How to Always Travel in Comfort
July 28, 2011
Written for Back1 by Allison Walker-Elders
August is the busiest month for traveling. Whether your dream vacation is backpacking through Europe, lounging on a beach, or shopping in Hong Kong, chances are you’ll have to spend lots of time on your feet while carrying luggage. Between the stress of planning a trip and the weariness of carrying your belongings for hours at a time, your body can suffer. Travel is particularly hard on the back. Since the body’s ability to carry its weight (not to mention any extra baggage) depends on the strength of the back, it is easy to strain these muscles. Here are some tips for preventing back pain and enjoying your vacation to the fullest:
- Don’t stress out. Traveling can be very stressful. It’s a good idea to plan your vacation well in advance—have the tickets all booked ahead of time, budget appropriately, and pack your bags as soon as possible. By reducing the amount of stress prior to and during your trip, your body can relax a bit more. This will keep your muscles (including those in your back and neck) loose and limber.
- Pack light. It seems obvious, but so many travelers make this mistake! Do not pack more than what you need. A few changes of clothes, including one set of formal wear if necessary, are sufficient, as you can launder your clothes while abroad. Airport security, while a hassle, keeps you from carrying heavy bottles of perfume or shampoo with their “3 oz. bottle of liquid, max” rule. If all else fails, you can purchase necessities once you reach your destination. That way, you need not worry about damaging or losing any important personal items. And if you need to take a lot of stuff, consider checking a bag.
- Drink lots of water. Even though you cannot bring it through security, you need to drink fluids to stay hydrated. This will keep the blood flowing, nurturing your muscles as they work. Tempting as it may be, an iced coffee just doesn’t cut it. Water is always the right choice for a thirsty traveler. If you want, you can have a fruit juice or decaffeinated iced tea. Try to avoid sugary sodas and dehydrating, caffeine-packed power drinks—those will give you an initial buzz, but two hours later (when you’re still sitting in the airport), you’ll regret it.
- Bring something cushy. A neck pillow, a sweater, a wadded up jacket—anything that will give you neck or lumbar support. Airplane, train, and bus seats are generally rigid and pitch the upper body forward. Not a good position to assume for six hours or more.
- Lift with the knees. To risk sounding like a calisthenics instructor, posture is invaluable when hauling bags. Be sure to pick up heavy bags with both feet pressed firmly on the ground and stomach muscles engaged. This will take the weight off your back and on to your stronger thigh and abdominal muscles.
- Stretch. Get up every hour or so and stretch your body for five minutes. This will keep the blood flowing through your back, arms, and legs. Otherwise, you will get stiff and sore. Take a short walk, if possible. If you have been walking, stretch a bit longer with a focus on your legs. Sit somewhere comfortable for a few minutes and recharge.
- Get a full night’s rest. Both before and after traveling, it is imperative to be fully rested. Sleep for six to eight hours before a trip, if possible. After arriving at your destination, congratulations! You’ve made it to your summer hotspot. Now, sleep until your body is ready to be awake. After all, who's counting the hours? You're on vacation!
Photo: Mam Naime
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Last updated: 28-Jul-11