Off on your jollies and hoping to get jiggy? Superdrug sexpert Alix Fox shares her top tips on how to make far-flung frolics safer and what to do if you find yourself in a bit of a post-passion pickle in paradise…
Hip hip hooray, you’re off on vaycay! You’ve sorted your currency, your camera and your cossie… but have you remembered condoms? Since travelling means meeting exciting new people, relaxing and feeling free from the usual social restraints, it’s common for beach-bound folk to shed their inhibitions along with their clothes. But since the NHS warns that large numbers of STIs are being passed on via sexual adventures during international travel, it’s vital to take care of your health if you have a holiday fling. So whether you’re heading to Mauritius or Margate, get clued up before your sexpedition…
Burning rubber: Using condoms in other countries
Condoms (and Femidoms) are the only form of contraception that protects against sexually transmitted infections, so you should always use them with holiday hook-ups. Reliable rubbers can be tricky to find in some places. The British Kitemark or European CE mark stamped on the packet tells you the product’s been tested to high specifications. However, poor-quality counterfeit condoms posing as brand-name items are common in certain parts of the world, and sizing differs among countries, too, so to guarantee good standards and fit, be safe and bring your own from home. Check out ONE Mixed Pleasures: the pack includes Pleasure Dome varieties, which are roomier around the head of the penis for added comfort and sensation, and Tattoo Touch styles, embossed with ink-inspired designs for additional stimulation.
Whatever type you choose, store them carefully. High temperatures can degrade johnnies and make them more likely to break, so leaving them in your beach bag is a no-no. SPF lotion, after sun and other oily cosmetics can damage latex condoms as well, so wash residue off your mitts before touching anyone’s bits to stop your rubbers ripping.
If you’re in a couple, have both been STI screened and are on the contraceptive pill, it’s still worth taking condoms on your hols as back-up. Upset tums caused by seasickness and different food and water can make your medication less effective. It’s also easy to get confused about when to take tablets if you’re travelling through time zones or forget pills when you’re partying. Take the information leaflet from your pill pack with you, so you’ve got all the details to hand if there’s a hiccup.
While we’re talking tablets, did you know that antihistamines can cause vaginal dryness? If you’re taking them to treat insect bites or allergies abroad, you may find you don’t produce as much natural moisture as usual. Alcohol can have a similar effect, so slip some lube in your suitcase to keep sex feeling deliciously slick ’n’ sleek (and reduce friction, which can make condoms tear, too).
Accidents will happen: Emergency contraception & STIs
Even the best-laid plans for getting laid can go astray. If a condom breaks or you end up having unprotected intercourse and there’s a risk of unplanned pregnancy, you have several options. Although emergency contraceptive tablets are nicknamed the morning-after pill, you can take them later than that: Levonelle (or own-brand equivalents) can be administered within 72 hours (three days) of sex, while ellaOne gives you 120 hours (five days) to take action. However, both are more effective the earlier they are taken.
Obtaining emergency contraceptive pills abroad isn’t always easy. While you can buy them over the counter from pharmacies in many locations, in others a prescription is required, and in some places they are illegal or in short supply. Consider taking an emergency pill with you for peace of mind. In June last year, Superdrug became the
first high-street retailer to launch a generic emergency hormonal contraceptive pill called Ezinelle, available from the Superdrug Online Doctor service at half the cost of the current branded version. Affordable, and you won’t lose any sleep. An IUD (the coil) can be inserted by a professional up to five days after unprotected sex, and is even more effective than tablets, so this may be a possibility if you’re travelling home soon.
You’ll also need to consider STIs if you’ve had unprotected va-va-voom during your hols. You’re not to know if someone is carrying an infection, and you may not experience any symptoms yourself: for example, chlamydia is one of the world’s most common STIs in under-25s and can cause infertility if left untreated for a long time, yet over 70% of women and 50% of men with the infection show no signs that they have it. Zip. Zero. Nada. The only way to be sure you’re clear is to get tested.
Ideally, you should get screened about a fortnight after unprotected sex, and then again in around three months, since different STIs have different incubation times, so some appear on tests later than others. Find your nearest clinic at sxt.org.uk. Also, sh24.org.uk and FreeTest.me offer discreet home-testing kits free to some UK postcodes, or you can buy them from the Superdrug Online Doctor service.
‘If you’ve had unprotected sex while abroad, you should tell your doctor which country you’ve been visiting,’ says Dr Nina Brochmann, co-author, with Ellen Støkken Dahl, of The Wonder Down Under: A User’s Guide To The Vagina (perfect poolside reading!). ‘Medics often forget to ask, and some venereal diseases are far more common in foreign countries than in the UK.’
If there’s a chance you’ve been exposed to HIV, a month-long course of PEP medication can prevent the infection from taking hold if started within 72 hours of exposure. Check out Tht.org.uk to discover more. Brook.org.uk also has plenty of simple-to-follow, in-depth info if you’ve got other Qs about STIs.
Good vibrations on vacations: Taking toys on tour
A recent survey by Durex showed that 52% of couples expect sex to
be more sizzling when they’re away from home – and many of them lob a sex toy in their luggage to enhance their play. But were you aware such gadgets and gizmos are illegal in India, Vietnam, the UAE, the Maldives, and multiple other destinations? Get the lowdown on the law before you travel to avoid your spicy sexccessories landing you in hot water, and leave expensive toys back home if you’re unsure whether they could be confiscated by customs.
When you’re on the move, take batteries out of vibrators so they don’t buzz in your bag, but ensure rechargeable toys like the So Divine Magic Wand Vibrator Adult Toy are fully juiced up. Some airports insist that electronic devices in carry-on baggage must turn on as part of counterterrorism measures, or they’ll be barred from the plane. Pop playthings in clear plastic ziplock bags when packing, so that if your case is searched, officers can identify items without having to handle them.
Don’t fancy taking toys in transit? Then make the most of in-flight freebies to get frisky. An eye mask and earplugs can be used for sensory-deprivation play – your partner won’t be able to see where you’re about to touch them, or hear what you’re up to. It’ll be a whole thrilling new way to help your sex life take off!