By: Dr. Gary Anderberg


April 11, 2024 — Spring is in the air, and conversations about family vacations will soon be popping up. Here's the question: does risk figure in your vacation plans? We've been doing a little reading lately, and it turns out that not all of the national parks, for example, present the same risks. A few can be downright dangerous. Here are a few helpful hints for selecting the right mix of risk and reward this summer.* Oh yes — we assume you'll be self-insuring the bulk of the risk, but we'll point out a few coverage issues you might want to address along the way.

Let's start with those national parks. It turns out that a few have some serious risk factors.

  • The Great Smoky Mountains: In just the past 10 years, 37 visitors have died on the winding roads, probably from admiring the amazing scenery.
  • Grand Teton: In a word: bears, very big bears. Also Yellowstone.
  • Denali: Ten times the per million visitors death rate as the Great Smokies for two reasons — cold exposure and falls.
  • The Grand Canyon: Falls and, you guessed it, heat exposure.
  • Zion: Falls, period.
  • Mt. Rainier: The most dangerous of all due to falls and avalanches and the occasional freezing to death. And here's some local risk management: the National Park Service strongly recommends that all parties take walkie-talkies.
  • Any place: Remember, the wildlife is wild. Bison, elk, and moose have horns for a reason, and they know how to use them. Even our local Pennsylvania whitetail deer can be dangerous if cornered or startled. Then we have bears. They only look cute. And mountain lions have been getting more aggressive in recent years as well.

We like maps here at the Journal. In recent articles, we have talked about new flood maps and climate change, even new growing zone maps for garden risk management. Well, we have a resource for you for planning your "See the USA" road trip. Check out the wide suite of risk maps at America Dangerous Travel Map. For example, you will find the most hazardous major highways and a whole selection of state and city-level risk information.

Back in, say, 1955, my dad would have the Chevy Bel Air thoroughly checked before a road trip, including air in the spare tire. Modern cars have much longer service intervals, but the home front still has many of the same issues as back then. Here is the list from 1955, with a few more recent additions, on how to secure your home before leaving on vacation:

  • Tell a neighbor or close friend you trust about your travel plans and ask them to keep an eye out.
  • Lock all the doors and windows, including slide blocks for any sliding glass doors.
  • Stop the mail and any newspapers (how 1955).
  • If you'll be gone more than a week, make arrangements for routine gardening upkeep. (What about your pool, if you have one?)
  • Put away all yard tools and stray toys.
  • Set timers on strategically placed interior lights.
  • Check your security cams and alarm system. Make certain any security apps on your phone are working correctly.
  • Make certain that you have access to all of your commonly used passwords when you travel. (And don't leave without that damn charger.)
  • Check 14 Ways to Protect Your Home When You're on Vacation for more ideas.

Early in your planning, check with your homeowners insurance agent or broker to make certain everything is up to date if you haven't done this recently. Are there any short-term riders you might want in place while you're away? Special collections or jewelry, for example. And, lest we forget, make certain that your kids and spouse don't broadcast your vacation plans on social media. Savvy housebreakers are always looking for clues that you'll be away for a couple of weeks.

Part of being a risk manager is sweating the details that other people take for granted. We know that bad things can happen. Like charity, risk mitigation starts at home.

*Domestic excursions only. The biggest risk abroad this summer may be who is or isn't on strike. We learned this one fine day in Italy when Lufthansa had a wildcat pilot strike, leaving us stranded in the Veneto with no way home.


Dr. Gary  Anderberg

Dr. Gary Anderberg

SVP — Claim Analytics

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