NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Most people look forward to a vacation as a way to kick back, relax, and step away from the endless obligations of everyday life. More often than not, this tends to include a much less restrictive diet and exercise plan. However, while it is nice to use vacation as a way to enjoy various food and drink indulgences, many travelers do not like the idea of carrying around the extra pounds that are sure to come along with eating out at every meal. Especially for frequent travelers, lacking knowledge on ways to prevent the weight gain can be detrimental to both waistlines and wallets.

The experts at the popular hotel chain Extended Stay America have performed a study that brought about some astounding results. The study, polled from over 2,000 frequent travelers, found that 86% of travelers gained an average of three pounds when away from home for two or more weeks. Cleverly termed as “pound packing,” travelers are destined to tote home an extra few pounds from their time away if they’re unaware of ways to prevent it.

The top two contributors to the weight gain of those traveling away from home were found to be (1) limited access to healthy options, and (2) the convenience of fast food. Because of the lack of at-home eating, food shopping, and appropriate food storage and appliances, such as refrigerators and stoves, travelers are more apt to eat much more fast food than they typically do in their day-to-day lives. Of the travelers surveyed, 90% agreed that having a kitchen in their hotel room would help maintain a healthier diet and lifestyle, since 92% of those people are convinced that the meals they prepare themselves are much healthier than those they choose when eating out. Taking it a step further, Terry Atkins, senior director of marketing for Extended Stay America, explains that “70.9% of survey respondents reported in-room kitchens as the top hotel amenity to best help maintain a healthy lifestyle while traveling—trumping gyms and fitness centers by more than half.”

Atkins continues to explain that, even in other surveys that the hotel as conducted, the kitchen was always the number one most desired amenity. He says, “Whether staying for a day, week, or month, visitors are increasingly seeking practical conveniences over traditional amenities.”

While leisure travel is still popular, business travel is predicted to increase by 7.1% this year alone. Now that the close of summer is drawing near, business travelers and leisure travelers trying to get in their end-of-summer getaways are going to be succumbed to both “pound packing” and money losing. While a vacation for many people may only happen once or twice a year, for frequent travelers, multiple trips away from home are a much larger issue when it comes to health and budget. Out of travelers surveyed, approximately 87% said that they go out to eat for every, or almost every, meal and snack. This, in turn, does not make it surprising that 89% of travelers would cook in a hotel room if given the opportunity.

So, the big question: how do travelers avoid the seemingly inevitable “pound packing”? For starters, the team at Extended Stay America has compiled a quick list of tips designed to help travelers stay active and avoid empty calories while away from home.

  • Tip #1: When searching for places to stay, choose a hotel that offers fully-equipped kitchens in their guest rooms. Access to a fridge and a stove makes it much easier to keep the bulge in your wallet instead of on your thighs.
  • Tip #2: Use the free wifi. If the hotel doesn’t provide gym or fitness amenities, utilize the Internet to search for hotel-friendly workouts, or workouts that can be done with limited space and little to no equipment.
  • Tip #3: Pay attention to the hotel’s breakfast offerings. While most hotels will offer some kind of free breakfast in the mornings, there are differences between “full” breakfasts and “continental” breakfasts. Make sure you choose a place with choices that will keep you healthy and energized.
  • Tip #4: Stay active. Especially for frequent travelers, trips should not be a reason to not get in your exercise time. Packing a pair of running shoes or paying a few extra dollars to rent a bike will be worth it, as doing this will allow for some exploration while burning those calories.
  • Tip #5: Especially when traveling to a destination that requires flying, be sure to check out the hotel’s laundry services. Packing just one or two sets of workout clothes as opposed to a week’s worth is much more effective in saving money on outrageous airline baggage fees.

In addition to their list of tips, the representatives from the hotel chain also came together with Food Network host Sunny Anderson to create the “Away From Home Cooking” cookbook, which features 24 recipes that can be made in hotel rooms that provide fully-equipped kitchens. The recipes span anywhere from breakfast to dessert, also with a “pack and go” section which makes the book and the recipes extra easy to travel with.

While traveling is a relaxing luxury for most, it is safe to assume that vacationers would rather spend their extra money on spa sessions or excursions as opposed to eating out at every meal.

Also, especially those traveling more frequently, many travelers are not so comfortable with the idea of being unhealthy and gaining unwanted weight. With more hotels now offering kitchen amenities like the ones described above, both frequent travelers and vacationers now have more options as far as what they can eat and how much money they want to be spending.

--Written by Ciara Larkin for MainStreet