As I’m writing this, Britain is sweltering under a heatwave, the like of which we’ve not experienced since 1976. I’ve been using a lot of the tricks and tips I use when on holiday to keep cool (or at least cooler) in our unexpected sunshine. As a pale freckled redhead, I need all the shade I can get. But over the years I’ve survived deserts, the tropics, and some pretty hot spots of destinations. Here’s what I’ve learned about staying cool in the heat when on the road.
How To Stay Cool In The Heat – It’s All About The Timing
Siesta time was invented for a reason. And in truth, the body is well adapted for two sleeps a day. So why not rest when the sun is at its hottest between 11am and 3pm? Use that time to chill out indoors, and even if you can’t sleep, relaxing somewhere cool with a lot of liquids to rehydrate you will really help with the heat. Start your day early, using the golden hour and beyond to see the beauty of the place you’re visiting. Then go back out in the late afternoon, relaxed, replenished and ready to see more.
Keep Your Core Temperature Down: Eating and Drinking
There’s nothing quite so restoring as a bottle of iced water to cool you from the inside out. So don’t forget to stop off regularly to rehydrate, and especially to use the opportunity to keep your insides nicely chilled with something to refresh you. When it’s meltingly hot, I swap coffee and tea for their iced counterparts, or fruit juices and smoothies in addition to that iced water.
If it feels too hot to eat, then what better opportunity to graze on the go. Hot weather eating is all about the tapas, and the little dishes of something pungent and salty. Plus, of course, the gelato and the sorbet.
Plan Your Day To Stay Cool
While I don’t want to rob you of the fun of being spontaneous, it’s good to be able to plan your trip to avoid the worst of the heat. If you’re on a city break, it’s undoubtedly wise to try and skip the metro or indeed any busy public transit network during peak commuting hours. Sharing a confined space with strangers in the heat isn’t always the best fun. So try and plan your time so that you’re traveling outside peak hours.
If you have places to visit each day, then it’s worth thinking in which order they will keep you out of the heat. Ruins and historical sites? Early or late in the day is probably best, so check that against the opening times. Modern museum with aircon? That’ll do for the hotter hours. Try to plan your route during the day to avoid extra walking at the hottest times. Smart planning can make things a lot more comfortable.
Don’t forget how your impressions of a place can be affected by the heat. Feeling about to melt can make us all miserable, including the people we meet on our travels. So save Central Park for earlier or later, and I think you’ll have a better time than you would have had you visited at the peak of the day.
Beat The Heat Like A Local
It was approaching 40 degrees in Sardinia, and we’d walked a long way from the port. Stopping only for a beautifully wrapped package of painkillers from the chemist (dehydration was not one of my smarter moments), we found a local bar to stop off in the shade. In its dark interior, a gentle breeze flowed across the cool tile. Without saying a word, the owner brought us just what was needed: fresh, chilled orange juice and some very salty crisps. Absolutely perfect for the day, and within 20 minutes we’d recovered our equilibrium and 20 minutes after that we were back out exploring with renewed enthusiasm.
Observing how people live in specific climates is a great way to make the best of the weather conditions. Whether it’s the choice of clothing, how days are structured to make the best of the time available, or what to eat and drink to keep healthy and happy, rely on local knowledge to make the best of your vacation time.
Plan To Stay Cool In Transit
If you’re on a train or any other public transport, aim for the shady side, and try to choose somewhere to sit where you’ll benefit from the best ventilation. Go armed with cool drinks, and if you need to take food, let it be the kind that’s refreshing rather than stodgy. And keep it chilled, even if that means improvising an ice bag.
There are all kinds of tricks and techniques for trying to keep yourself cool en route. Over the years, I’ve seen:
- Paper or battery operated fans
- Scarves with a chiller gel for the neck
- Chilled face wipes or cloths
- Face mists
- Ice blocks wrapped in towels to act as chiller bottles
I like to stick my water bottle in the freezer if there’s one available, leaving a bit of room for the ice to expand as it freezes. That keeps me brilliantly cool for a long time. And I get to drink the iced water as it melts.
Plan To Stay Cool In Your Accommodation
Accommodation can be a mixed bag. You can find yourself in a place where the aircon is so bracing, you have goosebumps by the time you’ve left the lobby. Or you can end up in a room so warm that the heat is like a tangible force as you walk in. As far as is possible, check out reviews before you book, or at least before you travel, so you can be prepared.
You can help manage the temperature of your accommodation. In apartments where you have more space, keep curtains or blinds closed on the sunny side and open on the shady, with windows open on both sides for a through draft. If the room is older and has a fan, a bowl of ice or chilled water sitting in front of the fan can cool the air it disperses.
A tepid shower will keep you cooler for longer than a cold shower. Don’t forget to pare the bedding back to as little as possible. If there’s a spare bed, it might be the night to bid a fond farewell to your normal sleeping partner. Don’t be afraid to ask for the things that will make your stay more bearable in extreme conditions.
How To Stay Cool In The Heat: What To Wear
I think we’ve all got the hang of natural fibres and paler clothes in the heat. So what else can we do to keep as chilled as possible? Definitely free yourself of anything that’s tight or generally uncomfortable. Looking great – unless you’re skilled in the ways of the catwalk – is never achieved when you’re feeling out of sorts. If you’ve got long hair, tie it up; otherwise it’s like wearing a scarf. Loose and flowing is the name of the game for clothes. And think about going shopping. What’s available at your destination is likely to be what works locally.
How To Stay Cool In The Heat: What To Carry
You don’t want to be burdened by stuff in the heat, but you do need some useful things to help stay cool. Here’s what’s in my bag for a hot day ahead:
- Space for a bottle of frozen water, which I’ll take out of the freezer before I leave
- Face spray and a small pack of wipes
- Deodorant – never a bad idea
- Hair ties and a clip
- Hat – soft and folded does the trick
- Sunscreen – Factor 50 in my case – and decanted into a travel bottle
If I’m packing a lunch, it will go in with another frozen water bottle. I try to stick to things that are less likely to go off in the heat, and include plenty of fruit.
Taking Advice With Extreme Heat
Older people, young children and people with chronic diseases can be disproportionately affected by heat, as can anyone undertaking strenuous activity. So be aware of this when you travel and read the advice from appropriate medical agencies. Here’s the advice from the National Health Service, and you’ll find comparable international advice.
Be careful too to check weather advisories for your destination. Whether it’s the UV index or the pollen count, it’s good to know. And of course, if you’re traveling anywhere that the conditions are naturally extreme, such as Death Valley or the Outback, you should be well briefed and equipped before you move on out. Stay safe and stay as cool as you can.
More Travel Hacks?
Coming right up! We’ve got you covered for packing in a carry on, your essentials for long flights, and how to save for your travels. And if you’d like to see more of beautiful England in the sun, why not check out her best beaches and her hidden treasures.
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