TPG’s best tips for traveling during a heat wave

Jul 20, 2022

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Cities across Europe are experiencing a historic heat wave, with England reporting an all-time high of 104.4 degrees at London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) on July 19, exceeding the previous record by three degrees. A United Kingdom government agency issued an official warning, saying it is “important people plan for the heat and consider changing their routines. This level of heat can have adverse health effects.”

France is also experiencing record-high temperatures, with multiple cities exceeding 100 degrees this week; the southern town of Biscarrosse reported a temperature of 109 degrees.

Temperatures in the U.S. are also reaching extreme heights this summer. Extended periods of triple-digit temperatures are occurring in areas across the South and Southwest.

If you’re planning to visit any of these record-hot areas or other typically warm regions, it’s best to follow some basic health-conscious and comfort tips when traveling.

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Avoid peak sun hours

people in the park
(Photo by Laurie Noble/Getty Images)

When traveling, it’s wise to stay indoors during the height of the midday heat and escape the worst of the daily temperatures. There’s a reason why residents of many Mediterranean and Latin American countries partake in the midday siesta tradition: It’s too hot to get anything done outside.

If you’re planning a day in the park, find some shady sections for your picnic. The sun can be deceptively strong — particularly on windy days when you may not feel the rays’ effects until you wake up the next day with a terrible sunburn.

Keeping out of the sun isn’t just important for your comfort and travel enjoyment; it can be a critical health factor. The U.S. National Weather Service publishes a guide with hot-weather safety tips which says that “heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year.”

Particularly when embarking on ambitious travel adventures, such as all-day city walking tours or hikes to famous viewpoints, it’s important to take heat into account. Apply some common-sense recommendations. “Slow down. Reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activities until the coolest time of the day,” the NWS advises.

When traveling, you don’t have to completely eliminate outdoor activities — just dial them back a bit. “Balance your time outdoors and try to stay inside at the height of sun,” Dr. Jenny Yu, head of medical affairs at Red Ventures website Healthline Media, recommends.

In some European countries unaccustomed to extreme heat, air conditioning may be unavailable in some hotels, rental homes and restaurants. On especially hot days, it might be a good choice to visit major indoor tourist attractions, such as museums, that offer climate-controlled systems.

Related: Can it get too hot to fly a plane safely?

Stay hydrated

water glass
(Photo by Oscar Wong/Getty Images)

High temperatures and intense sunlight can be downright dangerous. Dehydration, sunstroke and heat exhaustion can send tourists to the hospital. Perhaps the most important step you can take to prevent emergency situations is staying hydrated.

During this especially hot summer, it’s a good idea to supplement with the occasional Gatorade-type beverage in addition to filling your water bottle. “Stay hydrated, but also remember to keep electrolytes balanced — more than just water, it’s good to have electrolyte-enhanced water,” advises Yu. It’s healthier to eschew the sugary electrolyte beverages and go for the unsweetened or lightly sweetened options.

If you can find a public fountain or water park to cool off, dive right in — just mind the local regulations, as American tourists have been cited for frolicking in historic landmarks. Also, be careful when swimming in unfamiliar waters: Britain has reported a series of drownings (in both lakes and the sea) amid the current heat wave.

Related: The best hotel pools

Wear cool clothing

woman on beach
(Photo by Jena Ardell/Getty Images)

Your wardrobe can help you stay comfortable and safe when traveling during hot weather. “Wear loose clothing,” Yu recommends. Bring shirts and pants that allow airflow, protect against sunlight and are light enough to not be burdensome.

“Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight,” the NWS writes in its heat advisory notice. It’s also important to wear “clothes that cover as much skin as possible to protect against permanent skin damage,” Western Australia’s health department writes in an advisory to travelers. “Use long sleeves, pants and skirts in a lightweight, loose-fitting fabric to provide protection for the sun.”

Headwear is important too. “Wear a well-vented, wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, head, neck and ears from the sun,” the Australian health advisory says.

TPG’s guide to packing for cruises also applies for general summer travels. Bring comfortable clothes that are versatile enough to wear both for touring outdoors and dining indoors. Consider that even in a hot-weather location, some indoor spaces may be overly air-conditioned, so bring a light sweater for those circumstances.

Featured photo by Bim/Getty Images.

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