Tips for Running While Traveling

With the temperature falling and snowflakes flying, winter has come early to Minnesota. It’s hard to believe that just six short weeks ago we had temperatures in the 80s. Doesn’t summer seem like it was ages ago? So read on to learn more about Tips for Running while Traveling.

Like so many people, you’re probably already thinking about a winter vacation to a warmer climate. Winter vacations are a great way to escape the frozen tundra and frigid temperatures in favor of a warm beach or desert oasis. Sometimes we need to get away from the snow and ice just to keep our sanity. We’ve all been there…

If you’re like me, however, you aren’t willing to give up running…even for a few days while on vacation. Not only am I not willing to give up running temporarily, but I actually get excited about running in new places. I love exploring parts of cities that I’ve never seen before, running trails that I didn’t know existed, and spending time really getting to know a city on my feet.

Running is a part of every trip I take. I have to plan for it. I have to pack for it. It’s not always black and white – so I thought I would share some tips on how to make the whole process go a little smoother. You’ll be able to enjoy your travels, and even better – enjoy your run!

Step 1 – Planning

You plan every other aspect of your trip, so why not plan for your running as well?

Research the area

Where you’ll be traveling to has a huge bearing on what you’ll be doing. Planning to go running on a business trip to New York is much different than taking a business trip to Las Vegas. The areas you’ll be running in could range from urban concrete jungles to mountain ranges, and that will impact the gear that you bring.

If you’re a trail enthusiast, do a little research to find if there are any good trails close to where you’ll be staying. Can you run there, or will you need a ride? It driving an option, or will you be limited to areas accessible on foot? If you’re staying at a hotel in downtown Denver and you don’t plan on renting a car, you can probably forget about trail running in the mountains. Get a good sense of where you’ll be running or you may up wondering what you’re doing there in the first place.

Check the forecast

Thanks to the wonders of technology, 5- and 10-day forecasts are available at the click of a button. Make sure you get a sense of what the weather will be like where you’re going. It’s easier to plan what gear to bring if you have a rough idea of what the weather will be like.

Plan accordingly

Based on where you’ll be running, plan what gear you’ll need to take with you. If there is a chance at all that I’ll be running trails, I usually decide to bring a trail shoe that will also be comfortable on the roads – a best of both worlds scenario. If I’m traveling to a city like New York, however, I’ll typically stick with road shoes.

Pack gear that matches the weather forecast, but also plan for the unexpected. Forecasts are just predictions. If there is a chance for rain, you might want to plan for running in the rain. I would rather pack a few unnecessary items than be stuck in a hotel not being able to run because it’s raining and I hadn’t planned for it.

Step 2 – Packing

Now that we’ve done some research about our destination, we can make a more informed decision on what and how to pack. This is especially important when you’re full-time employed and don’t want to waste any time of the fifty days you have for traveling.

Pack light

If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably pack a new running outfit for each day of the trip, and add in a few more for good measure. This is almost always overkill. Most of the places I’ve stayed at have laundry facilities available. Hotels usually offer laundry, and if you’re staying at a rented condo, there is often on-site laundry machines to use. Staying with family or friends? You know they’ll have laundry machines. Calling ahead to confirm is always a good idea, but once you know that you’ll be able to wash your running clothing, you can probably eliminate half, or more, of your total gear needed for the trip.

Choose gear wisely

I like to pack running clothing that I can wear for an afternoon as regular clothing, then set it aside for a run later in the trip. Doubling up clothing like this saves on space in my luggage. See also this article about the harsh reality of adventure sports. Here you can learn a lot more about things like choosing the best gear and so on.

I also try to be smart about what I’m packing. The more items you bring with, the more potential there is to lose something. This means I’m usually very cautious about packing my GPS watch. It’s an expensive piece of equipment that I could easily leave on the hotel nightstand charging without batting an eyelash. I’m already bringing my phone along, so more often than not the various running apps out there provide the GPS I need for a vacation run. When I do bring my GPS watch with me, like on the 6-days TransRockies Run, I’m hyper-conscious of it, making sure not to lose it.


I try to fit as much running gear as I can, given the space I have to work with. I’ll stuff smaller items like socks into my shoes to save on space, roll up my shirts and bottoms instead of folding them into squares, and even wear some of the heavier items like jackets if I’m flying. Anything to save on space.

Step 3 – Arriving

Travel can make you weary. Most of the time when I get to my destination, the first thing I want to do is find my bed and plop down for a nap. I typically try to avoid going for a run first thing. It’s important to be safe and plan ahead – we don’t want to get lost, get injured, or run into a part of town that isn’t the best place to be. For these reasons, I’ll usually avoid going for a run immediately after I arrive.

Gathering more information

If I’m staying at a hotel, I’ll usually ask the receptionist if they know of any popular and safe places to run. Sometimes they know, sometimes they don’t – but they can usually point me in the right direction. It can be hard, but try to avoid running until you know more about the area. We don’t want to get lost, hurt, or put in an unsafe situation.

I’ll also find a local running shop, and make a point to stop in and have a quick chat. Local running stores will know the area better than anyone, and they’ll be more than happy to give you some great spots to check out. Running stores will also know if there is a local running group you could meet up with. Just try not to purchase any gear that you can’t take home!

Mapping a route

I’ll also take this time to check out local routes on MapMyRun and study maps so I know where I plan on running.

Getting lost in a place that you’re unfamiliar with can be a terrible feeling. I usually plan routes that are loops or out-and-backs on trails that have landmarks so I won’t get lost. It might be nerdy, but I’ll study the route over and over again until I know it like the back of my hand. There shouldn’t be any doubt when I take that first step – I know where I’m going and how far I’ll be running.

Scouting locations

After I arrive, I’m usually pretty excited to get out there and run. Sometimes it’s best to rest after a long day of travel, but I do often indulge by going and scouting out where I plan to run. If there is a trail I plan to run, it’s often a good idea to hike it once before running. I go to great lengths to avoid injuries and getting lost.

When I’m in a new city, I’ll usually make a point to check out the usual tourist spots. A lot of iconic places are great places for running. For example, the Golden Gate Bridge! Why not run the bridge instead of just driving there to take a picture? I remember very well how I also ran when I took my father on a fishing trip to Alaska that was on his bucket list last year. Unforgettable!

Make sure you scout out water fountains and bathrooms – you never know what could happen!

Step 4 – The moment we’ve been waiting for – Running!

Finally…just get out there and run! You have the appropriate gear, and you know exactly where you’ll be running. Now is the time to get out there and pound that pavement or blast that trail.

Run in the morning

Running in the morning will allow you to get your miles in, while not interfering with your relaxation, site-seeing, and any business-related activities. It’s also a good way of forcing yourself to spend as much time awake as possible, as it’s really easy to sleep in late when on vacation. Get your run in early, then you can shower and enjoy the rest of your day.

Morning runs also guarantee you’ll be running in daylight hours (we’re on vacation, you don’t need to wake up at 6 AM!) and will generally be running at the safest time of day in large cities. In hotter climates, you’ll be avoiding running in the heat of the day and you might even be lucky enough to catch a sunrise!


Remember that you’re traveling, and you should take your run easier than you normally would. You aren’t familiar with the area, and you might be in a completely different environment than you’re used to. If you’re visiting Denver and you’re from Seattle, keep in mind that you’re running at an additional 5000 feet of elevation, and the air is thinner. So do your travels with meaning and take your run easier than you think you should, just to be safe.

Optional – Find a race!

It’s not always an option, but if there is a run in the area, I’m usually up for signing up. Running a local race is always a good way to get a run in while guaranteeing you’ll be safe and supported.