Summer Travel and the Athlete 

By Dr. Rachel Coel

With summer right around the corner, many local athletes and parents will be preparing for sports team travel.  Going from Hawaii to a mainland or international destination can bring travel-related challenges to an athlete.  Here are some tips to make the journey easier and safer.

Prepare for the weather where you are going. 

The weather in other places of the world can be very different from the weather we are accustomed to in Hawaii.  Many places experience much higher temperatures, no trade winds and very dry air.  Summer is a common time for afternoon lightning and thunderstorms in many cities.  In some regions, nighttime does not necessarily bring cooler temperatures, with daytime heat lingering well into the evening.  Before you travel, look up the weather forecast for your destination and pack accordingly.  Be sure to include breathable, lightweight workout clothes, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, a reusable water bottle, a light rain jacket and a travel-size umbrella.  If you are a coach, plan practices around the weather; consider holding practices first thing in the morning to avoid the heat of the day and afternoon lightning and thunderstorms.

Stock up on sleep and prepare for time zone changes.

The recommended amount of nighttime sleep is eight to nine hours per night.  Sleep deprivation increases an athlete’s risk of injury.  The preparation for and the act of traveling is stressful and exhausting.  No matter where you travel outside the state of Hawaii, you will experience some difference in time zones.  In the days leading up to your travel, try to get plenty of sleep and start adjusting to the upcoming time zone by waking and going to sleep at the times you will need to do so at your destination.  If you are traveling over several time zones, consider taking melatonin at bedtime during your first two to three nights of travel to assist in falling and staying asleep.

Pack wisely.

Overpacking can add unnecessary weight to luggage and increase the load on the shoulders and back.  Plan to mix and match clothing in order to pack fewer items and reuse clothing pieces during the trip.  Consider bringing items that may serve as helpful tools on the road, such as a small first-aid kit with band-aids and medical tape and reclosable plastic Ziploc bags in varying sizes.  The bags can be used for wet clothes if you get stuck in an afternoon thunderstorm, or can be filled with ice from the hotel ice machine to be used as an ice pack for injuries.  Packing a small, collapsible, insulated cooler bag will allow you to shop for healthy snacks at a local market and store them on ice in the hotel room or on the sidelines.  Bringing a compact universal USB travel charger may prove to be a lifesaver for charging smartphones and tablets during long flights or long days at the ballpark or gym.

Give yourself time to adapt to your new location. 

If possible, arrive several days in advance of the scheduled sports event.  Your arrival date should be based on the number of time zones you are crossing, one day for every time zone you cross.  For example, if your destination is three time zones away, you should plan to arrive three days early.  Arriving well in advance of your event will also help you to adapt to the weather or altitude, which can affect athletic performance.

Fuel well. 

Travel is often seen as an opportunity to explore and indulge.  Have fun, but be sure to provide your body with the healthy nutrients and hydration it needs to perform at its best.  Begin hydrating before you travel and continue to be mindful of your water intake throughout your trip.  Avoid excessive caffeine and candy, high salt foods and fatty meals that may cause low energy, headaches, sleep disturbance, bloating, stomach upset or diarrhea.  Most fast food restaurants now have healthier menu choices, such as salad, fruit and grilled chicken items.  Take time to shop at a market and stock up on healthy snacks, such as pretzels, peanut butter, baby carrots, fruit, granola bars and hummus.

Dr. Rachel Coel is the medical director and a staff physician at the Queen’s Center for Sports Medicine. The center provides comprehensive care for the treatment and prevention of injuries in athletes and active people of all ages.  For more information or to make an appointment, call 691-4449 or visit

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