How to Pack and Train for Runs When Traveling

As we prepare for a world where it might be safe to travel again, running at your destination may be one of the best ways to explore the city. In the ongoing spirit of Women’s History Month and the thirst for female adventure and empowerment, we’re excited to welcome today’s guest author: travel expert and Apex Crew athlete, Beth Whitman. Beth shares some of her best tips for those who (especially women) are planning their next trip and want to incorporate running into their itinerary.

Running in Sayulita

While I began traveling the world when I was 20, I didn’t discover running until my late 40s, about six years ago. I think it’s fair to say that my running bug is as strong as my wanderlust, and I now make it a priority to incorporate running into every trip I take.

I intentionally chose running as a way to stay fit while traveling because it requires such a small amount of gear and it can be done pretty much anywhere. I’ve learned a number of things over these past few years when it comes to packing and training while I’m traveling:

1. Pick one. First, as painful as it may sound, pack as few pairs of shoes as possible for any trip. For most (yes, ladies, I’m looking at you!), I recommend two pairs. But when a special activity is included, I will allow for one more pair. In this case, running shoes. As tempting as it sounds to be prepared for varying conditions, I still pack only one pair.

2. Match shoe selection with destination environment. When choosing which running shoe to travel with, you have to consider the weather and what terrain you’ll most likely be running on the most. Living in Seattle, I often choose warm weather destinations when I travel and because I like to run in the lightest shoe available, I stick with my trusty ST3s.

3. Pack light. Over the years I’ve made it a habit of packing light. As a result, I’m used to rinsing out/washing clothes most days on a trip. I therefore only pack a couple of technical tops and a couple pairs of running shorts and alternate between these. When I hop in the shower, I bring my running clothes in with me and wash them out at the same time.

4. Plan your running route. If I’m totally unfamiliar with the area, I look for routes that other people have done. MapMyRun often has some great routes posted of varying lengths and covers many parts of the U.S. as well as a handful of countries. I also join Facebook groups for runners in the region where I plan to run. People often post their routes and I can pick up great suggestions there.

5. Time of day might matter. If I’m in a popular city, I try to get out very early in the morning to avoid crowded sidewalks and traffic. In Jakarta, Indonesia, I got up at 3:30 AM to run a 17-mile training run. By the time I was nearing my hotel, the traffic was so thick I had to walk the last half mile. Of course, you’ll also need to pack a headlamp or knuckle light to see your way if you think you’ll be running in the dark.

6. Safety. Once you’re at your destination, you’ll have to figure out routes to run. As a woman, safety is always my number one priority. I look for roads and trails that are off-the-beaten path enough to be enjoyable, but not so remote that I’d be spooked to find myself all alone. For a confidence boost, I sometimes wear a Go Guarded ring for self-defense.

7. Maximize luggage space. To make the most of the space in your luggage, utilize every square inch. That includes inside your shoes! While I wear my bulkiest shoes on the plane to cut down on what’s going in my carry-on bag, I fill the shoes that do get packed with socks, underwear, and electronics (such as USB cords or other chargers). While it might be tempting to tuck Gu Gels in your shoes, if you aren’t checking your bag, these could be flagged at TSA for being a liquid and could get tossed.

8. Organize your gear. To get the absolute most out of your packing space, use compression sacs, which squeeze out the air in your clothes and mash them down to about one-third of their size. Another option – one I’ve started doing of late – is to organize your clothes into packing cubes. This is especially helpful if you’ll be moving hotel rooms every couple of nights and want to stay organized. I put a strip of masking tape on each cube and write with a marker what’s in each bag (i.e. running clothes and pajamas).

Example of Beth packing light with her ST-3s (check-in lugguage)

The bottom line is that your runs might be the best part of your trip! Some of my favorite photos and memories are from my early morning runs, when the light is usually at its best and people are just starting their day. It also gives me a chance to become familiar with a place much more quickly than if I were merely walking.

Here are some of my most memorable runs:

  • Rome, Italy – Running by the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and the Vatican.
  • Madrid, Spain – Creating my own route to see as many Gaudi buildings as possible.
  • Delhi, India – Spending two hours on the hotel’s treadmill because it was too polluted and too unsafe for me to run in the city as a woman.
  • Papua New Guinea – Running in an expat compound in Port Moresby that was watched over by armed guards.
Running in Moab

About Beth Whitman

With 30 years of globetrotting under her belt, Beth Whitman is a travel expert writer, author, podcast host, and ultrarunner who encourages women to explore the world. Beth launched WanderTours in 2008 to help facilitate adventures, primarily for women, to off-the-beaten-path destinations as well as culinary tours in popular North American cities. As part of their tours, WanderTours includes visits and donates to charity organizations that predominantly support disadvantaged women and children. Follow more of Beth’s running and traveling adventures on Instagram @bethwhitwa.