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How to travel during a heat wave

June 20, 2021
4 min read
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.


Heat advisories have been issued in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah well into this weekend, with record-breaking temperatures (we're talking a scorching 115 degrees Fahrenheit in Las Vegas) raising concerns for potential wildfires.

While temperatures are unusually high so early on, many of your summer destinations will continue to face extreme heat into July and August. Other popular tourist destinations throughout the U.S., Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central America and Africa can also see high temperatures during the summer months.

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But life must go on (and so must summer vacations), so if you're traveling and a heat wave is predicted, here are some tips to ensure you'll have a safe and enjoyable trip -- while staying as cool as possible.

Pack correctly

Woman packing suitcase for summer trip. Photo by martin-dm/Getty Images

Plan to pack:

  • Sunscreen of varying factors.
  • A hand-held fan.
  • Lightweight, comfortable clothing.
  • Wet wipes (for freshening up after a sweaty outdoor tour).

Dress for success

Lightweight cotton clothing is best for beating the heat. (Photo by BLACKDAY/Shutterstock)

Save your black skinny jeans for a fall trip, and instead plan to wear lightweight clothing. Black absorbs heat, so opt for lighter colors instead. Consider light cotton and linen tops and baggy pants that don't cling. Bring or wear comfortable walking shoes -- ones that won't pinch or rub if your feet swell or sweat in the heat.

Organize your day to avoid midday heat

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City is a great spot to stay cool during summer vacation. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

The hottest hours of the day in some countries may not be what you think. In fact, 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in countries such as Spain, Italy and Portugal are often the toastiest parts of the day in the summer months. Plan to rest during these hours or check out air-conditioned attractions like museums. Then, save the early morning and evening to do outdoor activities.

It stays light out until close to 10:00 p.m. in some of the aforementioned countries. Nordic spots may see almost 24 hours of daylight in the summer, so consider checking out attractions even later on in the evening if it's hot.

You can still consider a night tour even if the sun sets earlier in your destination. Many countries in Southeast Asia offer evening street food tours, and nightlife tours are popular in spots like Colombia once the sun goes down.

Hydrate (and not with alcohol)

Water -- not alcohol -- is best to drink during high heat. (Photo by Billion Photos/Shutterstock)

Remember to drink lots of water, especially after a long-haul flight or in countries with low humidity. While it may seem tempting to have that fourth beer (you're on vacation, after all), consider alternating boozy cocktails with water. Being hospitalized for dehydration on your trip is much worse than the horror of ordering a sparkling water instead of a margarita at that rooftop bar.

Do your research before your trip

Casino at the Bellagio Las Vegas. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

If you're visiting a destination impacted by this heat wave, research attractions ahead of time where you can plan to cool off. These can include, but aren't limited to: casinos, ice cream parlors, museums, churches, restaurants/bars with air conditioning, shady parks, local pools and nearby beaches.

Budget for private transport

Set aside a budget to take taxis and ride-hailing services, especially for airport trips where you'll be lugging along baggage. It will be money well spent when you catch sight of those crowded, unbearably hot buses from your comfortable, air-conditioned (and private) Uber or Lyft.

Bottom line

This heatwave in the West isn't the first of many record-breaking temperatures we'll experience this summer. If you have travel plans this weekend, use these tips to plan accordingly to power through these temperatures and embark on your trip safely.

Additional reporting by Stella Shon.

Featured image by Shutterstock
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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