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Stay safe on summer vacations

Jul 02, 2018 08:30AM ● Published by Ben Scott

by Ben Scott

Ironically, planning a vacation can be a fairly stressful undertaking– with limited time off and conflicting family schedules, it’s no surprise that 33 percent of Americans spend more time researching their vacations than deciding which doctor to visit (digitaltrends.com). While safety concerns might be the last thing on your mind while organizing a trip, taking a few precautions will help put you at ease and allow you to fully relax while you’re away.            

According to the Batavia Police Department, securing your home is one of the most important steps you can take when getting ready to go on a trip.

“When leaving on extended vacations, residents should consider a number of safety measures to help protect their property in their absence,” said Batavia Police Department Watch Commander Eric Blowers. “General home safety tips like strong, sturdy doors, deadbolt locks and home security systems are vitally important to protect your home while you’re away.”

You’ll also want to make sure your home looks lived in, especially during peak summer vacation months when crime rates rise by about ten percent (safewise.com).

“Mail piling up can be an indicator to a potential burglar that a house is vacant, so residents should stop delivery of their mail and newspapers, or request a trusted neighbor to pick these items up daily,” Blowers said. “Residents should arrange for their lawn to remain trimmed or mowed, or the driveway shoveled in winter months. And it’s also wise to have at least one light on a timer, as well as outside lighting active during low-light hours. Another option for residents is to have motion activated floodlights on the premises.”

Blowers said Batavia residents are welcome to notify the Police Department before leaving, but added that trusted neighbors are the best people to inform about a departure. 

“Trusted neighbors can keep the house under close watch and notify police if anything suspicious is observed.” 

When planning your trip, there are several ways a reputable travel agent can also help make your vacation safer – especially if you’re going on cross-county adventure or plan to travel abroad.

“Always book with a professional agent,” advised Cindy Brown, President of OUI Travel, located at Randall Road’s Jewel Shopping Plaza in Batavia. “As agents we receive updates from reliable sources regarding weather, travel alerts and natural disasters. We are ‘in the know’ and are here to assist.”

Brown said vacationers should always purchase travel insurance that offers 24/7 Travel Assistance.

“This means they will assist you while traveling, solve any unforeseen events such as flight delays, missed connections, baggage delays and loss. Some insurance policies only offer reimbursement once you have returned home and filed a claim. Good travel insurance is your back up plan when something goes wrong.”

Additionally, Brown encouraged travelers to take a photo of their passports and keep a copy in their luggage while traveling abroad; if you lose your passport, a photo can serve as your proof of citizenship when you visit the embassy to have it replaced.

“There is no need to have your passport on your person at all times,” Brown said. “While staying in a hotel, leave your passport in your room safe. Do carry a photo ID with you such as a State ID card or your driver’s license.”

Similarly, Brown recommended travelers take pictures of their prescription medication bottles.

“If you are like me you know you take something for blood pressure, but don’t know the name or dosage. If you need to have it refilled while away from home, these pictures are invaluable. Never pack medications in checked baggage.”

Conversely, some photos can be a detriment to your safety while on vacation—specifically those posted on social media.

“As tempting as posting photos from a trip may be, it also broadcasts to the world that your house is currently unattended,” Officer Blowers added.

Finally, Brown said international travelers should register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Enrollment in the program involves filling out a simple form that advises local embassies of your travel intentions. This free service helps the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest or a family crisis.

Folks traveling abroad have likely had their vacations planned months in advance, but for anyone looking to take an impromptu road trip this summer there countless weekend getaway destinations in Illinois.

“Don’t let the summer slip away without traveling in Illinois, because this time of year brings an exciting energy to the state that’s hard to ignore,” said Cory Jobe, Illinois Office of Tourism Director. “From the rolling hills of southern Illinois to cruising the Great River Road or hiking through Starved Rock Country, Illinois offers amazing places and experiences when you’re looking to escape, unwind and enjoy.” (see sidebar)

If you don’t want to venture too far from home, consider taking a weekend trip to Ottawa this summer, only an hour-long excursion from Batavia via IL-71.

Ottawa is a great weekend getaway. 

 “Nestled along the Illinois and Fox River, Ottawa has become a popular destination for anyone looking to relax and enjoy some ‘me time’ without losing the comforts of life,” said Curt Bedei, Director of the Ottawa Visitors Center. “The downtown offers many shops and unique restaurants, and the architecture, large murals, art and performances bring culture to life.” 

There’s a lot going on in Ottawa in the next couple months, including the 4th of July fireworks display at Ottawa Township High School—one of the largest and most spectacular light shows in central Illinois. “Nestled along the Illinois and Fox River, Ottawa has become a popular destination for anyone looking to relax and enjoy some ‘me time’ without losing the comforts of life,” said Curt Bedei, Director of the Ottawa Visitors Center. “The downtown offers many shops and unique restaurants, and the architecture, large murals, art and performances bring culture to life.”“Nestled along the Illinois and Fox River, Ottawa has become a popular destination for anyone looking to relax and enjoy some ‘me time’ without losing the comforts of life,” said Curt Bedei, Director of the Ottawa Visitors Center. “The downtown offers many shops and unique restaurants, and the architecture, large murals, art and performances bring culture to life.” 

Galena’s iconic 19th century downtown draws visitors year round.

Whether you’re taking a short weekend trip to Ottawa or going on a cross-country road trip, you’ll want to make sure your vehicle is in peak condition. The science and technology magazine Popular Mechanics notes that fluids are the lifeblood of any car; check your car’s six essential fluids (oil, radiator fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, transmission fluid and windshield fluids ) before you leave and decide what needs attention. Service intervals on each of these fluids depend on mileage, so consider how far you’ve driven and how far you plan to drive on your road trip. Oil, for instance, should be changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, while transmission fluid can last for 60,000 miles or more.

Of course, dependable tires are essential to any successful road trip. Underinflated tires will waste gas, while overinflated tires make ride quality worse because they’re less compliant. Check your tire pressure every 1,000 miles—a few times, depending on the length of your trip. Additionally, you should have your tires rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles and replaced every 25,000 to 50,000 miles. Other general car maintenance should include replacing worn brake pads, clogged air filters (about every 12,000 miles) and burnt out light bulbs (an easy way to get pulled over on a road trip!).

Try ziplining in Shawnee Natural Forest.

 You’ll also want to take a few safety precautions once you’re out on the road. Make sure you have a fully stocked car emergency kit that includes a first aid kit, flashlight, flares or reflective triangles, seat belt cutter and window breaker. Before long drives, get enough sleep and eat a snack or meal for energy, and pull over and take breaks every couple hours even if you don’t feel tired. If you can, share the driving responsibility with someone else; this will allow you to keep an eye on each other while driving and enable you to nap without losing time. Or, if you’re driving alone, turn on the radio or crack the window to keep yourself awake.

If you’re involved in an accident, move to a secure ground where you can call 911. To avoid more damage, turn on your car’s hazard lights and lay your reflective lights or flares. Even if you’re involved in a minor crash, it’s wise to get the police involved and fill out an accident report (be sure to secure a copy of this report). You should also photograph and document the crash—shots of the accident scene will help give a perspective to the event and will assist you in making your case if there’s a dispute with another driver.

With so much going on in Batavia this summer – Windmill City Festival, the 4th of July Sky Concert, the Taste of Batavia Block Party and the downtown Batavia Farmers Market number among many the city’s many fantastic events –  it’s a wonder anyone would ever want to leave. But no matter how idyllic your hometown, it’s a fact of life that everyone needs a vacation. Take a few precautions before your next trip and ensure your vacation is a safe and happy one!

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