Even with a recession and high unemployment across our county, it is likely that millions of Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home to be with family and friends during this 2008 Christmas season.
Unfortunately, many criminals take advantage of us when we let our guard down during this festive time. Here are some general holiday travel tips from security and law enforcement professionals that may help make your holiday travel safer and more secure.
1. Before you leave on your holiday trip, tell a trusted neighbor of your travel plans, and give him a telephone number where you can be reached in case of an emergency.
2. See whether the neighbor can pick up your daily mail and newspaper deliveries, if you don’t have those deliveries stopped, as well as any advertising flyers and circulars.
Quick security tip: If possible, perhaps the neighbor can park a vehicle in your driveway.
3. In general, tell your holiday travel plans only to those who really need to know and you trust. Never leave travel details on your answering machine’s message.
Quick security tip: Always keep your garage door closed and locked. This is one of the most common ways burglars enter homes.
4. It is also an excellent idea to use automatic timers to turn on and off your lights and radio (turn your radio to a talk show rather than a music station) at varying times while you are gone.
5. Carry traveler’s checks or credit cards, and not large amounts of cash. Also, leave jewelry, airline tickets, and other valuables in a secure room safe or the hotel’s safety deposit box. Be sure to have a written record of your traveler’s checks and credit-card numbers – and keep them in a safe place – in case the traveler’s checks or credit cards are lost or stolen.
6. When staying at a hotel or motel, if possible, never leave your luggage unattended.
Quick security tip: It is a common tactic of thieves to use a “distraction” to steal your valuables while you are at the airport or checking in.
7. When you get to your hotel room, determine the best, most direct routes to the stairs and fire escapes in case of an emergency. Also locate and use any locking device on your room’s door, windows, and balcony.
8. Never open your hotel room door without knowing the identity of the person on the other side (most hotel room doors have peepholes). If you have any doubt as to the identity of the person, contact the hotel’s front desk for verification. Also, be sure to report to the front desk, hotel security, and police any suspicious people or activities you may observe.
9. When you leave your room, even briefly, always lock the door. And, as you did with your house before you left for your holiday travel, leave a light and radio or TV on before you leave your room for the evening.
10. Make sure you know the proper emergency number to call the in case of a police, fire, or medical emergency (in most areas within the United States, this number is 9-1-1; however, there still may be a few locations in which they may not use 9-1-1, so be sure to check).
Quick security tip: Some hotels may require that you first dial a “9” or other number to get an outside line before you can call 9-1-1. Always be sure to check this when you arrive at your designation.
My final thoughts: Never leave your common sense at home. Common sense is your best choice for you and your family’s safety and security.
Bruce (Mandelblit.com) is a nationally known security and safety journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer. His e-mail address is CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.
This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.
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