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Top Advice for Running on Vacation

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I am a big fan of running while on vacation!  I always see sights I wouldn't see otherwise, and I enjoy staying in my training groove.  I've learned a lot about how to make outdoor vacation running happen through trial and error, so I thought I'd share the strategies that have helped me...because not every trip can be a race trip, right??


I would have missed this if I hadn't run on vacation!

  1. Look at a map of your area.  I simply pull up the map app on my phone and look around my current location.  I've done this enough that I can typically determine a pretty accurate route from that map alone; for one run on my last vacation I eyeballed a loop I thought would be 4 miles, and it ended up measuring 4.1 miles (I was going to run it 3 times for a 12 miler, but then I found other places to explore, illustrating the importance of being open-minded)!  Look for:
    • Rivers and lakes.  There are often running trails that run along rivers and lakes, and you won't always find them online.  Find an easy way to get from your hotel to the water, and you'll often find great running paths once you get there!  I found a great path by doing this on our Niagara Falls vacation.
    • Parks.  Every park is going to have at minimum sidewalks around it.  Some parks are tiny and not of much help, but you can gauge that from the map.
    • Roads leading out of town.  When road tripping, we often stay in smaller towns along the way, and in the Midwest I can simply run out of town onto country roads.  I did this several times on our Niagara Falls vacation, our Minnesota/Canada vacation, and our Yellowstone vacation.
    • In town major roads.  If there are no great options for routes, running alongside a major road in town is often a good bet.  There are almost always sidewalks you can run on, and since you're running parallel to most of the traffic flow you won't have to stop for cars (cars coming off of side streets will generally have stop signs or lights, so will have to yield for you).  I did a lot of this on our Orlando vacation.  If you are at a big attraction like Disney, another option is running around the theme park parking lots, but we didn't stay on site so I didn't do this.
    • Highways, so you can avoid running on them and crossing them.
  2. Ask at the front desk of your hotel.  Sometimes you'll get great advice on a nice running route; other times they will direct you to a park with a loop that ends up being a quarter mile; others they will look at you like you're crazy.  At minimum they can usually tell you the safest direction to go.
  3. Just run and you'll find something.  My husband always says that I'd run 10 miles around the hotel parking lot if I had to, which is not untrue.  Sometimes I just start running and see where it takes me, and I always find something.  Out and back courses are your best friend in this scenario!  I only run simple loops if I've verified them on a map beforehand.
  4. Run early.  Every route is easier to navigate at 5:00-6:30 a.m., and you won't have to deal with nearly as much traffic.  Running later in any city is just asking for a lot of stop/starting.
  5. Run with your phone.  I loathe running with my phone, but for safety I always take it when I'm running in unfamiliar areas.  It's also helpful if you get lost; I had to use it in Chicago once for this reason!
  6. Pack breakfasts and electrolytes.  If you're traveling with a group and you're the only runner, you might be running while others in your party go to the hotel breakfast; or the rest of your group may eat McDonalds for breakfast nearly every day (this was the case on our Niagara Falls trip).  I always pack oatmeal, protein powder, fruit, raisins, and nuts, and can always put together a nice breakfast out of this (you can heat water in your hotel coffee maker if needed).  Many vacations also entail sweating a lot, so I am extra vigilant about drinking water with nuun after running.
  7. Adjust pace expectations.  Remember that stress is stress and energy expenditure is energy expenditure.  Your body doesn't distinguish between training stress and other stress, and vacation can be draining!  Don't worry about slowing down your pace as needed.  Every day is different, and I haven't really found a clear pattern for myself regarding fast vs. slow vacation runs, but more are the latter and I don't put pressure on myself to perform the same as I would at home.  That's what the other 50 weeks of the year are for!
  8. Fit things in where you can.  It's amazing how much you can do if you're creative about it.  I fit in about 90 minutes of strength work on my last vacation, nearly exclusively during road trip rest stops and while waiting for others in our group at the hotel.  Another technique that's helpful is when your group goes to a sit down meal, tell someone else your order and go run while everyone gets seated, gets drinks, orders, and waits for their food.  You can easily run for 30 minutes then change while this is occurring, and then sit down to refuel!

Running on vacation may not be for everyone, but it is for me!

You can read related posts here:

Running on vacation in general

Our 2018 trip to Niagara Falls and what I ran during it

Our 2018 Minnesota and Canada vacation, and what I ran during it

A briefer mention of our post-CIM 2017 California vacation

Why being an endurance athlete is helpful on a Disney vacation

Disney vacation part 1, with runs detailed

Disney vacation part 2, with runs detailed

Disney vacation part 3, with runs detailed

Disney vacation part 4, with runs detailed

Our 2016 Yellowstone vacation, and what I ran during it

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I love running on vacation, although I've had a few where despite my best efforts, I've gotten lost. I take my phone on long runs now unless it's an out-and-back route. Loops are just too easy to make mistakes on.

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Love this! I am usually an early riser on vacation so it's the perfect way for me to kill some time AND get my run in. Plus, while I love my spouse and family, a little alone time is good for everyone to recharge. 

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12 hours ago, Carissa Liebowitz said:

Love this! I am usually an early riser on vacation so it's the perfect way for me to kill some time AND get my run in. Plus, while I love my spouse and family, a little alone time is good for everyone to recharge. 

Very true!  Maybe that's why everyone else seems to get more annoyed at one another than I do, hah.

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11 hours ago, CompulsiveRunner said:

I have actually gotten lost on an out and back - so a phone is a must for me. 

It's easy to do in an unfamiliar area - I've turned on a trail in the wrong spot coming back and done the same!

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I love vacay running, these are great tips.
Some major cities have running tours- while in San Antonio I joined River City Run for a 3'ish mile run that highlighted key historical/cultural stops.  It was a blast and a great way to get my bearings and plan out our day.  

Edited by Running Nutz
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I totally agree!  Also, the best way to explore a new area is on foot.  There's so much more to see than I would notice while driving.

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