In order to enjoy a simple getaway this summer without being the victim of crime or the subject of a lawsuit, consider taking the following steps:

Flying. Before you head to the airport, let someone know where you're going. Leave as many details as you can -- hotel name and phone number, the city and country, and whom you're travelling with. If you're leaving the country, photocopy passports and leave them with a family member. If you're going to be gone for more than a week, consider having someone stay at your house, as an empty home is an easy target for burglars.

Driving. Keep these things in mind before you hit the road:

  • A fully packed car drives differently, so be aware of the differences in handling and braking reaction time.
  • Get a full vehicle inspection before you set out, and pay special attention to your tires. The tread should have a depth of at least three millimeters.
  • Secure your luggage so it doesn’t go flying in case you have to brake suddenly.
  • Obtain a tire kit with air and sealant in case of a flat tire in the middle of nowhere.
  • Don’t hit the road at the end of a long work day; better to leave in the morning when you are fresh.
  • Fatigue is one of the main factors in vacation-related auto accidents, so take frequent stops along the way to get out and stretch your legs.

Safeguarding valuables. Keep your eyes on the cash, traveler's checks and credit cards. If you're carrying a purse, make sure it's one with a long strap that you can wear across your shoulder (messenger bag). And always remember: NEVER fight a thief. If approached by a thief, give him the goods. He may be smaller than you, but he may also be carrying a weapon, and don't forget, he knows the area better than you and could have hidden accomplices anywhere in a crowd.

Traveler’s insurance. Anyone traveling outside the U.S. should have traveler's insurance. If your luggage is lost, or you have an accident, your traveler's insurance will cover it. It also covers any costs for medical care in a foreign country.

Local knowledge. Before you walk out the front door of your hotel, make sure you have the address in your phone. In small, touristy towns with rustic winding cobblestone streets, many of the hotels look alike, and if you're on foot, you can easily lose your way. If you want to be especially cautious, add the hotel name and number to your phone contacts as well.

Kid safety. Even somewhere as enchanting and innocent as Disney World can become a maze if you're not attentive. Have a system in place in case someone gets lost. Discuss a landmark where everyone will return if anyone is missing from the group. If someone goes missing and it's serious, you may not be able to rely on the local authorities. To avoid going through the nightmare of not knowing where one of your children is, consider investing in a wireless digital child tracker. This device uses digital signals to locate a child within the range you choose from your receiver. A GPS tracker is also effective -- make sure you get one that's tamper-proof and sounds an alarm if the wristband is removed.

These are just a few tips, but the main idea is to be cautious and stay alert while you enjoy your vacation, whether it’s near or far.

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