At this time of year, minds turn to that all-important getaway! The allure of the beach or that bolt-hole in the middle of nowhere presents the opportunity to recharge those batteries and leave all your stresses behind. However, before you close the front door behind you, it is important to think about making sure that the essentials we often take for granted, are not only considered but understood. Too many holidaymakers fail to get these points right, often leading to difficult or dire consequences!
There are 5 principal areas which I think are absolutely essential to get right. They are often reduced to last minute purchases, which may not deliver the quality or safety you or your family deserve. Here are my top 5 holiday-prep essentials:
Suncream! I can see it now, you have forgotten to get this essential protection and so you grab a couple of bottles at the airport! You may buy the cheapest or indeed the most expensive, but is it any good? You should always remember that just because you put the cream on, it doesn't offer total protection unless you buy the right product and follow the application guide. When buying suncream always make sure that it offers 'Broad Spectrum' Protection; you need to make sure that it protects you from the UVA & UVB rays. UVB is the most dangerous because exposure to these rays provides a higher risk from sunburn and cancers; UVA contributes to cancers and also ageing of the skin. You should aim for a 'Sun Protection Factor' (SPF) of 30 or higher and read carefully what they mean by 'water resistant' or 'waterproof'; this is particularly important if you are travelling with children!
Sunglasses. We all like to look cool but at what cost? Did you realise that if you do not protect your eyes from the harsh sunlight, you could potentially suffer with sunburn of the eye, 'snow-blindness', conjunctivitis or even retinal damage? The same rule that applies with suncream also applies to glasses; UVA & UVB rays can cause eye problems. If you already have pre-existing eye problems, you should take extra care to make sure that they are protected! Always look for glasses that state that they offer '99 - 100%' protection from these harmful rays. The best advice is to where you can, buy your sunglasses from an optician. Look out for polarised or reflective lenses; mirrored coating is another option. Choices also extend to gradient or photochromic lenses - these latter lenses change colour according to the light conditions. You only have one pair of eyes; protect them!
Mosquitoes. Even if you are holidaying in the UK, you will not escape these little pests! Apart from discomfort, stings could potentially introduce you to malaria, dengue fever, chickungunya, zika and yellow fever illnesses. The dangers of malaria tend to arise from bites during the dusk to dawn periods, whereas other infections are generally spread throughout the day. The PHE Advisory Committee on Malaria Prevention recommends that if you are buying any repellant, you should make sure it contains DEET. The concentration of DEET and its protection level will depend on its strength, so 20% = 1 to 3 hrs, 30% = 6hrs and 50% = 12 hrs. When applying, you should make sure that you do so AFTER you have covered yourself in suncream and that the SPF factor of the suncream is at least 30! You should not use DEET for children under 2 years and you should seek expert advice to guide you on the best preparations for children. One other way to protect yourself is by having clothes to wear in the evening that protects your arms and legs and if you are self-catering, consider getting citronella candles and nets for nighttime protection.
Currency. This has become more important since the Brexit vote! Plan well before your holiday by checking out the different rates of exchange from different sources; do not leave it until you get to the airport where the rates are generally not competitive. When you see a rate that attracts you before you go on holiday, secure that rate and arrange to have the cash delivered to you or indeed the option perhaps to pick it up at the airport! Consider pre-paid cards where you can load up the foreign currency but make yourself aware of any withdrawal charges before you buy. Whilst we all carry credit cards with us, it is important now more than ever that you keep checking with the card company for any fluctuations in rates and those all important extra charges. By taking these simple steps, you protect yourself against unexpected extra expenses!
Finally, Travel Insurance! Do not choose the cheapest; it may not cover all family eventualities or those action-sports you have so longed to try out. Always check the exclusions and anticipate where you can what activity you might engage with on holiday. One important aspect to remember is to make sure that you bring your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you. Take a lesson from me; last year my wife became seriously ill and needed an operation and a hospital stay. It cost £6,500 which was mostly paid for by the EHIC card, with the remainder by our travel insurance; if you do nothing else, make sure you follow this tip!
These simple, but often forgotten essentials hide a myriad of problems if you do not get the basics right; if you follow my top tips, it will help you enjoy your time away!