How to Stay Fit on Vacation (While Still Enjoying Yourself)

My husband and I were on a dream vacation to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. We went on a cruise to Venice, Kotor – Montenegro, Rome, Florence/Pisa, Toulon, France and Barcelona, Spain. This gave us great practice in how to stay fit on vacation, but still enjoy ourselves.


Our gondola ride in Venice


In front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa


It was a once in a lifetime trip and also a great opportunity to share tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, reach your fitness goals, (and still enjoy yourself!) while on a vacation.

I was looking forward to sharing this because we all are a work in progress, and I’ve come a long way from my binge-deprive cycles that I would normally use while going on vacation.

I want this post to provide useful tips, but also cover the topic of MINDSET. A healthy mindset regarding food and exercise is key to long-term, sustainable results.


This USED to be me in the past (not how I handled THIS vacation), but see if you can relate to my past behaviors:

1) Two weeks out from vacation:

  • Time to tighten up the diet, cut calories/carbs and increase workouts (especially cardio) before we leave. Hope to lose at least 5 lbs (hopefully more) so I have a buffer to enjoy the yummy treats. Let’s get to work!

2) One day out:

  • Final weigh-in before vacation. I’m physically worn down, carb-deprived and “hangry” (mixture of hunger and angry!). Not fun to be around, BUT my clothes feel looser. I didn’t lose as much as I feel I need for enough of a buffer (because you can never have enough of a buffer, right?), but I’m ready to go. I’m so starving and I can’t wait to eat and stop working out!

3) Day 1 of vacation:

  • Let the flood gates open. We are traveling to the airport, it’s 7am, but I want to stop at IHOP and get a huge plate of pancakes. The switch has been flipped. Let the feasting begin.

4) This section is filled with eating, eating and eating

  • Not much working out, of course – because who wants to do THAT on vacation?

5) Coming home.

  • Dreading going back to the old plan AND now I need to tighten up the diet even more. I feel heavier than before I even started preparing for vacation. My clothes are tight. Perhaps, I’m looking forward to a healthier eating plan because I ate so much. I knew the bad food would be gone soon – so I filled up while I had the chance. I’d better be strict to make up for the damage. Better increase workouts too.

6) Weigh-in:

  • Up 7 lbs (or more). More than before I even planned this vacation. I suck. Let’s start depriving again until we are back under control. 🙁

Can you relate?


We Feel Like We Need To Lean Down & Look Our Best So We Can Splurge On Vacation

Sometimes we feel like we need to “prepare” for vacation by going on a detox, cleanse or tightening up our diet and workouts beforehand. We feel we need that buffer because we can’t control ourselves around all the delicious treats we may encounter while away — and we want to ENJOY all we can! In fact, this may be a once in a lifetime trip for us. Need to enjoy it to the fullest, right?

And heck – I love good food! I love to eat and enjoy. Can you have a little bit of both?


With that in mind, I’m going to post my Do’s and Don’ts on how to stay fit on vacation (and still enjoy yourself!).

These are the tips I used to make this vacation and enjoyable one where I wasn’t obsessed with food and exercise. At the end, I’ll even share how much weight I gained while away…

For some, this may seem easy-peasy and you don’t even stress like this while on vacation. That’s great! If you don’t have these mindset struggles, these tips are STILL FOR YOU!


You can use these tips anytime you are away from your regular food/exercise environment.

For others with these mindset struggles, you may first read the tips below and say, “I can NEVER do what Barb is suggesting! I would gain so much and be so far behind with my goals by the time I return.” For you, I say “baby steps” Open your mind to the ideas and pick one or two to follow on your next vacation.


How to Stay Fit on Vacation (While Still Enjoying Yourself!)


1. Don’t Severely Change Your Nutrition and/or Workouts Prior to Vacation

Don’t worry about giving yourself a “buffer” before leaving. The more you restrict and feel deprived, the more you will binge later on vacation.


2.  Do Plan Fitness Activities You Enjoy

Plan fitness activities you enjoy while on vacation. For us, we walked so much. By the end I had some blisters on my feet and I swear I was going to get shin splints next, BUT it was so much fun! We walked through beautiful countryside, speed-walked up hills and mountains.

We walked EVERYWHERE! In addition, there was also a fitness facility on the cruise ship. I enjoyed going on the jogging track while on the Mediterranean. I used the actual fitness center (only 2 times), but it was fun. My views out the big windows made it enjoyable!


Loved the weight room


Using the jogging track on the ship

Beautiful view on the elliptical. The bottom of the “boot” of Italy!


Walking the streets of Toulon, France

3. Do Eat Foods That Are Worth It

Food was abundant and I planned to enjoy everything that appealed to me. This may be my only chance to visit this area of the world. I knew it was famous for wine, pasta, bread, cheese, olive oil, gelato, etc! I planned to enjoy, but not binge. Just be satisfied.

I also planned to eat healthier meals (when it didn’t count) – see #4. My husband and I had a rule. If the yummy-looking food we picked ended up NOT tasting great – why eat it?

Make it worth it.

There were chocolate cakes we didn’t finish, ice cream that wasn’t spectacular. We didn’t just eat that because it was there. We threw it away and waited for something better!Here’s some of the highlights that were worth it:

Fresh cheese from the market in Toulon, Franceour-gelato-venice-italy-6-1-14
Real Italian gelato. Strawberry (fragola in Italian) was the best!best-pasta-chianti-in-florence-italy-6-7-14
Our favorite meal in Florence. Homemade pasta and Chianti from Tuscanyour-wonderful-meal-from-florence-in-our-room-6-7-14-1Our “dinner” one night in our room. Chianti, fresh bread, cheese, Italian olive oil and layered chocolate cake!

4. Do Eat Regular “Healthy” Meals (when it doesn’t matter)

Make sure you are fueled for your adventures (have enough protein & veggies to stay full). I enjoyed foods that I really wanted – usually one really yummy meal or snack a day (sometimes more). When it didn’t matter – (when it didn’t feel like we were missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime food), I ate healthier foods to fuel our activities. There were many breakfasts that consisted of plain bran flakes, egg whites, fruits, veggies, etc. Lunches that didn’t matter consisted of lean proteins and local fruits/veggies. Same with dinners. The goal was not to feel overly-stuffed or just eat “bad” every meal because we were on vacation. When you enjoy food when it counts – you actually FEEL much better and have more energy!


5. Don’t Be a Perfectionist – But Be Good Enough

My goal was to feel “balanced” on vacation. Enjoy myself, but give myself some freedom to feel like I was on vacation. Binging isn’t balance – and that’s the attitude I had. No matter what, I didn’t want to be “perfect” (ok, I am a perfectionist at heart – but I’m working on it). My goal was to be good enough. I ate healthy, I ate unhealthy, I exercise some – not as much as normal – but it was GOOD ENOUGH! I enjoyed myself and didn’t feel like a glutton or too full/bloated to have fun!


6. Don’t Starve Yourself or be Obsessive About Workouts When You Come Home

Upon coming home, my first thought used to be, “Let’s cut calories/carbs again and increase the exercise! I gained so much I have to make up for it! In recent years, and especially this trip – that was not the case. I went back to food logging (I still do it daily), but kept calories as they were before. In fact I made sure I ate as much as I could to meet my quota. I went back to my regular exercise plan and did not add extra workouts, like I would have in the past. My clothes felt a little tighter, but not bad.


The Results??? 

I only gained a couple pounds while away. NOT 7 to 10 lbs like I normally would in the past. And it’s already gone!I was also left with lots of great memories from the trip!

Hope you found this helpful and now have some new tips and tricks on how to stay fit on vacation (while still enjoying yourself!).


At The Spanish Steps. Rome, Italy