10 Active Vacation Ideas to Energize Your Body and Mind

It’s the new year, and we’ve all got goals and resolutions flying through air. I know my resolutions every year involve fitness, travel and money (to some degree).

Be more fit. Travel more. Make more money.

I know I’m not alone in this right?

Why not knock a few of those resolutions off in one go with an active vacation.


If vacation for you means moving as little as possible while sipping fruity drinks on the beach, I get it.

Trust me, I like those vacations sometimes, too. But you’re missing out if you don’t even consider an active vacation (or at least a partly active vacation).

Active vacations do not mean spending your mornings and evenings in the hotel gym (though if you enjoy that – go for it!).

Active vacations are good for you in more ways than you think. Reduced stress, better sleep, and strengthened family bonds are just a few extra reasons to consider an active vacation (here are some more).

Simply put, active vacations do your body good! They open your eyes and mind and body to a new experience, while fully experiencing a new culture and environment Plus you are out in nature, burning off all the calories you are eating and drinking, and hopefully connecting with the destination in a deeper way.

Here are 10 ideas for planning your active vacation in 2017:

Plan a Trip Around a Fitness Event

Ideas for Active Vacations: Run the NYC Marathon

If finishing a marathon, triathlon or any kind of fitness event is something you want to accomplish in your life, don’t put it off – do it now! One of my top life goals was to finish a marathon, and I finally did it in 2016. Planning a trip around a fitness event is super motivating. Seriously! You may spend months training in the same old place, but the day of the race is in a brand new destination – the excitement of seeing all new scenery during the event will keep you going!

You Should Check Out:

The Honolulu Marathon

Maine Lighthouse Ride

Empire State Building Run-Up

Join an Active Adventure Tour

If you want an active and adventure filled trip, consider joining an organized tour. It will take the stress out of planning and organizing + put you with a group of like-minded people. I get that group tours are not for everyone (myself included), but sometimes it is the best way to truly experience a destination. My suggestion is to find a reliable outfitter that fits your needs.

There are SOOOOO many to choose from and it can be a daunting task. If I’m joining an adventure tour I make sure the company is proven reliable, eco friendly, and experts in whatever activity/destination I am choosing.

You Should Check out:

G Adventures

REI Adventures

Plan a Trip Around Your Favorite Activity

Ideas for Active Vacations: Hikes in Korea: Sunrise Peak

When you are not working or at school, what do you love to do?

Hiking? Biking? Snowboarding? Kayaking? Walking? Pick an activity that invigorates you and plan.a.trip.around.it.

Here is my suggestion: if you know you want to spend a good portion of your vacation surfing, and your week of vacation falls in May, search best surfing locations in May. Then book it! Easy! When your vacation centers around an activity that genuinely brings you pleasure, you will get so much more out of the vacation + return home happy.

Consider a Walking Tour

I don’t think too many people will argue with me when I say that exploring a city on your own two feet is one of the best ways to see it. You travel at a comfortable pace, get a more indepth view of a region, plus you can combine the walking with eating, drinking and culture.

The best part about a walking tour is that you can choose how much or how many you want.

You can walk for the majority of the vacation like trekking the Camino de Santiago.

You can get super adventurous on a walking safari.

You can just choose to take a half day walking tour of a city.

Just including one walking tour to your trip itinerary means you are thinking about ways to get active on vacation.

Check out Travel and Leisure’s list of 43 Great Walking Tours Around the World

Go on a Hiking Vacation

Ideas for Active Vacations: Walking the Great Wall of China in the Winter

The icy wall meant hikers had to pull themselves along the railing

I’m a bit biased, as hiking is one of my favorite things to do, but choosing to go on a hiking vacation offers a whole host of bonuses. When you hike, you get close to nature. You meet people you might otherwise not have encountered. You see a different version of a destination. Similar to a walking tour, you can plan your entire trip around hiking from one spot to another. Or visit a destination that has various hiking day trips.

Take a Water-Based Trip

Ideas for Active Vacations: Water-Based TripsIdeas for Active Vacations: Water-Based TripsIdeas for Active Vacations: Water-Based Trips

Centering your vacation around water opens so many possibilities. Do you want to explore a river from a kayak? Play water-sports on a lake? Snorkel and scuba in the ocean?

One thing I love about water activities, is that I never realize how hard I am working because I am having so much fun. A day of snorkeling and surfing takes up so much energy, but is so enjoyable! A water based vacation will also likely make many people in your group happy, as there is something to do for just about everyone.

Check out Responsible Travel’s ideas for water based adventure vacations 

Go on a Cycling Vacation

Active Vacation Ideas: Go on a Cycling Holiday

This is me on a cycling holiday through Europe


Taking a cycling holiday will let you see a whole different side of a place. Some of my best travel memories are on the back of a bike. I saw tiny villages in Europe, experienced real Southern hospitality in the US, and discovered beauty in a busy city in Vietnam, all from the back of a bike. Cycling lets you experience things you wouldn’t have seen from inside a train or bus.

There are so many ways to include cycling on your vacation. Join a tour specifically meant for cycling, like Backroads. Rent your own bike by the hour or the day in whatever destination you are in. Participate in a guided tour through a city (or cities). You can do as much or as little biking as you want. There are even bike tours in that combine things you love, like drinking. Check out this bar to bar tour in Chicago.

The most well known cycling holiday company is Backroads. They have tons of destinations and tour types for you to explore.

Go on a Weight Loss Retreat

If your New Year’s goal involves shedding unwanted pounds, consider visiting a ‘weight loss resort’. There are many across the US and Canada in beautiful spots that have multi-day to multi-week programs that help you jumpstart your weight-loss. Many offer lots of excursions like hiking and biking + classes like pilates and yoga + meals prepared by nutritionists + spa treatments. They are definitely not cheap, but if you have the funds and need a little kick in your butt…why not?!

Here is some more information from US News and Travel on Weight-loss Vacations.

Try Something Totally Unique

Ideas for Active Vacations: Try Something Totally Unique, like Ziplining

Maybe your goal on vacation is to try something completely different and out of the norm from your typical travel experiences/everyday life. Why not plan a whole vacation around one crazy activity. Find the best skydiving in the world or the best white water rafting. Or find something totally different like skybiking. The sky is (literally) the limit on this one.

Check it Out: Riding Above the Trees in Ecuador

Go on a Fitness Retreat

Of all the organized ways you can actively experience a place, going on a fitness retreat is the most intriguing to me. There are so many companies that specialize in a specific exercise (yoga, Crossfit, running) that have full trips planned in different places. These trips usually involve exercise in some form plus guided excursions and free time to explore the destination. Even better, you will be surrounded by like-minded people and perhaps form some new friendships.

Check Out: Surf Yoga Beer

What do you think – Do you prefer an active vacation over a passive one? Do any of these ideas strike a chord with you?