Keeping Fit on Vacation


Do not let accessibility concerns or equipment issues limit where you want to vacation or what you want to do while you are there.

It’s summertime! Most kids are on a break from school and many families are looking to take a vacation! Whether it’s a local getaway or a big trip abroad, it’s fun to have a different routine. However, it is important not to a vacation from your healthy habits. You may not be able to follow your regular diet or exercise regimen while traveling, and that is okay. Give yourself permission to be a little lax. But to disregard fitness and nutrition all together will make it difficult to get back into the habit when vacation is over.

Doing some research while planning your trip can have a big impact. Here are some tips on how to add activity into your travels, and to prevent diet disasters.

A little investigation into the area and the hotel can go a long way! Does the hotel have a gym? Is it accessible? These are simple questions to ask when booking a place. However, do not be surprised that “being accessible” may still mean that there are limited options of equipment that can be used. Working out in your room is an option. Packing a resistance band, which is small, and can allow for some resistance training to start your day. Every Body Fitness  offers workout routines that can be followed along from your computer, and you can use water bottles to add challenge to those workouts, again from the ease of your hotel room. ( Getting a workout in before you start the day means it is out of the way!

Does the hotel have a pool? The whole family can enjoy some activity by playing in the water! You don’t have to swim laps to get a good workout. If you are traveling somewhere that is especially warm, the water can help keep you cool and make being active more bearable. Playing tag or Marco Polo with the kids will get everyone some exercise. Some pools even have equipment for a game of water basketball or water volleyball for a bit of friendly competition. If you need a lift to access the pool, be sure to ask the hotel if they have one when booking a room – also ask if the lift works!

Look into the local activities that the whole family can enjoy. Hiking or biking are great ways to see the area that you are visiting. It’s a great way for children to get more time outdoors, and can get the whole family more activity. This does not have to be a race; you can move at a leisurely pace and enjoy the scenery while getting some activity.

Kids can play I Spy to be more engaged with their surroundings. There are plenty of resources to research accessible trails around the United States, as well as other countries. One site for the US is:

Many areas offer guided tours either on foot or bike, so even if you are directionally challenged, this may still be an option for you and your family! Let a local guide show you the sites and take that planning off of your plate, and consider other options besides a bus or van.

Is there water where you’re traveling? Kayaking or inner tubing could be another option of getting activity while enjoying the outdoors. Look ahead of time for any services that rent accessible equipment. There are beaches with paved pathways to the water, and shops that rent wheelchairs that can handle sand.

Sightseeing also does not have to take place from a car or bus – look into ways to explore the area on foot or bike. If you are visiting an area with lots of historic places to see, consider a walking tour.

Do not let accessibility concerns or equipment issues limit where you want to vacation or what you want to do while you are there. There is a high probability that someone with similar concerns has already done it and given advice.

Some sites specific to traveling with a disability, or with a loved one who is disabled include:

Now let’s talk about diet. It is tempting to overindulge while on vacation… but that is not good for your waistline or health. Trying the local fare is recommended, but do not let portion control go out the window. Beware of buffets! They make it too easy for the whole family to eat too much and generally, buffets do not have healthy options. Also drive by the drive-thrus! These do not have healthy options, and you did not go on vacation to eat fast food. If you go to a restaurant that is serving some local dishes, consider getting a couple to share with the whole family, rather than everyone getting a full dish. Portion sizes are often large, and well beyond the recommended size.

See if there is a way to enjoy the locally grown produce. Research any local farmer’s markets, or if there is a fruit farm to go picking. This will get some activity and some nutrition into your stay.

Trying to stay somewhere that has a kitchen allows you to prepare some meals, which is healthier and more affordable than having to go out for all meals. Packing snacks for the family to enjoy throughout the day will prevent overeating when mealtime comes around, as well as limit the desire for unhealthy snacks just because it’s vacation. It is reasonable to enjoy some treats, but do not leave all healthy eating habits at home. Consider allowing the family members to choose one special treat per day rather than all meals being considered special.

Have a great summer! Enjoy your getaways! And share any healthy tips that have helped you to stay fit while on vacation. •


Kristin McNealus, DPT, MBA, ATP received her Masters in Physical Therapy from Boston University then went on to earn her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from MGH Institute of Health Professions. She has been a staff physical therapist on inpatient rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injuries at a number of hospitals in Southern California, as well as Director of a community adaptive gym for people with neurological injuries. She is a member of the International Network Spinal Cord Injury Physiotherapists, and has contributed to the APTA Guidelines for Exercising with a SCI. She has completed 3 marathons, and 25 triathlons, including the Ironman! SCI Total Fitness is designed to promote health and wellness for people with physical disabilities.

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