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The Trip Planner
Practical travel advice
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Lani Teshima, editor

Staying Fit on Vacation

A vacation to Disneyland or Walt Disney World often means being on the go for most of the day. How can you manage to squeeze in exercise on a schedule like that?

Staying "on program" is not easy on vacation for most people. Your body may be out of whack because of time zone changes, you might be tempted to eat more and richer foods since you eat out everyday, and you may want to break away from the drudgery of job, housework and exercise that make up your daily routine at home. On the other hand, you might be a dedicated fitness buff who may go crazy if you go a week without any real exercise.

While vacations allow us to splurge in ways we may not always get to enjoy at home, that does not mean we need to put a stop to our regular exercise. It does however, require a bit of planning, creativity, and flexibility.


Start your planning as soon as you begin looking for accommodations. Find out if the hotels you are considering offer a fitness room. If so, make sure you check their Web site or speak directly to the hotel staff to find out exactly what equipment they have. The ratty, dusty manual treadmill in a room the size of a broom closet may not be your idea of a usable fitness room. [On the other hand, I was in luck on a recent trip to Reno, where the hotel I was staying at had a fitness room with the same exercise machines I normally use back home, located on the top floor, with a sweeping panoramic view of the Sierras.]

While many hotels, especially those that cater to conventioneers and business travelers, have well-equipped fitness rooms, most smaller motels provide no such amenities. If this is the case, check with your fitness center at home to see if there is a chapter or branch at your destination. Some fitness centers also have affiliate agreements that allow you to use the facilities of other centers, for a small fee.

If there is no such affiliate gym is in the area, contact the YMCA or other fitness organizations (such as the Road Runners Club of America) for recommendations. You might also look up sports stores in the city to see if they can provide suggestions for you.


Every Disney park travel advisor will tell you to pack comfortable shoes. If you want to exercise however, make sure the shoes you take are your regular running, aerobic, or walking shoes. If you have the room in your bags, consider this as your second pair, especially if you do not wish to walk around all day in your aerobic shoes.

If you use an exercise video at home, consider bringing it. Many hotels provide VCRs in their rooms. You might also consider making an audio tape recording of your video, and bringing a portable tape player. If you are used to working out with your video, the music and vocal cues will be enough for you to remember your routine.

An alternative is to check your hotel room's TV listing for exercise programs, although these limit you to the times that the shows are on the air.

If you have an exercise gadget such as a jump rope or exercise band, bring these with you.

Bring a set of your workout clothes that are made of quick-drying fabric you can wash and hang dry in your bathroom. If you like to swim laps and you know your hotel has a pool, toss a bathing suit in your bag as well. Consider bringing your swim goggles; the pool may be heavily chlorinated.


If you are flying, you can walk briskly within the secure area of the airport for half an hour. This will give you something to do, and will leave you feeling rejuvenated before sitting down in a cramped seat on your plane.

While in the plane, walk up and down the aisle and do some exercises in your seat to help you feel less fatigued after your flight. Airplane manufacturer Boeing has a recommended list of seated exercises that you might try.

Avoid both caffeine and alcohol on your flights. These are dehydrating, and will leave you feeling more tired. Airline food is not known for being particularly healthy. Consider ordering a special meal in advance. Choices such as a cold seafood platter or fruit salad make good choices.

If you are driving, take breaks every few hours at a rest stop and stretch out your legs.


When you check into your hotel, unpack your exercise gear so you remember to use them. Take a moment to visit the fitness center, or speak to the concierge or front desk of your hotel about nearby gym options. You may need directions if you are planning to drive to a nearby fitness center.

One exercise activity you should convince everybody in your party to participate in is stretching. A long day of walking can be painful on the legs and feet, and stretching is a good way to keep some of the aches and pains at bay. Encourage everybody to spend 10 minutes in the morning (as well as when you return back to your room at night) stretching out their legs, back, neck and arms, and everybody will feel refreshed at the start of the day.

Consider exercising first thing in the morning and getting it out of the way. All you need is a half-hour's worth of a brisk walk, jog, or swimming laps. With Disney doing away with its early entry program for resort guests, there is no need to get up at 6 in the morning just to wait in line unless you are traveling during the busiest of summer and holiday periods.

If you simply cannot get up early in the morning, consider exercising during your lunch break. Do not forget to eat lunch, however. This is the period when you want your child to take a nap or relax at the pool; it may be a great time for you to get in some laps as well. If the temperature is too high, you can exercise in the late afternoon. Shower and change, and you are ready to hit the park for the rest of the night. For you, exercising may be as rejuvenating as a half-hour nap is for your family.

If meandering about in the parks doesn't feel like exercise, consider arranging a time during the day to separate away from your party. While they go on more attractions, you can get a half an hour's worth of jogging or brisk walking under your belt along less-traveled paths in the parks, or around the outside of the parks.

One route I heartily recommend at the Disneyland Resort for both walkers and runners is the loop around the resort perimeter. This loop consists of Disneyland Drive, West Ball Road, South Harbor Boulevard, and West Katella Avenue. These four roads circle the resort in its entirety in a rectangular configuration. The loop totals roughly three miles, with Harbor and Disneyland Drive each running about a mile long, and Ball and Katella each running about a half a mile long. If you wish to halve the route, cut through the resort esplanade that separates Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure parks. Start at any spot along the route, and keep taking right turns if you are going clockwise (or left if you are going counter-clockwise). Al Lutz did a photo tour of the route a while back, you may want to take a quick look at it to see where it will take you.

Three miles is a perfect distance to work up a sweat, and serious runners can easily multiply the loop to their desired distance. This loop, because it shoulders the resort at all times, is generally safe. There are no major hills, except for the freeway overpass on Harbor (which is still more of a mole hill than anything), and there is a sidewalk at all times.

Walt Disney World visitors are even more fortunate; not only is the entire resort full of jogging paths and trails, but every January marks the Walt Disney World Marathon and Half-Marathon, which for Disney running buffs combine two favorite activities. Although registration has already closed for the half-marathon, you can still register online for the marathon, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2003.

Consider easing up on your regular regimen; you will be getting plenty of mileage from walking around the parks.


Drink plenty of water. This not only helps stave off the munchies, but also keeps your body hydrated and healthy. Try to avoid relying too much on sweetened, carbonated, and caffeinated drinks.

Be aware of what food choices you have, from choosing more healthy restaurants, to avoiding cream sauces. Avoid going overboard and eating too much of the rich stuff you normally would not touch just because you are on vacation. If you are sorely tempted to eat high-fat foods, mind your portions and consider splitting the dish with your party. You can still sate your cravings without taking in too many calories.

Avoid skipping meals, even if it means having some light snack for lunch. If the lines for the restaurants are too long, grab some fresh food or fruit from the outdoor vending carts. By skipping meals, you will end up gorging yourself later on... at the buffets, for example.

Avoid eating just because the opportunity presents itself. If you do, you will end up snacking all day at the parks. If you find it difficult to control, consider taking a pocket notebook with you, and jotting down what you eat as you eat them. This will give you a better way to compare your intake to your normal levels at home.

We love bringing home souvenirs and happy memories from our vacations. And with a little bit of extra care and preparation, your souvenir does not need to include an extra five pounds you have to work off when you return home.

Staying Fit on Vacation


Contact Lani Teshima if you have any travel tips or questions about trip planning.

A Hawaii ex-patriate, Lani is a technical writer for a San Francisco Bay Area software company.

When Lani is not managing the copy editing tasks here, you can usually find her at the gym, slogging away those slow miles on the treadmill as she trains for the WDW Marathon (held in January). She also maintains her internationally recognized Travelite FAQ.

In the occasional spare moment, Lani and her husband, Alex—our MousePlanet CEO and MouseAdventure event coordinator—attend baseball games, and drive down to Disneyland in their 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (which gets 50mpg).


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