YOUR SUMMER VACATION: SAFE, ECONOMICAL AND RELAXING
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Vacation. An eight-letter word we long for every summer, when millions of us are eager to get away from school and work. We take to the road in cars, live on boats, relax on beaches and pitch tents at campsites. Regardless of what we do or where we go, vacations are meant to be carefree and relaxing.
But how do you plan a vacation that is safe, gentle on the wallet and still fun? Well, with proper planning, this year's summer get-away can be safe, affordable and exciting for the whole family.
Before You Leave for Your Trip
In order to reduce your vulnerability to crime while traveling, the Santa Monica Police Department Crime Prevention Unit recommends the following:
* Inform your neighbors of when you will be leaving and your expected date of return. If you will be hiring a house sitter, be sure to tell your neighbors who to expect.
* Have a friend or neighbor pick up mail, newspapers, deliveries and advertisements left on your doorstep. Inform only people you know of your vacation plans. If you must call to stop newspaper or other delivery services, indicate that you're canceling, not vacationing.
* Make arrangements to have the lawn mowed and leaves picked up. Ask a neighbor to set out at least one trash can at your curbside on the normal pick-up day.
* Simulate a "lived-in" appearance by using timers to turn lights or a radio on and off during expected hours. Set the timers to turn lights on at dusk and off at a normal bedtime.
* Make out an itinerary along with telephone numbers of where you can be reached in case of an emergency.
Minimizing Transportation Expenses
One of the most significant cost factors of any vacation is transportation expense. By planning ahead, you can often save as much as 50 percent over last-minute purchases. The following money-saving tips can help you save hundreds of dollars when planning your next vacation.
* Keep your schedule flexible when it comes to airline departure and arrival times and days. Often, traveling off-peak times can add to substantial savings.
* You can lower the price of a round-trip air fare by as much as two-thirds by making certain your trip includes a Saturday evening stay over.
* Purchase plane tickets well in advance - by at least 21 days. To make certain you have an inexpensive fare, even if you use a travel agent, call all the airlines that fly where you want to go and ask for the lowest fare to your destination.
* Check with your insurance agent and credit card company in advance to avoid duplicating any coverage you may already have when renting a car.
* Don't limit yourself to renting a car. Public transportation is an excellent way to see the sights and save big.
Luxury is in the eye of the beholder. When planning your lodging, decided what amenities you need and which ones you can live without. Here are some additional tips to help you save money on lodging.
* Travel off-season or on weekdays. The money you save can be put toward other areas of your vacation.
* Take entertainment coupon books or club memberships. Typically, these coupons discount national hotel chains up to 50 percent.
* Call the hotel directly to speak with the reservation department about additional packages and savings available. The hotel chain's toll-free number may not offer as much detail.
* Consider using a hotel that offers a free continental breakfast. This may seem small, but it's one extra that is typically well worth it. Meals rapidly "eat-up" spending money.
Your vacation should be trouble-free and relaxing. In order to reduce your vulnerability to crime while traveling, travelers should observe the following tips.
* Make hotel reservations at reputable, well-established locations. Check ahead of time with the local police department's community relations division about recent crime activity at the hotel your considering.
* Leave expensive jewelry at home or in a safe deposit box. If you do take valuables with you, check them into the hotel vault.
* Do not fill in your home address on luggage tags. Your work address and phone number are sufficient.
* Bring an ample supply of traveler's checks in order to minimize the need for cash. Record their serial numbers and the proper phone number to call in case they're lost or stolen.
* Ask hotel management or the local police department if there are any areas in town you should avoid. Stick to well-lighted main streets and public areas.
* Do not advertise that you are a tourist. Keep maps and travel brochures in your car's glove compartment when your not using them.
* Foreign countries often have narrow sidewalks that force pedestrians to walk near vehicle traffic. Beware of purse snatchers that strike from passing cars or mopeds.
* Identify anyone requesting entry into your room. Open the door only if you are certain the person has a legitimate reason to enter. Call the front desk if you have any doubts.
* Always keep suitcases locked, even when empty, to avoid allowing a thief to use them to remove property from your room.
No matter where we go or what we do on our vacations, there is a common denominator that runs through all of our summer travels and relaxation - food. The road to food safety can be either a bumpy one or smooth one depending on what precautions are taken. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers the following advice to make the difference between a vacation to remember and one to regret.
* If you are traveling longer than 30 minutes with perishable food, place it in a cooler with ice or freezer packs. When carrying drinks, consider packing them in a separate cooler so the food cooler is not opened frequently.
When Camping . . .
* Bring along bottled water or other canned or bottled drinks. Always assume that streams and rivers are not safe for drinking.
* Keep hands and all utensils clean when preparing food and use disposable towlettes to clean hands. When planning meals, think about buying and using shelf-stable food to ensure food safety.
* Remember to keep the cooler in a shady spot. Keep it covered with a blanket, preferably one that is light in color to reflect heat.
When Boating . . .
* Don't let perishable food sit out while swimming or fishing. Food sitting out for more than two hours is not safe and the time frame is reduced to just one hour if the outside temperature is above 90?F.
* The catch of the day fin fish should be scaled, gutted and cleaned as soon as the fish is caught. Wrap both whole and cleaned fish in water-tight plastic and store on ice, keeping 3-4 inches of ice on the bottom of the cooler and alternating layers of fish and ice. Cook the fish within 1-2 days, or freeze and use within six months. After cooking, eat within 3-4 days.
* Crabs, lobsters and other shellfish must be kept alive until cooked. Store them in a bushel or laundry basket under wet burlap. Crabs and lobsters are best eaten the day they are caught. Live oysters can keep 7-10 days and mussels and clams, 4-5 days.
* Be aware of the potential dangers of eating raw shellfish, especially for people with liver disorders or weakened immune systems.
When at the Beach . . .
* Plan ahead, taking along only the amount of food that can be eaten to avoid having leftovers. If grilling, make sure local ordinances allow it.
* Bring a cooler and partially bury it in the sand, cover with a blanket and shade with a beach umbrella.
* If dining along the boardwalk, make sure the food stands frequented look clean and that hot foods are served hot and cold foods cold. Don't eat anything that has been sitting out in the hot sun.
When in the Vacation Home or RV Vehicle . . .
* If the home or vehicle hasn't been used for a while, check leftover canned food from last year. The Meat and Poultry Hotline recommends that canned food, which may have been exposed to freezing and thawing temperatures over the winter, be discarded.
* If the refrigerator was unplugged last year, thoroughly clean it before using. Make sure all food preparation areas in the vehicle are thoroughly cleaned.
The time you devote to your vacation before it begins is well worth it. The results will be evident when you leave your house feeling relieved and anticipating the safe and relaxing days ahead!