Summer Life Hacks: how to make the most of your holidays

By Jeremy Allen, 8 August 2018

August is the month many of us have been waiting all year for. But it isn’t always as easy as just jetting off somewhere exotic and letting the office, school or our daily lives become a distant memory. There are obstacles to be conquered and tiny tribulations that must be tackled. This is where Radio 2's Life Hacks come in use.

Jo Whiley & Simon Mayo have been gathering listeners’ top tips on all sorts of topics on their new Radio 2 show. We’ve already looked at the innovative ways to make desk spaces more comfortable, but - more recently - the Life Hacks have been providing an essential guide to enjoying the summer.

Here are some of the best cheats to help you make the most of holiday season.

Making the most of your staycation

Those staying in Britain this year may feel a certain amount of vindication given the recent heatwave. One way to get the most out of the town or city you’re visiting is to find Treasure Trails online, and head off on a real-life adventure exploring the most interesting parts of the UK. There are 62 trails to choose from in Cornwall alone, for instance, which gives you an idea of the choice on offer.

Getting some rest in the heat

How does one sleep in relentless heat? No, you don't need to spend loads on an electric fan. If you have a loft hatch, try opening it - that will expel lots of hot air, rising from within the house and drawing in cool air from outside. If that doesn’t work, then try filling your hot water bottle from the cold tap and putting it in the fridge three hours before bed. A cold water bottle in searing heat works in a similar way to a hot water bottle when it’s freezing cold, though the extreme inversion may cause some cognitive dissonance at first...

Packing the perfect picnic

If you are exploring the country this summer, you’ll need some amazing grub to fuel your voyages. The perfect picnic is one where you don’t have to cart around the hamper afterwards. Problem solved: carefully cut the top off a farmhouse loaf and scoop out the bread, then pack the empty loaf with hard-boiled eggs, hummus, carrot sticks, celery and whatever other nibbles you fancy, tie the top of the loaf back onto the shell with a ribbon bow and voila! Now, who wouldn’t be impressed by that edible picnic basket?

Keeping your garden looking tip top

If you’re staying at home this summer, then you’ll want your pad to be looking its best. Hot spells like we’ve been experiencing recently don’t bode well for plant life. Watering the flowers in your garden at night will ensure the water evaporates less, allowing it to seep into the soil, giving foliage more of a fighting chance.

Making your summer parties memorable and manageable

Garden parties can be heaps of fun, but how do you make your party not just good but great? Try using lanterns for some inexpensive, chic outdoor lighting. Or getting your guests to all contribute to the party playlist, which will stop the endless fighting for the auxiliary cable and ensure that everyone’s happy.

However, clearing the mess up after a 50-person party can be pretty time consuming. Rather than spend your week cooking cakes and trifles ahead of the event, just find the number of the local ice-cream van in advance and arrange for them to turn up after the barbeque. Everybody will be pleased: you, your guests, the guest’s kids, Mr Whippy... and there’ll be no extra plates to wash up and minimal litter if everyone opts for an ice-cream in a cone.

Making desserts that everyone will love

If you do fancy whipping up a no nonsense dessert then how about frozen banana slices in the blender with cocoa powder or peanut butter? Frozen strawberries are another delicious addition, and what’s more they’re perfect for guests who don’t consume dairy.

Making your BBQs last

Barbeques are a great way to catch up with friends but there’s every chance you’ll buy too much food and there’ll be a mountain of uneaten meat left over when everyone leaves. It’s advisable to seal it afterwards to make sure it stays hygienically safe, and then a good way to ensure there’s no waste is to chop up the cooked meat, add pasta sauce in a dish, grate some cheese over the top, pop it in the oven and then serve it up as a special barbequed burger bake.

Packing effectively and efficiently

Who hasn’t turned up at their hotel and spent a good portion of your valuable relaxation time rummaging through luggage in a vain search for a toothbrush or travel plug adaptor? If you’re going away this summer, travel cubes, a little known hack to compartmentalise your belongings, will provide you with more time to enjoy the sunny climes. If you want to be super organised, then spreadsheets and vacuum pack bags can also come in handy. Plan ahead and your future self will reap the rewards.

Travelling stress-free

If you fancy a gamble, then here’s a Life Hack that could pay off spectacularly. When booking a flight for two people, opt for aisle and window seats, leaving the middle vacant. If nobody books the centre seat then you have a free row to yourselves for the whole flight. If somebody does sit there then chances are they’ll be more than happy to change seats with you so that you and your companion can sit together. Sure, there’s a slender chance they’ll cling tenaciously to the arm rests and insist they remain in the seat that they paid for, but have you ever met anyone who prefers to sit in the middle seat? Answers on a holiday postcard if so…

Learning the local lingo

Unless you’re an avid polyglot with a lot of time on your hands then picking up the language of your preferred holiday destination before you fly is a big ask. But showing up knowing the equivalent of "hello" and "goodbye", "please", "thank you", and a few other phrases will go a long way to ingratiating you with the locals. Learning a new language doesn’t need to be expensive either. You can borrow books and CDs from your local library. Or try spending time with native speakers to pick up the odd saying. If all else fails, remember that miming is a universal language you can fall back on.

Staying fresh at festivals

If you decide not to go abroad this summer, you may well be planning on spending extended weekends at festivals instead. If so, you might want to know how to stay feeling fresh and clean while knees-deep in mud. Some of the more obvious things to remember include baby wipes, dry shampoo, spare clothes and plasters, but you might also want to pack vapour rub to smear under your nose to eradicate nasty niffs in the portaloos. You’ll thank us later!

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