Travel tips to save you time and keep you safe

With the end of year approaching, and people planning trips both locally and abroad, Moneybags journalist Jessica Anne Wood looks at some travel tips to save you time and keep your family safe over the festive season.

Safety tips for the road

If you are going to be on the road while on holiday (whether it is driving down to your holiday destination or renting a car to get around once you arrive at your destination), it is important to always be aware of what is going on around you. This is especially true when driving on wet roads.

The Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) highlights: “A wet road might only have half as much grip as a dry road. Motorists need to give thought to earlier braking, slower cornering speeds and looking further ahead.”

In addition to the driver, there are a number of factors of the vehicle that drivers need to be aware of that can affect a car’s performance and safety, especially on wet roads. “Roadholding can be further affected by worn shock absorbers or poor wheel alignment, meaning the driver is less likely to be able to avoid another driver’s error.  One of the main dangers in the wet is when the tread on the tyres is no longer able to channel away water, and the tyre lifts off the road surface and starts to skim across the water like a speedboat. This ‘aquaplaning’, as it’s called, can happen at slow speeds with little water on the road if a vehicle’s tyres are badly worn. But even new tyres can aquaplane if the road is awash and the vehicle’s speed is high enough,” points out the AA.

Proper visibility in the rain is also an important aspect to consider before a road trip. Ensure that your windscreen wipers aren’t worn, and if you are caught in the rain and your windscreen fogs up, turning on your air conditioner will quickly demist it, reveals the AA.

“Wet weather requires slower speeds, better observation and a properly-roadworthy vehicle. The safest drivers in wet weather are those who sensibly adapt to the conditions,” adds the AA.

Keep your house safe while you are away

While your focus may be on the trip ahead, there are a number of things you need to consider before leaving for your vacation. Samsonite, an international luggage brand, notes that one of your first consideration when going on holiday as, ‘is your house going to be safe?’

“The key to keeping your house safe is to show signs of life even if nobody is there. Ask someone to go inside once in a while, leave a light on, have your neighbour take the mail out of the mailbox, set a timer to turn on the lights in the evening, [and any other tricks to make it appear as if there is someone in the house],” says Samsonite.

In addition, it is also wise to be selective with what you post on social media. While you may want the world to know about the holiday you are about to go on, this also informs people that your house will be empty, which could result in negative consequences.

Always have cash on you

Despite your best plans, something can go wrong when you are on holiday. Possibly one of the biggest problems to encounter while away is losing your wallet, credit and debit cards and/or any cash you may have. When travelling (particularly when travelling abroad where replacement cards and cash might not be so easy to come by) it is advisable to avoid storing all of your cash or bank cards in one place.

“Store some cash or a bank card in a different place as a back-up plan should your wallet be stolen, so you don’t find yourself stranded in that beautiful holiday destination with no money to spend,” says Samsonite.

Plan before you pack

When travelling, whether it is down to the coast over the summer break, or overseas, you can’t always take everything that you would like to with you. That is where planning comes in.

Before you make any final decisions on what you are wanting to take with you on your holiday, do your research on the weather in the region, as well as any activities that you may want to take part in. Even though it may be the middle of summer and glorious sunshine in South Africa when you leave, your destination might have a different temperature or climate, such as cold weather and rain or snow.

Ensure that you pack clothing that is appropriate for your destination, including any special clothing or equipment for any activities that you may want to participate in.

Getting packed

Samsonite suggests drawing up a list of all items that you would like to take with on your holiday, and then marking off the items that you cannot do without. If you still have space in your suitcase once all the essentials are packed, you can add in some of the other items on your list.

When deciding on what clothing items to pack (this may be more pertinent to women) try to pack a capsule wardrobe. This means that you will be able to mix and match your wardrobe, so you don’t need to pack a top to go with every pair of shorts or trousers that you pack. Consider packing items that you can dress up or down to suit any occasion.

There are certain items that you might be able to leave behind when you go away. Many hotels and other types of holiday accommodation supply items such as towels and hairdryers, meaning that you won’t have to lug your hairdryer (which can weigh a lot) to the hotel, just to find out that you didn’t need to pack it. Phone ahead to check what the hotel supplies to save you space when packing.

Weight also plays a factor in packing when you are taking a plane. If you are going somewhere with a cooler climate and need a heavy jacket or are wanting to pack your hiking boots, consider wearing them on the plane or taking them as hand luggage to allow you to pack more in your suitcase.

When it finally comes time to pack your suitcase, be smart about it. Samsonite advises that you pack larger, heavier items at the base of the suitcase to avoid them breaking or damaging any delicate items that you may be packing.

If you are taking any toiletries along with you, place these in plastic bags to prevent them from damaging your clothing if they leak during transportation.

Sorting out your luggage

There are a few things to keep in mind when packing your luggage for a trip.

According to Samsonite, if you are planning an overseas trip to the United States, rather than investing in a standard lock for your checked luggage, buy a TSA (Transportation Security Administration) approved lock, as the American TSA security officers in the airport have a universal key to open these locks. “This ensures that airport security don’t just cut off your lock and leave your luggage unlocked.”

If you are catching a flight, either locally or internationally, personalising your luggage will make it easier to identify when it is on the carousel with possibly hundreds of other suitcases. One of the ways you can do this is to add a colour ribbon to the straps of your bag.

One thing I notice a lot when in airports is that a lot of people have black luggage and many attach a red ribbon to a strap to help them identify it, so red might not be the best colour to go for if you are wanting to spot your bag in a crowd.

What to keep on you when you travel

There are certain items that you should keep on you when you travel. These include necessary and important documents, such as identification documents and passports, as well as any valuable items that may be easily stolen. For example, if you are wanting to take jewellery on holiday with you, either wear what you are wanting to take when you travel, or pack it in your hand luggage where you can always keep an eye on your bag.

If you have any fragile items that you are transporting when you fly, Samsonite notes that it is best to pack these in your hand luggage.

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