In theory, sticking to your workout routine while on vacation isn’t nearly as challenging as it used to be. These days, hotels and resorts are often equipped with full-service gyms, and many even offer fitness classes or access to bicycles, standup paddle boards, or other fun equipment to help guests stay active. Even if you’re not staying somewhere that caters to a fit-minded audience, a variety of fitness apps open up a world of possibilities. MapMyRun makes it easy to search for running routes and trails wherever you’re located, while Nike Training Club and Peloton are chock-full of workouts you can do anywhere.
Another way to ensure you stay on your game while you’re away? Packing travel-friendly exercise equipment that can help you get the most out of vacation workouts, especially if you have specific fitness goals. Here, trainers share the lightweight, packable gear they recommend bringing with you, based on your goals.
For strength training
Bodyweight exercises—think squats, lunges, and pushups—are always a great way to keep your strength training going when you’re away from home. But with a couple of pieces of easily-packable equipment, you’ll have no problem targeting all of your major muscle groups while adding resistance and balance challenges, too.
Resistance bands are some of the absolute best pieces of equipment you can pack for vacation. They’re lightweight, inexpensive, don’t take up much room, and can be used for all sorts of strength training exercises. Plus, they come in different shapes, sizes, and resistance levels, making it easy to customize your workout.
“My absolute favorite equipment to bring along when traveling are resistance bands with handles,” says Allison Sizemore, C.S.N., ACE-certified group fitness instructor, and online fitness coach at Couture Coaching. “Plus, they allow you to hit muscles, such as the lats, that are difficult to hit with bodyweight. I typically perform a full-body workout with bands and bodyweight when I’m traveling.”
All you need is a set of resistance bands (we recommend the New Balance 3-in-1 Resistance Cord) and enough space to take a large step in any direction to do Sizemore’s go-to travel workout. Simply cycle through the following moves for as many rounds as you have time for, resting as needed:
- 20 pushups
- 20 reverse lunges (total)
- 20 lateral shoulder raises
- 20 triceps kickbacks
- 20 biceps curls
- 20 lateral lunges (total)
- 30-second plank
A suspension trainer (which you may recognize by the biggest brand in the game, TRX) is another excellent way to maintain your strength-training routine while on vacation. These nylon straps are typically adjustable in length and come with handles or loops for your hands and feet, allowing you to perform a wide variety of exercises. They’re a great way to perform balance training moves (like unstable pushups or single-leg lunges) and pulling exercises, like rows.
“While traveling, I always go for an all-in-one option, which is why I recommend carrying a TRX all-in-one suspension training fitness system. Personally speaking, it has been my preferred option rather than other equipment that adds more weight to luggage,” says Indianapolis-based CISSN sports nutritionist and ISSA personal trainer Isaac Robertson. “It’s lightweight and space-efficient and comes with a travel pouch. It’s what I recommend to my clients, as well.”
When shopping for a travel-friendly suspension trainer, look for an option that can be anchored to a doorway (or outside on a sturdy tree branch or jungle gym), has comfortable handles, and is easily adjustable.
Of course, if your typical cardio routine includes walking or jogging, you can pretty much just keep it going in your vacay location. However, if you tend to rely on gym equipment or group classes for getting your heart rate up, you’ll likely want to consider packing a couple of extra items in your bag.
Don’t overlook the simple jump rope as an excellent cardio option when traveling. “Jumping rope has a great aerobic effect which is good for the heart and lungs,” says Alex Randall, a certified gym instructor and personal trainer through CIMSPA, and the founder of Revel Sports. “Aside from that, jumping rope is also a good calorie-buster, works the calves and glutes as well as the upper body, and doesn’t require much space.”
Just don’t expect it to be easy. If you haven’t picked up a jump rope since grade school, it’s likely going to be more challenging than you remember. It may take a little while to get the coordination down, and you may discover you have a hard time jumping for more than 30 seconds at a time. That’s okay, though! In fact, see this as your chance to work on some high-intensity interval training (HIIT). A great way to start: Set a timer for 10 minutes and alternate between 30 seconds of high-effort jumping and 30 seconds of rest. Plus, a quickie workout leaves you lots of time to do other fun vacation-y things, like going on a walking tour of the city you’re visiting.
Read More: How Much Cardio Do You Really Need To Do?
Just keep in mind that the rope you use is important. “A good rope should be made of durable materials that can withstand a lot of wear and tear, and it should be long enough to allow plenty of room for jumping, but not so long that it becomes cumbersome to use,” Randall says. As such, you may want to look for an adjustable jump rope so you can change the length based on your comfort and needs. (We recommend the Gaiam Restore Adjustable Speed Rope.)
Swimsuit and goggles
Even if your vacation destination doesn’t include a beach or lake, make sure you pack your suit and goggles if you’ll have access to a swimming pool. It’s easy to forget about the cardiovascular benefits of swimming if you’re not a regular lap swimmer, but it’s a fun way to mix up your cardio routine. “A swimsuit and goggles are some of the most convenient workout tools you can pack,” says triathlon coach Paul Johnson, founder of Complete Tri. “They take up next to no space in your suitcase, and allow you to get a great swim workout in.”
Even if you’re stuck swimming laps in a small hotel pool, aim to swim for at least 15 to 20 minutes. And, if you want, set your towel on the pool deck, and hop out and do a set of pushups, lunges, and situps after every five minutes of swimming to help round out your workout.
For limbering up and grounding down
Long hours on an airplane or in a car can leave you feeling tight and tense. And while vacations are supposed to help you get rejuvenated, they often come with unexpected stressors that may leave you feeling anxious. Even if you choose to forego more traditional workouts while you’re away, it may be a good idea to pack a few items that can help you prioritize recovery and balance (both physical and mental).
Travel yoga mat and blocks
Whether you’re a diehard yogi or you just like to have a designated spot to stretch or get grounded in your body, taking a yoga mat along on your travels with you is likely easier than you think.
If you’re flying, you can strap your yoga mat to your carry-on. Check out the Gaiam Jute Performance Yoga Mat, which is incredibly durable and absorbent. If you’re traveling by car, it’s easy enough to stash your mat—and even a set of blocks (like these slender Gaiam 100% Natural Recycled Cork Yoga Blocks)—in your trunk.