It's that time of the year when one sees caravans on the N1 and the N2. Mom, Dad, three kids, Gran and the dog are on their way to the seaside for three weeks.
Endless days of braais and swimming and fishing and playing on the beach lie ahead. Keep the following things in mind to make sure that the holiday remains a pleasure until the end.
Braai fires are dangerous. Children should never be playing in the vicinity and the fire should never be lit with paraffin or petrol. Many people have lost eyebrows – and a lot more – when inflammable liquid was poured onto a fire. Keep a bucket of water nearby and don't leave the coals burning once you've finished with them. Your fire should be at least four metres away from tents, caravans and cars. Know what to do in the case of burns.
Tent pegs can trip you up. These sometimes stick out above the ground and can easily result in a broken toe. Knock the pegs into the ground, or if this is impossible, pack something around them, such as a sandbag, so that people don't trip over them. Check a week or two into your holiday that the pegs have not become dislodged.
Gas lamps can be lethal. These should be treated with great care. Children under the age of twelve should not light them or put them out. They must be placed beyond the reach of younger children. Remember that the type of gas lamp attached to a long pole can be knocked over. Never allow any kids to play with matches. Matches, tents and caravans are simply just not friends. Torches or battery-powered lights are actually preferable for camping.
The sands of the Sahara. Put a plastic basin with water at the entrance of the tent or caravan, and get everyone who enters to wash their feet before entering. By doing this, you will have no thorns or sand inside the tent or caravan.
Slip-ons rule, OK. Get everyone to wear slip-ons in the communal ablution blocks. Plantar warts can easily be picked up from shower floors. Slip-ons also provide good protection against thorns or small pieces of glass that could be lying around.
The sun isn't always fun. There's nothing like a severe bout of sunburn to spoil any holiday. Protect yourself and your family against the harsh summer sun. Hats, long-sleeved shirts and a high-factor sunblock are essentials for a pleasant and healthy holiday.
The insect world. Check to see whether children or pets have not picked up ticks. These little bloodsuckers like getting in behind knees or on the head. After removing them, be on the lookout for fever or any other signs of tickbite fever. Take antihistamines with you in case anyone is stung by a bee or a horsefly. Remove the bee stinger by scraping over the skin with a flat knife. If you are in a malaria area, take the correct medication in advance. Get mosquito nets before you leave home.
Don't get hooked on fishing gear. Fishing hooks should never be left lying around where kids can get hold of them. Half dead fish can also inflict nasty bites. Knives used to scale fish must be kept in a safe place. Boats are also not without their dangers and parents should be around to watch over their kids when they're playing around in the water with boats.
Water, water, everywhere. If the water supply is dodgy, or the water smells or tastes funny, or is a strange colour, boil all water before drinking. There should not be any exceptions to this, as cholera is a water-borne disease, which could do more than spoil your holiday.
The slippery slope. If you're camping against a slope, remember to put bricks or stones behind the wheels of the car, to pull up the handbrake and to leave the car in gear. Children playing around in cars can easily lower the handbrake or get the car out of gear.
Take a medicine kit. What you put into this medicine kit is obviously influenced by where you are heading. It should include at least the following: disinfectant, plasters, headache tablets, antacids, antihistamines, a small pair of tweezers, vitamin tablets, a laxative, sunblock, something for diarrhoea and something to combat nausea.
Compile a roster. Do this for your own peace of mind and allocate tasks such as dishwashing, tent cleaning and meal preparation equally between everyone. Don't try and do everything yourself, otherwise you will have no holiday at all.
Consider your neighbours. In December, caravan parks are crowded places. Have some consideration for your immediate neighbours and stick to the rules of the caravan park. Turn down the volume on radios and television sets and try not to do late-night sing-alongs within earshot of the neighbours.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated December 2011)