Essential Safety Steps to Take When Planning a Road Trip

If you’re planning a road trip, there are safety concerns you should address both before you go and on the road. Although I prefer to see the world through rose-colored glasses, even I know there are dangers to your home as well as to yourself that come about when you’re traveling. Taking the time to address these items can end up making the difference between a great road trip and a horrible one ruined by criminals.

Home Alone
When you’re in the process of planning a road trip, you can forget about the home you’re leaving behind. Don’t – plenty of people think no one will notice, but criminals are always on the lookout for a house, condo, or apartment that shows signs of its owners being away. Here are some tips to make things look like business-as-usual:

Planning a road trip

  • Have all newspapers and mail held. This takes a few minutes and eliminates a pile of newspapers on your doorstep and an overflowing mailbox, a classic sign that you’re away. If you’re lucky enough to have a nearby friend/relative or a neighbor that’s a friend (make sure you really know this person well and trust them), ask them to take in your mail and newspapers as this will make things run as they usually do.
  • If you’re planning a road trip and you don’t have a security system, consider getting one – ideally one that dials a security line. Security will contact you or an appointed contact at the phone number you provide and if you don’t answer, they’ll call the police. This is 100% better than a loud alarm, which makes most neighbors more annoyed than alarmed. Have you heard one of these alarms and just thought, oh, it’s probably just been tripped by a squirrel or something? I have, and everyone else I’ve polled reluctantly agreed that they never dialed 911 when they heard a car alarm or a house alarm going off in their neighborhood. Get something that will do more than make a racket.
  • Put a light in every room and all outdoor lights on timers if possible. Have them set to turn on and off at certain times – not just at night but in the early morning, too, if you usually get up before sunrise (like I do).
  • If you’re planning a road trip for a couple weeks or more, make sure to have any usual yard work done in your absence including raking, snow shoveling, and lawn mowing. The only exception to this is if you rarely take care of these things anyway, and it would look odd to start now.
  • Leave a radio on in one of the upstairs rooms or a downstairs room that’s far away from an entry area – it’s just enough noise to make it sound like someone’s home, but not enough to be a tip-off that you’re away (blasting music or a loud TV not only is inconsiderate of your neighbors, but it’s obvious that you’re away when it goes on for days!).
  • If you don’t have any nearby friends/relatives/neighbor-friends, just ask the neighbor you trust most to keep an eye on your house (and let them know how long you’ll be gone). If you don’t know any of your neighbors, I suggest you try to start to get to know them. One great idea one of my neighbors had (that I’ll be using from now on) was to invite everyone in the neighborhood over on a Saturday afternoon for grilled burgers and hotdogs. It was pretty inexpensive (he just served a plain salad with dressing on the side and potato chips with the burgers and hotdogs and offered soft drinks) and it was a great way to meet everyone in a casual low-pressure way.
Safety on the Road
So your house is safe and secure and you’re ready to hit the road – what’s the next step in planning a road trip that is a safe one? There are a number of things you’ll need to do:
  • When planning a road trip, make sure to select hotels/motels in safe areas. How will you know? Start by checking with your friends and family. What have they heard? Next, go online and look at reviews of the hotels you’re considering – all the search engines offer reviews and there’s also my favorite, tripadvisor.com. If you see a lot of reviews talking about the area being unsafe in any way, stay away! These people wrote this review to help protect people like you, so take their word for it.
  • Don’t carry a lot of cash or bring a lot of valuables (like expensive jewelry) with you on your trip – it just makes you a moving target. Get cash from ATMs as you travel, just enough for a day or two at a time. Avoid any ATMs that aren’t located in or owned by a bank – there are so many stories of scams associated with these that it’s better to avoid them altogether.
  • Whatever cash you do have should be kept in your wallet and never flashed around. Keep your wallet and purse close to you/safe or get a money belt. Ladies, if you’re in a restaurant, keep your purse in your lap or in another safe place rather than over the back of your chair where it’s easy to grab – this is especially important if you’re dining in a sidewalk café where people passing can easily reach over for your purse.
  • Never leave anything valuable in sight in your unattended vehicle. You might just want to get out of your car "just for a second" to ask for directions or grab something from a snack machine, but resist the urge to leave your valuables for even that one minute as there are thieves that target areas like gas stations and rest areas looking for you to do just that. It only takes a few seconds for them to jump in your car and drive off, or grab your purse and jump in their own car to make a getaway. Unfortunately, this happened very recently to a friend of mine and all of her valuables, including a camcorder, were in the purse that was stolen from her car during the few moments she was away from her car. The thieves were so brazen, they made the theft out of the front seat while her children were sitting inside the car and her husband was only a few feet away pumping gas into the car with his back turned!
  • Even if you’re just relaxed and wandering, remember to keep your wits about you – if something seems "off", put your guard up. Your gut feeling is one of your most basic and true instincts. Trust it, not your intellect, in any situation where alarm bells are going off inside of you.
Don’t let this stuff ruin your vacation – just use it to help you be careful enough not to get hurt, but not so much that you end up feeling paranoid and nervous. Your gut instinct is your best friend, so rather than worrying, just trust it.

Planning a road trip includes lots of different aspects and safety is a very important one. Protecting yourself will put you on the way to having a wonderful vacation free of any unhappy endings.


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