Preparing for that long-awaited vacation here or abroad could involve more than just packing your bag and making arrangements for transportation and accommodations. If you are heading overseas, you might need a passport, visas, travel cards, inoculation records and other documents.
It could also mean, for instance, taking a few common-sense precautions to protect home and property against burglars during your holiday. Reports say there is a burglary every 11 seconds in the United States, most of them when the owner is away.
No one can be completely immune, of course, but there are some steps you can take to help safeguard your possessions.
For example, don't advertise your absence by letting milk, mail and newspapers pile up on the porch or doorstep -- cancel deliveries or have someone pick them up. Arrange also to have the lawn mowed -- or snow cleared; it will help make the house look occupied and, besides, you could be sued if someone falls on an icy walk.
Be careful, too, about discussing your vacation plans -- a casual remark to a neighbor or a friend in the shopping center, service station, beauty shop or other public place might be overheard by someone with larceny in his heart. You could find your home stripped when you return.
Here are some other tips that could be helpful:
While airlines require that all baggage carry identification tags, use your business rather than you home address just in case some sharp-eyed thief is checking out the depature lines.
If you live in a small town or city where such service is provided, inform the police and ask them to check the house occasionally. Ask the superintendent or doorman, if you live in an apartment in the city.
Lock all doors and windows, including those in the garage, cellar and attic.
Leve shades only partially drawn and hook up a timer that will turn lights -- and perhaps a radio -- on and off at preset times (though some experts doubt the value of the "light and sound" show where professional thieves are involved).
Leave a key with a relative or neighbor in case of emergency. When possible, provide a copy of your itinerary, including dates, places and telephone numbers, to make it possible to reach you if disaster does strike.
Whether vacationing in the United States or overseas, it's a good idea to check your homeowner and other insurance policies and have them renewed if the expiration date should fall within your vacation period. You also might check the expiration dates on your driver's license, owner registration and credit cards.
With a few exceptions in the Caribbean, and in Mexico, most countries require valid passports from American tourists. Some also demand visas and-or travel cards. Check with your travel agent, the airlines or the streamship company when making reservations. Obtaining visas can take time, especially if several countries are involved.
Passports should be carried on the person -- never packed in a bag or left in a hotel room. It's your best proof of identity and nationality. Keep a record of the number, date and place of issue in a safe place. You will need the information if the passport is lost, stolen or destroyed. In such an event, immediately notify the local police and the neartest U.S. diplomatic mission.
See your doctor and dentist. Have your doctor suggest a first-aid kit and take along a supply of prescribed medicines -- you may not be able to get them some places overseas. And take along an extra pair, of the prescription, if you wear glasses. Don't wait if you should need certain vaccinations -- some are not effective until a certain number of days have elasped and others require a series of shots spaced over several weeks. And there could be unpleasant reactions, too.
It will help smooth the way if you learn something about the language, customs, cultures and currencies of the countries on your intinerary. You will be surprised how much more helpful people will be if you learn such everyday expressions as "good morning," "hello," "please" and "thanks."