When planning a vacation, the last thing anyone thinks about is protecting his or her investment. A vacation is not only a monetary investment but also an investment of time, planning and emotion. To ensure your full enjoyment of your vacation to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area, here are some tips for you to consider when planning your visit.
- When making your reservation, payment should be made via a major credit card. A check or debit card takes money directly from your account. If there is any problem with your accommodation, you can dispute the charge on your credit card.
- Verify the business. When you rent from a private individual you are placing your trust in them to deliver what they promise. Florida's public records laws are some of the best in the nation. You can verify a property manager's real estate license with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation at www.myflorida.com under License Search, Condos and Community Associations.
- Several companies offer travel insurance that can be purchased to protect travelers against things such as trip cancellations, interruptions, bankruptcy, terrorism and other issues. Policies can be purchased over the internet.
- If you aren't comfortable with booking on your own, you can book travel through a travel agent or other travel industry professional. This provides you with someone to contact in case you run into difficulties.
- Check the complaint history of a property with the Pinellas County Consumer Protection Agency at 727-464-6200 or go to www.pinellascounty.org/consumer. Another source is the local Better Business Bureau's business report at www.clearwater.bbb.org.
- Ask friends who have visited the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area about where they stayed.
- Remember the old saying, 'If it's too good to be true, it usually is.'
Even though the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area has not had a direct hit from a major hurricane in the last 150 years and has only been hit by three minor (category 1 or 2) hurricanes during that time, the area maintains an active, updated plan for dealing with a possible storm strike.
Summer Safety Tips
Summer is a popular time to hit the beach. And the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area is the most popular beach destination on Florida's Gulf Coast. The Gulf of Mexico along the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area is perfect for summer fun with its warm water, gentle surf and gradual slope. But the Gulf is a marine environment and the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area CVB encourages everyone to keep these safety tips in mind during their vacation.
- Always wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor containing a high rating such as 15. The sun in Florida is intense, so reapply frequently.
- Drink plenty of water regularly and often. Drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty.
- Red Tide sometimes occurs during the late summer or fall. Beaches are not closed during Red Tide, and you can find out information about outbreaks from local media or FWC's Fish & Wildlife Research Institute (research.myfwc.com). A red tide is a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic alga (plant-like organisms). The organism produces a toxin that can affect the central nervous system of fish. At high concentrations (called a bloom) the organisms may discolor the water. For more information on red tide, click here.
- Never swim alone. Stay within the designated swimming area, ideally within the visibility of a lifeguard. Keep a lookout for aquatic life. Water plants and animals may be dangerous. Avoid patches of plants. Leave animals alone. Sharks are present in the Gulf year-round, but shark bites are rare.
- In the spring and summer, it is recommended that beachgoers do the "Stingray Shuffle" to avoid being stung by rays that dig into the sand in the shallow water to breed. By shuffling your feet as you wade into the surf, you decrease the chance of stepping on a stingray buried under the sand. If stung, go immediately to the nearest lifeguard.
- Use a map and plan your trip before venturing out. Ask for directions from the rental car desk or hotel desk before departing.
- If you become lost, drive to the nearest well-lit public business and ask for directions.
- Always lock your vehicle. If you must leave valuables in the car, always lock them in the trunk or glove compartment so they are out of the way.
- If you are bumped from behind while driving, see flashing headlights or see someone who needs help, do not stop. Drive to the nearest well-lit public area and call 911. You may also dial 911 from a cell phone.
- If your car breaks down, stay with it until help arrives. Raise the hood or tie a white cloth to the door handle. Be cautious if someone seems over-anxious to help, and avoid riding with strangers.
- If you are driving in rain hard enough that you must use the windshield wipers, Florida law requires that you must also turn on your headlights.
- Florida law requires the use of seat belts for all front seat passengers and children under the age of three are required to be in a safety car seat.
- If you plan to drink, take along a designated driver who will remain alcohol free.
- Do not answer the door without verifying whom it is. If a person claims to be an employee, call the front desk and verify. Do not invite strangers into your room.
- Place all valuables in your hotel safe or safe deposit box.
- Check to see that any sliding glass doors, windows and any connecting room doors are locked.