One of the great things about travel is that it allows you to experience new things. Travel allows you to see new places, meet new people, and taste new foods. As a parent, there’s nothing better than the chance to share this opportunity with your children. But while traveling as a family can prove a fun adventure, it can also be a logistical nightmare. From agreeing on a destination that suits everyone to booking the plane tickets, packing the suitcases, and arriving in one piece, family travel certainly requires patience.
With all the hustle and bustle, it’s important to make time to prioritize your family’s safety. Crime and accidents can happen anywhere, so be sure to contact a skilled personal injury lawyer if you’re injured while traveling. And while you shouldn’t let fear rule your vacation plans, you should strive to stay smart. Regardless of where you choose to travel, please keep the following things in mind.
Safety Begins Before You Leave Home
The best thing you can do to keep you and your family safe is to be prepared. Safety should be a factor in every decision that you make. Whether it’s where you go, how you travel, or even how much you share, each choice is important.
Don’t Tell Everyone About Your Trip (But Do Tell Someone)
Vacations are exciting. It’s that one week a year (more if you’re lucky) where you can disconnect, relax, and just have fun. So it’s natural to want to share your plans with your friends, but before you hop on social media and let everyone know that you will be at Disney World from March 6 through March 13, think twice. When you share your itinerary online, it’s like a big announcement saying, “Hey, this is when my home will be empty.” Instead, wait until after your trip to post the photos of your kids with Mickey Mouse.
At the same time, you want to let a few people you trust know where you will be going and when you will be gone. It’s a good idea to check in with these people regularly. If you have neighbors that you can trust, have them keep an eye on your home. Ask them if they can take in your trash cans, check your mail, and make sure your house continues to look lived in.
Think Carefully About Your Choice of Destination
Unfortunately, you just shouldn’t travel to some places. While some are probably on the top of your bucket list, several countries consistently have a spot on the U.S. State Department’s do not travel list. With constantly changing politics and international relations, it’s always a good idea to check this list before you book a trip, and again before you travel.
If you are traveling domestically, do your research. Are there certain areas that have higher levels of crime? What about peak seasons? Summer may be the only time that you and your kids can get off at the same time, but Disney World in the summer is not only miserably hot, it’s also when everyone else is traveling.
A recent study found that crime is 198 percent higher in the neighborhoods within one mile of Universal Studios Orlando. The same is presumably true for other major theme parks in the area. If you plan to travel to a popular destination during peak season, you need to be extra vigilant about your family’s safety.
The last thing you want to do is get to the airport, or worse, your destination, and realize that you forgot to pack something. Yes, what you pack is important.
Depending on where you go, you may need some or all of the following items:
- Your ID (including your passport if you are traveling internationally)
- Insurance information (including auto insurance, health insurance, and travel insurance)
- Vaccination records (when traveling internationally)
- Location appropriate attire (for Florida, this may mean shorts and a t-shirt, for some parts of the world, this may mean modest clothes and a headscarf)
- An anti-theft purse (particularly important if you are traveling to high-risk areas)
- A cell phone (in case of emergency and to access local maps)
- Your phone charger
- Your itinerary
Pro tip: When it comes to important documents, like your ID, passport, and vaccination records, it’s always a good idea to have a backup copy. The most secure way to store these documents is online in the cloud. That way, in case you lose all your electronic devices, you will still have remote access to your important documents.
Consider Travel Insurance
If you are planning a big trip, it might be a good idea to check into travel insurance. Some insurance providers offer this type of insurance, and some credit cards do as well. Additionally, independent providers sell just travel insurance. Travel insurance can cover the cost of unexpected expenses, like doctor visits, auto accidents, and theft. It can also help reimburse you for costs if you have to cancel your trip. Specific coverage will depend on what type of policy you choose. For a list of some of the top insurance providers, click here.
Staying Safe Once You Arrive
How do you make sure that you and your family stay safe once you arrive at your destination? Again, a lot of it comes down to common sense and making smart choices. Think before you do, plan before you go, and always trust your gut. Remember, you’re in an unfamiliar environment, so it’s better to err on the safe side.
Don’t Act Like a Tourist
The quickest way to become a target is to act like you don’t belong. Criminals know that tourists are less likely to know the area and are more prone to distraction. As a tourist yourself, this makes you vulnerable. The goal is to blend in as much as possible.
How exactly should you attempt to blend in?
- Know how the locals dress. What’s appropriate in your home state may be offensive somewhere else. Find out how the locals dress, and pack appropriately.
- Try to limit how often you pull out the map. Maps are helpful, but they are a big sign that you don’t know where you are going. If you need help with directions, pull out your phone and use GPS if you can.
- Stay off social media. Your social media account contains a lot of private information, namely your username and password. If you do log into social media while you’re on vacation, do so on a private network.
Pro tip: Before you head out somewhere, open up your navigation system and pull up where you are going. That way, if you travel to an area where you don’t have a signal, your phone should still have the map stored.
Never Travel Alone
It’s a good rule of thumb never to travel alone, no matter where you are going. However, this rule is especially important for children and young adults. While you might have the urge to give your kids some freedom to roam around, consider your surroundings. If you have never traveled to an area, it’s probably best for your family to stay together. If you do decide to break up, make sure everybody has a phone and a plan on where to meet in case you can’t get in touch with each other. Furthermore, no one should travel alone at night.
Leave Valuables at Home (or at Least at The Hotel)
It’s never a good idea to carry a lot of money or valuables on your person. If you lose your wallet or are a victim of theft, the less you have on you, the better. When it comes to cash, don’t carry too much. Instead, try to use cards whenever possible.
Pro tip: Always have a backup when it comes to access to cash. Consider leaving at least one card at the hotel. That way, if you do lose your wallet, you’ll still have access to money. For the money you do bring with you, use an anti-theft purse or store your wallet in your front pocket. If you are traveling out of state or out of the country, make sure your bank and credit card providers know where you are going. You don’t want to have to figure things out after your cards get turned off.
Consider Public Transportation
Does it really matter whether you drive yourself or take the tram? The short answer is yes. Consider this: how well do you know the area? Can you find your way around? The last thing you want to do is end up lost in an unfamiliar area. If you are relying on your GPS to get you around, you’re more likely to become distracted and get in an accident.
Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi
You don’t want to come home from your vacation to discover that you’ve been the victim of identity theft. While major restaurant chains and coffee shops encourage you to use their free wi-fi, this isn’t usually the best option.
Internet security provider Norton suggests that if you do use public wi-fi, take these precautions:
- Never use public wi-fi to access your bank or other financial accounts. If you have to access your financial accounts while you are on the road, do so through your phone’s mobile hotspot.
- Don’t shop on a public network. Using a public network makes your personal information vulnerable. When you shop online, other users can gain access to your personal and credit card information.
- Turn off automatic connections. Most phones and laptops will connect to open wi-fi networks automatically, even if you manually choose to use your hotspot. Turn off this option, so you don’t inadvertently connect to a public network.
Know Who to Get Ahold of in the Event of an Emergency
If you are traveling in the United States, 911 will likely be your best option in emergencies. However, you may not know that different countries have different emergency numbers. The first thing that you should do when you arrive in a new country (or better yet, before you leave home) is to store the number for emergency services on your phone. In most cases, you probably won’t need it, but you don’t want to be scrambling for this information if you do. The U.S. State Department has a list of international emergency numbers, but it’s always a good idea to verify this information before you go.
After an injury or accident, you may have cause for legal action. To learn more about your legal rights after an injury, contact an experienced personal injury attorney.
At the end of the day, the most important thing that you can do is be smart. Don’t take unnecessary risks, have a plan, and most importantly, do your research. Obey the signs that say, “no swimming.” Yes, you may find alligators in Florida lakes. Wear sunscreen if you’re going to spend any time in the sun, and heed local warnings. If someone tells you the roads are unstable, don’t try to prove them wrong. If there’s a hurricane warning, don’t go outside and play in the rain (better yet, don’t plan your vacation during hurricane season). Vacations should be fun, but they’re more likely to be so if you use common sense.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun
It may seem like a hassle to do a little extra planning, but it’s a whole lot better than cutting your trip short because of an unexpected emergency. While these tips may seem like a lot, they’re things you’re probably doing anyway. Don’t get too caught up with being safe that you forget to have fun, but don’t get too caught up having fun that you forget to be safe. Vacations should be a time where you all can just relax and have fun. When you take the time to plan and make sure everyone’s on the same page, you’re sure to create a vacation that you will all remember.
Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue, Suite 150
Orlando, FL 32814