Packing Tips for Healthy Road Trips

This was the first wellness-focused road trip I’d ever taken, so I wasn’t sure what to expect or how the experience would differ from past trips — especially from my first Curious Traveler road adventure.

My packing reflected this. The day before I was scheduled to take off, I was whipping clothing, camera gear, water bottles, you name it into a frenzy, hoping that whatever I needed would magically land in my suitcase. This was not a good strategy.

Eventually, I got my head on straight and thought about what I might really need. In the end, here’s what made the cut:

Carry-On Suitcase: This may seem like a no-brainer, but on my first Curious Traveler road trip I regretted packing all of my clothes in one large suitcase that I then had to lug in and out of different hotels every day. This time I kept only the clothes I thought I would need — depending on the weather and which activity I anticipated doing at each stop — in a smaller, lighter suitcase that I wheeled around with ease.

Running Shoes: I debated bringing heavy-duty hiking shoes AND running shoes, but in the end went with my pair of New Balance Minimus trail runners. They were a great choice. They’re so versatile I could wear them for hotel fitness classes, off-roading in national parks, and solo runs. Another bonus: they dry super quickly, which is nice after crossing unexpected streams or jogging through snow.

Bikini: Okay, I didn’t have to think twice about this staple. Spas, pools, hot tubs? I definitely wasn’t going to miss out on that action. Plus, it was handy to have while changing in the ladies locker rooms at the spas to appease the prude in me, who’s not entirely comfortable being in her birthday suit around complete strangers.

Don't leave home without a small suitcase and some quality maps!  (Photograph by Shannon Switzer)
Don’t leave home without a small suitcase and some quality maps! (Photograph by Shannon Switzer)

Quality Maps: These Nat Geo gems gave me a detailed overview of each national park I’d be visiting and allowed me to plan which areas and trails to hit ahead of time. I also got to beef up on the interesting information peppered throughout each map before I arrived, which fueled my curiosity and help kept me sane on some of those long hauls between stops. Even though there are tons of great map apps out there, there’s something satisfying about the real deal.

Comfort Clothes: I have a confession. I don’t own a single piece of Lulu Lemon. However, I still appreciate comfortable workout clothes. Since I knew I’d be doing a wide variety of activities, I wanted to keep it simple and versatile, so I grabbed two of my tried-and-true top-bottom combos. These were the only four workout items I wore the entire trip, which leads to my next confession: I didn’t do laundry a single time while on the road. Pew!

Baby Carrots: Seriously, they are the perfect road food. Packed with vitamins A, C, and K as well as potassium, phosphorus and magnesium, they provide a refreshing on-the-go snack that can be left unrefrigerated for days at a time. Pair them with hummus or even peanut butter to add a little protein boost and turn them into a mini-meal.

A Visor: A visor won’t make you the most stylish person on the block, but I think they’re due for a comeback. Either way, I find them entirely more conducive to exercise than your typical ball cap. Mine (the 2XU run visor) stays put beautifully through wind and rain, while still giving my hot head room to breathe. And of course they protect from the sun, which my face always thanks me for.

Phew! I made it without running out of gas.  (Photograph courtesy Shannon Switzer)
Phew! I made it without running out of gas. (Photograph courtesy Shannon Switzer)

A Water Belt: This puppy can go in the “unfashionable-yet-useful” category, right next to the visor. REI’s Amphipod water belt fits around my waist, allows me to carry two water bottles hands-free, and provides a little pocket for my hotel key so I don’t have to worry about getting locked out. It’s perfect for a long run or hike when you don’t want to be weighed down like a pack mule.

Good GPS: Besides the obvious fact that it’s useful to have a car on a road trip, my C-MAX hybrid went above and beyond being a mode of transport. One of my favorite gadgets was a cool little feature called Sync with MyFord Touch. I could tell my buddy Max to find the nearest gas station, Whole Foods, or even day spa, and he instantly pulled up the nearest options, along with directions for how to get there.

Yoga Mat: You knew this one was coming! I couldn’t go on a health and wellness road trip without a yoga mat…so I borrowed one from my mom. As you might have read earlier, yoga hadn’t yet found its way into my heart when I set off, so I hadn’t invested in my own mat. My mom’s came in very handy, and after passionate individuals I met along the way shared their love of the practice with me, I can now say with full confidence that I’m ready to invest in one of my own.

Shannon is driving a Ford C-MAX Hybrid on her Road to Wellness tour. Follow the Curious Traveler’s adventures on Twitter @CuriousTraveler and on Instagram @ShannonSwitzer.


  1. Bridget @ GreenGlobalTravel
    April 4, 2014, 6:41 pm

    great tips! especially remembering to bring a small daypack. easily overlooked but definitely needed!

  2. Max Travelick
    June 13, 2013, 7:20 am

    There are so many great travel tips here. My favourite travel tip is suitcases with wheels! Best travel invention ever!

  3. Molly
    Between Here and There
    May 13, 2013, 10:49 am

    Silk underwear, good socks, headphones. Oh, and always a passport.

  4. Marta
    May 13, 2013, 7:23 am

    And what about if yoy plan to go walking? This is our list for a trekking, for exemple, crossing the Pyrenees.

  5. Calum
    United Kingdom
    May 13, 2013, 7:05 am

    Some great tips here, thanks for sharing! It’s obviously important to make sure that everything you pack doesn’t use up too much space, however some people offload the necessities in the process! Baby carrots are a great way to save space and are also delicious :)

    Leisure Kings

  6. Party Malta
    May 9, 2013, 10:19 am

    Very good tips indeed, my next roadtrip def needs some baby carrots :) my last Comino hike turned out with a lot of hunger haha

  7. Jael
    May 8, 2013, 4:06 pm

    These are great tips. Thanks!