Are you still cleaning up after another crazy winter storm that brought substantial snow to many areas Of New England? You’ve put up with the shoveling and the driving part – now with school vacation week ahead of us, it’s time for the fun part. We’ve put together a variety of activities to help you get out there and enjoy the snow. And for all the non-snow bunnies in the crowd, we suggest some other kid-friendly activities too. Just be sure to brush up on some safe winter driving tips before you head out.
There’s a few weeks left to summer and August is a big beach month. One of the most highly touted scare stories each season are the shark attack reports. Here in New England, people may be more nervous than usual in the light of a pretty horrific recent white shark attack off Cape Cod. Thankfully, this encounter between man and beast was not fatal – you can hear the survivor talk about his experience.
It’s understandable why these events are riveting – it’s the stuff of our nightmares. But should it be? This was the first confirmed white shark attack in Massachusetts in 76 years. For all the media attention they get, shark attacks are pretty rare. Ocean observers tell us that you have more of a risk of dying from a sand hole collapse than a shark attack but you probably aren’t having nightmares about sand castles. But maybe you should be.
Another very common hazard at the ocean are rip currents. Beach-goers should be alert for these narrow, powerful channels of water that pull swimmers directly away from a beach. They can occur at any beach with breaking waves, sadly illustrated by the recent drownings in Lake Michigan and the Toronto area. According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association, more than 80 percent of water rescues on surf beaches are due to rip current and they account for about 100 drownings per year.
You can learn more about rip currents at the National Weather Service Rip Current Safety site. There’s a lot of information, current rip current weather alerts, and safety tips and resources to educate you and your kids.
Back in the old days before the ubiquitous internet, travelers had few choices as to lodgings. There were hotels, motels, B&Bs, short term vacation rental cottages, and the ever popular time shares and that was about it. Over the last decade, though, many more options have been added. To just mention two of the largest contemporary options, Couchsurfing offers you the chance to stay with like-minded people all over the world while Airbnb gives everyone the opportunity to run their own part time bed and breakfast. And then there is a growing number of home swap services, where you literally exchange homes with another family for a week or even more. These nontraditional vacation options are growing by leaps and bounds and you may even be considering joining one or another.
Couchsurfing works more like a social network than a rental. Couchsurfers pay no money when they vacation but are expected to host in their turn. Airbnb, on the other hand, is much more traditional: the host rents out a portion or all of their home, ranging from a guest bedroom to a fully equipped apartment or house, for a short period of time. Both services rely on detailed profiles filled out by both hosts and guests, listing everything from music preferences to pet issues to information about the hosts’ city. Both hosts and guests are free to accept or decline any offer as they wish and both services recommend reading profiles carefully and speaking with prospective guests in advance of any rental. Home swap services are more like couchsurfing in that they ordinarily do not involve any money but instead are a straightforward trade: you get their house and they get yours.
While there is no shortage of glowing recommendations for all these services to be found online, accidents do happen and issues do arise. Before you decide to hand your home over to strangers you should be sure you’re covered in the eventuality of any problems. The Insurance Information Institute strongly recommends that you speak with your insurance agent before you rent out any portion of your home, noting that traditional homeowners policies may well not cover any damages incurred by paying guests. You may need either an endorsement to your homeowner’s policy or a separate business policy. In either case, make sure you’re covered before you join the rental service so that you can travel with a light heart.
Summer vacation is always fun but there are some steps that you should take ensure that your home is protected.
1. Secure your property. Check to be sure all doors and windows are locked. Bring in valuables and any outside furniture that might be damaged in a heavy storm. If you have an alarm system, motion detectors, or outside lighting, be sure they are set for while you are away.
2. Avoid giving signals that you are away. Try to make things look as normal as they would if you were at home. Cancel mail and newspapers so they don’t pile up. Use timers to turn on lights at night. Arrange to have grass mowed.
3. Be cautious with sharing on social networks. Unless your friends list is strictly limited to family and a few trusted friends, don’t announce your travel plans on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. Be careful about checking in with FourSquare or other services that give your location away. Be cautious about posting and sharing real-time updates and photos that telegraph the information that your home is empty.
4. Ask a neighbor or relative to keep an eye on your property while you are away. Leave contact information and a key for emergencies. A trusted neighbor might even leave a bag of trash in front of your house on trash day or occasionally park in your driveway.
5. Check your home and auto insurance before you go away to ensure that your coverage is up to date and that you have adequate coverage. Know what policies you have and with what insurers. Make sure that you bring your insurance agent’s telephone number in case you need it while away.
If you’re planning a trip to a vacation home, it’s a good idea to think about insurance coverage before you go. Whether you plan to vacation in a second home or visit a time share, a rental property, or a home exchange, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers useful vacation home and property insurance considerations.
It’s a good idea to check your policies to be clear about the extent of what they will and won’t cover while you are traveling and staying in some type of temporary lodging – generally, a Homeowners policy will extend some coverage for your personal belongings. Also, be sure to review any trip or travel benefits or coverage that might be available from your credit card.
If you have a second home for vacation use, the insurance issues require more consideration. Homeowners coverage for a second home can vary significantly from the terms in your principal home’s insurance policy and requirements may be different if you are in a different state or a different area. Your coverage needs will vary depending on how often your home is occupied and whether the home is for your own use – owner occupied – or whether you rent it to others. You may need additional coverage if your vacation home is a waterfront property or if it is located in an area that is subject to natural disasters such as hurricanes or floods. You may also need additional coverage such as boat insurance or “named peril” insurance.
We often don’t think about insurance until we need it – and then, it can be too late. If you haven’t considered the insurance issues related to a second vacation home or to temporary vacation lodging, you might want to give your agent a call.