Tips for travel safety

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 12, 1999

CHRISTINE HARVEY / L’Observateur / June 12, 1999

You’ve worked hard all year and can’t wait to get away to the beach or the mountains to relax with your family.

But a long-awaited vacation can be spoiled in the blink of an eye if you or your empty home become a target of criminals.

According to crimefighters, a little extra time planning your trip and a few precautions to safeguard your home can put your mind at ease while you’re out of town.

Piled up newspaper and uncollected mail are dead giveaways to burglars that the occupants of a house are out of town.

Stopping mail and newspaper service or having neighbors pick up those items help keep your house secure, said Capt. Patrick Yoes of the St.Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office.

To give another impression people are home, leave the lights on while away, he said.

“Some people even leave radios and things on,” Yoes said.

The sheriff’s office can also be of help, according to Yoes.

Before going out of town, vacationers can request officers do a daily patrol of their homes, to “keep an extra eye” out for unoccupied residences, he said.

Residents can let the sheriff’s office know the period they will be gone, and if a trip is open-ended, officers can keep up patrols until they are notified otherwise, Yoes said.

Neighbors should also be aware of strange happenings around an empty house.

“Have your neighbors watch out for your property. If anything looks out ofthe ordinary they can contact us,” Yoes said.

Vacationers should be wary of thieves once on the road as well.

Travelers’ checks and ATM cards should always be carried instead of cash, as the latter cannot be replaced if stolen.

Travelers checks are replaceable, and cash can be wired to vacationers from their hometown banks, said Toni Roussel, assistant vice president at Hibernia National Bank in LaPlace.

Banks can also arrange for a cash withdrawal from the nearest bank in the town a traveler is visiting, she said.

But carry no more than $100 in cash, or “more specifically, no more than you’re really willing to lose,” according to Roussel.

And hometown banks can act quickly in the case of an emergency, she said.

“It can be as easy as us overnighting an ATM card to wherever they’re staying,” Roussel said.

Hibernia also recommends travelers keep their money in more than one place, such as in a pocket and a money belt, and money should never be put in checked luggage.

Plus, Hibernia suggests packing light and reading maps discreetly in public, so as not to be branded a traveler.

The importance of hotel safety should not be overlooked while on vacation, either.

LaPlace Holiday Inn Controller Michael Searcy is aware that some travelers may not know how to keep themselves and their valuables safe while staying at a hotel.

The hotel provides visitors with a “Traveler Safety Tips” card, generated by the American Hotel and Motel Association, upon arrival, Searcy said.

“We put one of these on each one of the beds,” he said.

The American Hotel and Motel Association suggests travelers take precautions while visiting hotels on vacation, including doing the following: Verify the identity of whoever knocks on the hotel room door before opening it. If the person says he is a hotel employee, call the front deskand ask who is supposed to have access to the room.

Use all locks provided on the hotel room door.

Put valuables in the hotel safety deposit box.

Do not leave room keys where they can be stolen, such as around the pool area.

Use the hotel’s main entrance when returning late in the evening.

Do not invite strangers into a hotel room.

Make sure all room windows and balcony doors are locked.

By carefully following these recommendations, vacationers will be able to rest assuredly that both their homes and themselves will be protected, thus affording them a genuine peace of mind while on the road.

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