Finding the balance between resting and feeling guilty for not working out can be tricky, but it’s possible. Working out while travelling goes together better than you might think.

Vacations should be fun and not spent inside a hotel gym. Unless that’s your thing, then, by all means, get it! This post will show you how to work out while travelling, and often without even realizing it!

Try these 15 tips for working out while travelling to help you stay fit and active

Post updated September 2023

Before I get into these tips, I should start out by saying that these are based solely on my personal life experience, and my having been a fitness instructor for over a decade.

In order to truly enjoy your vacation, and not feel like you’re cheating on your fitness goals, you simply need to change your perspective on what a workout really is.

Fifteen tips for working out while travelling
Tips for working out while travelling

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How to work out while travelling

I rarely use hotel gyms, they are just not my thing, but I have been known to drop into fitness studios when I’m away for a class or two. Vacations are (hopefully) when you take time to re-set, to feed your mind, body and soul.

Sometimes this looks like a relaxing massage on the beach, and other times it means playing tequila volleyball in the pool – hey, don’t judge, it was fun 😉 All I’m saying is you should try and listen to what your body is telling you. It’s pretty smart. Now let’s help you reframe what working out really looks like.

15 tips for working out while travelling

  • 1. Redefine what a workout is. The first thing you need to do is change your mindset. If you typically go to the gym and lift weights for your workouts at home, you are likely going to need a mindset shift so we’re going to start here. A workout can be many things, not just a gym session. If you want to enjoy your vacation without hitting the gym every day, read on with an open mind.
  • 2. Walking is a workout. You may not feel like it is, but walking is actually one of the best exercises for you. It is weight-bearing (hello, bodyweight!) You are staving off osteoporosis with every step. Walking is the one exercise you are pretty much guaranteed to do with every vacation. I’m willing to bet you do A LOT more of it when you are travelling than when you are at home. Take a walking tour of the city if you can find one. Not only will you get in your workout, but you’ll learn all about the city.
Tracking your steps is a great way to workout while travelling
If you track your steps on vacation, you’ll be surprised by how far you’ve walked
  • 3. Track your steps. As a follow-up to the above tip, tracking your steps will prove to you just how much of a workout walking can be. During one vacation when my friend and I sat down for dinner, she confided that she was feeling guilty about having missed her daily workout. I consulted my trusty Apple Watch and told her that we had actually walked over 17km. And in 35-degree heat! That certainly classifies as working out while travelling. Seeing your steps is both validating and motivating.
  • 4. Take the stairs. This tip is solid life advice whether you’re travelling or not, but it’s especially noteworthy when you’re away from home. Simply taking the stairs everywhere you go can really add up in a day. Don’t just take my word for it, check your fitness tracker at the end of a day of sightseeing and you’ll be amazed at how many flights you’ve done.
  • 5. Explore on two wheels. Forget taking the bus, or joining a tour group. If the place you are visiting is conducive to riding a bicycle, then try exploring the city on a bike. Most major cities, and even smaller towns, now have bike shares. I have explored both Manhattan and Amsterdam on a bicycle. Pictured below, I’m exploring Cartagena in 36-degree heat. Let me tell you, that was one heck of a sweaty workout!
One of the best tips for how to wokr out while travelling is to explore a new city on bicycle
Cycling around Cartagena was a great way to see the sights of the city’s unique neighbourhoods
  • 6. Listen to your body. This one takes some practice, especially if you are prone to procrastination, but if you can solidify the lines of communication between you and your body, you will both be much happier. How this applies when you travel is that sometimes your body wants you to do nothing, but other times it actually wants you to get up and do that poolside Yoga class.
  • 7. Try something new. Our bodies get used to doing the same thing over and over and they become efficient, using fewer calories. When we go on vacation and try new activities, we challenge our bodies in new ways. Some sports to try include Stand Up Paddleboarding, Kayaking, Canoeing, Mountain Biking and so many more. I signed up for surf lessons when I was in Australia and that is by far the hardest sport I have ever tried! If you don’t want to feel like you’re working out while travelling, I suggest trying Stand Up Paddleboarding instead of surfing, lol! Or try a rooftop yoga class for a sweat with views.
  • 8. Get wet. If you are visiting a tropical location, get in the water and go snorkelling. It may not feel like it, but swimming in the ocean and snorkelling are both excellent forms of exercise. Swimming is a great way to sneak in a workout without feeling like it. Not in a hot locale? Hop in the hotel pool and swim a few laps for the same effect.
Swimming is a great way to workout while travelling
Swimming in cenotes is one of my favourite ways to workout while in Mexico
  • 9. Train at a unique location. If you are a gym-goer at home, don’t settle for any old boring gym while you’re away on vacation. If you’re going to be working out while travelling then you should see if your vacation spot offers a unique way to train. If you happen to be in Tulum, Mexico, check out the Tulum Jungle Gym. I bet you’ll almost forget that you’re lifting at this Flinstone-style training centre. If you’re in Venice Beach, California, go train where Arnold did at the Gold’s Gym. Get creative and find new spaces or places to train.
  • 10 Rest. Like, actually Rest. As my Personal Trainer repeatedly tells me, sometimes our bodies need to rest. If you are suffering from jet lag or have been sightseeing for days, your body might need a rest day. When we overtrain, our muscles can’t recover properly and we become tired and lethargic. This is our body’s way of telling us that we need to stop. Rest and recovery are important, but often overlooked, parts of regular exercise.
Swimming in the hotel's infinity pool is how to work out while travelling without it feeling like a workout
Relaxing in the hotel’s infinity pool was just what my body needed after sightseeing in the hot Grecian sun.

5 more tips for working out while travelling

  • 11. Go dancing. No, I don’t mean you should hit up the local nightclub, but you certainly can. I am referring to taking a salsa lesson or joining a ballroom dancing night. Research your location and see if they offer any such activities. Many places will offer lessons for free before opening their doors for the evening. I used to salsa dance regularly at a bar in France. It’s a great way to meet new people and work off some calories in a fun way.
  • 12. Indulge in adrenaline-inducing activities. While these activities aren’t considered to be traditional workouts, going sky diving will raise your heart rate as you plummet full speed towards the ground. Unconventional activities such as zip-lining, riding an ATV or going bungee jumping will undoubtedly raise your heart rate. So does running. Different activities, same effect. I know which one I’d rather do while on vacation 😉
Skydiving views in Cabo
Skydiving will get your heart racing like any other workout
  • 13. Try a Tabata workout. Okay, this one is an actual workout, but it’s only 4 minutes long and you can easily do it in your hotel room. The premise behind a Tabata-style workout is that you go hard for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds, repeating 8 times for a total of 4 minutes. Pick an exercise you can do in your hotel room such as running on the spot, jump squats or jumping jacks. If you go all-out for those 20 seconds each time, you will be exhausted and feel like you’ve done a real workout. Because you have.
  • 14. Meditate. Sometimes we need to get ourselves into the right mindset to work out. Regardless of whether it’s hitting the hotel gym or walking to town instead of taking a taxi, mindset matters. Take some time to yourself before you leave the hotel to meditate and set intentions for the day. Mental workouts can help set the tone and ensure you stay focused on your health.
  • 15. Turn it into a game. Remember when you were a kid and you raced somewhere just for the fun of it? This time, make it interesting. The last one to the bar buys a round. Or the last one home has to do 20 push-ups. Working out while travelling can be fun. You get to make up the rules based on whatever motivates you. Once you’re having fun, you’re almost always guaranteed to forget that you’re working out.
Climbing up the steps of Mayan ruins is one way to workout while travelling.
Climbing the steps of the Mayan Ruins was a definite workout

Is it okay to not to workout on vacation?

In short, yes. See number 10 where we discuss this issue. You really need to know your body and listen to it. Are you avoiding being active on vacation because you’re feeling lazy and unmotivated? Or are you truly exhausted and need a break?

Learning to listen to your body is key to your overall health and well-being. Everybody needs to rest from time to time. Take a rest day. Get a massage. Let yourself really rest if you’re going to take a rest day. Sightseeing for 10 KMs isn’t a rest day. See what I did there? 😉

Most of the time, we simply need a mindset shift of what constitutes working out while we are travelling. If you would like additional support on your journey to wellness, especially when you’re travelling, I am here to help you. I offer Wellness Travel Coaching to help empower you to make the right choices and feel good about them.

Conclusion – How to work out while travelling

Working out while you’re travelling on vacation takes a mindset shift. You can stay fit while on vacation. If you are someone who feels guilty when you skip going to the gym, remember that climbing the stairs of the ruins, or exploring a new city by bicycle, is a workout.

Walking all day long while touring a new city IS a workout. It’s likely different from what you’re used to, but that’s a good thing. Taking a vacation gives your mind and body a change from your daily routine. Enjoy it, guilt-free.

For more helpful wellness travel tips, check out how to eat healthy while travelling. Exercising is important, but so is what you eat. It’s actually more important than you may think.

If you struggle with finding the balance between enjoying your vacation and sabotaging your health, book a wellness travel planning power hour with me. During these sessions, I will offer you actionable guidance and tips on how to travel in a healthier way. You’ll leave feeling empowered and prepared for your next trip.

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