with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Summer Tips for Travelers

Grand Canyon, photograph by Brent VanFossenAccording to the article, “New Advice Helps Parents And Camp Directors Prepare For A Safe And Healthy Summer Camp Season” in Science Daily, “In just a few short weeks, 10 million American children will start heading off to summer camp. But before they go, health experts are issuing strong new advice to both parents and camp directors, and recommending new precautions to protect campers’ health.”

I decided that if parents and camp directors needed to know about protecting the children in the vacation camps, then something in this article must be of benefit to the rest of us vacationing and traveling this summer. In general, the article says “research, prepare, and provide information” to determine if the camp you choose for your child is safe and ready for your children to arrive.

The points it brought up were good ones, but I wanted to address their application to the general traveler. So here are some tips from us that will help you have a healthy and happier vacation this summer.

Be prepared for health problems you may have or encounter.
Do you have all your medications? Do you know where they are? If they are critical to have nearby, like insulin or inhalers, you need to make a plan for where to put them so everyone will know where they are. Remind each other to put them in the same place every time. In addition to regular medications, what about general medications like aspirin, band-Aids, and antibiotic creams? What about bug spray and sunburn relief sprays or ointments. Consider what health problems you have, and may encounter, and be prepared for them.
Ask what kinds of health services, including emergency response, is available nearby.
While you may never need them, if you will be staying in a place for very long, like a week or two, find out the emergency information and resources that are nearby. While most of the USA now has 911 emergency service, there are some places that still have other phone numbers. Find out what the local emergency number is. Where is the nearest emergency room may help, but it is usually more important to make sure that everyone knows the location address of where you are staying, nearby landmarks for giving directions, and to keep your cell phone fully charged at all times, and with you, and/or to know the location of all the public phones in the campground or area where you are staying.
Provide contact emergency information.
Make sure you have emergency contact information in your purse and wallet to help any emergency staff members to get in contact with someone back home, just in case.
Make a plan with the children for what to do in case of an emergency.
Brent repairs the flat tire on the trailer by the side of the highway, photograph by Lorelle VanFossenMake sure children have been trained and prepared in what to do in case there is an emergency situation. It is not always the children who get hurt when traveling. Show them where the telephones are, and where to get help, and how to ask for help. Work out different scenarios for what to do if you get a flat tire along the highway (only exit on the side of the car AWAY from traffic, for example), or injured in the trailer, at the campground, while fishing, or whatever your activities. Practice it for fun and reinforcement.
Get a complete picture of what the vacation involves, whether it’s strenuous sports or more moderate activities.
Consider the level of physical activity involved for your vacation plans. In the article, they worry about whether or not an “activity raises risk for kids with certain medical conditions”, but you need to worry about the activity level for everyone you travel with, not just you. If your plans involve strenuous walking, hiking, climbing, skiing, or swimming, is everyone in your party prepared for it? Are they in shape? If not, then the plans need to accommodate the different physical condition each person is in. Some can do the more strenuous things while others have a plan for their calmer activities. If you haven’t prepared for the physical activity level of your vacation plans, this can lead to injury, accidents, and a seriously miserable vacation.
Homesickness prevention.
Depending upon how long your travels take you, homesickness doesn’t just apply to the young. Through all of our travels, we’ve been occasionally struck with homesickness, or the dreaded “Don’t want to be here” depression. We tackle this in several ways, and maybe one of these might help you and your family.

First, remember a phone call is only a few minutes away. Just the sound of the voice from home can be reassuring. Second, bring a little bit of home with you. We have a very small photo album that can slip in the suitcase, and I carry a small doll that my mother made for me when I was very small. Memorabilia can help us feel connected with our past and home. Last, write a letter. Email is okay, but the Practice of actually writing a note of your experiences helps deal with them and invites others to share in your travels. And remember, everyone gets homesick. EVERYONE.
Don’t bring “stuff” with you to entertain yourselves.
Huge fifth wheel trailer in Alaska hosts a giant satellite dish, photograph by Lorelle VanFossenIt is amazing the paraphernalia that people travel with to amuse themselves while on vacation. From the smallest campers to the largest motor homes, everyone seems to insist upon the biggest television they can find. Families haul games, bicycles, and all kinds of toys and stuff with them. Remember the reasons for the vacation. One, to get away from your normal lives and have a change of pace. Two, to spend time with your family. And three, to see something different. The busy-making stuff doesn’t change your lifestyle, it brings it with you. Distractions prevent interaction and “time with the family”.

Growing up, we played license plate and word games and carried a couple packs of playing cards. We didn’t need the inspiration of a campfire to share stories and just hang out. We told jokes, made up stories about plants and animals we couldn’t identify, even making up stories about the places we were seeing. For days on a bus trip through Oregon, we poked fun at Myrtle Wood, wondering if she turned over a new leaf. The most important thing to pack is your imagination and your willingness to listen.

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