With headlines reporting attacks against tourists becoming more and more common, vacationers are on the alert. A recent magazine survey discovered that 85% of their readers said these reports have prompted them to be more cautious on while on holiday.
Don't let a few criminals ruin your vacation. By taking a few precautions and staying alert, you can avoid spending part of your holiday filing a report at an exotic police station.
BEFORE YOU GO Call ahead. While deadbolts and peepholes are standard in motel rooms these days, safety awareness on the part of hotel management varies widely, so it's worth calling ahead to ask specific questions.
Look for rooms that open onto an interior hallway, rather than to the outside. While it's easier to unload the car when it's parked right outside the door, a room that opens directly onto parking makes it easier for thieves to monitor your comings and goings, and to get into your room when you drive off for a day at Marineland.
Look for electronic key cards, instead of regular room keys. The electronic cards are reprogrammed for each new guest.
Don't pack valuables in baggage you plan to check. Your bags will pass through a lot of unsupervised hands on its cross-country flight, so keep your jewelry, money and travellers checks close at hand in a carry-on bag. And there's always the chance that your baggage may not keep up with you, so pack medications and prescriptions in your carry on bags.
AIRPORT SAFETY Watch your bags! Baggage theft at airports is on the rise, and half of the bags stolen are those left unattended. Thieves know that carry-on bags are where people carry their valuables and cash. Outside the airport, too, and anywhere on the road, never leave your bags unattended for a second, especially in Europe and Asia. Use teamwork. Have one family member--a teenager or adult--anchor the bags and the younger kids while an adult goes off to get directions or a cab.
Watch your pockets. People bumping into you could very well be pickpockets, and people asking you questions could be diverting your attention while an accomplice grabs your bag. This advice applies in spades to tourist attractions and public transportation, as well. Consider purchasing a money belt or money bag that you wear inside your clothing, and using it. Carry in your pockets only enough cash for a day, and only one credit card.
ON THE ROAD WITH YOUR RENTAL CAR When you pick up your car rental, ask which parts of town to stay away from. Staying away from high-crime parts of town could be the most important safeguard you can take. It's all too easy to inadvertently drive into bad neighborhoods when you're in a strange city, but with a little foresight and a decent map, it's just as easy to avoid them.
Don't look like a tourist. Tuck the Disneyland bags and travel guides discreetly away in the trunk when you're away from your car. It doesn't hurt to leave a local paper in plain sight to further enhance the illusion that you're one of the locals. Leave nothing in sight. Cars have been broken into for jackets and shopping bags.
Pass up that hot red jeep. Stick to cars that are unobtrusive and blend in. Forget the car wash! A cruise down a dusty road, or through a few mud puddles, will make your rental look lived in!
LOCALES One of the best things you can do to protect yourself is know where the bad neighborhoods are, and to avoid them. Before you leave your hotel, ask which way to turn when you walk out the door, and which direction to avoid.
HOTEL SAFETY Know where the emergency exit is in case of fire.
Show your children how to call the front desk. While they may know how to dial 911 in case of emergency at home, unless you tell them, they won't know to dial 9 for an outside line, or to dial 0 for the hotel receptionist.
OUT and ABOUT ID your kids. On an index card, write each child's name, your name and hotel address and phone number, as well as the phone number of a close friend or relative back home.
Always have a recent, clear photo of your child with you. If you do get separated, the authorities will want an up-to-date picture.
You don't need a wallet full of credit cards when you travel. Bring only what you need--two should be enough--and leave copies of the front and back of each card, and any other important documents you are carrying, with a friend or close relative. If they are lost or stolen, you'll have easy access to the necessary information. Also leave a list of your travelers checks, by number. A member of the party who's not carrying the credit cards and travelers checks should also carry a copy of this list. And consider having Mom carry one credit card, and Dad carry the other.
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