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Running on Vacation: Some Advice

Is your vacation coming up? Here’s some advice aimed at helping you have a more relaxing and safe running vacation –– not a vacation from running.

There are many benefits to running on vacation. It is a great way to discover a new destination and get your bearings. You have no choice but to shake off routine in a new destination. Longer runs feel easier on vacation because you’ll be seeing new things.

Vacation running is also a great excuse to slow yourself down and enjoy your running practice. If you are training for a marathon while out of town, think of your long run as another form of sightseeing. Look around, see the sights, and make a cherished vacation memory. Running is, I’d argue, superior to taking a photograph –– experiencing the terrain of a place helps to anchor the experience in your muscle memory.

An early run gives you bragging rights all day. You’re fresh, you’ve got the vacation buzz, and you can seize a little “me time” to pursue your fitness goals before sight-seeing and other plans fill up the day. Of course, there are also some other rewards....

A reward for getting out early on the East Coast

If you run early in the morning, you can escape the other tourists, see your destination in its more “natural” state, and scout breakfast locations. (Follow your nose for the smell of coffee and bacon.)

Going for a run in a new place also helps you deepen your experience of local culture. You might identify restaurants that look promising to return to later in the day. You also will discover landmarks and various tourist sights that are worth further investigation. Ultimately, running is a great way to explore while on vacation.

Of course, it helps to have a rough idea of a route before you take off. You can look at a hotel map or ask your concierge, but some of the best advice comes from local running clubs. They can point you towards good trails, parks, and popular routes and let you know if there are group runs in the area during your visit.

Do you see this sign while on vacation? Stop in for your forgotten gear and good advice

Running stores like Fleet Feet (they’re everywhere) are also very useful in answering your “where to run” questions and supplying running gear you forgot to pack (Who out there always remembers their Body Glide?). Furthermore, if you want to up your vacation running to another level, local stores can also help you to find local races if you want a new challenge.

While vacation running is fun, it also requires basic attention to personal safety. Tell your travel companions or the concierge where you are heading and how long you plan to be out. If you generally don’t carry a cell phone while running, you should try it out now because it will allow you to be more flexible while exploring. If your run takes longer than anticipated, for instance, or you get “lost,” you can easily inform your family. If you have a problem (pulled calves and sand blisters can happen on vacation), you can call for help. If you are adamantly opposed to running with a phone, however, you will need to be a lot more specific about your route, and when you are planning on being back.

Be sure to slather on the sunscreen and wear a hat if you plan to be out during the peak hours of sun exposure. You will also need to take some identification (RoadID makes a great etched wrist band with all of your pertinent information, money, your key, and water. I’ve learned the hard way that you should also take some energy food (GU Energy Gels, Jelly Belly Sport Beans, or Clif Shot Bloks work well) in case you take a wrong turn that transforms a pleasant morning outing into a mini-marathon. Heat exhaustion and dehydration is not an ideal vacation memory –– trust me.


If you find yourself going longer than anticipated, these can help.

Finally, a note for my goal-focused readers –– you have my permission to take a few days and just go with the flow. Your goal for this time is to be open to having fun without worrying about what workout is listed in your running program. If you’re vacationing with family, include them (if they want to) on a run. Don’t get caught up, however, with achieving a specific distance or pace. Make sure that everyone is having fun. This might mean slowing down. This is the time to run easy at a conversational pace. The run/walk method is fine –– you are all together, sharing a moment. You might have planned to do seven miles in the morning before you visited the Magic Kingdom but you will remember your Disney trip more fondly if you only do an easy mile with your kids and play “chase the geckos” or “find the hidden Mickeys.”

If you don’t do as much running as anticipated while on your vacation –– heck, if you don’t even put on your shoes –– reassure yourself that some rest can be a good thing. Remember, a vacation should allow you to return to your “real” life rested and re-energized.  

What have been some of your most memorable running experiences while on vacation? Do you have a favorite vacation spot that is ideally suited to running? Do you have some additional “can’t miss” vacation running advice? Please tell us all about it in the comments.

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