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Q&A: Travel tips for your next trip

For more than a year, we put travel plans on hold and experienced the world through our window, our backyard or a screen while excitedly anticipating the days when we could get out in the world and experience it in person again. Recent stories of booked vacation rentals, increased traffic at airports and higher than expected attendance at National Parks indicate that those days are here. As many of us are finding our way back to the joy of travel, we’re not only contemplating where we want to travel but also how we can stay safe. With so much good information and guidance about health safety available when traveling, we felt it important to round that out with additional travel safety and risk management tips from Dan Cuccia, Vice President of Risk Management for Berkley One. Dan has 25+ years of experience in managing risk for clients from all over the country, and is himself a passionate traveler (who’s looking forward to visiting the Canadian Maritimes later this year). Here are some of the most common and pressing questions Dan is asked by clients who are embarking on a trip—whether halfway across their state or halfway across the globe.

 

Q: I’m thinking about traveling abroad for the first time in a while. What do I need to know to help me stay safe?

 

Dan Cuccia: It’s important to do your research beforehand on the location(s) where you will be traveling. In our complicated world, some areas pose a much higher risk for travelers. Each country has its own considerations, and when you are traveling to a high-risk area, it’s wise to have a safety plan.

There are a lot of great resources to help. The US State Department provides information for Americans traveling abroad to understand their potential exposure in certain countries, including high risk areas.

If you are especially concerned about the location where you are going, there are additional resources that can help you create a customized travel plan. Talk to your insurance provider; they may be able to help! For instance, at Berkley One we can help connect clients with a global risk advisory, security and investigation firm that can help create a customized safety plan for travelers.

 

Q: What if I’m staying more local? Anything to think about when choosing a location?

 

Dan Cuccia: Absolutely. Whether you’re going abroad or traveling domestically, when it’s time to book your stay, don’t just look at rates and amenities—pay close attention to location. Is the hotel or home-sharing rental in an upscale residential neighborhood, or is it in a commercial area? Do websites with street-view maps indicate the level of foot traffic after dark? You can find neighborhood information online or in a travel guide, and don’t forget to look at online independent reviews.

If you book a home-sharing rental, read reviews (particularly recent ones!), don’t rely on photos alone and consider sticking with a well-established platform. Do your homework: ask about carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, security cameras, locks and/or other monitoring or safety systems on the property—and conduct a safety check to ensure you know where they are located and how to operate them when you arrive. Some good general safety tips for vacation rentals are available from both Vrbo (here) and Airbnb (here).

 

Q: Got it. I feel more prepared now when it comes to my physical security, but I’ve also been thinking about health. Is there anything I should consider before traveling?

 

Dan Cuccia: The reopening of travel following the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be uneven and constantly evolving. A few good resources are:

 

Q: My trip is booked! Who do I need to inform about my travel plans?

 

Dan Cuccia: It’s a smart idea to share a copy of your itinerary with a close friend or relative, so someone back home knows where you will be at what times. “Check in” with these people, even if it’s just a text, so that they know you are on schedule and safe. If you plan to be “off the grid” for any part of your trip (such as a hiking trip, bike tour or other active vacation), be sure to let these contacts know.

 

Q: So, more information is better when it comes to sharing travel details?

 

Dan Cuccia: Not always! It’s a smart idea not to share your travel information publicly, such as on social media. Wait to share details of your trip with your followers until after you return. This can help protect your physical security while traveling, and also help reduce the risk of alerting bad actors that you are away from home, which could make your home a target for theft.

 

Q: Let’s talk about packing! What do I need to think about as I’m preparing for my trip?

 

Dan Cuccia: Consider what you’re carrying with you and how. If you take medications, be sure to pack enough for the duration of your trip. When traveling internationally, check in advance the legality of bringing your medication into a foreign country. There are stories of people having to surrender their medications at customs and ending up in a tough spot. You may need to bring documentation from your doctor with you.

Consider whether it makes sense to bring valuable items. Then, pack valuables and essential items in a carry-on, and keep them out of sight during transit. (“Think like a kangaroo” is a favorite mantra we’ve learned when traveling with valuables—learn what it means here.) And don’t forget locks for both checked bags and carry-ons!

 

Q: I’ve taken the steps to prepare and am ready to depart. Anything else to consider while I’m on the go?

 

Dan Cuccia: While in transit, be vigilant to protect your personal information, especially in public areas such as airports or train stations. Keep your itinerary and identification stashed away until security requests them. Items such as airline boarding passes and luggage tags have personal information printed on them, so it’s a good idea to keep them secure—especially in an era when identity theft is on the rise.

It’s also wise to give the impression that you are with or meeting others while you’re on the go. If you are staying at a hotel, mention when you check in that you are expecting friends, family or coworkers, and ask for more than one room key.

When you arrive at your hotel room or vacation rental, be sure to secure the door and use all the locking devices. Room safes are also good idea, and so is using a hotel’s main safe to store valuables. (Don’t forget to take them with you when you leave!) And check those smoke alarms!

As your itinerary unfolds, keep checking in with these tips. Looking to spend family time at the vacation rental pool? Consider checking some pool safety best practices. Thinking about lots of time destination-hopping? Consider leaving valuable jewelry, watches and more behind and finding ways to store them more safely. Your agent or risk management provider can also help offer tips and advice—and getting in touch should be easy when you need to do it.

No matter where you’re going, each step you take to help prepare before traveling can help you worry less, so you can get out and enjoy your time even more.

Dan Cuccia is Vice President, Risk Management at Berkley One, a Berkley Company.