Lori Allen — A few precautions can save a vacation from disaster

06/25/2013 9:51 AM

06/25/2013 9:51 AM

My brother called the other day. He began his conversation with, “Didn’t you lose your purse once?” It’s a pretty curious opening line but I figured I would play along. “Well, it was stolen if that’s what you mean. Have you lost your purse?” I joked. “No,” he laughed, “but I thought you might have some pointers to share from that experience.”

I thought back to that vacation in Florida. We had parked our rental car at the upscale Deerfield Beach. I didn’t want to carry my purse so I carefully hid it under the front seat. As a final safety measure, I took some newspaper and draped it over the seat so that there was no way it would be visible. It never occurred to me that someone in range, watching closely, would have seen me and known exactly what I was doing. But they were.

We took less than 15 minutes to walk up the pier and back. The threatening clouds and a few sprinkles of rain had us heading quickly to the parking lot. As we approached the car, something was wrong. I noticed broken glass on my front seat and then realized the entire window was missing. It was jarring as my brain went from enjoying the beauty of the ocean to the horror that my purse was stolen, my rental car smashed and that criminals had obviously been watching us.

Yes, I learned a thing or two from the experience and luckily I had been somewhat prepared.

My brother explained that he was getting ready for a 10-day trip and wanted to make sure he had taken every precaution. He was smart to think about these things ahead of time.

With summer travel in full swing, here are a few tips that just might prevent this from happening to you, or at least save you time and money if it does.

1. That day I had made the decision to leave my purse but take my cell phone with me. When you can, keep your phone on your person. Try to keep your phone and purse separate as losing both will be devastating.

2. Reduce the number of credit cards you carry with you. If you have more than one credit card and debit card, that’s too many. Just bring the essentials.

3. Make a copy of your cards, front and back. Along with the copies, include the contents of your purse. What do you usually keep in there? A wallet, makeup, checkbook, discount cards, insurance cards, etc. It will be a handy list to use if you need to replace everything. It may also be helpful to authorities. When I returned home from Florida and had to “rebuild” the contents of my purse, it was comforting to have this list. If it’s easier for you, empty your purse on the table and take a picture with your cell phone.

4. Plug the customer service phone number (located on the back of your credit cards) into your contacts in your cell phone. Even though I was on vacation in Florida, it took only a few minutes to cancel all of the credit cards because I had done this. The unlucky thieves didn’t have a chance to use them.

5. Use a “cloud” storage service to store copies of important documents. Keep copies of insurance cards, your driver’s license and other items in a secure file in the cloud so that you can access vital information when you are away. I have access to all of the files in “my documents” on my home computer instantly from my cell phone. I use Microsoft’s Sky Drive and swear by it, but there are many other options out there.

6. Password lock your phone. This one sounds like a no-brainer but you would be surprised by how many people have not taken this step.

7. Be aware of your surroundings. I thought I was being safe by “hiding” my purse under the car seat. The local police informed me that these “rings” of professional thieves watch you the minute you pull into the lot. They are smart and prey on people in situations where they tend to let their guard down. Overland Park Police Officer Michelle Koos recommends that if you have to “hide” something in your car, do it

before

you get to your destination.

Even though my brother doesn’t carry a purse (as I’m sure he would like me to emphasize), he still found these tips helpful. Take the time to go through this list; there’s no easier way to achieve peace of mind. It could mean the difference between a relaxing summer getaway and a vacation filled with regrets.

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