Over the past few weeks it's been hard to swing a sunburned shoulder without hitting some sage advice on the subject of keeping cool in the 'heatwave'. Judging by the tone of rising hysteria if you're not at this very moment stuffing your fridge with pillows while running a tepid bath and eating a curry then hell mend you. Because the earth's crust has fractured and it's just a matter of time before we're all engulfed in a sea of molten lava.
Top tips have ranged from migraine relief patches to lower your temperature to freezing bed sheets (cool and refreshing at midnight, damp and weird by 1am). I particularly liked 'slow down and avoid strenuous activity' and visualising icy landscapes. But without a shadow of a doubt my all-time, never-to-be-equalled favourite piece of advice came via The Daily Mail, 'If you have a basement, use it during the hottest hours of the day.'
Yes, that's right: 'It's warm and sunny outside so go and sit in your dark, cold basement.' Those of us without basements could obviously take up potholing, move into a disused mine or find a large, cool rock to crawl under.
Are we really that bad at good weather? And if hot at home means we're freezing our sheets and considering the type of living conditions that could secure us a guest spot on Dexter, what do we do when we travel?
In other countries where weeping and wailing and hiding underground isn't the normal response to a bit of sun, the locals happily work and play in temperatures that would melt a migraine patch at a hundred paces. How do they cope?
Mainly by applying common sense as liberally as factor 30, taking it easy and shaping the day to suit the weather - because it doesn't work the other way round.
So if you're heading somewhere as hot, or hotter, than home this summer here are some sensible ways to stay cool and I promise none of them will make you look like you needed advice in the first place.
Sound Sleep Advice
Take travel Mosquito Nets. They need hardly any packing space and keep you bug free and cool if you want to sleep with fresh air instead of air-con - they also double as light curtains over balcony or garden doors so you can be a grown up and sit outside in the evening while the children sleep.
I've also just learned of a new mosquito patch that's currently crowdsourcing called Kite, which promises to make you invisible to mossies for up to 48 hours. It's mostly meant for people who, you know, keep dying of malaria in Uganda but it will I'm sure also become available to us with our first world problems of itchiness and smaller portions than we hoped for. Right now the only way to get them is to donate at least $35 to their crowdsourcing page and be in the U.S. for delivery. But watch this space that won't be forever.
Pack Lavender Essential Oil. A couple of drops in a cool evening bath calms overheated, over excited children right down. Put a few drops on a tissue and leave it close to your pillow to help you drift off. It also takes the sting out of insect bites and it's a mild antiseptic.
Make a pot of herbal tea, let it cool, pour into a jug, add some (bottled water) ice cubes and chill in the fridge - Clipper Organic Sleep Easy Infusion is good. Put some of the tea into a thermal bottle and keep it beside your bed: soothing, sleep making and cooling.
If you're staying in rented accommodation ask your host (or their neighbours) for advice. People love to pass on local lore and share tips and they'll know the real tried and trusted ways to get a good night's sleep when it's hot.
Change the shape of your day
Get up early and do stuff like shopping. Town markets are usually only open in the morning and start first thing (7am), best time to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables, local produce, fish and bread.
Caffeine's really dehydrating in the heat so if you need a coffee hit get one before 11am and you can enjoy it outside before the sun's too fierce.
You know those long, leisurely lunches we dismiss as lazy? Well they're just not. It makes perfect sense to heed the midday 'down tools' call and spend a couple of hours relaxing over a meal. Take it easy with lunchtime booze, even if your meal includes wine have a look around, most locals will drink a glass with some water.
If you're doing the beach, pick morning, late afternoon and early evening for playing, especially if you're a bit off the beaten track and you don't have easy access to beach bars and shade between 12 and 4pm.
Pick up the 'nap habit'. Even if you don't sleep, a couple of hours out of the sun in the afternoon is a good idea for wee kids and grown ups. And don't fall into the trap of thinking you're wasting precious 'holiday time', you're not: you'll have more energy to do things in the evening and you won't have grumpy tea time children.
If you're driving, try and do sightseeing in the morning. Park in shade if possible. Always use back seat window blinds for babies and small children and cover seat belt buckles and baby seat straps before you leave the car. And don't leave your glasses sitting on the dashboard, a big burn on the bridge of your nose is not a good holiday look.
Mostly I like to travel light but some things aren't negotiable when it comes to cool comfort........
Insulated Drink Sleeves take up no space and let you keep water cold in the car or the beach and beside your bed at night. And if your children have one of 'their very own' it encourages them to drink plenty.
XXL T-Shirts for XSmall kids mean more play time because they cover all the bits sun screen doesn't. Buy them in multi-packs at least 3 age sizes too large and slip them on over swimmies on the beach or by the pool.
Rehydration Powder Sachets are a very quick, effective way to counteract the effects of too much sun, upset tummies and general dehydration. Anyone over the age of 1 feels almost instantly better.
Water Sprays are not just for Fashion Week. Pick them up cheap in large sizes at any supermarket on holiday - most do their own-brand - and keep them in the fridge. Pop one in a drink's sleeve for the car, cool box for the beach and within easy reach at night.
And finally, no matter how tempting it seems, don't go and sit in the basement. It's not cool, it's just sad and more than a little bit creepy.
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