight training and flexibility workout options, so you may have to get creative with the other facilities your new temporary home on the road has, but with a little creative thinking it can get done.
- Use your hotel’s gym
- Use your hotel’s pool
- Use your gym pass if you have a membership with a location where you are traveling (In America a very widespread national chain many travelers like to be members of is Planet Fitness)
Features Your Building Likely Has
- Stair running is great for building endurance and doing HIIT workouts. I love to use the stairs in buildings where everyone uses the elevator because it makes me feel like I’m having a completely private workout in a big public building, and it’s kind of fun to me as well.
Places for Pull Ups
Pull ups are an awesome workout that you can do almost anywhere. Most people depend on a pull up bar in their gym or home to do their workout, but you can find something to use for pull ups almost anywhere in the world. Here’s just a few potential places to do a pull up!
- Stair Rail pullups is something you can do inside or outside almost any building. Most places have rails, and they are great for getting an upper body workout in. Be sure to scout out your rails carefully to both make sure you aren’t in anyone else’s way and that the stair rails don’t put you in danger of falling several flights of steps or off a cliff or something else extreme. Use a bit of common sense on this one!
- swing set
- sturdy branch
- building or bus stop overhang
Curb & Kerb
Use Furniture in Your Room
- Climb your chair like in the video above (one of the earliest chair climbing videos I could find, I’m hoping it might be one of the first)
- Alternatively you could use a chair to prop your feet for decline pushups.
- use to balance yourself when doing dips
- use for balance and practicing your backbends
- Tables are a great way to build up strength to doing a full pull up. Look at this tutorial from Pop Sugar to do an inverted row.
Floors and Ground
- Literally every floor exercise you do at home you can do on floors on the road. Heck, you can even do them on the ground outside. If your normal workout involves just your body on the ground then there’s no excuse to skip it while you travel.
- There are gentle, easy wall workouts you can do using the walls inside your hotel room. Check these out.
- You can always go parkour with your workout and climb walls, fences, and other structures. Be sure when you do this that you are not affecting other people’s safety, that you are not in the way of commuters or someone trying to get work done on the wall or building, and that the wall isn’t too tall.
Using Nature for a Killer Workout
Don’t have a lot of space in your hotel room? Want to avoid the other people sharing your hostel dorm while you are getting sweaty and gross? No problem. Just skip all of that by heading outdoors!
Plus, spending time outdoors can help you get a different experience when you are travel ling to a new place. Walking through a bamboo forest in Japan and doing a rain forest walk in Panama helped me get a new perspective on my destination and really added to the overall experience of feeling like I was in a new place.
City parks have a lot of great recreation options, and they are completely free in almost every city (and really cheap in the few where it costs some money to use). Even better, spending time outdoors recharges your mind and soul more than an indoor workout, and spending time outdoors can help you get over jet lag faster, so it’s the perfect thing to add to your vacation!
- public park gyms
- Grassy parks and free city yoga & tai chi classes
- walk in the park
- boat rentals at the beach
City parks have a lot of options. For one thing, many cities have outdoor public park gyms, with pull up bars at different heights and different exercise stations. Be sure to take full advantage of these when you are traveling!
Public playgrounds also offer great opportunities for a workout. Monkey bars, climbing nets, and many other options abound for great upper body exercise. Pumping your legs on the swing set isn’t the most intense workout, but it is fun and effective, and if you are traveling with a group you can also push other people on the swings and get a great upper body workout.
Big parks like The Mall in D.C. or Central Park or other parks filled with lawns provide you chances to do running, bear climbs, crab walks, and other fun activities you used to do with your friends in gym class in elementary school if you are traveling with a group. Many cities also offer free tai chi or yoga classes in their grassy parks, you’ll have to do some Googling to find which park and what time if this is an option in your city though.
Just going for a walk through a city park is also a great way to get some gentle exercise if you find your trip doesn’t already involve a lot of walking- for example if you are on a road trip a walk in the park is just the ticket.
A lot of city parks in river or ocean side cities also offer kayak, canoe, and stand up paddleboard rentals, so you can easily get a great workout in while enjoying the ocean scenery. Don’t forget to sign up for a surf lesson if you are in a surfing city!
Using Plant Life and Rocks and Stuff
Climb a Tree
- Literally. Just Climbing a tree is a full body workout. And it’s fun! If you are somewhere where the trees don’t have branches, be sure to look up how to climb them first before attempting it. (Hint, you can see in a video above how to do this.)
Lift a Tree
- You can lift a fallen tree or big branch and follow along with a barbell workout.
- You can just lift rocks like dumbbells, and follow along with your favorite dumbbell workout routine.
Use Your Body Weight to Workout Anywhere
You can workout anywhere in the universe that has gravity with body weight exercises. So, unless you plan to become an astronaut, that means all of these exercises can be done anywhere. Can you do planks in the back of your train compartment? Yes, if you aren’t afraid of potentially being a bother or getting weird stares.
Can you do body weight exercises in an airplane? No. You don’t have that kind of space in an airplane. Look down below to the seated exercises section if you are looking for that. Can you do body weight exercises in your van or car? Maybe. Probably not. Look down below to the next section. Can you do it in a kayak while you are doing kayak touring? No probably not, look for chair exercises below.
Can you do body weight exercises in a hostel, a hotel, a park, a basement, a boat deck, on the sand, on the grass, on a mountain, having a blast? Yes. Yes you can! So read on.
These exercises require a bit of ground space, which you probably have a lot of. Here’s a few of my favorite exercises that build strength and cardio conditioning after just a short 10 minute workout depending on how intensely you go at it.
- pushups and variations
- tuck jump
- standing yoga poses
- seated yoga poses
- shoulder stands
- hand stand pushups
- jumping jacks
- high knee jogging in place
- squats and variations
- dancing, either following a cardio dance routine or just freestyle enjoying the music in your earbuds
- superman and variations
- bridge and bridge pulses and variations
You can always use just your body weight for cardio. Walking all day to explore a city you are visiting is a classic travel workout, and going for a hike up a calm paved nature path or vertical mountain path will get your heart pumping, your muscles working, and let you get a different perspective on the place you are visiting.
Workout Without Space
Different spaces require different approaches to working out. If you are working out in a space that shares walls and floors with other residents, you may want to minimize or remove all jumping around during your workout. If you are actually on your journey in a train or plane or car, you’ll want to do a seated workout. If you only have a bed, like in a hostel or van life, there are options for that too.
Shared Space Yoga
Shared spaces require a bit of thoughtfulness. If you are in an Airbnb apartment, or in a hostel, you need to be aware that your workout could seriously ruin another person’s sleep. No need to worry though, Blogilates has a great archive of apartment friendly workouts geared to address exactly this problem.
Seated Workouts for Planes, Trains, and Roadtrips
Okay, so most of us will probably just do floor exercises or chair workouts if we have no other equipment options. But a backup that might work in some rare travel situations- like if you are traveling first class in a plane or train and have a bed, or when you want to work out inside when you are living the van life- or if you only have access to your own bed in a hostel or capsule hotel, then there are options for that too.
- Paleohacks’ bed workout
- Beauty Rest has some alternative bed workout options
- Marie Clare has some additional options, as well as a few repeats listed
Boost the Results of Your Workouts
Like I’ve said, your water bottle is super important to take while traveling. The air inside airplane cabins is re-circulated over and over again, and this air can threaten to dehydrate you while you travel.
Plus, who doesn’t get thirsty on a multi-hour trip? I sure do. And I refuse to drink the disgusting airplane tap water, or the tea and coffee made from it, so my only way to rehydrate is to fill my water after I’ve passed through the security check in line. (If you fill your bottle before going through the line, many security agencies, including the American TSA, will throw out your bottle and this event could also potentially lead to a more invasive pat down security check for you.)
Another reason why it’s so important to remember to stay hydrated while traveling is that many people struggle with regular bathroom use, so to speak, while on the road or in a new timezone. The best way to fight and even prevent this becoming a problem is to drink regularly and make sure you eat veggies as well as the awesome local entrees. I have found that drinking enough water is harder to do in other countries than at home because public water fountains and drinking while walking seem much less common in other countries and cultures that tend to focus on buying water (it’s more expensive than beer in Europe!) or even sitting down in a cafe for a drink, while the veggies are a much easier thing to incorporate in your meal and even enjoy outside of America. It’s much easier to just bring your own bottle, refill it at your hotel if you are visiting a country where the tap water is safe for drinking (it is in most of Europe and Tokyo, it was in Panama City but not in the countryside of Panama) and sip from it throughout the day
Stay Rested So You Boost Your Recovery
Traveling gets you tired. A fair amount of that tiredness is from walking around and being a tourist, so it’s a happy good kind of tired. But most of all, jet lag makes you tired. Try to set aside the entire 8 hours of sleep a night during the duration of your stay so you can stay energized for the fun of the day.
Another note on sleep, be sure plan your sleep time for when most of the locals are asleep. I learned the hard way that most of Japan follows certain quiet hours and 8pm is really a good time to go to bed in the countryside, while in Panama City people get up later in the morning and stay up later so a band played outside my hostel’s window a few minutes after I had gone to bed and the party kept going for quite awhile.
Eat Some Foods That Will Build Your Muscles
Look, if you are on vacation, you can enjoy some fun foods. Trying local specialties you can’t get at home is part of the fun of going to new places. If you are on a business trip, the occasional local treat can still be fine as well.
I’m not recommending you cut out unique things you can only get at your destination. Cut out anything fun you can get at home, mind you- I don’t eat brownies on trips, for example, because I can get that almost anywhere in my home country. But local specialties are fair game to me. You can bet I ate mochi without shame in Japan!
The key is to make sure you eat a dish full of veggies and drink some of your glass of water or tea first before digging into the rest of the awesome dishes that make up your meal. In Western countries this means ordering the salad course and eating that before the entree. In South American and Asian restaurants, meals are often served family style, so be sure to spoon out some veggies on your plate and eating those before diving into other awesomeness.
You can also limit the sweets by following the one bite method. If you go to a local buffet, you can serve yourself a very small serving of each dish and have just one bite of everything you want, and that will you’ll be able to experience a big variety without eating a big volume of food.
Also consider what treats you value most. For myself eating cakes isn’t a huge priority, but rich pasta dishes or tiny cute desserts are something I can’t go without.
You Can Get in a Great Workout While You Travel Without any Equipment
It’s totally possible to get in a great workout without any equipment. The bigger question was whether it was possible to stay healthy overall on the road, but I think this post and my last post on disabled travel can help you keep up your healthy habits while still having fun on your trip.
If you love this post, be sure to sign up for the emails. I’m working on creating an in-depth resource library expanding on all the topics covered in this blog! So if you want exclusive, free access, you’ll want to sign up now. In the meantime you can get a free recipe ebook instantly!