Budget-Friendly Travel Exercises & Equipment

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Teenager sport equipment in a vintage suitcase including sports footwear, boxing gloves, weights and baseball bat.

With spring approaching, many of you are probably beginning to make travel plans for the warm weather months.  Even if you’re on vacation, it never hurts to budget time for some physical activity so that you don’t lose track of your health and fitness goals! A good lifting belt can be a game-changer for your travel workouts

But what if you don’t have the luggage space to pack your yoga mat, weights or your other favorite workout gear?

In a previous article, Sara outlined some of her favorite ways to stay fit without a gym membership.  In the spirit of keeping your travel fitness budget savvy, lets dive into the best ways to stay active and strong with minimal equipment while you travel.

Challenges for Travelling Fitness

Uncertainty is the biggest problem that you’ll encounter when working fitness into travel plans.  

You’re in a new place, with new surroundings, and sometimes the exercise equipment you’re used to just isn’t available.

I’m sure you’ve had the experience of trying to squeeze in a workout at the hotel, only to find out that the hotel “gym” was little more than a dusty broom closet with some mismatched weights on a shelf.  

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get a good workout in with little or no gear, and most workouts can be done in a park, at the beach, or even in your hotel room.  Here are a couple of options that might give you a little extra push in all the right ways.

What to Pack for Travel Exercise

Elastic exercise bands or tubes with handles

While these are totally optional, they are a great addition to your on-the-move workout kit.  

Bands provide versatility for certain movements that don’t quite get the love they might need with a bodyweight-only exercise plan.  (More on that below 😉)

TRX or Resistance Straps

This option is slightly pricier, but for travel (and home) versatility, a set of TRX straps is one of the best bang-for-your buck purchases around.

These devices are built to attach to anchor points indoors or outdoors — think large tree branches — and they often come with secure straps that latch into the jamb of a closed door.  

Straps allow you to stretch and strengthen a variety of muscle groups with many different movements that might be hard to access otherwise.

Plastic Water Jugs or Portable Sandbags

A plastic one-gallon water bottle provides a decent amount of weight, and usually comes with a built-in handle.  Of course, you could also use a large insulated bottle if you’d like to avoid using plastic.

One of the benefits of water, is that it not only provides weight for resistance exercises like bent-over rows, or bicep curls, but it also presents a stabilization challenge as your muscles control the liquid sloshing around in the container.  Oh yeah – you can also drink it!

Alternatively, there are a variety of suitcase-friendly fitness sandbags available online that you can pack into your luggage, many with built in straps or handles.

If you’re lucky enough to be on a beach vacation, you can simply fill them up with sand then lift them, walk with them, throw or drag them or use your imagination to come up with other ways to get your body moving with the added weight.

Now let’s take a look at some of the main movements you can do to touch all the right bases with your travelling workout.

The Five Big Movements to Cover

For simplicity’s sake, remember that your body uses four large primary movements: a push, a pull, a squat and a hinge.  Finally, it’s never a bad idea to work on a little bit of core strength.

Getting some version of all of these movements in is a good way to get a decent workout in, no matter where you happen to be.

Here are six exercises that illustrate these movements, many using the equipment recommended above:

Six Exercises That Are Perfect for Travel


This might be the simplest of the bunch, because you can do a simple pushup anywhere, including on a counter edge, a park bench, or just on the floor of your hotel room


Pulling is one of the more challenging (but still important) movements to do without equipment.  Fortunately, you can get some pulling in with any of the items listed above.  

Try doing one- or two-arm bent rows with full water bottles or sandbags.  If you have a TRX strap, try a two-arm bodyweight row with the strap anchored at a point about eight feet above the ground.  You can also loop your band around a stair railing for elastic resistance curls/rows.

Alternatively, you can loop a beach towel around a tree or pole for a similar rowing motion with added grip strength challenge.  Add in a squat for extra calorie burn.


A Squat, like a pushup can be done anywhere, with or without resistance: with a tall spine, simply squat down as if you’re going to sit in small chair, then stand back up and repeat.


A hinge strengthens your hips and low back while giving your knees a break.  

Try the good morning: with a slight bend in your knees, simply “bow” from your waist with a flat back then return to standing.  Beginners will want to keep hands on hips, but if you want a challenge, try holding a full water bottle close to your chest throughout the movement.


A Russian Twist is a great exercise to practice with a water bottle.  Seated on the floor with bent knees, lean back with the water bottle in your hands.  

Simply rotate side to side as if you’re trying to touch the bottle to the floor on either side of your body until you feel the burn.  

As an added bonus, you can mix in a plank at the end to go the extra mile for your core.

Hopefully this article provides you with enough ideas to get moving while you’re on the move! 

About the Author

Cameron Prendergast is a personal trainer, yoga instructor, and health coach. He specializes in injury prevention, functional movement, and strength training based on bodyweight movement, with the goal to lessen the impact of the aging process. Cam is the managing editor at Physio Ed., a preventive health resource for older adults.