Getting Ready for Active Travel

Giselle works out regularly with weights, practices yoga, and loves to bike, so she did not hesitate when signing up for an easy-to-moderate active vacation package that included biking through California's wine country.

"I thought the biking would be a snap, but it wasn't," says Giselle. She biked approximately 5 hours a day during her 7 day trip, enjoying beautiful scenery from the seat of her bike. While she enjoyed her vacation, she also admits it was a challenge.

"It wasn't grueling, but it was exercise," she says.

One of a growing number of active travelers, Giselle was drawn to the popular concept that mixes outdoor exercise with amenities like deluxe accommodations and fine dining. However, as she learned, preparing physically for this kind of trip is not always a day at the beach.

Smart Choices, Happy Trails

Gathering specific facts, both about tour providers and potential trips, can ease stress and promote a healthful, active travel experience.

Before committing to a trip, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • How much roughing it and physical exertion will the trip include?
  • How long has the tour company been in business?
  • What qualifications and training do the guides have?
  • What is the typical guide-to-guest ratio? Up to 6 people on one tour is generally good for most trips.
  • In case of emergency, what is the evacuation plan?
  • Will the trip attend to special dietary and activity needs?
  • Are there ways to vary activity levels within each trip?
  • What equipment of my own will I need to bring with me?
  • How many miles will be covered each day? Are there changes in altitude and, if so, is time allotted for travelers to adjust?
  • What is included or not included in the package cost? What about food and travel health insurance?

Planning a Healthy Trip

The key to any successful trip is to plan ahead. Health concerns should always be considered. Get a medical exam 6 weeks prior to your trip, because you may have special needs and require support.

Depending on the destination, there may be vaccinations or preventive medications that your doctor can recommend. Your doctor may also prescribe these medications and offer advice on how to handle prescription medication and medical care while away from home.

Such medical input is particularly important for travelers who suffer from chronic conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes. These travelers must consider changes in altitude and daily exertion levels more carefully.

Fit to Travel

As Giselle learned on her bicycle, being physically prepared for an active vacation may not be the top priority for travelers, but it does make a difference. It might prevent exhaustion at night and soreness in the morning that might affect your enjoyment of the vacation.

Travelers should consider working out over the course of several months before their planned departure date. Getting used to some type of aerobic activity—whether it's walking, swimming or a step class—can help prepare your muscles for daily workouts.

Get Packing

Think about the climate you are going to and what you will be doing there, so you can pack the right clothes. Ask the tour company for specific packing lists if they are not already provided.

Most active travel vacation guides carry extensive first-aid and medical kits, but you should always be prepared with a basic travel medicine kit that includes the following:

  • All your regular prescription medications, including allergy and migraine medications
  • Pain and fever relievers
  • Sunblock
  • Insect repellent
  • Antidiarrheal medication
  • Topical antibacterial ointment and bandages
  • Moleskin for blisters
  • Emergency phone numbers

When you have planned for the worst, you can relax and enjoy the events that make active travel unique.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The International Society of Travel Medicine


Public Health Agency of Canada

Transport Canada—Government of Canada


Bike touring: Trip planning basics. REI website. Available at: Accessed July 27, 2017.

Destinations. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Accessed July 27, 2017.

Pack smart. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated October 21, 2016. Accessed July 27, 2017.

Think about your health status. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated January 13, 2011. Accessed July 27, 2017.

Last reviewed July 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 7/23/2015