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5 Tips for the Traveling Athlete

Travel is a necessary and ever growing part of participating in athletics. Traveling for athletics can present exciting and rewarding experiences that allow young athletes to learn, grow, and compete. However, travel can also take a toll on young athletes disrupting their health and performance if they do not have strategies to cope with its stresses. Faced with disrupted daily routines, high physical demands, and unfamiliar environments young athletes require strategies to stay healthy and maximize their performance while away from home. Here are five tips that’ll keep your young athlete out on the field competing at their best even when traveling.


Drink 1 glass of water per hour of travel (do not limit fluid intake to prevent using the restroom). Avoid diuretics including caffeine or high sugar drinks while traveling.


Minimize constipation by choosing foods that are high in fiber and low fat.Athletes should attempt to eat regularly throughout the travel day (4-6 meals) adjusting their calorie, carbohydrate, and protein intake for increased levels of activity that typically occur when traveling for competitions.


2-3 days prior to departure begin adjusting your body’s clock to the time zone your child will be competing in (1 hr/day change in sleep schedule is recommended). While on the plane or in transit: change your watch to the destination time you are traveling to, so you can begin to adjust. Athletes should avoid taking long naps to help normalize their sleep cycle but may benefit from short 20-30 min naps to reduce fatigue and increase alertness.


Athletes traveling long distance for competition had a 2-3x increase in their risk of illness while abroad. Unfamiliar environments like those encountered when traveling can introduce athletes to new germs and allergens that can cause illness or exacerbate pre-existing health conditions. Following simple rules for good hygiene like washing your hands prior to meals and after using the bathroom can be vital to avoiding the most common travel-related illnesses


Travelers are at 2-4x increased risk for blood clots also known as Deep Vein Thromboses or Pulmonary Embolisms. To prevent blood clots from forming in their legs, travelers including athletes are encouraged to: (1) wear compression stockings to promote blood flow (2) get up and walk at least every 2 hours (3) perform light exercises like ankle pumps, marches, knee kicks, and glute squeezes at least every half hour. The aforementioned tips can also help reduce muscle and joint stiffness, as it is important that athletes’ bodies remain mobile to perform at their best.


  1. AIS Sports Nutrition. Food safety fact sheet. Australian Sports Commission.

  2. AIS Sports Nutrition. Nutritional considerations while in transit for travelling athletes. Australian Sports Commission.

  3. AIS Sports Nutrition. Nutrition for travelling athletes. Australian Sports Commission.

  4. AIS Sports Nutrition. Tips for surviving travel challenges. Australian Sports Commission.

  5. Leatherwood WE, Dragoo JL. Effect of airline travel on performance: a review of the literature. Br J Sports Med. 2013;47(9):561-7.

  6. Reilly T, Waterhouse J, Burke LM, Alonso JM. Nutrition for travel. J Sports Sci. 2007;25 Suppl 1:S125-34.

  7. Schobersberger W, Schobersberger B. The traveling athlete: from jet leg to jet lag. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2012;11(5):222-3.

  8. Schwellnus MP, Derman WE, Jordaan E, et al. Elite athletes travelling to international destinations >5 time zone differences from their home country have a 2-3-fold increased risk of illness. Br J Sports Med. 2012;46(11):816-21.

  9. Waterhouse J, Reilly T, Edwards B. The stress of travel. J Sports Sci. 2004;22(10):946-65.

Brittani Cookinham, PT, DPT, ATC, LAT

Is the Physical Therapy Manager at EXOS, a sports training facility in Frisco, Texas, and a United States Olympic team sports medicine volunteer. She attended Sacred Heart University where she obtained her Bachelors of Science in Athletic Training and her Doctorate in Physical Therapy.

Call: 214-618-3246

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