This post was written by Jean LeStourgeon

Before we headed out on our month long vacation to the Southwest, we thought it a good idea to identify some travel safety tips that we should be aware of and everyone can use. Already, on day one we encountered a need for a little refresher course when we experienced a sticky situation in the Cracker Barrel parking lot near Macon Georgia. More about that in our tip number 5 on dealing with panhandlers. Between Alan and I we came up with these tips to hopefully help our trip go more smoothly. After all, when going on vacation, the less drama the better. Here they are:

1.) Look before opening car doors. When on the road there are all kinds of hazards you don’t realize. For example, opening car doors in rest area parking lots without looking can be a health and vehicle hazard. Rest area parking spots are notoriously angular and narrow. Hence, after traveling for a few hundred miles, the tendency is to pull into the parking space, swing open the door and step out without looking – this mainly is due to highway hypnosis. The brain is on auto pilot at this point and all the faculties are not fully engaged. So travelers must be intentional. Before swinging your door into another vehicle coming up along side of you or slamming it into a person or unknowingly stepping out into harms way, look beside and behind you before opening your car door and making that mad dash to the rest rooms.

2.) Stop, look around and listen. This is good advice for crossing train tracks as well as traveling to unfamiliar places. Whether it be a gas station, a rest area, a hotel or other stopping point along the way, it is important to get your bearings. Before you get out of your car, look around 360 degrees. Check to see if anything looks suspicious or out of place.

3.) Parking. If you can, always park in a well lit area that is out in the open. Don’t park next to other vehicles if possible. This way you can easily see 360 degrees around your vehicle. Definitely be cautious if there is a van or other vehicle parked next to yours and you cannot see clearly in to the vehicle because of tinted or covered windows.

4.) Use the buddy system. At one of the first stops we made, I had to get something out of the back seat. As I was reaching into the vehicle, I realized my back was completely to the outside and if someone had walked up behind me I never would have seen them. Thankfully, Alan had my back. He was standing behind me looking left and right making sure there were no signs of danger.

5.) Panhandler caution. They seem to pop up out of no where. This is what happened at the Cracker Barrel near Macon, Georgia, but the truth be told, it happens to us frequently in Melbourne as well. We were walking to our car after finishing lunch, when a man seemed to come out of nowhere. He flagged us down, walked up to us, extended his hand, introduced himself saying he was a Christian and was out of work and earnestly asked us for prayer. Next he asked for money to buy himself something to eat. When Alan offered to buy him some food, he immediately change his song and dance. Now he explained, he needed money and not food because he did not have time to waste, he was waiting for the bus. When Alan insisted that he would not give him money, Dr. Jekyll tuned into Mr. Hyde and began accusing us of not caring about him and demanded to know why we would not help him.  Alan, being the very astute person that he is and wanting to protect us, immediately told me to go to the truck and get inside. As we got in the truck and drove away, we observed Dr. Jekyll emerging once again as he made his way around the parking lot to gain sympathy from some of the other patrons.

Be very careful stopping to help others especially when they approach you. Although we want to be good Samaritans, it is important to have a plan for dealing with such situations. We are always willing to pray for others and to buy a stranger who is down and out some food or help them in practical ways, but we do not give cash to strangers. If you offer food to a stranger and they insist on money instead, that is a good indication they aren’t all that hungry and may use the money to feed a bad habit. Fortunately in this case, Mr. Hyde, though agitated did not escalate any further when we walked away. But if he had we were also prepared for that with…

6.) Bear Pepper Spray. Since we will be hiking and traveling to parts unknown (at least to us), the last of our personal travel safety tips was to purchase Bear Pepper Spray. This stuff is powerful and will knock a bear off its feet at 10 yards with one pull of the trigger. This stuff is not cheap, but for about $40 a can it is worth the investment. Not only will it incapacitate a charging momma bear you’ve crossed, but it will completely incapacitate a human and make them cry like a baby, while you run like the dickens the other way.

As part of your vacation planning, take some time with your family or co-travelers and discuss travel safety. These are but 6 travel safety tips that will help you have more peace of mind as you vacation locally or nationally.


One Response to “6 Simple Travel Safety Tips”

  1. S says:

    Reading this post shows me that I need to discuss parking lot safety with my kids. Thanks for the reminder!

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