Spring break is here and all over BC households are heading out on vacation. And while it’s a time to fulfill wanderlust dreams, your trip can result in inconvenience or an outright nightmare if necessary precautions aren’t taken. To make sure it’s more of the former, Park has updated our annual list of spring break safety tips. Before you pack your bags and head for the road or airport, read ahead.
4 More Things Your Household Needs to Do to Make Sure It’s Protected from Harm, Damage, and Liability this Spring Break
1. Get More Comprehensive Travel Medical Coverage
You may have skipped or skimped on travel medical when taking trips in the past, but don’t let uneventful history lull you into a false sense of security. Things are different in 2019, with climate change and political unrest making a wide variety of destinations both across the border and sea riskier than ever before. Plus, companies are making cut backs, including on corporate medical coverage. That means the small print in your policy may remove comprehensive travel coverage for you and your family. These are just some of the five new reasons to update your travel medical for spring break this year.
2. Recognize the New Road Safety Threats
We provided a detailed checklist of spring season driver safety tips last year, and they all apply, however it’s time for a brief addendum. What’s changed? For one, the legalization of cannabis across Canada. This has added another layer of concern to the pavement to and from your city or town, whether you’re driving across the provincial or international border (cannabis was legalized on Washington State too).
In addition, smartphone addiction has now been diagnosed and known to affect approximately 40% of the population. That proportion includes a very significant number of drivers who will be sharing the road with you this spring break.
Automobile theft is also a concern at this time of the year for road travelers. The BC Crime Prevention Association reports that thieves will often take a car out of the province or country. So when you take your’s out of province or country, you do them a favor by bringing it directly to them. Your “out of town” plates paint a bullseye on your vehicle, so be especially diligent when it comes to parking. You may save money by parking in a public lot when compared to your hotel (which is often between $30-50 night) but it’s best to chalk the hotel lot up to the cost of your vacation, and not created added risk of break-in or theft.
3. BE AWARE OF NEW SHORT TERM RENTAL AMENDMENTS
We have also addressed liability protection for homeowners who plan on putting their house or condo on the short term rental (STR) market via platforms such as Airbnb when they are on spring break. However, in 2019 things are evolving as zoning bylaw amendments for short-term rental accommodations are popping up all over BC. It all started in Vancouver, after spring break 2018 (April) when City bylaws updated to require that hosts obtain a business license, and that a landlord can only rent out their own principal residence. Others are gradually following suit. For instance, in the Okanagan, Kelowna has put forth an amendment that states residents looking to operate a short-term rental would also need to obtain a business license. Victoria is also asking that STR units be assessed as commercial, and not residential, properties. This could certainly change the game when it comes to liability coverage. Before you book other spring breakers into your home, check to see if there have been any recent zoning bylaw amendments for your BC city/town, and follow up with a broker to make sure you have the appropriate insurance coverage. If you’re unsure, it may be best to hold off on renting because enforcement is expected to pick up this season.
4. SPRING BREAK CYBERCRIME
The risk of falling victim to cybercrime increases during spring break too. For one, you’re not at home or the office so you may be using public WiFi for a wide variety of transactions. By nature, public WiFi is highly vulnerable to hackers, so avoid it when possible, even if it means eating up your carrier’s data charges to make an important transaction, if you must. The best alternative is to use the WiFi at the home of a trusted friend or family member’s place of residence (where applicable) or in-suite hotel WiFi, versus that of the lobby. Still, manage your finances (bank deposits, eTransfers, online bill payments, etc.) and book activities and attractions (where credit cards are needed) from the sanctity of home before you head for your destination.
Also, be more diligent in calling in to check your transactions. Hackers know that when you’re on vacation both you and credit card companies will be less likely to recognize “strange” transactions as you use your card(s) for different purchases. Take 2-minutes out of your day to check your balances and most recent transactions, just to be sure.
Finally, we must address something that should be obvious but isn’t. Walk into any Apple (or Samsung, Microsoft, etc.) retail store and more often than not you’ll find that one or more of the public-use devices have personal Gmail or social media profiles open. Public users either forgot to sign out, or accidentally checked “remember password” on the device, and have now compromised their profiles for all who wander in to see. Never, ever, sign in to your accounts from retail tech shops found in major tourist centers across the continent.
Lastly, be sure to update your homeowners and automobile insurance policies before you take your spring break vacation. Contact an independent broker at Park Insurance today for a consultation.