Don’t let the dog days of summer keep you from seeing the sights! We have Summer Travel Tips to stay cool, even in the hottest destinations.
We are sitting down to write these tips at our Texas home base in the middle of July. If you’re thinking about coming to Dallas, our first tip is not to. Kidding! Sort of; our afternoon highs this week are expected to range from 100 to 107. (Not kidding. Unfortunately.) Around the world, the Summer of 2018 will be remembered for heatwaves.
All that heat should not stop you from seeing the sights you’ve travelled for, though! Here are a few of the tips we use to stay cool and still see the sights. Of course, extreme heat is not just uncomfortable, it can be dangerous. Keep the heat-related safety info below in mind as the temperatures climb.
Travel Tips to Keep Cool
We are constantly amazed that more people don’t employ umbrellas when it’s sunny outside. Here’s the thing: They don’t just keep you out of the rain, they provide portable shade! Particularly important if you don’t always remember to apply a high-SPF/UPF sunscreen. There’s a reason fashionable Victorian aristocrats went strolling with parasols, and it wasn’t just the fashion! You can be your best aristocratic self with a seriously retro parasol or a slightly less flashy umbrella, both found at Amazon.
Bring Your Biggest Fan
And we don’t mean Mom. Reader and fellow blogger Cynthia, the Adventuring Woman, reminded us to pack a hand fan. What a brilliant reminder! Similar to parasols, fancy fans seem to be a thing of the past. Of course, you can fashion a fan out of just about anything, but there’s a certain panache in a decorative folding fan. They’re inexpensive, and travel well. Of course, you can also get a battery operated hand-held fan, or one that plugs into the charger port of your cell phone! Voilà! Instant breeze.
Pack Cooling Snacks
If your accommodation has a refrigerator/freezer, you can pack a few cool snacks to enjoy later in the day. Frozen grapes and blueberries are our favorites, but most any fruit works great and gives you an added energy boost. If you have room to pack an insulated bag, that’s a bonus! Otherwise, wrap the frozen fruit in a plastic bag, and then in a towel or other cloth to help it keep cool.
Freezing a bottle of water is also a good idea, so you have cool, refreshing water as it melts through the day.
Pack a Cool Pack
You may have seen these in your school nurses’ first aid kit: gel packs that get ice cold when activated. They are good to have in your travel first aid kit in case of an accident, but feel awesome when it’s blistering hot! Unfortunately, the gel packs are not the most TSA-friendly items, so it’s best to pick one up at a local drug store to carry with you while you’re sightseeing. (In fact, U.S. regulations even require that they are shipped by ground, not air.) You’ll find them in the first aid section, usually from $3 to $10, depending on the size and brand. It just might be the best few bucks you’ll spend.
If you’re really ambitious and industrious, you can make your own DIY ice pack with water and rubbing alcohol. Mix the liquids in a 2-1 ratio (two cups water, one cup rubbing alcohol) in a Ziploc bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible, and then pop it in the freezer for at least an hour. The result is a slushy sort of ice pack. (Note: Freezing liquid dish soap works also, if you happen to travel with dish soap.) We recommend putting it in a second Ziploc bag (just in case), and wrapping it in a towel or other cloth to keep it colder longer in your bag. They don’t last terribly long, but it’s better than nothing!
Washcloths to the Rescue
Ice packs are not always feasible, but you can find washcloths in every hotel. Soak one in cold water in the morning, tuck it into a plastic bag, and pack that cool, wet cloth deep in your daypack. Later on, when it’s scorching hot, a quick freshen up with that cool cloth will get you rejuvenated to keep going.
A wet cloth is also good on a breezy day to create your own personal cooling station. Drape it loosely over your head and neck, and let the breeze blow through. When it dries out, rinse and repeat. Literally.
A Word about Cooling Towels
You’ve likely seen these miracles of modern technology on late night infomercials. They claim the microfiber towels will keep you cool, even on the hottest day. Tennis star Serena Williams even endorsed one brand for a time. On the up side, they come in lots of colors, and they pack well. The down side? Consumer Reports busted their bubble a few years ago, reporting that the really don’t work any better than a plain old cotton towel. (See above.) That said, many people swear by them, or just plain like them. If you want to be in that cool crowd, you’ll find many (mostly) inexpensive options on Amazon.
Plan Inside Activities and Night Sights to See
Here’s another no-brainer that sometimes gets forgotten. When planning your trip, check the weather forecast and plan accordingly. When it’s roasting hot outside, plan some indoor sites or activities for a respite from the heat. In general, try to do your summer sight seeing in the morning, avoiding the hottest time of day; about 1 to 5pm, local time. Our usual plan is to break for a light lunch around 1pm, especially if there’s a museum or gallery with a café we can enjoy. Then we stay inside to explore the museum.
Find those awesome night sights, too! Cities like Paris and Washington DC put on a whole new face in the dark. Plan on seeing the monuments at night, and look for evening hours at parks and gardens. And some sights, like New York at night, only happen after the sun sets. Take advantage of those cooler hours for some great views.
Heat Exhaustion – Know the Signs
Summer heat can be a serious matter; deadly serious, in fact. On average, there are 658 heat-related deaths in the United States every year, and that number has been climbing since 2000. Surprisingly, that’s more than all other weather events – tornados, floods, hurricanes, etc. – combined! Even when it doesn’t kill you, heat exhaustion will leave you feeling ill, sometimes for days. It pays to listen to your body, and know the signs.
According to the Mayo Clinic, signs of Heat Exhaustion include cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat, heavy sweating, a weak, rapid pulse, dizziness, fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea and headache.
When you or your traveling companions feel the onset of these signs, get out of the heat and rehydrate. Left unaddressed, heat stroke will follow when your body temperature exceeds 104F (40C). Your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles can be damaged, and it can lead to death.
Heat Stroke – A Medical Emergency
How do you know the difference between Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke? One of the first signs can be altered sweating. If you were sweating profusely, along with the other warning signs, and suddenly dry up, this could be deadly serious. Other signs include rapid breathing and heart rate, flushing of the skin, severe headache, and changes in behavior or mood, even confusion. Because blood pressure drops when standing, you may also faint. This is when you call 911.
Traveling with Pets in the Summer?
Pets deal with heat differently than (and generally not as well as) humans. Remember that pavement temperatures can be even hotter than the air temperature, and their paws are susceptible to burns. Panting is the best way they can cool off, so cool air is even more important to help our pets keep cool. Plenty of water is important too. That said, when the heat index is in the mid-90s (mid-30s C) and higher, it might be best to leave your furry friends at home.
Related: Summer Flights with Fido – When to leave pets at home.
We’re curious about your travel tips! Please share your tips to stay cool when traveling in the summer heat. We’ll re-post the best, so be sure to include your Twitter handle and a link to your blog, if you have one. Or click for more #Travel140!
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