Making Your Vacation Safe

Road trips are great fun.  Getting in a car and venturing away from home can be one of the biggest joys of the summer months, but unfortunately, some trips end in financial loss or even tragedy. Frequently travelers become the targets of thieves, because they are transporting large amounts of money and other valuables.  And while they are away, vacationers often leave their homes open targets for thieves as well. 

The first rule for travelers is to use caution with your personal belongings while you are away.  Use the hotel safe to store valuable items instead of leaving them lying around your hotel room. Keep the entry and balcony doors locked and use deadbolts and chains whenever possible, and don't open the door to anyone. Even if someone saying he's a hotel repairman shows up outside your room, call the front desk to verify that a repairman has been sent.  And to ensure your security, don't leave keys lying around when you're at the beach or pool.

On the road, don't leave valuables inside your car where they can be seen. Always lock your car doors, even if you will be gone just for a few minutes. And at night, park in a lighted, visible place. If someone seems to be following you as you walk to your car, walk past it and find help.

You should also remember that while you're away, your home is more vulnerable to crime than you are.  Houses that don't look lived in are very appealing targets for burglars, but a few precautions can reduce the risk.

"Residential burglaries are most likely to occur if the residence appears to be unoccupied and if access seems relatively easy," says Ron Lovatt, managing director of insurance products for the Auto Club's Interinsurance Exchange. "Homeowners can take a few simple steps to help deter burglars."

First, secure your home.  Double-check all door and window locks and invest in slide lock protection for sliding-glass doors, a frequent point of entry for burglars. Garage windows and doors should also be secured. Then, do your best to make your house look lived-in.  Have a trusted friend to stop by your home at different times while you are away or, better yet, stay in your home as a house sitter.  If you can't arrange that, consider buying a number of timers to turn your lights on every evening. Setting up multiple timers in alternating rooms works best. Putting a timer on a radio is also a good idea.  And temporarily cancel newspaper subscriptions and postpone mail delivery, because multiple newspapers in front of a residence and a stuffed mail box are invitations to burglars.

Another way to give your house a lived-in look is parking a vehicle in your driveway while you are away. If you will be away for more than a week, ask a friend to change the position of the car a few times during your absence.  And by all means, remove garage door openers from cars parked outside.

Remember you work hard all year to earn your vacation.  Isn't it worth a few minutes of your time to make certain the vacation ends happily?

Boston native Tom Ripley now covers the automotive scene and the human condition - including its frailties - from his home in Villeperce, France.