You’ve been planning a family trip all year, and the time has come to hit the road. Many pleasures await-but it’s up to you to plan ahead so you can avoid the potential perils during your journey. Here are a few vacation secrets to keep you safe, not sorry.

Before You Go

Okay, maybe it’s a given that you’ve done all the research you need to by now. After all, you’ve only been planning this vacation for months! Still, a few basic reminders never hurt:

  • Read hotel or resort reviews in depth-including any that spell out the small details. Otherwise, that amazing destination may just turn out to be a dud.
  • Find out if your destination has a reputation for crime. You don’t want to set your camera aside while you’re buying tourist trinkets only to have it stolen the next second. Make plans to secure your items however you can.
  • Consider travelers or supplemental insurance. It’s easy enough to give your insurance agent a call and find out what coverage can keep you most protected during your travels. If you get hurt on that dream vacation abroad, it helps to know your medical costs are covered.
  • Plan to keep your home secure while you’re gone. We all have heard the tips about timers on lights and having a neighbor watch your property. Sometimes it’s easy to forget these details until you’re already on the plane or in your car. Plan ahead!

At the Beach

At last. You’ve reached Nirvana, or the closest thing to it: the golden sands and surf of your beach vacation. Your worries and pre-vacation stress should melt away quickly, but this doesn’t mean you don’t need to be proactive. Follow these simple precautions:

  • Avoid areas where rip currents are a problem. Undertow or rip tides are 2 other names for this ocean phenomenon. Over
  • 70% of drowning instances happen because of rip currents. If you see a sign indicating this danger, stay away!
  • Swim within clear view of a lifeguard. It also pays to have an experienced swimmer nearby. If you have young children, consider a few splashes in the waves good enough, and make sure you never keep your eyes off your toddler.
  • Put each adult on guardian duty. Don’t assume when you run a quick errand or take a trip to the bathroom that other responsible adults will watch the kids. Ask ahead.
  • Avoid picking up sea creatures. A small sand dollar or sea shell is one thing, but a slimy jellyfish or prickly sea urchin is another. Don’t take chances of being stung or hurt!

At the Campsite

If your idea of vacation heaven is roughing it in the mountains, then camping probably makes a great vacation for you. If you go often, chances are that all members of your family understand the joys and perils of this form of relaxation. Even so, everyone can benefit from these simple tips:

  • Pack plenty of bug juice and aloe vera. Bug bites and stings seem to come with the territory, but even these sorts of nuisances can really interfere with your camping enjoyment if you forget to pack them. Aloe vera is also great on a sunburn.
  • Be sure you have all-season gear and clothing. Weather changes rapidly in the wilderness! What may look like a sunny, pleasant day can turn into a drenching shower or a windstorm that makes the temperatures plummet.
  • Take whistles and compasses with you. You need to train family members on orientation well before someone gets lost on the trail. Plan ahead so that if someone loses his/her direction, there’s a whistle they can blow. Cell phones are only good if you have reception, so have several back-up plans in place.
  • Always have plenty of water on hand. Think you have enough bottled water? If in doubt, double your supply unless it’s simply too difficult to tote up the hill to your campsite. Staying hydrated also lowers your risk for heat exhaustion or stroke.

While in a Foreign Country

You may have your passport and electricity converter, but what else do you need to stay safe during your foreign travels? Here are a few basics:

  • Know the address of the nearest U.S. Embassy. Most people never think to locate this information, but even if you’re not traveling to a dangerous zone, you can be reached in an emergency if you stay in touch with a consulate and give that information to others at home.
  • If you plan to drive, consider getting an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). Your U.S. driver’s license may not be adequate (it may even be illegal in some locations).
  • Make copies of important paperwork. Store copies of your passport, visa, airline tickets, hotel confirmations, credit cards, and any other valuable information, then store them separately from the actual items. If you lose one piece of luggage, you’ll have the details in another place.
  • Know how to find medical help if needed. If you have ready access to a physician or pharmacy close by your destination, so much the better. You may not need it, but it’s there if you do.

Staying safe on your vacation is possible. Plan ahead so you can truly enjoy the R & R you’ve worked so hard for!