5 tips for safe holiday travel
More than 103 million Americans—the most on record—are expected to travel for the year-end holidays, according AAA, North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization . This represents a 1.5 percent increase, or 1.5 million more people traveling, compared with last year, and the highest number of expected travelers the annual AAA holiday travel survey has recorded.
While the vast majority of travelers—93.6 million people—will take a holiday road trip, according to AAA, another 6 million will take to air travel to get to their holiday destinations. Another 3.5 million travelers will opt for cruises, trains and buses for their holiday travel plans.
With that much holiday hustle and bustle, it's easy to lose sight of the risks in holiday travel, but that can make for a less than merry holiday experience. Here are some tips to make seasonal travel memorable for the right reasons:
Keep things under wraps. Theft and robbery are unpleasant surprises. To avoid becoming a victim, don't attract undue attention to yourself and your belongings -- whether in person or on social media. Pay attention to your wardrobe when traveling and if you must carry valuables, stow them in your carry-on bags rather than display them. When traveling abroad, cloaking your nationality is often a wise idea.
Don't get taken, literally. Some international travel destinations happen to be hotspots for kidnap and ransom. Avert kidnaping by arranging transportation in advance and avoiding unscheduled taxi or car services. Some alternative transportation services, such as Uber or Lyft, conduct thorough background checks on their drivers, which may provide additional assurance to travelers in unfamiliar surroundings.
Avoid getting stranded. Loss of travel documents and payment cards can be much more than an inconvenience; being without passports, visas, driver's licenses, credit cards and other important items can halt holiday travels in their tracks. Photocopies may help, but they can get misplaced and be difficult to share when trying to replace the originals. Instead, take photos or scans of your most important documents so that they can be stored on a mobile device.
To your health. Illness is typically the most frequent risk that travelers face. Navigating foreign health care systems can be a major challenge, so plan ahead if you may require medications, immunizations or medical identification bracelets. It's never a bad idea to locate, in advance, English-speaking doctors and hospitals near your travel destination. Also, study up on what health conditions might be problematic in the areas you plan to visit.
Don't let misfortune fall into your laptop. Cyber criminals are looking for every opportunity to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. In many foreign countries, malware is uploaded when users try to connect to the Internet locally. Be sure to follow safe computing practices during travel and change your passwords upon returning.
Denise Balan is senior vice president and head of XL Catlin's U.S. Kidnap & Ransom practice. Before joining XL Catlin, she led crisis management at a large global insurer, specializing in kidnap, ransom and extortion coverage.