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Travelers love the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons because it provides the built-in free time that doesn’t eat up too many work vacation days. It is the perfect time to go on lavish vacations that have been planned out all year. However, while you’re planning for your Christmas vacation it is important that you plan how to stay safe. This means planning for more than just taking car safety into consideration—especially if you are traveling out of state or abroad for several days or weeks. Planning for a safe Christmas vacation is the key to creating a memorable time.

While traveling isn’t usually dangerous, it still remains important that you protect yourself and your belongings when traveling for a holiday vacation.

Preparing for your trip on the homefront

One of the most forgotten aspects of traveling is preparing your home for your trip. This is a necessary step for overnight trips but becomes especially important when you plan to travel for several days or weeks at a time. Leaving your home unattended during the holiday season can lead to several scenarios that can put your home and your belongings in danger.

Home security

If you have a security system installed in your home, make sure that it is working properly. This includes motion detectors, alarms, cameras, and any other home monitoring equipment. Additionally, it is important that you have someone check on your home while you are away.

If you don’t have a security system, ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your home. A neighbor can report any suspicious activity to the police and keep you informed. Lastly, don’t forget to remove your ‘hidden’ spare key in your absence.

Stop mail and other deliveries

A UPS or FedEx delivery during the holiday season is no longer just the annual “surprise” fruitcake from your mother-in-law. In the era of Amazon offering your favorite make-up primer on subscription, it’s common for delivery boxes to show up on your doorstep unexpectedly. Even if these boxes only have items worth a few dollars, a thief may notice how long they sit by your front door and figure out that you’re not home. In addition, thieves may keep an eye on your mailbox as an indicator of an empty house. It’s best to make sure that all of your mail and deliveries are held while you are gone.

A hold mail request can be completed by calling 1-800-ASK-USPS or by completing a form at your local post office. The postal service will hold mail from three to 30 days. Additionally, you can pause subscriptions through the company that offers your subscription.

Don’t post on social media

Times have changed since the days Home Alone hit theaters. Nowadays, criminals seeking to rob your home don’t need to wear a police uniform and for some reason hang out in your house to find out if you’re leaving for a Christmas vacation. In fact, posting the details of your vacation to social media may be all criminals need to know that your home will be empty over the holiday. While you may think that the information you share on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter is only seen by your friends, you’d be amazed at the amount of information that is shared with people who aren’t on your friend list.

Unplug holiday decorations

The last thing you want to happen while you’re traveling is to have no home to return to. This is why ensuring your home is free from fire hazards is a key element to safe Christmas travel. Christmas tree lights and other holiday decorations should be turned off and unplugged while you are gone. If you are committed to keeping your home festive during your travel, consider purchasing a light switch timer that you can program to turn your lights on and off automatically. However, it is important to note that even with a light switch timer, real Christmas trees that dry out are extreme fire hazards. If your tree is real, it’s best to just unplug it while you’re away.  

You can also use these light timers to turn on lights in different rooms to make your home appeared occupied.

Unplug Electronics

TVs, computers, stereos and other electronics can cost a lot of money. The best way to protect them in your absence is to make sure that they are plugged into a surge protector. If your devices are plugged directly into the wall, unplugging them can save you from replacing them if a rough storm causes a power surge. Bonus: unplugging these electronics will shave a few dollars off of your electric bill.

Pipe care

If you live in a cold region, then your pipes may be in danger of freezing while you are on Christmas vacation. Give a trusted friend or neighbor the key to your home while you’re traveling so that they may enter your home and check on your faucets. It is equally important to make sure that your pipes are properly insulated. In addition, keep your heat running at a reasonable setting while you’re away. These simple steps can prevent frozen pipes that can lead to costly repairs.  

Give someone your travel itinerary

It doesn’t matter if you are traveling alone or with your family, a travel itinerary will make sure someone at home knows what hotel you are staying in, as well as when you are expected to return home. In addition, consider leaving a copy of the front page of your passport with the same trusted person. In the event that you lose your passport while overseas, the friend can fax you the copy and save you an extended hassle with the U.S. Consulate.

Avoid Serious Injuries on your Christmas Vacation

We all know that winter driving presents specific challenges during the holiday season. However, traveling by plane and to unfamiliar places presents its own sets of dangers. Being naive on these trips can lead to identity theft or personal injuries while abroad.

Be aware of your surroundings

Pedestrian involved accidents are a risk no matter where you’re traveling in the world. In fact, pedestrian-involved crashes are on the rise. This is partially due to more drivers using devices while behind the wheel. Also, more walkers are paying more attention to their phones than their surroundings. While you may be looking at your phone to get directions,  it is extremely important that you keep an eye on what is going on around you.

In addition to accidents, you are also at risk of having your IDs, money and other important items stolen if you don’t pay attention to your surroundings. When traveling, it can be easy to get distracted by major tourist attractions. However, it is at these locations where you are most likely to get pickpocketed. In short, don’t get too lost in snapping the perfect picture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Pickpocketers rely on you paying more attention to the attraction than to them.

Avoid driving in unfamiliar areas

While driving is convenient and allows travelers to go where they want when they want—it might be best to avoid taking to the roads yourself. This is particularly true if you are unfamiliar with the local driving customs or habits of a different state or foreign country. Additionally, if you are inexperienced driving in winter weather, don’t try to learn while on vacation. Taking public transportation allows travelers to get to their destination without dealing with traffic or other conditions that can lead to a serious crash.

Wear the proper equipment

A safe Christmas vacation may include wearing safety gear. For example, if your family is planning a ski trip then it is important that each member of your family is equipped with the proper size helmet, goggles or sunglasses, gloves, and other gear. It also important to note that the larger a ski is, the faster it goes. On the hand, if you are traveling to a warmer climate, make sure that you wear the proper gear for water sports and activities.

Be cautious around water

Fleeing the cold weather to a warmer climate is the ideal winter vacation. Warm weather means swimming in hotel pools or a beautiful ocean. However, drowning is the biggest killer of Americans traveling abroad. Approximately 20 percent of American deaths abroad were caused by drowning. When you travel, it is important to keep water safety top of mind:

  • Only swim during daylight hours
  • Swim in areas patrolled by certified lifeguards
  • Do not let children enter or near water without a responsible adult present
  • Read up on the local weather and water patterns that may put you or your family in danger
  • Always swim with at least one other person
  • Find out the safest places to swim from locals

Know where you’re going and where you came from

Getting lost can lead you into a dangerous area or even make you an easy target. Before you leave your hotel room, know exactly where it is you’re going. Your smartphone will likely have a map that can lead you to your destination. However, in case of reception problems, carry a paper map with the route to your destination highlighted.

Additionally, it’ll be useful to know where your hotel is. Carrying a card from the hotel with the address and phone number will be helpful in the event you get lost or need assistance. If you are in a country that doesn’t speak your language, it may also be helpful to give your driver the card rather than attempting to pronounce the name of the hotel.

Be wary of unmarked taxis

Taxi scams run the gamut. Travelers who take an unmarked cab may be overcharged or in some cases, robbed. Because of this whenever it’s possible, use a taxi stand or ask your hotel concierge to book your taxi. Even marked taxis may try to scam an unsuspecting tourist. Before getting into the cab, make sure that you negotiate a fare and verify that the taxi’s meter is working. This will ensure that you are taking a legitimate taxi with a professional, licensed driver.

Another solution is to take an Uber or Lyft. These companies allow you to order a ride and pay through your debit card through an app on your phone. Additionally, you can see what your driver looks like and the kind of vehicle they are driving.

Avoid drinking too much

Overindulgence can lead to you letting your guard down. If you’re going to drink make sure you have a safe and guaranteed way to get back to your hotel room. Additionally, make sure that you have a partner with you to keep up with surroundings and details.

Be careful riding electric scooters

Electric scooters are sweeping into cities around the world. While these scooters are convenient and fun, they bring unique challenges to motorists, pedestrians, and their riders. There have been reports of the devices locking up leading to a rider losing control, hit and runs and pedestrian injuries from negligent scooter drivers. Use these devices with extreme caution. We also recommend that you avoid these scooters if you’ve had too much to drink.

Double check your travel documents

If you are traveling abroad, you may want to double check the status of your travel documents. While it may seem like having a passport guarantees your rights, there are risks associated with being able to re-enter the United States when you travel out of the country—even if you are a U.S. citizen. People who have a midwife-signed birth certificate are especially vulnerable to this violation of civil rights. Several documented reports of citizens being denied re-entry to the United States even with a passport have made headlines in recent years. These people have had their passports confiscated by immigration officials or had their passports revoked while abroad and denied their right to enter the country. If this occurs, this is unconstitutional and a violation of your civil rights.

Have a Safe Christmas Vacation

Whether you’re traveling abroad or traveling three hours to your parents you should always keep safety as your top of mind. When you stop thinking of safety, personal injuries happen. While not every accident or injury is preventable, you can do your best to avoid them. When another person’s negligence leads to your injuries, feel free to contact The Carlson Law Firm to discuss your case.

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