Holidays are times to relax, get away from the humdrum of work and daily life, see interesting places, spend time with loved ones and hopefully have fun. Sadly however, many serious accidents and fatalities occur both in Ireland and abroad during holidays. Take time to consider the following safe holiday tips:

Before you go…

 Holiday Insurance

Take out suitable holiday insurance to cover illness, accident, hospitalisation, being brought back home by air ambulance, and sadly bringing a body back home for burial should all be covered.

 Vaccinations

Get whatever vaccinations you need for wherever you are going. Appointments should be made about 4 to 5 weeks prior to departure.

 First Aid Kit

Always bring a first aid kit even if travelling by air. Consider bringing the following: all prescription and allergy medications, headache tables, antihistamines, Sunscreen (SPF 20+), sterile plasters, cotton balls (for scrapes), cortisone cream, insect repellent, thermometer, tweezers and a small scissors. You will have to put it into your baggage in the hold unless you have Doctor’s letters explaining that you need it with you in the cabin.

Medical conditions

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, then arrange with your doctor and pharmacist to have enough supplies of your normal medication. If you have a specific allergy e.g. penicillin consider wearing an alert bracelet, which will tell paramedics that you have this condition.

Sun Protection – Always use Sun protection. Depending on temperatures and humidity, cover up with loose cool clothing, a hat and sunglasses. Seek shade during the hottest part of the day. Take special care to protect children in the sun –use a high factor sun protection for them. Consider insisting your children wear a T-shirt while swimming.

Food and Drink issues

If you require special food for yourself – e.g. Soya milk rather than cow’s milk etc. then bring it in powder form. If you are allergic to nuts, then bring your EpiPen with you and check with waiters in all eating establishments that nuts are not present in food.

Luggage

Always use luggage with wheels. Some walking distances in airports and ferry ports are very long and there are never enough luggage trolleys.

Planning your journey…

Travelling by Air

Check the food on board the flight and request in advance any children’s meals or special dietary needs. Consider paying for full seats for small children, especially for long haul flights, so they can sleep. Having a heavy toddler on your lap for 10 or more hours is very tiring.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) – Deep vein thrombosis is what happens when a clot forms in one of the deep veins. This most commonly occurs in the lower leg but may occur in the thigh or pelvis. The clot may block blood flow in the vein, either partially or completely. Long distance travel of any kind, whether by train, car or plane increases the risk of developing a DVT. If you have a history of DVT then check with your Doctor about flying before you book tickets.

Travelling by Sea

Always take sea-sickness tablets. For long ferry journeys seriously consider booking a cabin – even if no one sleeps – it allows you and your family to relax, to read, to shower and to have private access to a toilet – which children and older people tend to need frequently.

Travelling by Car

Get the car serviced fully several weeks before you go. Check spare tyre, bring basic tools and strongly consider rescue insurance from organisations like AA and RAC to cover the towing, repair and if necessary shipment back home of your car including the provision of a replacement car for your journey.

If you are driving on holiday – get relevant information from your travel agent about the rules covering driving in those countries. Know the side of the road to drive on, know the speed limits and know if there are separate traffic police or general police. Always have a phrase book in the country’s language so you can explain what has happened and ask questions. Update your Sat Nav for the country you are visiting and/or have good road maps with you so you can plan your journey for stops and if Sat Nav breaks down or does not provide accurate information.

Valuables in Cars

Never leave valuables visible inside a car – not even for a minute while you get petrol or buy a soft drink. Lock your car every time you leave it and place all luggage and valuables, including shopping, in the boot. Be sure to close all windows.

Mishaps in cars

Bring plenty of tissues and wet wipes, especially if you have young children. It may be necessary to break up the journey into several chunks of 4 -6 hours each over two days rather than one twelve hour trip. An overnight stop may be the best option so the driver and the rest of the family are well rested before continuing.

Amusing children on long journeys

Bring their favourite teddy, dolly, blanket or whatever keeps them happy for long air, sea or car journeys. Bring books, crayons and other games for older ones. Travel kits of Ludo, draughts and chess are ideal for this. Bring snacks if necessary – try to include fruit as well as the more popular chocolate etc. Allow teenagers to bring their mobile phones, IPhones etc. so they can play their favourite music.

In your Holiday Accommodation…

Evacuation in an emergency

Regardless of where you are staying you need to check if there are smoke detectors, fire alarms and clear evacuation routes. Take the time to “walk your evacuation route” to the final exit and see if it takes you (as it should) to the open air. The final door should be clear, unblocked and unlocked and should lead you to the outside. If it is blocked by furniture/chairs or other supplies, is padlocked or chained – then you should demand to see the manager and complain to them and to your tour operator representative.

Demand that the exits be opened and cleared and if that is refused then demand to be moved to another complex. If you have no option but to stay, then complain loudly and regularly and make a formal complaint in writing when you come home.

Balconies

If you are given an apartment with a balcony, check that the bars are strong enough and well mounted to prevent your family from falling off the balcony. See if the bars are narrow enough not to allow your toddlers to slip through and are not wide enough for their head to get stuck.

Gas heating

Poorly installed gas appliances can give off dangerous levels of Carbon Monoxide which can lead to Poisoning and death. Try to determine if there is a vent to allow gas fumes to escape from your kitchen and that it is not blocked up or that the ventilation duct leads nowhere. If you smell gas, don’t switch on or off any electrical switches or appliances, open the windows and report it to your landlord and tour operator. If you don’t get satisfaction demand to be moved.

If you or your family become unwell for no obvious reasons get out of your apartment and demand that the gas appliances be checked. You may be being exposed to Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

Children’s Safety

Small children should be supervised and accompanied everywhere they go. Put toddlers on a lead in crowded areas. Go with them to public toilets and to buy ice cream and drinks. If you lose your children, go back to the spot where they were last with you and search systematically from there. Check toilets, washrooms, behind sheds and buildings.

If you cannot find them within 5 minutes report that they are missing to local officials and police. In reporting them missing know what they are wearing and be able to tell officials if they suffer from any medical conditions.

Your Personal Safety…

Cash

Try to minimise the amount of cash you carry. Bring debit and/or credit cards but keep them safe and never write down your PIN. Leave other excess cash and other valuables in the safe in your apartment or hotel. Wear a bum bag at the front rather than a wallet in a back pocket. If you are mugged hand over your money, camera etc. as they can all be replaced (through insurance we hope) and you can walk or run away. Putting up a struggle is not advisable as they may be carrying a weapon and may turn violent. Always report the mugging to the local police and to your tour guide/operator.

Alcohol

Enjoy a drink, if you must, but be sensible about it. If you are in a pub or club try as much as possible not to leave your drink unattended, have your friends watch it for you as there have been cases where drugs have been put into drinks to incapacitate people. NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE! If someone picks a fight with you walk away. Don’t argue back as it will inflame the situation.

Sexual Activity

If you plan to be sexually active with strangers on holiday then you should use condoms which can prevent the transfer of Sexually Transmitted Infections and pregnancy.

Swimming Safety

Never swim alone, after a heavy meal or after drinking alcohol. Always check depth of swimming pools and any underwater hazards such as concrete supports, pumps, before diving in. Children should be taught to swim, not to swim alone and always to let parents know when they are going to swim. They should not use inflated toys or beds in the sea as they can be brought out on tides and under currents.

Ultimate Message…

Have a wonderful well-earned break and come back safely.