Vacations are something to which we all look forward, whether for fun, relaxation, sight-seeing, or a little of all three. However, being a victim of crime while you're gone, or coming home to find that criminals have taken advantage of your absence, can undo all the good that your vacation did - and then some.
Whether you're going to Rome or Reseda, for a month or for a weekend, our tip-sheet Vacation Security [PDF, 191Kb] has some simple tips to help keep you and your home from becoming a target for crime during your getaway.
• Install good, sturdy locks on all windows and doors in your home, including the garage doro and the door between your home and your garage. Make sure to lock them all securely before you leave.
• Purchase and install timers for your house lights, both interior and exterior. Set your interior lights to turn on and off at different times in a logical pattern (for example, the bedroom light shouldn't turn off before the living room light). Put a radio or a television on a timer as well.
• If you have valuables visible through the windows (televisions are a prime example), consider moving them to places where they can't be seen from outside.
• Tightly close the drapes and blinds. If you only have sheer, see-through curtains, install heavy, opaque curtains to keep prying eyes from seeing in.
• Engrave all of your valuables with your driver's license state and number (for example "CA A0123456"), and post signs or stickersin conspicuous places that you participate in Operation ID. Also write down the serial numbers, makes, and models of any items that have them (such as electronics and appliances), and keep the list in a safe place.
• Don't let it look like you're gone. Find a trusted neighbor who will agree to pick up your mail and newspapers, remove any flyers from your door or porch, and maintain your lawn and plants while you're gone. Give this person a key so that they can check periodically for break-ins. Make sure they have your trip plans and an emergency contact number should something happen.
• NEVER leave a key under the door mat, in a planter, under a rock, on the ledge above the door, etc. Burglars know ALL the hiding spots.
During your trip
• Use traveler's checks instead of carrying around large amounts of cash. Never display your cash openly.
• Keep a record of your traveler's check numbers, credit card numbers, and the phone numbers for each company in a safe place (such as in the hotel safe) in case your wallet or purse gets lost or stolen.
• Dress the way the locals dress, especially when travelling abroad - clothing customs vary, and crooks can often spot a tourist right away.
• Don't display indicators that you might be a good target, such as fancy jewelry or expensive clothes (unless the specific occasion merits it, such as an elegant restaurant or an upscale party). Keep your camera i your bag when you'r not using it, and keep your bag close to your body at all times while out and about.
• Don't leave maps and travel guides visible in your vehicle; put them in the glove compartment.
• If you ever suspect that you're being followed, go to the nearest business and call the police or sheriff's department.
• Follow common sense parking rules, such not leaving valuables in your vehicle, only parking in well-lit, busy areas, always locking your vehicle after entering or leaving it (even if only for a moment), and keeping your windows rolled up when you're not inside the vehicle. Always check your backseat as well before getting in, to make sure no one's hiding in it.
• Consider wearing a money belt or under-the-shirt pouch to keep your money or traveler's checks, credit cards, and ID close to you and out-of-sight.
• Be aware of your surroundings at all times, and never advertise your travel plans to strangers (such as hotel/motel costs, travel routes, etc.).
• Ask the front desk at your hotel/motel for directions to attractions that you'd like to visit.
• If you get lost, go into an open business and ask for directions; don't ask people you see on the street. Try to avoid stopping and staring at street signs or addresses.
• Select tour guides carefully, and go on group tours whenever possible.
• Ask the desk at your hotel/motel or stop in at the local police or sheriff's station to find out if there are any areas of town you should avoid.
• If older children go off separately, have a firm time for them to return. Consider having them carry a cell phone so they can check in or call for help, and teach them to keep it close at all times.
• Don't leave valuables in your room; take them with you or put them in the hotel/motel safe (this includes jewelry, cash, credit cards, keys, etc.).
• Unpack your luggage into the room's dresser or wardrobe, and arrange your belonging so you'll know if anything is missing. Report any missing items to management and the police.
• Always lock your door when you leave the room (if your door locks automatically, check to make sure it's locked). Use all the locks when in your room as well. Consider purchasing a portable door lock to add another level of security; most of these will even prevent someone with a key from getting in.
• Even if you're expecting a visitor or room service, ALWAYS look through the peephole and ask who's knocking before opening the door, even with a door chain. Never open the door unless you're certain the person has a legitimate reason to enter your room - if in doubt, contact the front desk to ask.
• Lock your suitcases, even empty ones, to prevent them from being used to carry out your belongings.
• Know the most direct routes to and from your room and elevators, where the fire exits or fire escapes are, where the phone in your room is, and the locations of any public or common-use phones in the lobby or other areas you might visit.