- Packing plenty of water and moisture-rich foods will help you remain hydrated during long road trips
- Sun safety is important inside and outside of the car as older people are more sensitive to sun damage
- Keeping your friends and family up-to-date with your travel plans will help keep you safe if something does go wrong
Australian weather conditions can be challenging for anyone, including older people. Your body may not be able to cool itself down naturally, you may be more susceptible to dehydration, and you could have a medical condition that flares up in the hot weather.
That could all be worsened if your car breaks down on the side of the road or you are caught out in the sun and experience some severe sunburn.
But do not worry! With the right preparation, you will be ready for a summer vacation, whether it is a day trip to the country or an interstate migration.
To help, the Aged Care Guide has prepared a useful list of summer travel must-haves to keep you hydrated, safe and comfortable while on the road in the hot weather.
Pack a cooler with water and food
Older people have a higher risk of dehydration as ageing bodies cannot retain water as well as they once did.
If you do find yourself travelling for long periods of time it is crucial you have the necessary supplies to keep you hydrated – you do not want to rely on the next pitstop to grab a drink or snack.
It is recommended that you aim to drink two or three cups of water every hour, more if you are actively doing something outdoors in the heat. So before you hit the road, pick up a 10-litre box of water, a pack of bottled water or fill up plenty of bottles at home and store them in a cooler to keep them extra fresh.
If you do not enjoy drinking water as much, make some cordial, iced tea or homemade lemonade with high water concentrations and little-to-no caffeine.
You can also stay hydrated by eating moisture-rich fruit and vegetables like watermelon, oranges, spinach, tomato or cucumber. These snacks will be perfect for a road trip as you can also bring along some dips or make easy-to-eat salads that can sit in the cooler!
Just be aware of any fruit fly restrictions when you cross state borders or enter agricultural zones as you may have to throw out your fresh fruit and vegetables.
To learn more about the risks of dehydration, read our article ‘Hydration for elderly people and the dangers of dehydration’.
Protect yourself with sunscreen and shade
Older people are naturally at a higher risk of skin cancer due to extended sun exposure as your body cannot quite heal itself as quickly as it did when you were younger.
You may even take medications that increase your photosensitivity – that is a sun allergy where redness or inflammation can occur when exposed to sunlight.
Therefore, you want to do everything you can to avoid UV rays and sunburn.
When you think about shade while travelling, you most likely think of parking under a nice cool tree during a pitstop. But it is crucial you protect yourself from the sun when you are outside or inside the car!
Windscreen sunshades are the perfect way to keep direct sunlight from blaring through the windows. Not only will it keep you cooler, but you also reduce the number of harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays hitting your skin – and hopefully sunburn.
Unfortunately, it is hard to block out the sunlight coming through your front window. So the best solution is to at least apply sunscreen to your face, neck and chest every two hours. Apply more sunscreen to your exposed legs or arms when you get out of the car
If you follow the five steps of sun protection, even while in the car, you can make it a sun-smart holiday!
Maintain open communication
There was a time when you could not easily communicate with family and friends while travelling, but mobile phones have well and truly changed that. There is no reason to not keep everyone up to date with your adventures.
More importantly, open communication means if anything goes wrong in the hot weather, you have loved ones who can quickly raise an alarm if you miss an expected arrival date or check-in due to an accident.
First and foremost, make sure you always have a smartphone that is readily available and charged. A power bank is a handy purchase too. Power banks are battery packs that can be charged and then used to charge your phone while travelling.
Depending on the size of the power bank you could have anywhere between two to six full phone charges stored up. That means you do not have to rely on charging a phone via the car battery or during a quick pitstop.
Meanwhile, before you head off on a trip, pass on an itinerary so your family and friends roughly know where you will be. They do not have to know every single detail, just the key dates.
If you are going to visit someone, keep them updated on your arrival time. Even a simple ‘on my way’ could be enough to pique their interest if you ultimately run into trouble and do not arrive on time.
Have your car serviced before leaving
Do not postpone your car service until after a trip, book it in now!
Your car breaking down on the side of a highway is the last thing you want during a trip. It could leave you stranded, cause you to miss a crucial event or force you to fork out extra money for roadside assistance.
Make sure your car is in tip-top shape especially if you are towing a caravan. The extra weight places more stress on your vehicle, including the engine, brakes, suspension and tyres. Any slight problem could be worsened due to the heavy load you are carrying.
If you are going on a smaller trip and your car is up to date with its service history you should at least check the tyre pressure and coolant levels, and fill up the petrol tank!
Do not forget the air conditioning!
Keeping cool at all times is important and while some people might be happy enough relying on a cool breeze, air conditioning is still the best way to beat the heat.
Heat can be a major danger to older people and affects the older generation more than any other age demographic, so you want to make sure you keep cool while travelling.
Bringing along an air conditioner when you are travelling is a little tricky though. Some caravans or motorhomes do have inbuilt air conditioning while others can be retrofitted with a small system.
Otherwise, you could rely on portable fans or air conditioners. For additional comfort and relaxation, there is absolutely nothing wrong with plugging in your fan if you spend a hot night at a powered site.
Of course, there are limitations due to power supply when travelling. This is when you can purchase a small battery-powered fan that delivers the right amount of relief to keep you cool no matter what.
What are your hot tips for travelling in summer? Tell us more in the comments below!