20 Ways to Beat the Heat When Traveling

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You’ve saved, planned, packed, and traveled only to find ‘Extreme Heat’ and dangerously high ‘UV Warnings’ upon arrival at your dream destination. How do you beat the heat?

Now what? Should you take the next flight home? Sit by the nearest air conditioner? Head to the north? While some may need to escape the heat for health reasons, there are ways to stay safe and enjoy your holiday. I have a few suggestions for surviving hotter-than-Hades temperatures. Read on to see the best ways to beat the heat during your summer vacation.

Think about Ways to Beat the Heat Before Departure

1. Be Prepared

At least one week before departing, check the weather at your destination(s) for the trip dates. If higher-than-normal temperatures are expected, you can be prepared with clothing and gear to keep you safe and comfortable.

PRO TIP: If you or your travel companions have heat-sensitive health issues and are traveling to a destination that may have a heat wave, consider booking changeable flights and accommodations.

Pack Protective Gear to Help Beat the Heat

2. Wide-brimmed hat

I like a hat made of fabric or straw that can be stuffed into a bag, absorbs sweat, and is easily washable. The hat should provide shade for your face, ears, and neck, so skip the ball cap and find shade you wear.

A wide-brimmed hat should be breathable and shade your face, neck, and ears. Photo by Mary Charlebois

3. Sunglasses with UV Protection

Those stylish shades do more than make you look fabulous. If they have UV protection, they can protect your eyes from severe sun damage. The bigger, the better—think Jackie-O. So, pick up sunglasses with UV protection before setting out on your adventures.

Big sunglasses with UV protection are essential anytime you are in the sun. Photo by Mary Charlebois

4. Protective Clothing

A long-sleeved shirt and pants are essential when in direct sunlight. You want to get a tan, but you must cover up in a heat wave and extreme UV conditions. Wear natural fibers. Believe it or not, covering with loose natural fibers is cooler than wearing as little as possible, not to mention better UV protection.

I choose loosely woven and loose-fitting cotton, linen, bamboo, or hemp. These fibers breathe and wick sweat away from your body with a cooling effect. Avoid all artificial fibers. They may not breathe well and can increase sweat and body temps.

Protect your feet as well. One of the worst sunburns I’ve had was on the tops of my feet while wearing sandals. Outside, wear enclosed shoes that will completely cover your feet. If you want to wear your sandals, try wearing socks with them for a really stylish look. You can always take them off indoors.

Long-sleeved shirts and full-length pants made from natural fibers can be cooler than shorts and Ts. They allow air to circulate and protect you from UV rays. Photo by Mary Charlebois

5. Neckerchief

A bandana you can tie around your neck can go a long way to cool you down. Dry, it will absorb perspiration. When wet and tied around your neck or forehead, it has a cooling effect you will appreciate.

A bandana is a versatile piece of travel gear. Wet it with cool water and tie it around your neck or forehead for maximum cooling comfort. Photo by Mary Charlebois

6. Sunbrella

An umbrella can give you shade when none is available. I keep a small foldable style in my pack, no matter the climate. It is white and reflects the sun’s rays. There are umbrellas made for the sun that work very well.

An umbrella becomes a sunbrella when used in the sun instead of rain. Photo by Kevin Scanlon

7. Sunblock

The AAD (American Academy of Dermatology) recommends sunblock 30 SPF or higher, Broad-spectrum protection that protects against UVA and UVB rays, and water resistance. Apply before going outside and every two hours after that. Don’t forget to reapply after swimming. If traveling to tropical areas, you may be required to use only reef-safe sunblock.

8. Refillable Water Bottle

Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to keep yourself safe from too much heat and sun. Dehydration can occur quickly in hot temps. A refillable water bottle in your pack can be a literal lifesaver.

PRO TIP: No matter how hard I try to avoid those little plastic bottles of water; they seem to find their way into my travel gear. When possible, I refill them and place them in a freezer to take along later. It’s so refreshing to have cold water available. No matter what, I make sure they make it into recycling containers after I’m done with them.

A refillable water bottle and some juicy fruit in your pack are a boon to hydration. Photo by Mary Charlebois

9. Fan

Whether a handheld or a small battery-powered fan, you will be glad you have it.

Beat the Heat at Your Destination

10. Stay Indoors between 11 AM and 4 PM

I know you want to hike, cycle, go to the beach, or stroll the village streets and shops. But when temps soar, and UV rays are high, the hours between 11 AM and 4 PM are lethal.

Get up early or plan outdoor activities for late afternoon and evening. The beach is fantastic at sunset, and a walk through the countryside can be inspiring at sunrise. The town looks entirely different after sunset when the lights come on.

PHOTOGRAPHER’S TIP: Outdoor photos are always best when the sun is low in the sky. When overhead colors are washed out, people’s faces are shadowed, or worse, they are squinting.

11. Indoor Activities for Mid-Day

Theater matinees
A long, lazy lunch
Indoor mall shopping
Nap (my favorite)

Everyone loves an aquarium; it is a very cool place to spend the heat of the day. Photo by Mary Charlebois

Avoid These Things to Beat the Heat

12. Thirst

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Drink plenty of water in high heat, at least 20% more than an average day. Carry plenty of water with you. Fruit like grapes and melons are also good sources of fluids.

13. Alcohol and Caffeine

Both are very dehydrating. Heat can intensify the effects of alcohol. If you do imbibe, drink two times as much water as libations containing alcohol or caffeine. IE: If you have a pint of beer, drink 2 pints of water simultaneously.

MYTH BUSTER: Drinking hot beverages does not cool you down. As logic says—hot drinks warm you. If you must have caffeine, try iced tea or iced coffee.

14. Hot Food

Skip the fish and chips and have a seafood salad. Try fruit, cereal, and juice for breakfast instead of bacon and eggs. Hot food raises your body temperature and increases perspiration. Sticking with cold or room-temperature dishes will help keep you cool inside and out.

Skip hot and processed foods in favor of cold seafood, light meat, vegetables, and fruit. Photo by Mary Charlebois

15. Spicy Food

Spicy food can have the same effect as hot food. It can raise your body temperature and intensify the heat wave results.

16. Strenuous Activities

When it’s 95°F, it’s not the time to go for a run. Heat stroke can strike quickly with even moderate exertion in the heat of the day.

Limit your vigorous activities during a heatwave to early morning or late afternoon. If a workout is essential, find an indoor gym or indoor running track. An indoor pool is a great way to exercise and stay cool. Indoor malls are perfect for your daily walk.

Beat the Heat with Indoor Cooling

17. Close Up/Open Up

Even if you are lucky enough to have AC (particularly when traveling in Europe), keep shades, curtains, drapes, etc., closed during the day. This will help insulate the sun’s heat.

Open shades, curtains, drapes, windows, and doors allow cooler evening air inside when the sun is down. If you open windows and doors, turn off the AC.

18. Conserve

During a heat wave, demand for power soars. This can lead to blackouts and staggering power bills for accommodation owners. Do your part by following these suggestions.

Keep the thermostat at 78°F
Keep the fan switch ‘on’
Close drapes in the daylight hours
Close off unused rooms

19. Quick Cooling Tips

Drink cold or cool water
Immerse your body in water; if you can’t swim, put your feet or hands in cool water
Place ice or a cold cloth on your pulse points—wrist, neck, armpits, behind the knees
Fill a spray bottle with water and mist yourself generously. If you can access mint, a couple of crushed mint leaves will increase the cooling power.

20. In an Emergency

Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that medical professionals must treat. The most important ways to avoid becoming sick are to stay well-hydrated and out of the direct sun. Getting some basic first-aid training before any trip can also be beneficial. This can come in handy in basic emergencies.

According to the CDC (Center For Disease Control), these are the symptoms of heat stroke.

Confusion or altered mental state
Loss of consciousness
Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
Very high body temperature

The CDC offers these First Aid measures for heat stroke

Call for emergency medical care
Stay with the sick person until help arrives
Move the victim to a cool area
Cool the person as quickly as possible—
Cold water or an ice bath
Wet the skin and clothing
Circulate air around the victim
Place wet clothes or ice on the head, neck, armpits, and groin.

For more information about heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses, visit the CDC Extreme Heat Website for more details.

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Just because temperatures soar, you don’t need to cancel your vacation. Taking a few precautions, being prepared, and rearranging your itinerary to take advantage of the day’s coolest hours will help you enjoy your bucket list trip when traveling in a heatwave. Let Wander With Wonder be your guide to picking the best travel destinations. We have you covered whether you want to plan a beach vacation, a road trip, or fly away for a European vacation.