How To Not Gain Weight On Vacation: 6 Simple Tips To Avoid It 2023

Meghan Novoshielski

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Dr G. Michael DiLeo, MD

how to not gain weight on vacation

We’ve all been there. After a fun-filled vacation, you return home to find your clothes don’t fit quite right. Even more disheartening, the scale shows a much larger number than it did when you left. 

If you’ve been working hard to keep a healthy weight, it can be stressful to think about how to not gain weight on vacation. It took a lot of hard work to achieve your goals, and you don’t want to see that all go to waste. Does that mean you can’t enjoy yourself? 

Absolutely not!

Setting realistic goals and planning for common vacation pitfalls will help you enjoy your time away without guilt. Read on to learn how. 

6 Tips To Lose Weight On Vacation

  1. Start each day with some movement. 
  2. Be mindful of alcohol intake.
  3. Pick a splurge meal. 
  4. Pack healthy snacks. 
  5. Catch up on sleep.
  6. Relax and enjoy yourself. 

Why Are You Gaining Weight On Your Vacation?

Vacation and summer weight gain are all too common. New delicious foods, late nights, and lounging at the beach — each possibly involving alcohol — are just a few examples of why it’s easy to put on a few extra pounds during these times. 

If you’re stressing out about this possibility, keep in mind that it’s unlikely that you’ll gain a significant amount of weight from a short time away. One study[1] found that adults gained an average of one pound after a one to three-week vacation. 

Remember that long travel and exposure to different foods can cause fluctuations in your weight due to water retention. Also, if you’re flying, pressurized cabins play havoc with fluid shifts. If you see a much bigger number on your scale when you get home, don’t panic. Your body will adjust as you return to your regular routine.  

Still, even minor weight gain can be disappointing when you’re committed to a weight loss goal. Fortunately, there are many simple ways to avoid gaining weight on vacation while having plenty of fun. 

How To Lose Weight On Vacation: 6 Easy Tips To Follow

First and foremost, establish honest expectations about your weight while on vacation. Losing weight while traveling is probably not a realistic goal. On the other hand, maintaining your weight is an achievable win. These six simple tips will show you how to avoid vacation weight gain.  

Start Each Day With Some Movement

how to not gain weight on vacation

Incorporate some physical activity into your vacation morning routine to set the tone for the day’s rest. Working up a morning sweat might motivate you to eat healthier[2] later in the day. 

Plus, getting your heart rate up at the start of each day can help you enjoy your vacation more. Many morning exercisers swear their early workouts help reduce stress, improve their mood, and boost their energy throughout the day. 

There is no need to set the alarm for a grueling workout routine. Fifteen to twenty minutes of working up a light sweat are enough to start your day on the right foot. Keep it fun by exploring different ways to move your body while enjoying your new surroundings. Consider some of these ideas: 

  • Take a brisk walk or scenic hike around your new location.
  • Try a new class, like yoga or cycling.
  • Play tennis.  
  • Watch the sunrise on the water while paddling a kayak or canoe.  

Be Mindful Of Alcohol Intake

how to not gain weight on vacation

Sitting poolside with a cocktail or having dinner with a bottle of wine can be an ideal way to relax on vacation. But it’s no secret that alcoholic drinks are full of empty calories that add up fast. 

While limiting your alcohol intake may sound like a buzz kill, remember that too much alcohol can also lead to anxiety, bloating, and hangovers that keep you under the covers for half a day. You probably don’t want to feel this way on your vacation. 

Here are some easy ways to keep alcohol intake in check so you can return from your getaway relaxed and rejuvenated:

  • Start your day hydrated. Aim to drink at least twenty-four ounces of water before any alcohol. 
  • Opt for lower-calorie alcoholic drinks like vodka soda, light beer, white wine, and rum with diet soda. 
  • Have water or plain seltzer water with lime between each alcoholic drink. Doing this will help you stay hydrated and slow down your intake of alcohol.
  • Pause and pay attention to how you feel so you know when you’ve had enough. 
  • Don’t be fooled by weight loss after a night of drinking; alcohol is a diuretic, and it’s just water you’re lost.

Pick A Splurge Meal

how to not gain weight on vacation

One of the joys of travel is experiencing new and delicious cuisine. Unfortunately, this can also be a source of stress when trying to watch your weight. 

A bit of planning can help you manage this and prevent weight gain. Pick one meal each day to be your splurge meal. Don’t think about what you’re eating at this meal; just enjoy the experience. With this plan set ahead, you can focus on making more balanced choices at other mealtimes. 

This does not mean you want to skip meals to save up, so to speak, for your splurge meal. Instead, aim for meals and snacks similar to what you eat at home when dieting. For example, focus on filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables and the rest with whole grains and lean proteins as much as possible. 

An after-meal location change can also help you avoid overeating. The longer you linger around the table at meal times, the more you’ll probably eat. Once you’ve finished eating, leave the table and unwind elsewhere. A scenic beach overlook, garden hammock, or cozy firepit are great places to relax after a meal. 

Pack Healthy Snacks

how to not gain weight on vacation

Preparing some of your food yourself is a great way to stay on track while away from home. 

Making healthy meals may not always be realistic during your travels, but having snacks on hand can work for most trips. 

Granola bars, protein shakes, popcorn, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fresh fruit, and low-fat cheese sticks are great on-the-go nourishment. Having these available when hunger strikes gives you more options and opportunities to stick to your weight loss goals.

Catch Up On Sleep

how to not gain weight on vacation

It can be tempting to squeeze every minute out of your travel experience with packed itineraries and late-night activities. However, vacation also can be a great time to reset your sleep habits. Getting enough sleep helps you make healthy food choices and maintain a healthy metabolism. 

People who are sleep deprived[3] tend to eat larger portions of food and crave more unhealthy foods that are high in calories and carbohydrates.  

Too little sleep can also cause changes to hormones[4] like insulin and cortisol that prompt your body to store more fat. When you’re tired, your body can’t process insulin well. This hormone is needed to turn food into energy for your cells. 

Insufficient rest can also cause spikes in the stress hormone cortisol.[5] Your body may burn fewer calories throughout the day due to these spikes.

Use your time away from your hectic home schedule to start a habit of getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Adults who do this live the longest,[6] which is a great motivation. A healthy sleep routine may be the most valuable keepsake you bring home from your trip. 

Relax And Enjoy Yourself

how to not gain weight on vacation

Above all else, remember that achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is something you work on long-term. You should expect a few speed bumps, and along the way. 

Vacation is often a short time to relax that only comes around so often. Don’t spend this precious time too stressed out about what to eat that you can’t enjoy yourself. 

If you’re worried that letting it all go on vacation will completely derail your motivation for weight loss, plan how you will jump back into your healthy habits when you get home. Have a grocery order scheduled for delivery the day after you get home. Enroll in that non-refundable fitness class the week you get back. 

Having a plan can give you the peace of mind you need to make the most of your well-earned break. Even if you’ve gained weight while away, you already have action steps to get back on track. 

The Bottom Line

A vacation is a time to relax and have fun. It supports your mental health, and mental health is important. The temptations that accompany time away, along with the disruption to your routine, can lead to weight gain. With careful planning and realistic goal setting, you can enjoy your time away without guilt when you return home. 

+ 6 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Cooper, J.A. and Tokar, T. (2016). A prospective study on vacation weight gain in adults. Physiology & Behavior, [online] 156, pp.43–47. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.12.028.
  2. Beer, N.J., Dimmock, J.A., Jackson, B. and Guelfi, K.J. (2020). Exercise-related factors that influence post-exercise energy intake: A psychological perspective. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, [online] 23(11), pp.1068–1073. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2020.05.017.
  3. (2023). [online] Available at:
  4. Van Cauter, E. (2011). Sleep disturbances and insulin resistance. Diabetic Medicine, [online] 28(12), pp.1455–1462. doi:10.1111/j.1464-5491.2011.03459.x.
  5. Thau, L., Gandhi, J. and Sharma, S. (2022). Physiology, Cortisol. [online] Available at:
  6. Jin, Q., Yang, N., Dai, J., Zhao, Y., Zhang, X., Yin, J. and Yan, Y. (2022). Association of Sleep Duration With All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality: A Prospective Cohort Study. Frontiers in Public Health, [online] 10. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2022.880276.
Meghan Novoshielski

Medically reviewed by:

Michael DiLeo

Meghan is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a Master's degree in Nutrition Science and over 15 years of experience in clinical nutrition, product development, and content marketing. She's a sought-after health writer and brand ambassador passionate about helping people pursue their healthiest lives through engaging, high-value nutrition content.

Medically reviewed by:

Michael DiLeo

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