Taking a family vacation is a great way to celebrate summer, time off from school and, many times for military families, make a PCS move a little less stressful. But traveling can leave your family vulnerable to theft, or worse. What are the best ways to protect your belongings and family members so you can enjoy your vacation time?
Watch Your Stuff
Never leave any of your belongings unattended while traveling. For example, when checking into your hotel, make sure your suitcases are next to your person, or have another adult in your party stand with your luggage.
Be Careful What you Say
Announcing your room number to other members of your traveling party in the lobby of a hotel, for example, is not advised. Talking openly when sightseeing about where you are staying, how far you are from home, or that you might potentially be lost, can give a criminal more information about you than you realize and make you a target.
Being overburdened with large bags may make you stand out as a tourist and/or easy target for theft. Travel with the least amount of belongings you can when you are out sightseeing. Carrying your wallet in your front pocket, instead of the back, and carrying a purse across your body (not on one shoulder) can also help you avoid pick pocketing. When in a large crowd, carry your backpack on the front of your person, not the back. Never put a wallet in an outside zippered pocket of a back pack. Spread your cash out between your party or on your person, don't ever keep it all in one place.
Do Your Research Before you Leave
Before leaving for vacation, research the areas you will be visiting to find out potential areas that you may want to avoid. What are the crime rates in your vacation spots, is it safe to walk at night, or are you safer traveling by cab after dinner near your hotel, for example. But don't let that research leave you vulnerable. Just because an area is deemed low risk for crime, according to your research, remembering basic safety travel tips is always recommended.
Use the Hotel Safe
Only carry the valuables and cash you need for the day, and leave everything locked securely in your hotel safe. Carry a wallet or purse with just enough cash for the day and one credit card. Keep everything else in the safe, or in another location (not on your person). In the event of a theft or mugging, you have not lost all of your money.
It's Just Stuff
If you find yourself in a situation where someone threatens you or your family in an attempt to steal your wallet or camera, for example, many experts agree that giving up the items as opposed to fighting the perpetrator, is less likely to lead to bodily harm or escalated violence.
Have a Family Plan
Do your kids have your cell phone numbers memorized? It's valuable information to teach children, even when you are not traveling, but when on vacation make sure your kids can recite your phone number if they need help. Also talk with your kids about who they should ask for help in the event they get separated from you or there is an emergency. An employee of a store, a cast member at a theme park, a police officer or someone in a uniform, or a mother pushing a stroller might all be considerations. For small children who are not able to memorize a number, you might consider writing your phone number on the inside of their arm with a permanent marker. When traveling, discuss a plan to meet up if any member of your party gets separated. For instance, if you are in a theme park find a central location that all members of your party can easily find and agree that if anyone gets separated, you will meet there. Don't rely on cell phones that could become lost or lose their charge.
Watch Your Alcohol Consumption
Relaxing with an adult beverage on vacation is appealing, but it might be a good idea to avoid becoming too intoxicated when traveling so that you are aware of your surroundings. Always make sure one adult is a designated driver, but even if no one in your party needs to operate a vehicle, having one adult who has agreed not to drink heavily is a great way to make sure everyone in your party gets back to their room safely, for instance. Also make sure never to leave any beverage unattended to avoid having your drink drugged.
Trust Your Gut
If you, or anyone in your traveling party, senses that a situation is unsafe, leave immediately. If a stranger is acting in a way that makes you uncomfortable, error on the side of caution and leave. None of us ever want to be impolite to strangers, but your personal security and the safety of your family should come first. Additionally, if you see something you think might be criminal or unsafe, report the activity or behavior to hotel staff, management at the restaurant, or local law enforcement officials.