The sun is shining and many people are packing for the holidays and heading for the coast. But there are many things you should do to avoid disaster or heartache.
Rolling mass action. Many people spend months getting rid of the unwanted Christmas kilos. Accept the fact that you will probably eat more during the festive season – there is more food around and you are on holiday. Try and limit excessive eating, but also get into a habit of going for a brisk, long walk every day. It will go a long way to fighting off the extra weight. And it's much easier than a three-week diet in January.
Family frenzy. This is the time of year when families get together, sometimes for lengthy periods of time. Be realistic – if you have never got on with your brother-in-law, a three- week seaside camping holiday together with your respective families, is not a good idea. If it cannot be avoided, keep it as short as possible and take a few tranquilisers with you. Don't get involved in slinging matches over old family rifts – they are simply not worth it.
Not without my sunblock. Just don't move without it. The South African sun is a killer and one day in the sun with no protection could do serious damage to your skin. Do this a couple of times and you could be joining the growing number of people in the country with skin cancer. Children, especially, should be protected from the sun, as they will not usually think of this themselves. Hats, long sleeves, decent sunglasses and sunblock should be part of the paraphernalia wherever you go.
Invitation to burglars. An obviously uninhabited home is an invitation to burglars. Bulging postboxes, drawn curtains and outside lights burning during the day are all dead giveaways. Get a house sitter, rent out your house to someone reputable, or at least get someone to go there every day to empty the post box, draw curtains and switch lights on and off.
Hitting the bottle. During the festive season, many people drink more than they usually do. If you've had one too many, don't drive, don't swim, don't walk next to busy roads and don't get involved in arguments with anyone. Drink some water and preferably get yourself to bed before you get into any trouble. And remember, real men call taxis when they're too drunk to drive.
Debt explosion. Many people max out their credit cards over December to pay for expensive restaurant meals, expensive holiday accommodation and unnecessary gifts. Start looking now for nice presents, rather than spending a fortune the day before Christmas, because you're desperate to find something. If you're cooking at home, ask guests to contribute. Give your children a fixed amount of pocket money for the Christmas season, otherwise they'll bleed you dry. Don't blow your Christmas bonus on trivial things.
Don't be a sponger. If you are staying with family during the holidays, remember that they are on holiday too, and are not there to provide you with five-star service, Pitch in and help with the cooking, cleaning and shopping. Give a generous tip to their domestic worker and make a financial contribution to the general household costs, such as telephone and electricity. In this way, you will be invited again. If it is your house, learn to say no, if having guests simply does not suit you.
Don't go to extremely crowded places. Avoid shopping centres the three days before Christmas as well as beaches and tourist attractions between Christmas and New Year. Crowded places are very stressful and you are much more likely to become a victim of crime in a dense crowd.
Don't lock living things in cars. This includes pets and children. Even if your car is parked in the shade, the sun can move. A child or a dog locked in a car in the sun can lose consciousness and die in a short space of time – inside a locked car, the temperature can easily go over 50 degrees Celsius within a few minutes.
Don't overspend on entertainment. Be vigilant – it is much cheaper to take out a video than to take a family of six to the movies. A day at the beach is also much cheaper than a day at the fun park for everyone. You can also make hamburgers, pizzas, hotdogs and popcorn yourself – and save a fortune. It may be a bit of a chore, but is much more fun than being flat broke in January and February.
Medication mayhem. When on holiday, many people forget to take their regular medication on time. This can play havoc with your health and may go a long way to explaining why you always have so many birthday presents to buy in September. If you are asthmatic, diabetic, have high blood pressure, or any other chronic medical condition, pack your full prescriptions, before you pack your bathing costume.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated December 2010)