Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey has reintroduced a bill to provide foreign travelers with much-needed travel safety information. It's called the International Travelers Bill of Rights Act. Travel websites would be required to provide customers with information about the safety of their destinations and the facilities they're booking.
The bill's a response to several tragedies occurring to US citizens vacationing in Mexico. It's specifically aimed at a lack of standard medical facilities and poor emergency response at some resorts. It's hoped that with better disclosure, consumers will be able to make more informed decisions about their travel plans.
As spring approaches, countless US students and people from all walks of life plan spring break vacations. For students, spring break is a tradition as old as school itself, and for everyone else, it's a chance to get away from the dreary days of late winter and welcome spring.
Do your advance planning for a safe and fun trip.
Planning Rules for Every Destination
Whether you're heading to a beach in Florida, the slopes in Colorado, or some place beyond US borders, there are plenty of planning and safety tips for any spring break traveler to think about.
Reservations and Itinerary
Make hotel and airline reservations in advance. Most of the time advance planning saves you money and gives you choices for flights, car rentals and hotels.
Don't forget to find out about cancellation fees and rebooking charges if your flight is rescheduled. Mind check-in times so you have a seat if your flight is overbooked.
Getting Ready to Go
Packing. Your wardrobe is the main thing that goes into your suitcase, but think of the other necessities. Pack your toiletries, and remember extra prescription medications and other health items such as your glasses and contacts. If you're flying, remember to look at the carry-on and packing rules.
Extra written prescriptions for drugs and eyewear are good to have on hand, just in case.
Money. Prepaid credit cards and traveler's checks are the best way to carry your funds when vacationing because they are usually protected if lost or stolen. Carry as little cash as possible, and use it only when needed.
Driving? Have your mechanic check out your car before you leave to avoid car trouble when you're far from home. Check out your glove box for your owner's manual and auto insurance contact information.
Check the weather before you leave. Obviously, if you and a hurricane or tropical storm are both headed to the same beach, you may want to cancel your plans. You may lose a little money, but it's better than getting seriously hurt or losing valuable vacation time.
At Your Destination
When you get to your destination, it's time to have fun. But don't forget the safety factor:
Call home. Let someone at home know you arrived safely. Try to check in a few times while you're away, just so someone knows you are staying safe and having a good time.
Check out the area. Be familiar with the local area, including locations for the nearest hospital and police station. Find out the best and safest routes to local attractions such as the beach, ski slopes or amusement parks. Ask hotel staff about public transportation, such as what to use and what to avoid.
Lock up. Keep your hotel room door locked at all times, and don't let anyone you don't know in. If the hotel has a safe, use it to store your valuables, like jewelry or extra cash. Put your things in an envelope or box with your name on it.
Buddy system. Remember that from grade school? Whenever you go out, take at least one other person with you, especially at night or to the ATM. Awareness of your surroundings is important, even when you're out in a group.
Going to rent a car, bicycle or skis? If so, ask about insurance you may be able to buy to cover any damages you cause. When you pick up a rental, note the item's condition and defects on your rental agreement so you aren't charged for the damage.
In addition to everything above, there are some special matters you need to consider if you're leaving the US for spring break. For instance:
Passport. You can't leave (or get back!) without it. If you don't have one, start working on it now. They take time to process. If you have one, make sure it's still valid.
Security. Check with the US State Department for travel warnings for your destination country, even to nearby countries such as Mexico.
Register your travel plans with the State Department. It's free, and if there's some kind of emergency, it'll be easier to find and help you.
US Embassy or Consulate. Know where it is and how to get there from your hotel.
Immunizations. Make sure they're updated and that you have all those recommended for the country you're visiting.
A little planning, with an eye and focus on safety, doesn't take a lot of time or effort. But taking the time to do it can help make this the best spring break ever.
Questions for Your Attorney
- What should I do if my passport is lost or stolen while I'm traveling?
- If my son gets into legal trouble during spring break, should he call you or an attorney in the area? Can you recommend someone there if needed?
- My daughter had to cancel her spring break trip because of an emergency and neither the hotel nor airline will refund money she paid in advance. Is there anything we can do?