Safety tips for summer travel

two men walking toward a building with backpacks and a suitcase

Summer has officially arrived, which means it's time for exotic vacations, weekend camping trips and exciting seasonal adventures. It's important to use time to get away once and a while - as U.S. News & World Report explained, taking time off and traveling reduces stress, improves your mood and helps you recharge so that you go back to work with renewed drive and focus. However, if you don't go into your vacation properly prepared, you could end up in situations that add to your stress rather than reduce it.

Watch AIG Travel's Summer Travel Guide Webinar replay for more safety tips.

When the unexpected happens, it's important to know how to react in order to save time, money and keep you and your loved ones safer while you travel. To ensure a successful vacation, plan with these safety tips in mind:

1. Know your route
Whether you plan to road trip cross country or fly overseas, it's critical that you take the time to map out your travel plans before you go. While spontaneity on a trip is a great way to take on a new adventure, you should have a basic strategy for where you intend to be and when. This will help prevent you from ended up lost or stranded and will make it easier to ask for directions to get back on track if you do accidentally end up too far off course at some point.

You can take this tip a step further by pinpointing a few key services you may need on your trip - if you're driving long distances with your dog in the car, do you know which hotels on your route are pet friendly in case you need to stop for the night? Do you know where you can get gas in an isolated area? How about where you're likely to lose cell or GPS coverage? Learning more about your path can better prepare you to adapt quickly to any sudden problems you may encounter on your travels. When it comes to air travel, look up key points about cities you may have layovers in, just in case you end up needing to stay there longer than you intend if there are canceled flights or problematic weather.

Feel free to divert from your plan if you see a can't miss attraction - your itinerary doesn't need to be set in stone if you don't want it to be. But by creating an outline to start off with, you'll have a better base to rely on as you go.

2. Have an emergency contact back home
Once you have a rough travel plan in mind, find a trusted friend, relative or neighbor to leave your schedule with, USA Today advised. Check in from time to time to let them know if you change your plans or when you reach the next destination of your trip. If you end up lost or injured at any point during your travels, it can be an incredible help to have someone back home who can provide your last known whereabouts or who's aware of where else you intended to go.

This is especially true for people traveling solo, but even in a group you should be sure there are reliable contacts back home who can get in touch with you or know where you plan to go. To add an extra layer of safety, consider asking your contact to help verify your identity when they text you - if your phone is lost or stolen, for example, the thief may try to pose as you to people who send messages, in an attempt to hide the fact that the have a device that doesn't belong to them. If your emergency contact simply asks how you are and the person response with "fine," nothing will seem amiss. If they start a conversation by asking you to name a mutual acquaintance, however, that will be harder for someone else to fake, alerting your contact that you aren't in possession of your phone and that something could be wrong.

3. Build an emergency kit
It's not always practical or efficient to pack everything you might possibly need when you're traveling, but there are a few basics you definitely want to keep on hand.

For road trips: If you're relying on your car for the majority of your vacation, you'll need to make sure you have the supplies available to you for the most common problems you may face on the road. According to U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, road kits should include:
•    Jumper cables
•    Tire iron, jack and spare tire
•    Tire gauge and air pump
•    Road flares
•    Roadside reflectors
•    Bottles of water
•    Nonperishable snacks, like protein bars
•    Flashlight
•    Batteries
•    Weather radio
•    First aid kit
•    Phone charger
•    Maps

For international travel: It can be especially challenging to face an emergency when you're in another country. Whether flying to just one other country, going on a cruise or taking a tour through multiple areas, Real Simple Magazine stated you should keep these necessities on hand:
•    A photo copy of your passport, kept separately from the passport itself
•    A calling card
•    Electrical adapters and chargers
•    First aid kit
•    Vaccination certification
•    A credit and/or debit card that will work in the countries you plan to travel to
•    Pocket translator or language dictionary
•    Contact information for the U.S. embassy in those countries
When traveling internationally, be sure to warn your bank ahead of time so your cards aren't shut off for suspected fraud. No matter where or how you travel, you also need to keep any of your important medications on hand, in their original bottles and with copies of your prescriptions.

4. Purchase travel insurance
From reimbursements for lost luggage to medical coverage when you're out of network, travel insurance is an important element that can't be overlooked, according to Travel+Leisure. Plans can vary to meet your specific needs and budget restrictions, but will generally help you recuperate some costs if you need to cancel a non-refundable part of your trip, or will make sure you're covered if you need to see a doctor for an injury or illness. It can also help you with access to new lodging or transportation plans if you get delayed during a portion of your trip.

5. Know the laws and customs for your destination
If you travel to a different country, or even to a different state, you may find yourself under the authority of unfamiliar laws - and not knowing the rules doesn't make you exempt from their consequences. For example, if you start a road trip in New Hampshire, where adults aren't required to wear a seat belt, you should make sure you know to buckle up by the time you hit the Massachusetts border (or play it safe and stay buckled whether you're mandated to by law or not). Some items you want to carry with you may not be legal at your destination, or in the other locations you travel through to get there. In some places, even the way you dress or your relationships can make you susceptible to penalties. Other countries may have rules on how much currency you're allowed to bring in or take out when you leave. To learn more about the rules and guidelines of other nations, you can visit the U.S. Department of State's website for travel reports on every country, including travel alerts or particular safety concerns you should keep in mind.

6. Prevent theft
Sometimes, tourists can be seen as vulnerable targets for thieves looking to take advantage of their lack of local knowledge or awareness. To keep your belongings protected, lock them in your suitcase or a travel safe in your hotel room. While out and about, store valuable items like phones and cameras close to your person to prevent pickpockets from discreetly removing them from a backpack. Use discretion with when and where you take valuable items or money out - try not to flash large amounts of currency where you can draw a lot of attention to yourself. When possible, try to limit the amount of cash you have and use debit or credit cards instead. That way, if they end up going missing, you can call your bank to cancel them before losing too much. Traveling can be an incredible experience that offers you a well-deserved break, relaxation, adventure or learning experience. Ensure you have a safe and problem-free trip by planning ahead and having the right emergency procedures in place so you can shake off any mishap and continue on with your journey.

Contact your travel insurance provider for further assistance.

The information contained here is provided by Brafton. AIG Travel assumes no responsibility for the use, accuracy, or interpretation of the information contained herein.