You don’t need to find a local gym or even complete a structured work out to stay active on vacation. In fact, there are many ways to move around and exercise without even feeling like you’re working out! The key is to get moving and explore. There are plenty of benefits — you will have more energy and sleep better, and you won’t feel guilty indulging in the local cuisine! You’ll also experience the city from a different perspective and, in many cases, at a fraction of the cost, which is extremely important if you’re planning a long-term trip. If you’re curious how to stay active on vacation, here are five simple activities to incorporate into your next trip:
1. Skip the sunset boat cruise … Grab a paddle and kayak!
Ready for a booty-kicking workout and one that will definitely help you stay active on vacation? See the city from the water on a kayak (or canoe). Join an organized group tour for the educational and historical component.
My favorite kayaking experience was while traveling in Dubrovnik. The four-hour tour took us around Dubrovnik and nearby Lokrum Island. Mid-tour, we took a break to snorkel and refuel over snacks. It was an intense workout, which ended just around sunset. Watching the sunset from the water was such a cool experience. We certainly earned our huge dinner (and Croatian wine) later that evening!
2. Skip the metro or uber … Stay active on vacation with a bike!
The best part of biking is that you can set the pace. Do you want to pedal leisurely around the city? Are you cycling as an intense workout? No matter your preference, biking is a great alternative to taxis, Uber or the city metro. Many cities offer bike-share programs that are usually very affordable.
Kudos to Paris for its fantastic bike-share program. You can rent a bike in the morning and cycle around the city all day! Many hostels offer bike rentals for a nominal fee. In Bruges, cycle along the canals to the nearby beaches (on the Dutch border). Just don’t get lost in Belgium like we did. If you’re not comfortable exploring on your own, sign up for a biking tour — like the Sound of Music bike tour while traveling in Salzburg.
3. Skip the bus tour … Get walking!
Walking tours are a great way to get your bearings for a city. They are also an easy way to get some exercise! Almost every city offers organized walking tours, where a local guide will share the city’s history, culture and social norms, all while navigating the group around the major sights. I recommend a tips-based walking tour, as it supports a local (many times a student) and it feels very authentic. Just Google “free walking tours” to find the meeting spot, and remember to tip at the end!
4. Skip the funicular … Stay active with an intense hike and climb!
Every city has it — an elevated high point or viewing spot that overlooks the city below. There is something so picturesque about seeing a city from above and far away. There’s always an easy way to access these places, whether that be a car, elevator, funicular, etc.
If you want to stay active on vacation, look for alternatives for getting to the top, like hiking or climbing. While it certainly takes longer, but what better way to earn that magnificent view? You may even appreciate it more.
Many cathedrals and town squares have a bell tower that tourists can climb for a fee, such as the bell tower in Florence. Do it! There may even be times when you do not even realize you are working out, like walking the city walls in Dubrovnik. Those stairs are steep!
My favorite hikes/climbs are out in nature, such as hiking a mountain to get to a viewing platform. In Interlaken, Switzerland, we skipped the 10-minute funicular ride and chose to hike for two hours up Harder Kulm mountain. Lots of sweat later, the Swiss views just felt more spectacular. And guess what? It was all completely free.
5. Skip the relaxing wine bar … Hit the dance floor.
If you really want to stay active on vacation, this one may be a stretch. And it’s certainly not for everyone. But hey, dancing burns some serious calories! Hit the club scene in Amsterdam or Rome. Learn flamenco in Spain. Get your groove on at a dance hall in Freiburg. Boogie down at a local festival, like Oktoberfest. You’ll burn off the calories of those cocktails, beer and wine! Stay active? Check. Have fun? Check. It’s a win-win!
Here’s a glimpse of the fun (and dancing) that goes on inside the Oktoberfest tents in Munich.
Packing Essentials for Active Travel
… and there you go — you now have plenty of ideas for how to stay active on your next vaca! After all your moving and grooving, you deserve that gelato, black forest cake or tiramisu!
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Ready to plan your next adventure? Here are a few travel resources to help you get started.
- A Packing List for Backpacking Europe
- Five Easy Ways to Save Money, Spend Less and Travel More
- A Three Month Itinerary to Europe
- How to Choose the Perfect Hostel
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