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9 Expert Tips for Traveling During a Heat Wave

Record-breaking heat waves like the ones we’re currently seeing across the United States and Europe are happening all too frequently. We may hope for a hot and sunny forecast when we’re headed to the beach, but when temperatures start to soar too high, the heat can quickly turn dangerous. 

If you happen to be traveling during a heat wave, here’s what you need to know to stay safe. 

Time Your Outdoor Activities Wisely

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During the recent heatwave in Italy, Italian authorities advised people to avoid being outside between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., when temperatures are the hottest. Wake up early and do your outdoor sightseeing before 11 a.m., and then try to visit museums and other indoor (and air-conditioned) attractions during the afternoon. As an unexpected bonus, you’ll likely encounter fewer crowds at popular spots in the early morning. 

Take a cue from the Europeans and head back to your hotel for a siesta in the middle of the day when it’s too hot to be outside. After a quick nap, you’ll be refreshed and ready for outdoor activities once things cool off in the evenings.

Stay Tuned to the News

Extreme heat can cause dangerous conditions like wildfires or force the closure of some attractions. Sign up for alerts from the local government at your destination (and from the US Department of State) to stay informed.

Even transportation can be impacted—when temperatures get hot enough, tarmac and train tracks can melt or buckle, causing delays or cancellations.

Invest in Travel Insurance

Heat waves are not usually covered by standard travel insurance policies, so if you’re concerned your trip may be impacted by high temperatures, opt for “cancel for any reason” coverage, which lives up to the name and allows you to change your plans for any reason at all, including heat.

Dress Appropriately

Although it may be tempting to wear as little as possible during a heat wave, covering up with light layers can actually better protect you from the sun and keep your body temperature cooler. Choose light-colored, lightweight clothing with UPF-protective fabric when packing for travel to a heatwave-stricken destination. Don’t forget to pack a hat and sunscreen―It’s important to avoid getting sunburned during a heatwave, as a sunburn can impede your body’s natural ability to cool down and can even make you more dehydrated. 

Book Air-Conditioned Accommodation

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Air conditioning is less common in Europe and other destinations than in the United States, especially in private homes. If you’re booking a vacation rental, look for accommodation options that specifically list air-conditioning as an amenity—and then closely read the listing to see if the whole house (or just one room) has an air conditioning unit. 

Pack Cooling Accessories

A few cooling accessories can go a long way to helping you feel comfortable. Some of our favorites include:

Hydrate

It’s easy to get dehydrated while traveling. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink—try to sip a steady amount of fluids throughout the day. Avoid sugary or alcoholic drinks, which can contribute to dehydration. 

If you’re sweating a lot, water alone may not be enough to hydrate you. Pack a few packets of electrolyte powders to help replenish important salts and minerals. 

Consume Cold Food and Drink

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), consuming hot and heavy meals can actually increase your body temperature. Consider this your excuse to eat ice cream and stop for cold drinks frequently. 

Heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke, can be serious. Make sure you know the warning signs of these conditions and what to do if you or your travel partner start to showcase symptoms.

Look out for headaches, nausea, confusion, muscle pain, and heavy sweating. Immediately get to a cooler place, drink water, or get medical help if symptoms are severe.  

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