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If the mercury is approaching (or maybe even topping) 100 degrees and the kids are out of school, then it must be Summertime – cue the Will Smith!!!  The long days and pleasant temperatures mean this is the season for taking that hard-earned vacation, and whether you’re heading out to rediscover America’s highways and byways in an RV, setting off for that Caribbean cruise, or backpacking through Europe, there are a few relatively simple steps you can take to make sure your dream vacation doesn’t turn into a nightmare.  With all due respect to David Letterman, here are my top 10 tips:
10) Read the Fine Print!  Package tours, vacation home leases, auto rental agreements and travel insurance documents all require you to sign a complex legal document. The fine print often limits the liability of the other party and selects a jurisdiction should legal action become necessary. Some travel packages or rental agreements may involve large sums of money and non-refundable deposits.  You may even want to consider having an attorney review some of these agreements ahead of time to avoid any unwelcome surprises.
9) Know the Cell Phone Laws.  Some states completely forbid the use of a cell phone while driving; others allow hands-free devices while specifically forbidding texting.  The bottom line is that every state is different and the laws (and punishments) are in no way uniform.  If you are hitting the open road, take a look the laws of the states where you will be traveling.  A little research can help you avoid a pricey ticket (or even a trip in the back of a police cruiser).
8) Protect Your Home While You’re Away.  Make sure your house is locked and the alarm is armed. Ask the post office to hold your mail while you’re away.  Put your newspaper subscription (if you still have one) on hold until you get back.  Ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your house while you’re gone.  If you don’t trust your neighbors, then you may instead want to notify local law enforcement that you will be away from home.  Many police departments have programs that will have an officer drive by your home while you are away.  Finally, I know it’s hard, but try not to brag on Twitter or Facebook about the great vacation you’re taking until you get back from your vacation. Thieves have been known to comb social media for information they can use to target victims who are out of town.
7) Make Sure Your License, Registration, and Insurance Are CurrentNothing can end the freedom of that summer road trip then getting pulled over and then realizing that your driver’s license and/or vehicle registration is expired.  Don’t make a stupid mistake.  Double check the expiration dates on these documents, and make sure you have your proof of insurance with you!
6) Beware of Summer Travel Scams.  If you are approached or contacted by a stranded traveler with a hard luck story, beware!  It may not really be Kevin McAllister’s mom trying to get back home to rescue the 8-year-old son she left “home alone.”  It may be a scammer.  Also watch out for companies contacting you on behalf of a buyer offering to purchase your timeshare for a windfall profit.  These scammers will pressure you to pay costs they claim are required for you to close the sale, and then disappear with your money.  Be wary of anyone seeking a wire transfer of funds, as it will be impossible to recover your money after a wire transfer is complete.
5) Don’t Drink and Drive – Ever.  This one sort of goes without saying.  Go out and have your fun, but either designate a driver or plan on taking public transportation (or a taxi, or an Uber) to get back to the hotel.  Remember that no matter which state you are traveling through, drinking and driving is illegal, dangerous, and comes with a variety of harsh punishments. Same goes for drugged driving as well – even if you’re in Colorado or Washington, where recreational marijuana is legal.
4) Understand Airport Security Regulations. The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) website offers a great deal of information about what you can and cannot take with you when you flyTaking the time to look at this info before you are in the security line will help you avoid being forced to leave behind a valuable item at the security checkpoint, and will save you time getting through screening.
3) Think Carefully About What You Carry.  Only carry the personal documentation necessary for traveling.  Don’t let your passport or other important documents out of your sight.  Avoid carrying large amounts of cash while traveling.  Traveler’s checks and credit cards offer more protection in the event of theft.  Contact your bank and credit card company to let them know you will be traveling and check on your credit limits.  If you are exchanging money, use only authorized agents or banks.  Keep photocopies of your passport and credit card information at home in the event you need the information for an emergency.
2) If You’re Traveling to Another State or Country, Make Sure You Understand Local Laws.  Traffic and other laws may vary greatly, especially outside the country. It is important to familiarize yourself with laws and customs of any other state or country where you may travel.  Make sure you don’t just go with rumors about “what you heard” was legal in a given location.  For example, many people believe prostitution is completely legal throughout the State of Nevada.  This isn’t true.  In some counties, it is prohibited entirely.  In the counties where it is legal, it is only permitted in licensed brothels.
1) Protect Your FamilyLeave a trusted friend or family member with a copy of your current trust, will, power of attorney and insurance documents. If you do not have a current estate plan, then you are in luck!  We are currently discounting our estate plans by 25%, but you must move forward by June 10th.  Please contact me or visit our website at www.kkoslawyers.com for more details.