How to Pack for a Fitness Vacation

Your No-Nonsense Packing Guide for Active Travel

If you haven't taken a fitness vacation yet, it's probably just a matter of time. According to the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness tourism economy accounted for $563 billion in revenue in 2015, a 14 percent growth over 2013, with travelers taking 104.4 million more wellness trips in 2015 than 2 years prior. Of course, there are different types of wellness tourism vacations, ranging from the weight loss spa to the surf and yoga trip to the standard vacation that includes hiking, biking, and skiing as a component of the experience.

For this reason, there's no one-size-fits-all packing list that's appropriate for every fitness vacation, but there are a few simple solutions for making the whole experience easier, and a few items you should never leave home without. "Absolutely don't forget your sunscreen, water bottle, and sunglasses," says Sara Haley, pre- and post-natal fitness expert and frequent fitness traveler. "And always find out whether the place you're staying has a laundry room or service. If you can wash your clothes, plan to bring half the amount you normally would." It's solid advice for every trip, but especially those involving sweaty workouts. For more great solutions, read on.


Tough, Expansive Luggage and Organization Cubes

fitness travel packing
Eagle Creek and Eddie Bauer

Every good vacation starts with a good piece of luggage, a fact that's especially true if you're an active traveler toting a lot of gear with you. What you need is a lightweight piece of luggage that can handle a bit of a beating and is large enough to store your rock climbing equipment or ski boots. Skip the heavy suitcase and opt for a lightweight rolling duffle, like the Eagle Creek Expanse Drop Bottom Wheeled Duffle. It weighs in at just over 8 pounds and has 128-liters of packing space, providing lots of room to tote clothes and gear.

The one downside of such a mega duffle bag is that it can be hard to keep all your stuff organized. Consider using separate cubes, like the Eddie Bauer Packing Square, to keep your clothing and gear organized, and throw in a laundry bag, shoe bag, and wet bag to store your dirty, sweaty apparel. The Eagle Creek Pack-It Sport Active Set includes a shoe locker and a wet/dry fitness locker to keep your gross gear under wraps until you get a chance to wash it.


Low-Profile Backpack

fitness travel packable backpack
Eddie Bauer

Nothing has come in more handy for me on fitness vacations than a simple, lightweight backpack. When you head out for a half-day hike, a long bike ride, or a full day of ziplining and sightseeing, you're going to need to tote snacks, water, sunscreen, and maybe even a change of clothes along with you. Carrying these items by hand isn't pleasant, purses and duffle bags are often unwieldy, and a fanny pack just isn't big enough. You need a backpack, and I wouldn't suggest relying on Junior's school bag as a good option.

Go ahead and invest in a technical pack designed for hiking, climbing, and other outdoor activities, like the Eddie Bauer Bacon Pack. This backpack weighs in at just over 1 pound, features a removable waist belt to help support heavier loads, lash points and tool loops for more serious pursuits, an internal sleeve where you can add a hydration bladder, and a pretty decent 28-liter capacity. Best of all, it's designed to roll up when not in use, so you can easily store it in your luggage without taking up extra space.


Hydration Support

hydration support for fitness travel
Vapur, Hydaway Bottle, Nathan Sports

Haley was right when she said water bottles are a must-have for fitness travel. The only trouble is that most water bottles are a bulky waste of space, taking up entirely too much room in your luggage or carry-on. To keep your travel profile low, there's a simple solution: Look for hydration support that rolls up, squashes down, or flattens out.

For instance, the Hydaway Water Bottle holds 21-ounces of water but can collapse down to a small, roughly one-inch-thick cylinder when not in use. Likewise, the Vapur Anti-Bottle is made of flexible BPA-free polyethylene and nylon that lies flat when unfilled and can be rolled up and stored away. Both options are good for short runs, bike rides, fitness classes, and other activities where you'll have the ability to refill your water regularly.

If, however, your trip entails longer, higher-intensity activity, you may want to consider a hydration backpack that can carry several liters of water at once. For instance, Nathan offers a full line of packs appropriate for backpacking, long hikes, ultramarathons, and more.

Good options include the VaporHowe for women and the VaporKrar for men. These 4-liter hydration vests feature two chest-held 12-ounce soft flasks with extended tubes for easy drinking. You can also add a small, 1.5-liter bladder in the back if you need extra water, and the vests' pockets are large enough to stash snacks and your phone.


High-Quality Cross-Trainers

fitness travel multi-sport shoes

Sometimes fitness travel revolves around a specific sport or activity, like running, cycling, or skiing. In these situations, you should definitely pack and use the type of footwear that's specific to the sport or activity you're doing. That said, many retreats and vacations provide travelers with a wide spectrum of opportunities to get active. One day you might do a morning boot camp, the next day you might go on a guided trail run, and the following day you might spend your day kayaking.

Since shoes take up a serious amount of space in your luggage, keep things as simple as possible by sticking with one solid pair of cross-trainers. For instance, the Salewa Multi Track GTX shoe (available in men's and women's styles) is designed for multi-sport functionality to hold up to trail running and hiking and even offers mountain bike flat pedal compatibility. Plus, the GORE-TEX lining offers water resistance and climate comfort so it's no big deal if you splash through a few puddles or wear them while hanging around a pool or the banks of a lake or river.


Multi-Purpose Apparel

fitness travel interchangeable wardrobe
Collage by Laura Williams

"Pick a strategic color scheme for your wardrobe," Haley says. "For example, using black or navy as the base color palette will allow you to easily mix and match, therefore, allowing you to pack fewer full outfits."

It's a great tip for keeping things simple, and you can take it a step further by considering advice from Erin Oprea, celebrity personal trainer for stars like Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler, "Use multi-purpose clothing—I have beautiful strappy sports bras that are actually perfect for a fancy night out," she says. "The gorgeous attention to activewear fashion is a blessing! The strappy details of beautiful sports bras are often the perfect accent to draped clothing that shows off the shoulders, back, and arms."

And finally, try to pack basic tanks, leggings, and tees that can be used as easily for casual outfits or pajamas as they can for your workouts. For instance, consider this wardrobe as a pretty good starting point: 

  • Eddie Bauer Women's Trail Tight Leggings. Simple and sleek, these tough leggings can manage everything from tough hikes to low-key yoga practices. Plus, they feature UPF-50 sun protection and are simple enough to layer under tunics for casual sight-seeing.
  • Handful Bound and Determined Bra. This strappy, wrappy bra holds up to intense activity, but can also be worn alone as a crop top or bathing suit top. It also layers nicely under loose tank tops and tees.
  • Splendid Tank Tops and Tees. Go ahead and stock up—these straightforward tanks and tees can be paired with practically anything, and can be worn for any activity, whether you're taking a kickboxing class, rollerblading along the beach, or trying your hand at sandboarding. Plus, they come in a variety of colors, so you can choose to go basic with white, black, or gray, or add a pop of color to your otherwise-monochromatic wardrobe.
  • GracedByGrit Perfect Travel Dress. It's all right there in the name. This long, form-fitting dress with a slit up the side can be dressed up, dressed down, worn short, or worn long, and can even be worn as a running dress, just tie it short and throw on a pair of athletic shorts or tights underneath.
  • Beloforte Felicia Longsleeve Top. This stripe-mesh makes the perfect stylish piece for active warm-ups and cool-downs, and it's also perfect for layering over a cute strappy sports bra for a night on the town.
  • Beloforte Moonlight Track Pant. When you want to skip the tight leggings for something a little looser, opt for the Moonlight Track Pants that can be worn for everything from dance class to fireside lounging.
  • Royal Robbins Tupelo Falls Cardi. This cardigan is the perfect cover up before and after beach yoga, and can easily be worn out and about town.

Lightweight Fitness Tools

Travel fitness equipment
TRX and Manduka

Even though many hotel gyms have come a long way since the 1990s, especially at fitness-focused destinations, it's always a good idea to pack a couple of your own tools. A travel yoga mat is perfect for in-room practices or self-led sun salutations on the beach, and resistance bands and suspension trainers are lightweight, easy-to-pack options for do-anywhere strength training.


Active Accessories

travel fitness accessories
Collage by Laura Williams

Your trip won't be as pleasant if you're laid up with a brutal sunburn and your eyes hurt from squinting. It's important to stock up on sun-protective products, like sport sunblock and sunglasses, but your active travel list shouldn't end there. Consider adding the following to your suitcase:

  • Packable Rain Jacket. It's pretty miserable getting stuck in a rain storm without any type of protection. By keeping a packable rain jacket on hand at all times, you'll never be caught off-guard. Eddie Bauer offers a good one that comes in men's and women's styles.
  • Sport Sunglasses. Finding a pair of sunnies that offers UVA and UVB protection is the first step to success, but it's icing on the cake if you can find a pair that's designed to combine style and function. Check out the Nike Flex Motion glasses if you want a pair to carry you from your trail run to your night out with friends.
  • A Great Hat. Hats are an easy solution for keeping your face shaded, keeping sweat from dripping into your eyes, and offering you an easy way to keep your hair out of your face. Trucker hats provide added ventilation, and many companies offer fun screen prints above the brim. Headsweats' Beachy 5-Panel is one example of a vacation-friendly motif.
  • Sunscreen. Avoid getting burned and slather on a high-quality, all-natural sun protection product. Just about anything that offers water-resistance will do, but check out the sprays and butter sticks from All Good if you're looking for fast and pinpointed application, respectively.
  • Chafe-Prevention Products. Getting active has some unfortunate side-effects, and all that sweating and rubbing can lead to chafing. Side-step the problem by applying Vaseline or a chafe-prevention product, like Body Glide, to areas like your inner thighs and around your sports bra's armholes.
  • Wireless Headphones. A solid pair of wireless headphones allow you to take your tunes and podcasts with you without getting tangled in cords. There are lots of great options available, but the Zipbuds 26: Wireless Sport Earbuds offer a combination of style (the white and rose gold are particularly classy) with sport-specific features like sweat-proof durability and extended battery life. Plus, there are 144 different fitting options so you can find the stay-put listening experience that works best for you.
  • Neck Gaiter. Neck gaiters come in surprisingly handy—you can wear them around your neck to protect you from the sun, you can pull them up over your nose and mouth if you get caught in a dust storm, you can bunch them up and wear them like a headband or block your ears from the wind, or you can even use them as a hair tie in a pinch. Buff offers lots of colorful, fun designs, but it's a good idea to select one that goes with your travel color palette. For instance, it's hard to go wrong with UV Black.

A Word From Verywell

When you pack for a fitness vacation, it's important to remember that you're probably going to be exerting yourself more than you do on a regular basis. Even if you're pretty active, these types of vacations give you the chance to try new things and work your body in different ways.

Think about how you're going to rest and recover while on the road. For instance, you may want to pack a mini foam roller or a massage ball to work on any muscle tightness that develops. Likewise, over the counter pain relievers and easy-to-carry snacks are nice to have on hand if you find yourself achy and hungry.

And of course, always remember to stay hydrated, and don't be afraid to bow out of an activity if you're feeling particularly sore. It's better to take it easy and avoid an injury than to regret pushing yourself to do too much, too soon.

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