Fun Getaways, Safe Stuff

Flight board

Don’t let your guard down during a winter getaway.

Even though a vacation makes you want to forget about the demands of your day-to-day life, you won’t want to forget about protecting your belongings. “The percentage of property losses occurring inside the home versus outside the home is almost the same,” cautions Joe Vahey, ERIE vice president and personal lines product manager.

In the Air

Not surprisingly, many losses occur at airports. In fact, each year nearly 14,000 travelers report missing luggage items to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Avoid that predicament by following this advice:

  • If possible, pack only carry-on luggage to reduce the chances of anything being lost or stolen.
  • Consider leaving valuables at home. Not a possibility? Then make sure they stay in your carry-on, not your checked luggage.
  • Make sure to stash any electronics in your carry-on. Thieves love stealing gadgets, and airlines typically don’t insure against these items’ loss.
  • Tuck your name and address into your bag in case your baggage tag gets torn or breaks off.
  • Snap a picture of your bag(s) with your cell phone—photo documentation will help with recovery efforts if your bag is lost or stolen. (Just be sure to keep your phone with you!)
  • Invest in a quality, TSA-approved luggage lock.
  • Although personal property that is in transit is covered under your homeowners policy, you may not want to file a claim for lost items. “If luggage is lost by the airline, it’s better to claim it through the airline than through your homeowners policy since there could be a surcharge on your policy,” says Vahey. He also encourages you to call your ERIE Agent or the ERIE Customer Service line ASAP for expert advice on how to proceed.

At the Hotel

Detective Kevin Coffey, an expert in travel safety and the founder of Airport Crimes Investigations, stresses the importance of remaining vigilant at even the most upscale hotel. “The best advocate for your belongings is you and nobody else,” he cautions. The following tips will help you do just that.

  • For added safety, request a room that’s on the second floor or higher. If staying at a motel, request a room that faces an inner courtyard.
  • Opt for the hotel safe over your room’s safe since your personal safe’s password may be compromised. Plus, keeping your valuables in the hotel’s safe rather than in your room’s safe transfers the liability to the hotel. Just make sure the front desk gives you a written receipt for everything you deposit in the hotel safe.
  • Ask the hotel if they use magnetic stripe keys as opposed to the standard metal room key. Coffey says that metal key rooms suffer higher rates of break-ins and thefts.
  • Use either a lock or a cable to secure laptop bags and handbags to bed posts or other secure locations. An alternative is to lock those items in your suitcase.
  • As an added precaution, leave on a light and the TV on while you’re away.

Out and About

You might be on vacation, but thieves rarely take a rest from scouting their next victims. Protect yourself and your belongings when you’re out on the town by keeping the following in mind.

  • Leave extra credit cards and your Social Security card at home to lessen the likelihood of identity theft. Also make photocopies of your cards and store them in a safe location or leave them with a friend or relative as a form of backup.
  • Use credit cards over debit cards—they offer a much higher level of security for travelers.
  • Take only as much cash or as many traveler’s checks that you anticipate needing.
  • Carry your money and identification in something unexpected—for example, a cosmetics case or a small gift card holder. For added protection, carry your money and valuables in an inside pocket or under your clothes.
  • Consider keeping at least one credit card in the hotel safe in case the others get lost or stolen.
  • Don’t advertise the fact that you’re a tourist by puzzling over a big map. Go somewhere private or step into a store to orient yourself. Also make an effort to walk with purpose to avoid being marked as an out-of-towner.
  • Professional pickpockets are pros at spotting and preying on tourists. One common scheme: asking for directions. While you’re distracted, an accomplice can make an easy grab for your wallet. Be kind but curt with anyone asking for directions.

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