I just returned from Las Vegas, which isn't necessarily recognized as a mecca of health. Fortunately, I wasn't in Vegas to wander the strip drinking fructose-infused beverages from giant sippy drinks with curly straws, nor was I there to jump into cocaine-fueled pool parties with hookers and glowsticks, nor was I there to wake up in a trashed hotel suite with a tiger in my bedroom.
I was instead rolling through barbwire, mud and electroshock therapy while racing a Tough Mudder.
But even if you're in Vegas for a (healthy?) activity like an obstacle race, the fact is, even if you “exercise and eat right” when you travel to places like Vegas, frequent travel to urban areas like this can leave you fighting brain fog, dealing with a compromised immune system, experiencing subpar sleep and digestive issues and having to hassle with a host of other deleterious effects on your body and brain.
And if you throw an obstacle race into the mix, as I'm prone to do, there may be a few barbwire skin punctures throw in for good measure.
So, at the risk of being a fear-mongerer on Halloween, I'll admit that when it comes to globetrotting having the potential to slowly kill you, hotels are probably the biggest culprit (airplanes would be a close second, and, ironically, obstacle course racing a very distant third).
From mold and fungus in hotel air ducts and vents, to subpar hotel water chock full of birth control pills and pharmaceuticals, to copious amounts of dirty electricity and WiFi signals bouncing between hotel rooms and walls, I have had to personally pay very close attention to my hotel habits so that I maintain as optimal a level of body and brain performance as possible.
In this article, I'm going to share with you my most potent hotel room health survival tips, all based on photos that I snapped early this morning before heading to the airport. After your read, feel free to leave your own thoughts, tips, questions and feedback in the comments section below the post!
Tip 1: Buy Glass Water Bottles
When I've left the airport upon arriving at my final destination, I never drive or Uber directly to my hotel. Instead, I always make a quick ten-minute stop at a grocery store and buy at least two bottles of glass, sparkling water for each day that I am staying wherever I'm staying (along with my go-to staples: avocados, sardines, fresh tomatoes, a bag of dark leafy greens, raw almonds or other nuts/seeds and a few dark chocolate bars). No municipal water or funky hotel water for me. As for the hotel room coffeemaker, you may want to throw in a few bottles of non-sparkling water – but always glass, never plastic.
Tip 2: Bring A Water Filter
In case you hadn't noticed, glass bottled water in airports either isn't available or is prohibitively expensive. Occasionally, you may not be able to hunt down good bottled water anywhere. And trust me, you don't want to be sucking sewage-like H2O from the water fountain in airports, or other random places you may find yourself traveling without access to potable water. Enter a Berkey portable water filter, like that pictured below. I own six – enough for me to travel with one to two bottles, and to have enough for my family when I'm traveling with the kids and wife in tow. Simply add water and presto: you have pure, clean fluid that you suck out the straw at the top.
Tip 3: Unplug Everything Behind The TV
Take a peek behind the TV in your hotel room. This is where you'll most often find the WiFi router (if the router is in your hotel room, it is typically located behind the TV or behind the bed). This is where you'll also find other light-emitting items you can unplug, like a radio, satellite receiver, DVD player, etc. This is important because research has shown that even tiny, seemingly trite lights, like the little blue light that the TV emits from near the power button, can disrupt your melatonin production and deleteriously affect sleep. So I unplug everything behind the TV, which also keeps me from wasting hours or burning out my retinas watching insipid, time-sucking television programs.
Tip 4: Unplug the Alarm Clock
Same as the TV: unplug the alarm clock. You don't want that tiny light the alarm clock emits disrupting your sleep, you can use the alarm on your phone (just be sure phone is in airplane mode), and you'll create one less item to churn out bits of dirty electricity from the hotel wall electrical outlets near your heard. Plus, if you're like me and you tend to wake up at night to pee, you aren't bugged by instantly seeing what time it is and deliberating whether it's worth getting back into bed or simply waking up to work.
Tip 5: Unplug Everything Behind The Bed
Yes, I know I'm sounding like a broken record. But take a glance behind the bed. If the router is indeed located in your room and not behind the TV, that's where you'll find the WiFi router that you can unplug. Behind the bed is also where you can unplug the phone and other fancy electrical items the hotel may have furnished you with. Don't get me wrong: the hotel staff are not villains out to ruin your health, but rather just innocent bystanders who don't know that you actually would prefer to keep the electrical gradient of your cell membranes naturally charged, thank-you-very-much (read the book “The Body Electric” to understand what I mean).
Tip 6: Bring A Converter
So if you have indeed unplugged the WiFi router, you of course won't have access to internet unless you decide to tether to your phone. To address this issue, I'll often only unplug the router at night, not during the day when I'm working. But if your hotel room actually has an ethernet cable port that allows you to connect ethernet to your computer via a firewire to ethernet converter like this, you can often forego use of a wireless signal altogether. Most of the time, the hotel front desk has a complementary ethernet cable they'll loan to you for the duration of your stay, or you can keep one in your luggage.
By the way, if you dig little tips like this for a hotel, home or office, you may also want to check out this video I shot a couple years ago about little ways I reduce electrical pollution in a typical office or computer working environment:
Tip 7: Lower The Room Temperature
Plenty of research has shown that deep sleep, sleep quality, sleep latency (how long it takes you to fall asleep) and sleep length can be improved if your body temperature is lower while sleeping. The “sweet spot” for temperature, based on feedback from some of the sleep experts I've interviewed (links at end of this article) is about 63-68 degrees Fahrenheit. So as soon as you walk into your hotel room, dial down the temperature and put the fan on high. Warning: fans churn out a lot of mold, fungus, and other germs that can be in hotel room vents, so if your travel budget permits, it is well worth it to travel with a mini air purifier you can place on your bedside table or nightstand.
Tip 8: Close The Curtains
Tiny slivers of sunlight, streetlights, car lights, hotel lights on the exterior of the hotel, law enforcement flashing lights, etc. can all seep in through the cracks in the curtains and mess with your sleep, especially if you're attempting to sleep in after a late night at a conference, adjusting to a new time zone, or staying somewhere where it gets light at 5am in the morning. So how do you keep those curtains truly closed? Grab a hanger from the hotel room closet, slap it between the curtains and voila! Darkness.
Tip 9: Block Your Eyes
From harsh LED and fluorescent lighting, to hotel hall lights, to screen lights, to airport lights, to traffic lights, to the glare from your computer or phone, it's very easy for your retinas to be constantly bombarded with light and for your body to be in “constant summer” mode when traveling, which is a far-from-ideal scenario for sleep and melatonin production. For this reason, a good pair of blue light blocking glasses and a full wraparound sleep mask are always present in my travel bag.
Oh, and if you're really, really serious about light, then you need to ensure that even your computer monitor is supporting your circadian biology, and here's a quick video I shot last week about exactly how to do that using a special kind of software called “Iris“:
Tip 10: Use Relaxing Scents
Compared to popping a Valium or Ambien, it's far more healthy to simply smear a bit of lavender or bergamot or rose or any other relaxing essential oil on your neck, trapezius, temples and upper lip. I am a fan of “rollers” like those pictured below, which allow for easy application of these oils. A blend that I highly recommend is “Peace & Calm” by Young Living essential oils, which is a sleep-inducing, calming blend of gentle, sweet blend of Ylang Ylang, Orange, Tangerine, Patchouli, and Blue Tansy oils. If you really want to take things to the next level, kill two birds with one stone, and both diffuse essential oils while simultaneously humidifying and cooling the dry and hot air in a hotel room, then travel with an all-in-one portable essential oil diffuser and humidifier.
Tip 11: Have A “Go-To” Travel Workout
I always travel with highly portable fitness equipment, specifically a heavy resistance band like this that can be wrapped around bedposts or other stable objects (shown below), and a TRX-style suspension trainer like this that can be hung from the hotel door or any other overhead stable object. As the second photo below the resistance band photo shows damning evidence of, I also am not shy about stealing random items from the hotel gym (in this case, a stability ball, and in other cases, a kettlebell, dumbbells, foam roller, etc.), then returning said items to the gym when I check-out of the hotel.
So what kind of workout do I do with these travel toys? Here's an example of a hotel room workout for “getting ripped”, straight from a hotel room in Phoenix:
Also here's an article I wrote about How To Workout In A Hotel. That, combined with the video above, ought to give you plenty of ideas.
If you like this kind of information and you want more, I've got four excellent podcasts for you that you can load up for your next road trip or airplane ride:
In the meantime, if you have questions, comments, feedback, or your own tips to add? Leave your thoughts below and I'll reply!
Also published on Medium.