An estimated 100 million Americans will travel by car, train or air to visit family or go on vacation this holiday season, based on forecasts issued in previous years by the American Automobile Association.
The key to avoiding stress and potential legal issues during the busy travel season is planning, according to FindLaw.com. Here are some tips to keep your holiday travel plans safe and stress-free:
Be sure you have all necessary travel documents. A valid ID, such as a state-issued driver's license, is necessary beyond the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at the airport, and will certainly be essential if you want to rent a car at your destination. If you plan to leave the United States, you must have a passport.
According to the State Department, "all minors regardless of age, including newborns and infants, must have their own passport when traveling internationally by air." Also, make photocopies of all travel documents — the front and back of your license, or the information pages of your passport — and store them in a safe place in the event that your wallet or purse is stolen, or your luggage is lost.
- Don't advertise your trip on social media. Posting your travel plans online is an open invitation to thieves. Contact your local law enforcement agency and notify them of your travel arrangements — they can offer you tips, help assess the risk of crimes in your neighborhood or add your property to a "watch list" if you are gone for an extended period. Also, make sure your neighbors are aware of your travel plans so they can watch for suspicious activity. Save the social sharing for after your trip.
- Check your cellphone plan. Don't assume your cellphone will work in another part of the country or overseas. Check with your provider to see what kind of coverage you will have at your destination, and if you'll need to upgrade to use your phone.
- Pack smart and carefully. Avoid packing items that cause delays at airport security checkpoints. Ship gifts ahead of time and pack electronics and liquids as directed by the TSA (www.tsa.gov). Carry all prescriptions in their original, clearly labeled bottles.
- Check your insurance coverage. If you're going to take an extended trip overseas, consider upgrading your insurance to ensure you have proper coverage. If you rent a car, have copies of your auto insurance card and information on hand. Check your personal policy for rental coverage to make sure you are covered. Consider travel insurance to reduce the financial blow if you are forced to cancel or interrupt your trip.
- Plan for an emergency while you are gone. Make sure your trip is fun and carefree by planning ahead for the worst. Check weather forecasts and set your travel schedule accordingly to avoid potential setbacks. If you are traveling overseas, or in an area you are not familiar with, check the State Department website for updated travel warnings and current credible threats, and determine the location of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will be traveling. Always be knowledgeable of local laws and customs.