Q: My family and I will be on vacation and staying in a hotel in Santa Monica during the summer. This will be our first time visiting California and we will be renting a vehicle to get around. Do you have any traveling tips and or suggestions for us while we are out there?

A: Welcome and yes, I have a handful of tips and suggestions for you and your family while you spend your vacation in Santa Monica. You mentioned that you plan on renting a vehicle. First, I would like to suggest that whatever rental company you choose make sure your vehicle doesn’t stand out like a car rental. Things to look for would be the license plate frames on your rental vehicle. If the vehicle has the rental company name on the frame, that would be a good indicator that your vehicle is a rental. You also don’t want to have a large paper or sticker on the windshield of your vehicle with the rental company name and vehicle information on it.

The reason for not wanting to have an obvious car rental is because they are frequently targeted by suspects who commit vehicle burglaries. Unfortunately, tourists who visit Santa Monica often leave items of value in their car rentals.

The next suggestion I have is to make sure to lock your vehicle and to roll up all of your windows when you are not using it. Do not leave items of value in your vehicle, whether visible or not. If you are driving to Santa Monica immediately upon arrival, make sure to leave your luggage at your hotel. If you arrive too early and can’t check into your room, ask the hotel if you can leave your luggage at the front desk until they are ready to check you in.

You also want to make sure not to leave personal information inside your vehicle. Secure all passports and or any type of identification with you or in a safe at your hotel. Cell phones, purses and laptops are common items left visible in vehicles, which creates a high possibility that your vehicle will be broken into. Although Santa Monica is a safe area to live and visit, by leaving valuables in your vehicle and/or not locking it, you are opening up the possibility of being victimized. You will find that Santa Monica has a lot to offer and wonderful places to visit. Don’t put a damper on your vacation by becoming an unnecessary victim.

Q: As a tourist I find that parking in Santa Monica is confusing. At times there are multiple signs on top of one another and I can’t seem to figure out if I am legally parked. What can I do?

A: Santa Monica is a busy city with many visitors on a daily basis. I am frequently flagged down by tourists who have the same question and want me to verify for them whether they are legally parked or not. Some suggestions I have is to make sure you read all the signs and not assume that because there are other vehicles parked next to you that they are legally parked. If you happen to find parking at a meter in front of or in close proximity to a restaurant, make sure to check if the parking spot becomes a valet zone at a particular hour. I have seen many tourists and visitors have their vehicles impounded because they did not realize that after a certain time their parking spot was converted into a valet zone.

If you are parking in a residential area, make sure to check if the area is by permit only during specific hours. The signs on the street will indicate so. When parking in city lots that don’t require you to take a ticket before parking, make sure to look for the ticket kiosk in the lot which requires you to pay to park your vehicle. You can chose how long you would like to park and it will tell you the fee. These ticket kiosks can usually be found at the entrances of the lot and sometimes in the middle of the structure.

If it is out of order, I would recommend you call the number indicated on the machine to inform them and have them come out and fix it. If you just leave without paying or contacting the company you risk being issued a citation. If all else fails or if you are uncertain, you can always ask a traffic service officer or call the parking office at (310) 458-8466.

This column was prepared by Neighborhood Resource Officer Marilyn Amiache (Beat 2: Lincoln Boulevard to Ocean Front Walk, Interstate 10 to Ozone Avenue). She can be reached at (424) 200-0682 or marilyn.amiache@smgov.net.

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