Traveling is an exciting experience, before, during and even after the trip is over. But sometimes the details of getting there, being there and getting home can derail even the most Zen among us.

Here’s what you need to get the relaxation started long before you begin, stay healthy while traveling, and keep it going for as long as you can:

1) Pack a healthy bag

Like people, bags can be difficult, moody and challenging. Try lugging a heavy bag with wimpy wheels through an airport – a guaranteed stressor, not to mention an easy way to pull a muscle or worse.

One of the smartest investments you can make is a “spinner.” These suitcases have four wheels – not the usual two – that rotate 360 degrees. So instead of pulling the bag, you are effortlessly pushing, or rolling it through the terminals, which helps alleviate strain on your shoulders and back. Many come with unstructured handles, which further lessens strain on your body, specifically your wrist and arms.

2) Breathe deeply

You’ll need to practice some relaxed breathing somewhere along the way. If you’re traveling by air, the long lines, often-surly TSA agents, hurry-up-and-wait and other stressors can rattle the calmest of nerves. If you’re driving, you will inevitably deal with traffic, delays, or worse. It’s okay – even good! – to acknowledge you’re angry or stressed… but then let it go, and tell yourself that feeling that way will only ruin – not enhance – your vacation.

Practice a few deep breaths to rid your body of that unnecessary tension; breathe in through your nose and hold it for a few seconds, then exhale through your mouth, taking twice as long to exhale as it takes to inhale.

3) Disinfect

Germs lurk everywhere – from the time you leave to the time you arrive home. To eradicate as many as possible, making sure to start at the beginning. Tote some antibacterial wipes on the plane and swab down the seat, tray, seatbelt and armrests.

After you deplane, wipe down your pillow (if you brought one along). In your room, bring out the wipes again and give a good cleaning to things like the TV remote, toilet handle, and room phone – often riddled with germs and rarely wiped down by housekeeping.

4) Stretch your body

Sitting for long periods of time can make bodies stiff and fatigued. Try to get up once each hour and gently stretch your body. Here’s one good move to limber up: Open up your shoulders and keep your upper back limber; stand with feet aligned with your hips; and roll your shoulders back while slowly interlocking your hands behind your back, keeping your chin tucked and your back straight. Keep your feet planted firmly into the floor while pressing your fists down and away from your body. Breathe deeply five to ten times, then release.

5) Prep yourself for a good night’s sleep

Even if you’re relaxed and sleepy, being in a new location – especially the first night – can often make it difficult to sleep. Researchers aptly call this the “first night effect.” To help yourself along, pack your favorite pillowcase from home, and rub in a relaxing and fragrance or cream that you brought from home. The feelings of familiarity will help ease you into a better night’s sleep.

Staying healthy while traveling is especially important to over-50 travelers since with age, our immune system can make it tougher to fight off foreign invaders and germs. And, who wants to ruin a great vacation with poor or compromised health?


Additional tips for healthy travel:

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