Traveling can be one of the most exciting activities life has to offer, but regardless of where you are headed to, your safety and security needs to be an important part of any trip you undertake. Here are five tips that will help you and your loved ones stay safe while vacationing.
1. Research Your Destination
It’s important to study before you even leave home. Begin by checking the State Department’s website for information and recommendations regarding the country you plan on visiting. The State Department also offers STEP – Smart Traveler Enrollment Program which is a free service that allows citizens to register their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Note where this consulate or embassy is and their emergency numbers.
Look for information about the areas you will be visiting including crime rates. Also, search for emergency numbers like local police, or hospitals. Use Google maps to scout the area where you plan on lodging. Get a map and prepare your route ahead of time. This can be a real lifesaver if you don’t speak the language and carry a card with the address and phone number of your lodgings.
2. Be Selective When Choosing Lodgings
Don’t leave the choice of lodgings to chance. Look for reputable lodgings and read reviews and feedback from other travelers that have stayed there. Make sure lodgings have security protocols that include video cameras and access control lock systems for rooms and for buildings such as rental properties especially if you have opted for an alternative to a hotel with a receptionist.
Once you have checked in, study the building’s emergency exits and evacuation instructions, so you know what to do in the event of a disaster. Keep doors and windows shut and locked. You can place a chair underneath a door handle just in case. Depending on where you are traveling, you may want to give the impression that the room is always occupied. In this case, keep curtains shut, and use your “Do Not Disturb” sign if available.
Never allow strangers into your lodgings. If a hotel employee asks to enter call reception to verify that they work for the hotel and their reason for entering your room.
3. Inform Someone You Trust About Your Travel Itinerary
It’s important that you inform a family member, a friend, or a neighbor about your travel plans. Let them know where you are headed, how long you will stay, and how you can be reached if need be.
Before departing on your journey, however brief or extended, make a copy of your travel itinerary, and send it to several trusted family members or friends.
Let these contacts know that you will be checking in regularly, so that if you don’t, they are alerted. Keep your contacts updated preferably with video calls and not merely messages. In this manner, they’ll see that you’re fine and enjoying yourself.
4. Protect Valuables
Your most valuable possessions when traveling will be the documents you carry that offer proof of your identity. Print several copies of passports, a driver’s license, health insurance, and any document vital in an emergency and stow them safely. It’s also wise to keep a digital copy. You can scan these documents and save them online or in the cloud in case originals and copies are stolen or destroyed.
Insurance is a form of protection you don’t want to be without. Travel insurance and health insurance are both necessary when venturing out of your comfort zone. In the event your luggage or belongings are stolen or lost, travel insurance will come in handy. Health insurance will be fundamental should you be involved in an accident or fall ill away from home.
Avoid wearing expensive jewelry and clothing or carrying an expensive camera, tablet, or smartphone. Carry your money in a hidden money belt with only what you need in a pocket and make it a front pocket, so you are more aware of it.
Do the same with credit cards. If you need to withdraw money at an ATM, do so in a well-lit area, preferably during the day when there are lots of people around. Put your cash away immediately and don’t forget your bank card. If you are using a backpack, get small locks for each compartment.
When eating out, keep purses on your laps or wrapped around feet and keep coats and jackets on your chairs.
If you are in a hotel, ask to store valuables in the hotel safe.
5. Be Aware and Use Common Sense
Be aware of what’s going on around you. Don’t fall for friendly locals or take unmarked taxis. It’s easy to become distracted in a new place. Be wary of pickpockets in overcrowded venues. Try to blend in instead of advertising that you are a tourist.
Be cautious when using local transportation methods. If you are driving a rental car, make sure that you always keep the gas tank relatively full. Don’t get stuck somewhere without gas and no gas station in sight. Keep doors and windows locked while driving and don’t leave valuables on the car seat in plain sight.
It’s true you are on vacation, but overindulgence can lead to letting your guard down. Make sure someone in your group is not drinking. If you are traveling by yourself, let the hotel receptionist or someone know of your daily movements.
Pay for tickets, tours, and visits ahead of time with your credit card if possible. It’s easier to get reimbursement with credit card charges and you won’t need to take out any money.
Remember: vacations should be enjoyed and your safety is the basis for that enjoyment.