The kids are out of school; summer vacation has officially begun. It is the season for family vacations. Countless movies have been made about the calamities that ensue, and not all are comedies. While there are some events that are outside your control, proper planning can prevent some of the more common issues we face.
Most of the safeguards are common knowledge, but they bear repeating. Those who have not yet become a victim of a crime often become lackadaisical in protecting themselves, especially when away from home. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable, when we might not otherwise during our pursuit of rest and relaxation. Those who prey upon us are counting on this.
We, here at Craighead County Sheriff’s Office, have compiled a list of things to consider before you leave and things to do to protect yourself while you’re away. This is by no means a complete list, but consider it inspiration for you when you’re planning your vacation.
10 Vacation Safety Tips:
- Consider a pet sitter or book a spot in a kennel for Fred well in advance. Good boarders fill their kennels quickly during holidays and peak travel seasons, so you will want to make sure you have your spot for Spot. Check with your veterinarian to see if they offer pet boarding.
- If you’re taking your pets with you, make sure your destination is pet friendly. Also, make sure your furry family member has his or her vaccination and keep a copy of the records with you while you’re traveling. Some hotels and airlines require proof of current vaccinations even before Dinky gets out of his crate.
- Current vaccinations aren’t just for Bingo. If you’re traveling out of the country on vacation, you will have to have certain vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an interactive website that will help you determine if you need additional inoculations depending on age, destination, and reason for travel. http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list
- Will you need a passport? Is your passport up to date? These are questions you have to consider well in advance to gather and process the necessary documents. There are two types of passports, as well. A passport card, and a passport book. The card is just for travel by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. Any other international travel will require a passport book which requires 6 weeks, standard processing. Any expedited processing requires a physical visit to a passport processing office, and our closest office is Hot Springs at substantial additional cost. To find out more about obtaining a passport, go to https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en.html
- Put a home security sign in your yard. While it is best to have an actual security system, they can be cost prohibitive to some. However, burglars have admitted when interviewed that the homes with signs visible from the street were bypassed. The bad guys are looking for an easy score, the path of least resistance. Security signs can be purchased for as little as $7, and a visual deterrent is often all it takes to take your house off the list of potential targets.
- A great deterrent for thieves is making it seem that you’re home. This is easily achieved by paying a lawn service to mow while you’re gone. Some lawn services offer a new customer discount, so call around. Bonus: that’s one less thing you have to do when you get home!
- Timers are a tried and true method of making it seem someone is home. Low-tech versions can be purchased for $10, but there’s an app for that. Literally. There’s a simple to use device that screws into the light socket with all the functionality of a dimmer and timer controlled by smart phone technology. This means, you can be dining in a café in France and turn off your lamp in the living room. The emberlite Smart Socket, for example, is about $50; marriage counseling because your husband thinks it’s funny to play with the lights from the other room, is not included.
- Have your mail held at the post office. It is really simple to sign up, and you don’t have to impose upon your neighbors. You can schedule the hold up to 30 days in advance or, for us last minute folks, up to 2:00 am of the day you want them to start holding your mail. https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail/
- There’s nothing worse than needing cash and the only ATM in the zip code charges $15 in fees. While it’s not a great idea to carry large amounts of cash, there are places that you can’t use traveler’s checks and your credit card could be compromised, so you will need to withdraw a reasonable amount of cash from your bank’s ATM before leaving home. It’s a good idea to log into your bank’s website to see a map of no-fee ATM’s where you’re headed.
- Hold off on posting your vacation plans on social media. It’s tempting to check in at Bubba Gump Shrimp Restaurant in Gatlinburg, TN, if nothing to make everyone else jealous. But what it also does is let your friends list know that you’re in a different time zone and your house is likely unoccupied for the next day or so. Depending on your privacy settings, your location is being broadcast to friends of friends, or even everyone. We like to think our friends wouldn’t do anything like steal our 50th Anniversary boxed set of Doctor Who, but their teenaged nephew visiting from Albuquerque might. Take lots of pictures, but save the posts until you get home.
This list is just a tool to get you thinking. Most things we can do to protect ourselves involve common sense and situational awareness. We want your vacations to be memorable for the right reasons. Don’t forget to subscribe to alerts from Craighead County Sheriff’s Office. Go to the Home Page http://www.craigheadso.org/ and in the upper right corner there’s a link to SIGN UP FOR ALERTS. You can have email or text alerts as they are posted on the website.
As always, thank you for allowing us to protect and serve you, the community of Craighead County.
Sheriff Marty Boyd