48 spring break insurance considerations and safety tips

spring break


Mar 15, 2016 | By Jayleen R. Heft, PropertyCasualty360.com

Spring break is a great time for families and students to relax and unwind from the stresses of school and home life. As millions of adults and kids embark on trips across the globe to celebrate the return of spring after a long, cold winter, keep these insurance considerations and safety tips in mind:

Follow safe driving practices.

During the weeks of spring break — with children out of school and families taking vacation – there’s a good chance that traffic will increase on roadways. Slow down— especially in bad weather, construction areas, heavy traffic and unfamiliar areas.

Be aware that local law enforcement will likely be enhancing road safety enforcement efforts during spring break, looking for speeders, drunk drivers and seat-beat violators.

It’s also important to follow the following road safety tips:

  1. Eliminate distractions while driving, including the usage of mobile devices.
  2. Buckle up everyone in the vehicle — it’s the law.
  3. Don’t drive fatigued, and allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
  4. Drive defensively, as spring break travel may present additional challenges.
  5. Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained before your trip begins.
  6. For a road trip, you may want to consider purchasing additional auto insurance coverage, like a roadside assistance program, in case you run into any problems out on the road.
  7. If you are in a foreign country, know ahead of time if your license and insurance will be valid in that country.

If traveling internationally, register with the State Department.

  1. Register with the U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department so there is record of where you are in case an emergency arises. Registration only takes a few minutes.

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to receive important information from the embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans. In case of an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest or family emergency, the U.S. embassy will also be able to contact you.

Protect yourself against theft, including identity theft and fraud.

Theft can be a concern when traveling. The risk of identity theft increases in foreign countries because travelers tend to carry sensitive documents, such as passports, driver’s licenses, and bank cards, in unfamiliar circumstances.

  1. If your passport is stolen or you face an emergency, U.S. embassies and consulates are available to help 24/7. Write down the contact information for the U.S. embassy or consulate in your destination country.
  2. Never leave valuables in plain view in your car. Lock items in your trunk before reaching your destination.
  3. Avoid first-floor hotel rooms because they are bigger targets for thieves.
  4. Always lock your hotel room door and windows.
  5. Don’t leave personal documents in your hotel room, because you don’t know exactly who might gain entrance. Always lock your passport, credit cards and any other sensitive documents in a hotel safe when not needed. Stowing your license or passport in a money belt when you go out is also a much safer option.
  6. Safety has a lot to do with what you pack when traveling abroad. Don’t bring flashy valuables such as expensive jewelry or watches.
  7. Don’t carry large quantities of cash. If you do have mostly cash, always keep part of your cash in your hotel safe and the rest of it in two locations on your person. That way if you are mugged or robbed, you won’t lose everything.
  8. If you need to use an ATM, be aware that tourists are often targeted for a crime of opportunity. Always go in groups to an ATM and have your family or friends watch your back. Try to use the ATM during the day time. When you approach the ATM machine, do a complete 360, looking completely around to make sure no one is hanging around that shouldn’t be. Always be on the lookout and if your gut is telling you something isn’t quite right, go to another ATM!
  9. Take at least two credit cards or debit cards with you. Keep one on your person and one in the hotel safe. Make photocopies of the front and back of all cards and keep in your safe and/or leave this with someone at home. If your card is stolen or lost, this will make canceling the card much easier.
  10. Let your credit card companies and bank know that you’re traveling so they won’t put a freeze on your account when they see charges from an unfamiliar location.
  11. Don’t carry a checkbook. A checkbook is like hitting the jackpot for an identity thief because of all the personal information it contains, as well as bank routing numbers and account numbers.
  12. Institute a password for your mobile device, so thieves won’t be able to access it should it get stolen. Also, log out of any apps that have you automatically logged in, especially banking and social media apps.
  13. When using the public Wi-Fi network in your hotel room or at a cafe, make sure you don’t access any sensitive information. Refrain from logging into your e-mail, checking your bank statement or typing your Social Security or credit card number.
  14. Watch out for scam artists. Avoid high-pressure sales, and never go off to a secluded location with someone who wants to sell you something.

Drink responsibly and party smart.

  1. If you decide to drink, know the liquor laws of wherever you’ll be vacationing.
  2. Never leave your drink unattended. If you lose sight of it, order a new one. Drugs can be put into any drink, including non-alcoholic drinks.
  3. Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know or trust.
  4. Don’t drink from open beverage sources like punch bowls, pitchers or tubs.
  5. If you or one of your companions sees or feels the signs of being drugged — such as extreme wooziness, confusion, difficulty standing, or slurred speech — get to a safe place immediately and if the symptoms are severe, go to a hospital.

Stay safe in the water.

Jumping into the ocean without a lifeguard is putting yourself at risk.

  1. Always swim with a buddy. Even the most experienced swimmer can get caught in an undertow. If you are caught in a rip current, don’t bother swimming against it. Instead, swim parallel to shore until the rip passes.
  2. In any natural body of water, be aware that you can’t always tell how deep the water is. Don’t dive if you don’t know for sure how deep the water is. Diving in too shallow of waters can lead to serious accidents.
  3. Be careful in hotel or motel pools when overseas because drain systems are not always up to U.S. standards.

Consider obtaining travel insurance.

A number of unexpected things could put a damper on your spring break travels. Travel insurance insures your financial investment in your trip.

  1. Travel insurance policies can provide coverage if:
  • You get sick or injured.
  • You are involved in a car accident.
  • Severe weather or a natural disaster causes travel cancellations.
  • Your baggage is delayed or lost.
  • You incur missed flight connections or cancellation charges imposed by airlines.

Be aware that travel insurance plans often exclude coverage for trips to places where a travel advisory has been issued, so choose your destination carefully.

Since travel insurance is a temporary insurance product, there is generally no underwriting period or medical examination required. You can get a quote online, buy with a credit card, print your e-mail confirmation, and you’re all done.

Know your out-of-state and overseas medical insurance coverage.

Medical care is expensive no matter where you travel, but if you travel outside your health insurance network you could be paying far higher out-of-network rates. If you travel outside the country — to Mexico, for example — your medical insurance is likely invalid so you’ll be paying for your medical care with cash or a credit card.

Unfortunately, most student health policies don’t cover individuals once they leave U.S. soil.

  1. Ask your medical insurance company if your policy is valid overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as an emergency room visit or medical evacuation. If it doesn’t, consider purchasing supplemental insurance — travel medical insurance covers costs of medical attention you may need while abroad. A medical evacuation from Cancun to the U.S. can cost as much as $50,000, according to Travel Insurance Review.
  2. Find out if your health insurance company pays for expenses if you don’t get advance approval for treatment.
  3. If your health insurance policy provides coverage outside the U.S., the U.S. Department of State reminds travelers to carry both your insurance policy identity card as proof of such insurance and a claim form.

Make physical safety a priority.

  1. Be aware of your surroundings, and take general precautions.
  2. If you’re robbed, do not resist. Give up any money, jewelry or other valuables. Call 9-1-1 (or local police) as soon as you can.
  3. Obey all local laws, and remember they might be different from our own.
  4. Don’t carry or use drugs, as this can result in severe penalties.
  5. Don’t carry weapons — some countries have strict laws, and even possessing something as small as a pocketknife or a single bullet can get you into legal trouble.
  6. Those traveling to Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Cape Verde or the Pacific Islands should be aware of travel notices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding the Zika virus.

Bonus tip: If you find yourself in a legal jam while overseas, contact the closest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.

If Mexico is your destination …

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain places in Mexico because of threats to safety and security posed by organized criminal groups in the country. U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery by organized criminal groups in various Mexican states.

  1. U.S. citizens are encouraged to lower their personal profiles and to avoid displaying indicators of wealth such as expensive-looking jewelry, watches or cameras.
  2. Maintain awareness of their surroundings and avoid situations in which you may be isolated or stand out as a potential victim.
  3. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes.
  4. Of particular safety concern are casinos, sports books or other gambling establishments, and adult entertainment establishments.
  5. Carjacking and highway robbery are serious problems in many parts of the border region.

Additional spring break safety tips while in Mexico:

  1. Mexico’s drinking age is 18. Public drunkenness, disturbing the peace and indecent or lewd behavior are against the law.
  2. The emergency telephone number in Mexico is 0-6-6 (not 9-1-1). You do not need a phone card to call this number from a public telephone.
  3. Only use licensed and regulated taxis. When in doubt, ask the hotel, club or restaurant staff to summon a legitimate taxi for you.

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