How does sitting in a big tin can on a tarmac in 115-degree heatwave with no air conditioning sound to you?
If it sounds perfectly awful, you’re not wrong. That exact scenario playout out for a plane full of passengers flying out of Las Vegas. Five passengers and one flight attendant were wheeled off the plane in stretchers and oxygen masks by paramedics.
A heatwave is a period of abnormally hot weather lasting more than two days. Heatwaves can cover a large area, exposing many people to the risks of hazardous heat. Extreme heat also impacts infrastructure, from transportation to utilities to water treatment systems. It can buckle pavement and train tracks.
Cities across Europe are experiencing a historic heat wave with temperatures reaching above the triple digits. Temperatures in the southern US states are also reaching extreme heights this summer.
Here are the latest tips to stay safe, and as comfortable as possible, when traveling during a heatwave.
Not all hotels have air conditioning (especially in Europe) and you’ll want it when the temperatures are extreme. Make sure that your hotel or vacation rental has air conditioning before you book. Hotel search sites like hotels.google.com and others have this filter option.
It’s worth a phone call or email to make sure that the air will be working when you arrive.
Pro tip: Have backup lodging in mind just in case the air at the first place you booked fails!
Don’t try doing too much, especially if you’re traveling with children or seniors. Walking tours or hikes to famous views should be avoided, or at least rescheduled for an early morning start so you can return to the pool or air conditioning before the highest heat sets in.
Minimize strenuous activities until the coolest time of the day. Even better, embrace the Italian phrase of ‘dolce far niente’ ― the joy of doing nothing.
Tour operators don’t like to miss out on earning money, so they’ll still go out in hot weather. Make your tour reservations for the first one of the day – as early in the morning as possible – because it will be cooler.
Bonus: Not as many people will be out and about in the heatwave, and you’ll get better photos!
There’s a reason for the mid-day siesta tradition: it’s too hot to get anything done outside. So take a tip from the Mediterranean and Latin American cultures and partake in a long mid-day nap inside (preferably in air conditioning). Not only will you avoid the worst of the daily high temperatures, but you’ll also have energy for the evening’s activities.
If you don’t want to nap, use the mid-day hours to explore libraries, museums, and air-conditioned art galleries instead of being outside.
Your wardrobe plays a big part in how comfortable you are in sweltering weather. It can be tempting to wear as little as possible when it’s hot but covering up with light fabrics actually helps the body feel cooler because the skin is less exposed to the sun.
Fabrics that allow airflow and protect against the sun are the best. Choose natural fabrics like linen and cotton rather than synthetics that trap in the heat.
The best clothes for traveling during hot weather is:
Don’t forget to wear a well-vented hat with a wide brim to protect your face, neck, and ears from the sun.
Nosh on cold foods for breakfast: melon, yogurt, berries, instead of high-protein foods that crank up the metabolism to burn.
Save the higher protein meals for the evening when your body can process them in the air conditioning.
Water absorbs and transfers heat. If you can get into a pool, river, lake, or ocean, that’s a great way to reduce the body’s core temperature and keep your organs working.
If there isn’t a body of water where you’re traveling, here are some alternative options to cool off with water:
Taking a cool bath or shower in the evening can also help you fall asleep quicker.
Drinking cool liquids like iced water helps reduce body temperatures by cooling from the inside. Also, regular intake of fluids prevents dehydration, which can increase body temperature. While it’s important to drink plenty of water in a heatwave, it’s also important to keep the body’s electrolytes balanced.
Avoid these (too much sugar):
Some countries have banned single-use plastics, which means it could be hard to find water bottles for sale. Pack a reusable water bottle for each person on the trip and make sure everyone empties it every couple of hours.
Carrying tools like the following can provide some relief as well:
Any or all of these cooling tools will be a great relief to yourself and others you are traveling with.
Pro tip: store the water spray bottle and neck wrap in the refrigerator or freezer overnight for even better chilling effects the next day.
One of the most common mistakes travelers make is trying to push through any weird sensations their body is presenting to keep their trip on track.
Ignoring your body’s warning signals and cues that something is wrong can be dangerous.
Pay attention to how you feel throughout the day, especially if you have a chronic condition. Travel disrupts every person’s routine, so your body is already slightly off-kilter. Don’t ignore the signs that you should take a break or drink more water.
Heatstroke and heat exhaustion are illnesses caused by exposure to extreme heat. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke, which can be life-threatening.
Final word: High temperatures are much harder on vulnerable populations, which include children, newborns, the elderly, people with chronic illnesses, and pregnant women. If you or someone you are traveling with is a member of these populations, please be extra careful!
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.