Summer Travel Tips: Beat the Heat, Avoid Crowds, and Save Money

by wheretheroadforks

Every season presents its own unique set of challenges while traveling. Even though the weather is beautiful, the summer travel season is busy, hot, and expensive. In this article, I outline some of the most important summer travel tips to help you beat the heat, avoid the crowds, and save money.

Use Sunblock

Even though it’s greasy and annoying to apply, you have to wear sunblock. It’s a necessary evil of summer travel. In the short term, sunblock prevents one of the most common travel injuries, sunburn. In the long term, if used regularly, sunblock helps to prevent various types of skin cancer.

For maximum protection from the sun, read the label on your sunblock and follow the instructions on the bottle. How often you reapply depends on your level of activity, how much you’re sweating, and the intensity of the sun. Most recommend that you reapply every couple of hours. This is particularly important if you’re swimming.

When purchasing sunblock, look for one with an SPF of at least 30. This blocks 97% of UVB rays. These are the most dangerous to your skin. Choose a waterproof sunblock if you plan to spend time swimming.

Bottles of sunblock

Also, consider the size of the bottle. Remember that you can only pack bottles that are smaller than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in your carry-on toiletries bag. This is important if you’re an ultralight traveler.

Because I personally hate applying sunblock, I spend a bit more to buy one of the non-greasy varieties that is easier to apply. If it doesn’t make me feel all greasy, I’ll use it more often. I like Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Water Resistant and Non-Greasy Sunscreen. I buy this SPF 45 sunblock on Amazon in packs of 2. Each bottle is 3 ounces so it’s carry-on friendly. 

Drink Plenty of Water While Traveling in the Summer

While traveling during the summer, you’ll sweat a lot. You need to stay hydrated. The amount of water that you need to drink depends on your level of activity and body size. Most people need to drink 2-4 liters of water per day to stay properly hydrated. If you’re having a particularly active day, you may need to drink far more than that.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget to drink while you’re traveling. You just get too preoccupied with sightseeing and activities. I try to carry a water bottle with me everywhere I go and sip throughout the day. I also pay attention to the color of my urine. If it’s too dark, I know I haven’t been drinking enough fluids.

a glass of water

Here’s a little story about my water intake on a hot July day in India.

During a day of sightseeing in Delhi, I climbed into a rickshaw. The driver turned around to me and said with his Indian accent “Oh god, it’s so hot! 47 today!” When a Delhi native says it’s hot, it’s hot.

All day, I sweating as fast as I could drink. Over the course of a few hours, I drank 6 liters of water and didn’t have to use the bathroom a single time. I remember looking at my forearms and noticing they were dripping wet. I thought to myself, where did all of this water come from? It took me a minute but I finally realized, it’s sweat!

For more info on staying hydrated during summer travel, check out this great article from the huffpost.com.

Get Out of the Heat During the Hottest Time of Day

In many cultures, people take a break during the hottest time of the day to get out of the sun and rest for a bit. For example, you’ve probably heard of the Spanish term, siesta. This is a short nap usually taken in the afternoon after lunch. People close up shop and go home to rest. Take this summer travel tip from the locals to beat the heat.

The hottest time of the day is usually around 3 pm. Find a shady or air-conditioned place to rest for a few hours during this time. Continue your day after it cools off a bit in the late afternoon or early evening. While traveling in hot climates, you may also want to consider getting up early so you have more time to sightsee during the cooler mornings.

A great place to beat the heat

I’m a night owl. I like to stay up late while traveling in hot climates then take a long nap through the hot time of day. Sometimes I wake up at sunrise and spend a few hours out and about before heading back to my hotel or hostel to sleep during the day.

Book in Advance during the Busy Summer Travel Season

Summer is the busy season for many popular travel destinations including North America and Europe. These days, some destinations receive so many tourists that booking in advance is basically becoming a requirement. There is a word for this: Overtourism. Some destinations are so overrun with tourists that you may miss out if you wait until the last minute to make reservations. This applies for:

  • Transportation tickets- Booking your airline ticket in advance is particularly important. Flights fill up and last minute tickets are expensive. Try to book a couple of months in advance for international flights. Buses and trains also fill up during busy summer months. If you can, book in advance to make sure that you can travel on your desired date. Prices are better when you book in advance as well. Booking a week or two in advance is usually sufficient.
  • Hostel and hotel rooms- In some particularly busy cities, beds fill up a couple of weeks in advance. When I traveled to Paris a few summers ago, I waited until the last minute to book a bed in a hostel dorm. I ended up having to stay on the edge of the city because everything else was booked.
  • Tours- Some tours must be booked months in advance. If you only have a limited amount of time for your trip, you can’t just show up and expect to find a space in the summer. Of course, if you aren’t limited by time, you can wait around until there is a cancellation or opening. This is a good way to save some money as well.

Of course, not every destination is busy during the summer. Sometimes you can just show up and make any reservations day off. Before your trip, be sure to do your research so you know what to expect.

Paris, France

One of the world’s top tourist destinations, Paris

I, personally, hate having to book in advance. I prefer to keep my schedule open because it allows for more spontaneity in my trip. For example, maybe a fellow traveler tells me about an interesting nearby town to visit. I can change my plans last minute without any hassles if I haven’t made any reservations. If I already had everything booked, I’d miss out.

Ideally, I like to travel in the shoulder or off season. Of course, that’s not always an option. During summer busy summer months, I try my best to make reservations well in advance.

Pay a Little Extra for an Air Conditioned Hostel or Hotel Room

Most hotels and hostels in hot climates offer AC and non-AC rooms. Expect to pay $5-$15 more for an AC room. If you have room in your budget, I recommend you spend the extra money to have an AC room while traveling during the summer.

Traveling in hot climates gets exhausting. Sometimes the heat gets so intense that you just don’t want to do anything. It makes you feel sluggish. Having an air-conditioned room gives you a space to retreat to during the hot time of day and recharge. AC can greatly improve your comfort, quality of sleep, and boost your energy during the day.

Be Prepared to Deal with Bugs During the Summer

Mosquitoes, ticks, bees, and ants are out in full force during the summer. Depending on where you’re traveling, bugs can be just a simple annoyance or a major health risk. Insects can carry a number of potentially deadly parasites, bacteria, and viruses. A few dangerous insect-transmitted diseases that you may encounter while traveling include:

  • Malaria- One of the biggest risks for travelers. Malaria can be found in tropical and subtropical regions all over the world. For more info, check out my traveler’s guide to malaria prevention, treatment, and tablets.
  • Dengue Fever- This is one of the more common mosquito-transmitted diseases for travelers to catch. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or cure at this time. If you catch it, you just have to wait it out. Dengue fever is found in tropical regions with the most cases occurring in India and Southeast Asia. Dengue is also found in the Americas and Africa.
  • West Nile Virus- This is the most common mosquito-transmitted disease found in the United States. No vaccine or treatment is available.
  • Yellow Fever- This is one of the more deadly mosquito-transmitted diseases. Yellow fever is found mainly in Africa, and Central and South America. Luckily, a vaccine is available. Some countries even require proof of vaccine upon arrival. Check the entry requirements of your destination before you travel.
  • Lyme Disease- This one is transmitted by ticks. Lyme disease can lead to serious problems if left untreated. For more info, check out this article from the CDC. 

A mosquito

It’s important to take the proper precautions to avoid dangerous insect-transmitted diseases while traveling. For example, you should:

  • Use insect repellent- A good repellent is effective against mosquitoes, ticks, bees, ants, and many other annoying critters. I like Repel 100 Insect Repellent. It contains 98.11% DEET and protects for up to 10 hours.
  • Sleep under a bug net- Protect yourself from mosquitoes while you sleep. I like the Sea to Summit Nano Mosquito pyramid shelter. It weighs only 2.9 ounces and takes up hardly any space in your pack.
  • Cover up when the bugs are out- Wear long sleeves to prevent bites and stings. This is particularly important during the mornings and evenings while the bugs are at their worst.
  • Take malaria prophylaxis if you’re traveling in malaria zone- Consult a doctor to help you decide whether or not you need to take malaria prophylaxis for your trip.

If you begin experiencing flu-like symptoms including headache, fever, aches, chills, nausea, etc. visit a local clinic to get checked out. Some of the above diseases can hit you fast and hard if left untreated.

As for ants and bees, they are mainly just an annoyance. To avoid these guys, the best thing you can do is cover or properly dispose of any food or drinks. This helps to avoid attracting them. Also, avoid disturbing any nests or hives.

Wear Sunglasses

While traveling in the summer, you need to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. Particularly UV B rays. Overexposing your eyes to the sun can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, and other serious problems down the line.

If you wear corrective lenses like I do, consider purchasing a pair of prescription sunglasses. That way, you can wear sunglasses while you’re not wearing your contacts. If you’re on a budget, you can purchase a cheap pair of prescription sunglasses from an online glasses shop.

For more tips, check out my guide: Tips for Travel with Glasses and Contacts.

Carry Some Warm Clothes

Even in hot climates, nights can get cold. Some destinations are simply colder than you expect because of elevation or below average temperatures. Some businesses crank up the air conditioning to an uncomfortable level. It’s important to at least pack a sweatshirt or jacket and one pair of long pants while traveling in the summer. You need something to keep you warm.

While camping in the Namib desert when visiting Sossusvlei, I decided I didn’t need any warm clothes. Temperatures were in the 90s every day, after all. I realized my mistake that night at camp. Temperatures dropped into the 40s and I froze in my tent all night. Luckily my buddy lent me his extra jacket so I was able to make it through the night. I didn’t get much sleep though.

Carry Wet Wipes

While traveling you sometimes find yourself in a situation where you have to go a few days without a shower. Maybe you’re stuck in transit on a long overnight bus journey. Maybe you’re wild camping out in the bush. Whatever the case, it’s nice at least be able to freshen up a bit. This is particularly important during summer travel where you’re sweating a lot. After a few days without bathing, you begin to feel a bit gross.

I like to carry wet wipes so I can give my self a little sponge bath. Simply wiping the dust and sweat off my face and body can really turn my mood around. It’s not as good as a shower but at least I feel a bit less filthy after.

Choose a Destination that’s in the Off Season

If you don’t feel like dealing with the crowds, consider traveling somewhere that is off season during the summer. You can save money on airfare, hotel rooms, and tours. Beaches, restaurants, and tourist sites will be less busy as well.

Cancun beach off season

When you travel off season, sometimes you have the place to yourself

For example, one of the most popular regions for travelers to visit is Southeast Asia. Tourism is significantly lower from June through September because that is the wet season. If you don’t mind dealing with a bit of rain every day, you can beat the crowds and enjoy lower prices.

Pack Light for Summer Travel

One of the best parts of summer travel is being able to pack light. You don’t need bulky boots or a parka. If you’re camping, you can get away with a lightweight sleeping bag and minimalist shelter. You can easily pack all of your gear into a carry-on size bag for a summer trip. It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling for 3 days or 3 months.

On my first solo trip, I overpacked and ended up having to check my backpack. Of course, Air Canada lost it. Now I never check a bag and never fly Air Canada.

If you usually overpack and need some help cutting down the weight and bulk of your pack, check out my ultralight travel packing list.

Go Camping

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors. Camping is a great way to avoid the crowds and tourist traps in the city. As an added bonus, you’ll save on accommodation.

The nice thing about camping during the summer is the fact that you can get away with minimal shelter. You don’t need expensive gear to sleep outside on a hot summer night. 

These days, I always travel with a tent and camp whenever the opportunity comes up. There’s just something thrilling about sleeping outside under the stars. It helps with the budget as well. 

For some summer camping tips, check out my camping safety guide.

Pack a Pair of Long Pants and a Long-Sleeved Shirt

You can’t wear shorts and a t-shirt everywhere you go. For example, while traveling in conservative countries, sometimes you must cover up in order to visit some temples, mosques, and even museums. If you don’t have the proper clothes, you won’t be permitted to enter.

Many restaurants, bars, and clubs also have dress codes. They won’t let you in if you’re wearing shorts. You don’t want to miss out on a great meal or wild night out just because you didn’t pack the proper clothing.

While traveling in Thailand, a few fellow travelers and I decided to visit the Skybar from Hangover Part II. Before we went, we read about their dress code online. They required that you wear long pants to enter. One of the guys didn’t pack any long pants. He ended up waiting in the lobby while the others and I enjoyed the spectacular view. 

Do your Research and be Prepared

While you shouldn’t plan your whole trip out day-by-day, you should create a rough outline of your trip before you leave. This is particularly important during summer travel because many destinations are just so crowded. You don’t want to miss out on something cool because you didn’t do your research. Things you should look into before leaving home include:

  • Visas- Do you need to get them in advance or are they available upon arrival? How much do they cost?
  • Vaccinations- Check which travel vaccines are recommended or required.
    Currency- What is the exchange rate? Can you access your money from the local ATMs? In some countries, you may have to bring enough cash. I encountered this in Cuba.
  • Safety- Is it safe to walk around alone at night? Is there a particular neighborhood or region that you should avoid? Is the country politically stable?
  • Accommodation- Check prices and availability.
  • Transportation- Is public transport available on the route you plan to travel? How often do buses or trains run? What is the cost?
  • Things to do- Find a few interesting sites or activities for each destination that you plan to visit.
  • Language- While you can get by with English pretty much anywhere, knowing a few phrases of the local language can come in handy.

Passport and map

Have Travel Insurance

Even though it is an extra expense, it’s important to have insurance while traveling. In the event of a catastrophe, insurance can save you a lot of money and stress. I use World Nomads. They can protect you in the event of an injury, theft, or medical emergency. For more info, check out my travel insurance page.

In the past, I never bought travel insurance. These days, I’m a bit more cautious. The expense is minimal when compared to what I’d end up spending if a major accident were to happen.

Final Thoughts on Summer Travel Tips

Summer isn’t the greatest time to travel. It’s the hottest, busiest, and most expensive part of the year. Dealing with the heat and the crowds gets stressful. Unfortunately, it’s the only chance many people get to take their vacation. Hopefully, these summer travel tips help make your trip a go a bit smoother. 

Do you have any summer travel tips? Share your experience in the comments below!

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