Whether you’re hitting the beach or the hiking trails, taking a cruise or touring a city, vacation often means spending a lot more time in the sun than usual. And yet it’s easy to let our sun-safety habits lapse when we travel.

All of the same sun-safety rules apply no matter where you are, including applying sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology guidelines call for using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on all exposed skin, and reapplying it at least every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or heavy sweating. But in addition those basics, there are some special considerations to keep in mind depending on where your travels take you. These tips will help you keep your skin safe on the road.  

1. Cover Up During Transit

The sun’s ultraviolet A rays—which usually don’t cause sunburn but can lead to skin aging and skin cancer—are able to penetrate glass and plastic. That means they can still damage your skin when you’re in a car or sitting in a window seat on an airplane. You’re at 30,000 feet, where the sun’s rays are stronger, and often the plane’s windows are not UV-protected, says Mona Gohara, M.D., a clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. “Not surprisingly, pilots have very high rates of skin cancer,” she adds.

2. Be Careful Near Water

A study published in 2009 by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health found that for every vacation taken near the water, the number of moles children had increased by 5 percent. And having more moles increases the risk of developing melanoma later. More diligent sunscreen application helps, but for long days on the beach it may not be enough. “Cover up with protective clothing and hats, and do most of your beach activities in the morning and late afternoon,” says Doug Grossman, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of dermatology at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. 

3. Don’t Forget About Reflected Rays

When the sun’s rays hit a reflective surface—such as sand, snow, or water—they bounce back up, so you’re being exposed to UV radiation from above and below. According to the World Health Organization, water reflects less than 10 percent of UV rays, but sea-foam in a choppy ocean reflects 25 percent, sand reflects about 15 percent, and snow reflects almost 50 percent.  

4. Account for Altitude

“As you get closer to the sun, the air gets thinner so there’s less atmosphere to block the UV radiation,” Grossman says. For every 1,000 feet you gain in elevation, the sun’s rays are 10 to 15 percent stronger. So if you live at sea level and you’re vacationing in Aspen, Colo., which is close to 8,000 feet, the sun will be about 80 percent more intense than what you’re used to.  

5. Count the Daylight Hours

The standard advice is to avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. because that’s when its rays are strongest. But if you’re visiting a location where the sun doesn’t set till 10 p.m. or later in the summer, you could still pick up a sunburn around dinnertime.  

6. Don’t Be Fooled by Cool or Cloudy Conditions

“You are getting less UV radiation when it’s cold and overcast, but you’re still getting some,” Gohara says. Plus people often have a false sense of security under cloudy skies or on a day when the temperatures are low, leading them to stay outside even longer. “It doesn’t have to be hot day for you to get burned to a crisp,” she says.

7. Buy Sunscreen at Your Destination

Taking only a carry-on bag? The 3-ounce tube of sunscreen you’re allowed to bring on a plane won’t be enough to protect you adequately—even if you’re gone only for a long weekend. Be sure to pick up another bottle or tube when you arrive so you aren’t inclined to skimp on your applications.  

From the Tip Jar

On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports' experts offer host Jack Rico advice on making the most of sunscreen, the best natural light for taking photos, and which insect repellents to use.