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Advice & More August 2014

Potpourri: Travel Smarter this Vacation Season

By Teresa Ambord

Thieves often select victims in the lobby, and then casually follow them to their rooms. If a suspicious person gets on the elevator with you and then gets off at your floor, stay on the elevator and go back to the lobby and ask for an escort to your room.

Here are some wise tips about safety for travelers, mostly from


Safety at Your Hotel…

  • Which floor is safest (from thieves)? Staying on upper floors (third floor or higher) is safer in terms of the likelihood of being burglarized, but of course, in the event of a fire it’s harder to flee. Also, on upper floors, rooms that are close to fire exits may be easier targets for thieves since they want a quick getaway.
  • Room check. When you get to your room the first time and every time you re-enter, do a quick check of all places where an intruder can hide. Do this even if you are shown to your room by a bellman, say the experts. He will wait if you ask him (or if you don’t tip him till you’ve done your check).
  • Lobby victims. Thieves often select victims in the lobby, and then casually follow them to their rooms. If a suspicious person gets on the elevator with you and then gets off at your floor, stay on the elevator and go back to the lobby and ask for an escort to your room.
  • Don’t follow me! If you are in the hall walking towards your room and think someone may be following you, pause outside your door. Don’t insert your room key till that person is well past your room, or better yet, leave your key in your pocket till the coast is clear. Thieves sometimes wait till you have opened your door and your hands are full, then burst through the door, forcing you inside.
  • Even if you are traveling alone, if a stranger is too close for comfort, knock on your own door to give the impression someone is with you.
  • Knock, knock. If you are in your room and there is an unexpected knock, use the peephole. If you cannot definitely identify the person, don’t open the door. If he or she claims to be a hotel employee and you were not expecting someone, ask the person to wait while you call the front desk to verify whether they sent someone to you. Your life could depend on it.
  • The sound of privacy. Hotels ask you to turn off the TV and lights when you leave your room for a few hours. But don’t. The appearance or sound of possible occupancy will make a thief think twice.


Losing It

Can you guess the number one item travelers leave behind in motels? A survey done showed that in one year alone, 42,000 cell phone chargers were left in Holiday Inns and Holiday Express hotels. The collective value of those abandoned chargers is about a million bucks. You can easily imagine overlooking that dangling cord plugged into the wall. One way to travel smarter and beat the odds of leaving your charger is this: when you plug it into the wall, wrap the cord around something else which would be harder to forget, like a suitcase handle.

Other frequently left items are underwear, swim suits, pillows, hearing aids, false teeth, and various toiletries.


Traveling Abroad and Health Needs

The Centers for Disease Control advises travelers of a few points to consider before leaving home:

  • Check with your insurance agent about buying travel, travel health, and medical evacuation insurance.
  • Scrutinize your domestic health insurance policy to see what medical services may or may not be covered abroad. Call your insurer if you are not certain.
  • Locate medical services in areas you plan to visit and carry this information with you on your trip.
  • Carry copies of your insurance policy identity cards, including any supplemental insurance purchased for a trip, and insurance claim forms. (A note from me: if your insurance ID card lists your Social Security number or other sensitive information, black it out or cut it out of the copy. Medicare cards generally have the Social Security number displayed on them.)
  • Retain copies of all bills and receipts for medical care received abroad.
  • If you depend on prescription medicine, don’t pack it in your checked luggage when you travel. Carry it with you, and be sure to pack enough for the trip plus a few extra days’ worth, in case of delays getting home.
  • If you are traveling abroad keep your medications clearly labeled in their original containers. Also bring a written prescription from your doctor, explaining your condition, in case you are questioned by international customs agents.
  • You may even need to check with the local embassy to make sure the medicine you take is permitted in the country. Certain prescription drugs are illegal in some countries.


Tips from Your Fellow Travelers

  • One frequent traveler takes a Ziploc bag to cover the remote control. They are covered with germs, he says, and are rarely cleaned. And the remote works just as well through the plastic. Great idea!
  • If you wear eyeglasses carry an extra pair. (I wish I had been told this before I took my son to a theme park, hours from home. My glasses broke side to side on one lens. I was the only driver, and had to make the four-hour drive home with glasses that were taped together on the right side. Boy did I have a headache!)
  • Also carry a small magnifying glass for fine print, like maps or medicine bottles.
  • Keep a pocket-sized notebook handy for jotting down details, like room numbers and flight numbers and tips from locals about great places to eat.
  • Take a nightlight (or a few) to plug into your bathroom. They may save middle-of-the-night confusion and stubbed toes. You can buy them at the dollar store, so if you forget it when you leave, it’s no big deal.
  • While you’re at the dollar store, get a nylon laundry bag to stash clothes in that need laundering while you travel. On the way to your destination, the bag doubles as a place to carry shoes and keep them away from clean clothes. Or buy a smaller nylon bag just for shoes.


Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

Meet Teresa