by Ted Spiker

For so long, I always believed that “healthy” and “travel” went together about as well as chocolate and toothpaste. After all, where’s the fun if you can’t have the pizza and wine carafe(s) in Italy, the paella in Spain, or the Wawa treats while grinding through a road trip?

Yes, we travel for all kinds of reasons—to see new sights, to experience unique moments, to meet old friends and family and to get away from the rigors and rhythms of our day-to-day life. And some of those trips can be very active (“OMG! I walked 30,000 steps today!”).

But the reality—for me, anyway—is that travel always derails me from my routine. Yes, I can blame the temptation of gelato stands and food trucks and cultural delicacies that, I feel, are my obligation to try. I mean, it would be just plain rude to turn down a shot of post-dinner Mastika in Greece? (Confession: It was more than just one shot of the liqueur, which tasted like a clean, cool combination of cucumber and vanilla. And by more than one, I don’t mean two.)

That’s why the traveling has always felt like a fork in the road when it comes to pursuing and maintaining good health. If you’re already in good health, then, heck, a few days of deviation is no problem. But if you’re a constant struggler, then you’re faced with a bombardment of dilemmas: Can I just relax and enjoy myself? How much should I try to stick to my regular plan and goals? Where is the line between exploring new flavors and all-out gluttony?

I wish I knew where the line was— and admittedly, that line is different for everybody. For me, I know that my decisions tend to snowball: If I decide that a foot-long hot dog from a sidewalk vendor feels right, then I’m that much closer to slurping up the tourist-size margarita soon after. So as we approach prime travel season, maybe it’s time to develop a playbook of sorts—a way to enjoy what I want to without having it take me off-track.

So for now, I’ll tape this plan of attack to my carry-on:

Set the Tone:

A morning workout—even if it’s light, even if it’s just 20 minutes— before I do anything else will make it more likely I’ll make better decisions and less likely I’ll start with the breakfast buffet.

Pick My Spots:

Yes, I want to indulge and treat myself to new things. But maybe the play is to tell myself that I get one gluttonous decision a day*, rather than thinking “vacationing” means “every-freaking-thing.”

Shut My Mouth:

Not just when it comes to family- sized portions, but when it comes to worrying about all of this. After all, isn’t one of the purposes of traveling supposed to be about getting out of your routines?