The Brancatelli File By Joe Brancatelli
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Paranoid Traveler's Guide: Theme Parks and Sun
June 15, 1994 -- Summer's here (well, almost) and it's time to talk about those seasonal perennials: theme parks and the sun.

Not necessarily together, you understand. But it really does matter how you approach these topics this summer. Especially if you're the paranoid type.

THEME PARK TACTICS
Once you master the financial complexities of theme parks, the really daunting work begins: planning to survive the physical rigors of these sprawling mini-cities. Before you go, check on the least crowded days and times to visit popular attractions, know the local weather conditions and gather maps and guidebooks. Ask your travel agent if the park has special "early entry" plans. And consider the following advice.

1. Prepare an itinerary before reaching the park and make reservations in advance whenever practical. Balance shows, rides and other attractions. Consult the park map to make sure you proceed in a logical manner. On hot days, schedule at least some afternoon time at a shaded or air-conditioned venue or at a water attraction.

2. Dress in loose layers to accommodate early-morning-to-late-evening temperature swings. Never wear new shoes--rely on your sturdiest, most comfortable lace-up walking gear. Bring sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat. Don't forget bathing suits if the park has water attractions.

3. You'll wait in food lines all day if you stop whenever someone gets the munchies. Eat a substantial breakfast, schedule a lunch break and bring between-meal snacks. Best choices: high-energy, easy-to-tote items such as fresh fruits, trail mixes and juice boxes.

4. Be prepared in the event you lose a child. Show children the location of the park's lost and found area. Adults should know what each child is wearing and carry a recent photo. Children should be taught to seek immediate assistance from police or guards. Each child should have an information card--name, hotel name and phone number, and emergency contact back home--pinned inside a pocket.

5. Theme parks are not immune from crime, so don't let down your guard. Pay extra attention to youngsters in darkened theaters. Hold children's hands tightly--or carry them--wherever there are abrupt transitions between light and dark areas. Be especially alert at food stalls, a favorite haunt of pickpockets.

SUN STRATEGIES
Travelers are drawn to the Caribbean islands, Florida and California's beaches for a simple reason. Vacationing in sunny places make you feel better.

The sun's rays feel good on your body, the sounds of the waves are soothing and the aroma of the beach is therapeutic. Yet the emotional tug of the beach and the sun shouldn't stop you from taking the proper precautions to safeguard your health.

1. The very thing that draws travelers to beaches--the sun--is the very thing you must be prepared to defend against. And remember: the closer you go to the equator, the higher the risk of skin cancers caused by exposure to the sun.

2. Make sure you take the proper precautions against sunburn. Avoid exposure during the peak hours between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Always use a sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Apply a thick coat at least a half-hour before going outdoors and be sure to reapply regularly. The best protection comes from clothes with tightly woven fabric, hats with wide brims and sunglasses with lenses that filter out at least 65 percent of the visible light.

3. Drink copious amounts of fluids to avoid dehydration in the sunny climates. Stick to bottled water if you are prone to intestinal problems. If you're in the tropics, be wary of fresh fruits that may have been washed in tap water, tropical drinks that may be mixed with tap water and, of course, ice cubes made from tap water.

4. Be careful when swimming because water does not protect against the sun's damaging rays--in fact, it intensifies their harmful effects. Avoid swimming in unfamiliar waters: tides could be dangerous, there may be unseen underwater hazards and the water itself may have harmful bacteria. And don't be seduced by hucksters who promise to teach you scuba diving in a few hours. If you're not experienced, don't try to become an overnight expert.

5. If you're following the sun overseas, call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (404-332-4559) for an update on health and safety conditions. For country-specific information, call the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. Department of State (202-647-5225). And since health-care facilities in many beach areas, especially smaller and more remote Caribbean islands, are not on par with American standards, check with your travel agent to make sure you have travel insurance that includes emergency medical evacuation.

This column originally appeared in Travel Holiday magazine.

This column is Copyright 1994-2017 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.