16 Tips for Self-Care During Summer Travel—for You and Your Kids

Summer is upon us, and in many cases, travel is back in full-force.

I myself have plans to take a jaunt across the Atlantic for a meditation retreat in Italy, and one thing’s for sure: I’m going to be prepared. 

Of course, being prepared for a trip means something different to everyone. 

To my mom, it means having every single item you’re taking packed a week in advance. To my dad, it means changing your money before you get to the airport to avoid exorbitant exchange rates.

When it comes to me, being prepared for travel means having the tools to care deeply for my body, mind, and emotions—including my nervous system—before, during, and after arrival and departure. 

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It also means remembering that your environment—new or otherwise—plays a major role in your self-care needs. Whether you’re on your way to frozen tundra or a desert oasis, it’s important to adjust for climate and culture. 

It may sound like no easy feat, but after years of jet-setting and living as an expat in various locations, I’ve kind of got the whole travel thing down. 

Read on to get my top travel tips for a deeply nourished body, mind, and spirit as you move yourself from place to place.

9 Travel Essentials

essential oil bottle close up hands
(Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash)

Travel can kick up a lot of feelings, plus it can have a major impact on your physiology. 

From canned air to literally moving your body thousands of miles in a few hours, here’s what I bring along to stay hydrated, grounded, and at-ease on my journey.

A reusable water bottle

It’s essential to stay hydrated on long flights with all the to-ing, fro-ing, and recycled air. 

Filling up at water fountains in between flights means I never run out when I’m at a thousand feet and climbing. 

I’ve learned that I need to have my water accessible too. Nothing’s worse than fumbling around for the bottle you so carefully refilled at the last layover, only to realize you packed it in the overhead bin.

A way to carry my water

I always make sure my carry-on has some kind of water bottle slot or pouch that keeps my water exposed and accessible, yet slides easily under my feet.

Don’t forget the salt

Sometimes we need a little extra boost to achieve full hydration. I like to add a pinch of high quality sea salt to my water to boost the mineral content. I even carry around a little pill bottle full of salt for this purpose. 

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This helps to remineralize water that’s been desalinated due to modern purification practices. According to research, desalinated water often lacks magnesium, calcium, and sulfate, and can be harmful to human health.

Body oil

Keeping your body hydrated internally is essential, but it’s also important to keep your body hydrated on the outside. 

The dry air on a plane can often lead to dry skin. According to Ayurveda, travel itself (especially air travel) increases wind and space element, which can lead to skin dryness as well as an increase in anxiety.

One of the best ways to remedy this is to use a rich, nourishing oil-based moisturizer to quench thirsty skin. 

My favorite non-spillable way to do this on the go is with Banyan Botanicals Beauty Balm. This creamy balm is made with ghee, coconut, and olive oil and infused with nourishing herbs like Shatavari and Ashwagandha. 

Beeswax seals in moisture and ensures that the oils within don’t spill. No other oil-based moisturizer I use travels better. Plus, it has a sweet but subtle rose geranium scent. 

I’ll pop into the bathroom on a flight and give myself a mini grounding massage to help relieve tension and keep my skin feeling nourished. It’s a decadent in-flight treat that doesn’t spill in your luggage! 

I also especially love it because it works as a body, face, and lip moisturizer all-in-one.

However, I do have to transfer it to a smaller container if I don’t check a bag, as it clocks in at 4 ounces on the nose:  just over the 3.4 ounce limit for carry-on luggage. 

Essential oils

These little guys can serve a variety of purposes, including:

  • helping you get to sleep in a new environment (try lavender and bergamot)
  • helping you feel awake when you’re jet-lagged (try peppermint and orange)
  • helping with car sickness (try rosemary or any citrus oil)
  • helping you feel grounded (I prefer vetiver and cedarwood)
  • helping you feel refreshed and less stale when you haven’t showered for awhile (my favorites for this are jasmine and rose).

You can experiment with which ones work best for you and mix and match for different effects. 

Valerian and melatonin 

Let’s face it. It’s not always easy to fall asleep on a flight, especially when changing time zones. 

According to research, valerian can help soothe the nerves and settle you into sleep. 

On the other hand, melatonin is a hormone that signals to the body and mind that it’s time for bed. 

Research notes that melatonin is more effective and safer at treating jet lag than sleeping pills, especially because it helps reorganize circadian rhythms. 

Exercise bands

I can’t fit my yoga mat in my luggage, but stashing a couple of stretchy resistance bands is like packing a whole gym. 

I use them to wake my body up during layovers, relieve pins and needles and stiffness from sitting in a tiny seat for too long, as well as settling my nerves with a bit of activity if I start to feel ungrounded or anxious. 

 Plus, they double as a silly plaything for the kiddos.

Coloring tools

One of my favorite ways to unwind during travel is to doodle, color, and otherwise make pretty things with colored pencils and gel pens. 

When my mind is too tired to read or absorb another podcast, this is a nice right-brain way to enjoy downtime on a flight or while sitting around in the airport.

I have my own “special” stash that the kiddos don’t get to mess with. It’s just for mama. 

Travel Essentials for Kids

bowl of nuts and raisins
(Photo by Pratik Bachhav on Unsplash)

Now that you’re taken care of, here are some tips for the kiddos that don’t involve a smartphone.

Keep things fresh

For littles below six, this trick will buy you lots of entertainment time on a stuffy airplane. 

Simply grab a bunch of novelty items from the dollar store or toys from the bottom of the toy box they haven’t played with in awhile and wrap them in scarves. 

Each one is like opening an exciting new present, and you might be able to get 5 or 10 minutes of entertainment out of each. 

Pro tip: Make sure your kiddos don’t know there are more “surprises,” or they’ll want to open them all at once. 

Water bottle and snacks

Because nothing’s worse than a hangry toddler in a confined space.

Their favorite beats

I like to make some custom playlists for my kiddo with all his favorite songs and stories in advance. That way, he has a freshly-curated treat waiting for him once we get on the road. 

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I also download podcasts ahead of time for those frequent moments sans wifi. 

Some of our faves are:

Valerian and melatonin

Yup, this one still stands for kids. LUNA Kids make a gentle version of a chewable valerian, lemon balm, and chamomile blend with a teency amount of melatonin (0.2mg) for the littles.

I swear by it for toddler jet lag recovery. 

Blank paper and colors

Tic tac toe, drawing, passing “notes.” The possibilities are endless.

I like to pack crayons, washable markers, and colored pencils so that my little guy can get excited about using each new medium. 

Melissa and Doug Water Wows

I’ve never seen my kid focus for as long as when he uses this. He’s 10 now, and he still loves  his water wow (don’t tell him I told you). 

Honoring the Energy of Time and Place

dad and baby on beach looking out on water
(Photo by Steven Van Loy on Unsplash)

Now that we’ve covered the “stuff,” the most important thing when traveling is to recognize and honor the effects that climate, culture, and environment have on you—and vice versa. 

These effects go much deeper than simply requiring sunscreen when it’s hot out.

I could write an entire article just on this nuanced topic (and I probably will), but for now I’ll keep it brief.

Traveling in summer means you’ll need more sunscreen and hydration, but it also means that you’re working with hot, fiery, active, yang energy—in Ayurveda, we call this Pitta. 

Knowing this, you can be aware of the subtle effects this uptick in fire energy may have on you. Just some examples include:

  • feeling restless or overly ambitious
  • feeling easily irritated or judgmental
  • getting burned out or depleted
  • experiencing inflammation or infection

To counter all that Pitta fire, think about balancing with some cool, calm, and serenity. 

Try a yin yoga class, drink some cucumber water and lie in the shade, or waft some jasmine and rose essential oils through your space (flowery scents are generally cooling). 

Remember, relaxation doesn’t just happen. It takes deliberate intention and skill. 

You may want to cut down on spicy food, alcohol, and other heating and drying elements (i.e. skip the tanning salon).

Boundaries Still Matter on Vacation

(Photo by Ryan Moreno on Unsplash)

On top of that, be aware of how they do things in your destination. 

What’s the culture like? What do they value? What kind of lifestyle is common there?

You can explore, honor, and respect a new culture and still maintain your boundaries!

If you’re in Spain partying til dawn every night and downing tequila, might that lead you down the path of burnout?

If you’re in Thailand and you’re chowing down on chilies in 100 degree heat, are you tipping yourself toward explosive emotions and spicy bowels?

It’s not about policing yourself. It’s about noticing the subtle effects of your actions and environment and adjusting accordingly out of care, love, and reverence for yourself and for life.

The same thing applies to the kiddos too!

Travel With Care

No matter where you go or what season it is, these summer essentials will help you keep up your self-care routine even if you’re on the other side of the globe.

Having an awareness of how the climate, season, weather, and culture can impact you will help you navigate your journey and maintain balance at the same time—for both you and your little ones.


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