Every December the same thing happens all over South Africa – people pack their families into the car and set off for their Christmas holiday destination. And unfortunately every year during the holiday period a tragic percentage of those people experience some sort of emergency. Whether it is accidents, illness, or just an unexpected turn of events, there are many, many things that can go wrong during the festive period.
So here are some tips to help you plan and prepare for your holidays – we hope you will them useful and practical and, who knows, they might just do some good!
- If you are taking chronic medication make sure you have enough refills, or a doctor’s prescription to get more, to last you the entire holiday period. Remember that doctors also take time off and he/she may not necessarily be available to help you out if you’ve forgotten or lost medication. On the up side; most pharmacies in South Africa will accept faxed prescriptions, so you may not have to stress too badly if you’ve forgotten, lost, or run out of medication.
- A clever idea is to go to a plastics store and buy a pill organiser that will meet your size requirements. Then organise your pills by making “labels” of the medication’s package and sticking it inside each organiser slot to easily identify the medication. Alternatively you could also buy a Travel Pill Organiser for your trip or make your own with small ziplock bags.
- If you are travelling outside the country learn the generic names of your medication, or else take a photo with your phone of the main ingredients list so that you can get a local replacement easily (you could also simply take the information leaflet with you too).
- If you are using medication that requires a syringe or other sharp objects make sure you get a signed letter from your doctor validating the equipment, especially for airport security.
- Should you suffer from any serious allergies make sure you have an up-to-date medical alert bracelet and the necessary medication, such as an epi-pen kit.
- Bring an extra pair of glasses or contacts with you – you don’t want your holiday ruined because you lost your glasses and can’t see.
- Check out your destination thoroughly before the trip and make a note of all the major hospitals and even pharmacies in close vicinity to your accommodation.
- When travelling abroad also make note of the location and contact details of the nearest South African Embassy or Consulate.
- Get adequate and comprehensive travel insurance for yourself and everyone travelling with you when holidaying overseas. Make sure the insurance covers emergency evacuations. And even though this is a grim concept to consider, also ensure your insurance covers the repatriation of remains too.
- Make sure your children know the address and contact details of your accommodation just in case they get lost. And advise them to always seek out official individuals, like law enforcement officers and tourist information agents for help, rather than approaching strangers on the street.
- Give a family member or friend a copy of your full travel itinerary as well as all the relevant contact details for accommodation, authorities, and emergency facilities.
- Make photocopies of your passports, visas, driver’s licences, credit cards and any other ID. Leave one copy with a relative or friend at home, and keep another copy separate from your originals. A really good idea is to fold all the copies into the smallest (but still practical) size possible and then laminate it; in this way the copies will be protected from water and damage, and it also keeps them secure and private.
- If you are driving to your destination, always ensure that you are well-rested, comfortable, and alert. Driving tired, unfocussed, or distracted are some of the major causes of motor vehicle accidents!
- Make sure you stop often and take a quick break to stretch your legs, go to the restroom, and get a good coffee or snack. Driving with a full bladder is nearly as incapacitating as driving under the influence of alcohol!
- Prepare some good, low carb, low sugar, easy-to-eat snacks for the road the night before. Not only are homemade snacks a healthy alternative to the store-bought variety (not to mention cheaper!), but snacking will also help keep you alert – just make sure your passenger and co-pilot does all the work in terms of getting said snacks out of the cooler and opening containers!
- Try and leave as early as possible in the morning if the weather is clear and driving conditions are favourable. In this way your children will sleep at least part of the way and you will also be able to avoid some of the major holiday traffic.
- Prepare some good, fun, engaging activities for the children in the car. There are loads of awesome ideas on the internet that won’t involve just plonking them down in front of a portable DVD player, iPad or tablet, or MP3 player.
- Lastly, make sure you know your route and destination thoroughly before setting off. There is nothing that ruins the start of a holiday as completely as getting lost!
Finally we would like to add that you should exercise caution while on holiday. Don’t engage in unfamiliar and possibly dangerous activities without the aid of a knowledgeable guide or instructor. And try to minimize your time in the sun or else use a good quality sunblock – heat stroke is not a pleasant way to spend your holiday.
But most importantly; use this time to relax, unwind, spend some quality time with your family, and prepare yourself mentally for the upcoming year.