Top 13 Tips to Avoid Vacation Weight Gain

by Suzanne Hiscock
You've heard of the freshman 15 -- those mysterious 15lbs that appear during your first year at college. But what about the 'vacation 5'? Doesn't it seem like every time you go on vacation, you come back with, um, 'extra baggage'?

If you were a suitcase, you'd be charge an extra baggage fee when you checked yourself in for the flight back home.

Going on a relaxing vacation can be a good thing when it comes to weight loss because too much stress can cause weight gain. But while a vacation can bring you some well-deserved downtime, if you overdo it - and if turn your back on all your good habits -- you'll end up stressed out all over again once you're back home.

Going on vacation without an eating and exercise plan to overcome specific vacation obstacles can easily disrupt your habits, making it more difficult for you to get back into the weight loss and fitness groove when you get back home.

The last thing you want to do is step on the scale after vacation and realize you've set yourself back by 5lbs. Or more.

You can ward off the 'vacation 5' by following these thirteen vacation tips:

1. Book a room with a kitchenette.

Hands down, this is the best tip for sticking to your eating plan while on vacation. You’ll have complete control over the food you eat and how it’s prepared. You can control portion size -- and you won’t be tempted to overeat just because you paid for a restaurant meal. And if you do end up going to a restaurant, you can still control your portion and bring a doggie bag back to your room.

2. Pack a cooler with lunch and snacks.
If you’re heading out for a day at the beach or an outdoor excursion, bringing along lunch and a few snacks can stop you from loading up on unhealthy fast food. Beach food is usually all about French fries, French fries and more French fries. Maybe with a hot dog thrown in.

I like to pack sandwiches for lunch, along with snacks such as almonds, chopped up melons and -- my all-time favorite beach snack food -- seedless grapes. Other beach snacks include:
  • fruit salad
  • cucumber, red pepper and/or zucchini sticks
  • trail mix
  • low fat cheese
  • baby carrots
  • cherry or grape tomatoes
  • butterless, seasoned popcorn
3. Eat small portions.
Vacations are often about overindulging, so one way to stave off the extra pounds is to eat smaller portions. Better yet, prevent a friend or loved one from gaining weight by sharing your restaurant meals together!

See: Tips for Eating Smaller Portions

4. Plan ahead when eating out at restaurants.
Plan what you're going to eat ahead of time by checking the restaurant's menu online. And follow these tips for eating out at restaurants: 5. Limit the alcohol.
Alcohol can put you over your daily calorie limit; especially the sugary, mixed drinks. Limit your drinking times to after 5:00 PM. If you start drinking in the afternoon, you’ll drink more than you intend to -- especially, if you're planning on drinking in the evening. Drinking during the day will throw you off your game plan; you'll just want to laze around, won’t work out and you'll tend to overeat because your judgment will be impaired.

See: Calorie Count in Alcoholic Beverages

6. Eat “badly” only once a day.
I get it. You’re on vacation and you want to let loose a bit. You want to experience the local cuisine. If you decide to overdo it, eat “badly” once a day or every second day. Eat healthy the rest of the times. Let hunger be your guide, too.

7. Book a hotel room with an exercise room.
Just like getting a room with a kitchenette, a hotel with a gym is THE best thing you can do for your weight loss plan when going away on vacation. Ask the concierge for the gym hours and ask when the busiest times are, so you can avoid those hours.

8. Take your exercise outside.
Taking an early morning walk or run by the beach is the ultimate feel good workout. Nothing like fresh air, sunshine and the peace and quiet of working out early.

Map out your walking and/or running routes before you go away on vacation using Google Maps.

9. Work out in your room.
If your hotel doesn't have a gym, that's still no excuse to ditch the exercise. You can still work out in your room with body weight exercises. Paige Waehner has a great body weight workout here: No Weight Workout

10. Work out early in the morning.
It's too easy to forget to work out while on vacation. You're out there having fun all day and then you're too tired when it comes time to work out. By working out first thing in the morning, you’ll have the rest of the day to enjoy your vacation without having to think about fitting in some time to work out.

11. Move as much as possible.
If you have kids, play with them at the beach instead of watching them from a beach chair. Take the stairs when you can. Park further away from entrances to amusement parks and museums. Dig in the sand. Go window shopping. Just. Move.

12. Book a fitness vacation.
If you’re really into exercise, why not take a fitness vacation? Plan your vacation around a hiking trail you've always wanted to explore or plan a vacation around a half marathon you've been wanting to run.

13. Get enough sleep.
I can’t overstress the importance of a good night's sleep when it comes to losing weight and getting fit. Not only will a lack of a full night's sleep mess with your metabolism, you're much more likely to overeat if you're sleep deprived. The best way to get a good night's sleep while on vacation? Follow the tips up above. If you exercise and eat well, you'll get a better night's sleep.

So, there you have it. My top 13 tips for avoiding the dreaded 'vacation 5' -- those five extra pounds you seem to gain while on vacation. These tips are excellent for staycations, too.

Don't undo all the hard work you've put into losing weight and getting fit just because you're on vacation. Why set yourself back by five pounds or more?

And who knows? By following these tips, maybe you’ll even lose weight while on vacation. Now wouldn't that be a neat story to tell!

What do you do to stay on track while on vacation? Or do you usually gain weight while you're away?

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About the Author

Suzanne Hiscock is a PN L2 Certified Master Coach, ACE-certified Health Coach, as well as an ACE-certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist. For over 20 years, she's been helping people lose weight and get fit through her website,

And she’s really TRULY SORRY ABOUT THAT. You see, she didn’t realize she was contributing to diet culture; she just wanted to help people feel better. But losing weight isn’t the way to do it. She’s on a mission to change all that with an anti-diet approach. So, pardon the dust on the floor as the website gets revamped.