Teen safety in Europe

Q My teenage son is traveling to Europe this summer. I have never been there myself and worry a little about his safety. What tips can I give him to keep him safe -- and to ease my mind?

A Rest assured that travel in Europe is generally safe. There are no guarantees -- overseas or down the block -- but your son is unlikely to face serious threat or bodily harm. On the other hand, petty crime, such as pickpocketing, is common in some tourist areas and, generally speaking, tourists make ready targets.

I'd encourage your son to look alert, walk with confidence and to blend in; no Twins caps, please. Also, you should keep copies of his passport, bank cards and any tickets he may have, in the event the originals are lost or stolen. Suggest he use a money belt and avoid especially crowded buses and trains. Perhaps most important, he should always be aware of his surroundings, which means not drinking beer or wine (or at least not excessively), even though he will legally be able to do so in many countries if he is at least 16.



Do warnings deter travel?

In April alone, the U.S. State Department issued nine travel warnings, cautioning Americans about the risk of being victims of violence while traveling in places like Iraq, Syria and Mexico. But it seems few Americans completely change their travel plans in response to such warnings, according to a new online poll conducted by the Minneapolis-based travel company Travel Leaders. Of the 1,000 Americans surveyed, 14 percent said a travel warning from the State Department would have no effect on their plans, and about 20 percent said a warning would have very little effect. Only 18 percent of those surveyed said they would completely alter their travel plans in response to such warnings. The remaining 47 percent said the warnings would have some effect but not enough to make them cancel travel plans altogether. The poll was conducted March 10 through April 10.



Tarmac delays on decline

Tarmac idling is becoming a nightmare of the past. The Air Travel Consumer Report, released last week by the U.S. Department of Transportation, did not note any tarmac delays of more than three hours in March. That's 25 fewer than a year ago. Tarmac delays of two hours or more also fell, as did flight cancellations, bumping and mishandled baggage. But the people still aren't completely happy: The department received 803 complaints, down from 964 complaints last March but up from the 687 received in February. To read the report: airconsumer.dot.gov/reports/index.htm.



Tour Buckingham Palace

Last month's royal wedding put Buckingham Palace back in the spotlight, not only as a signature landmark in London but also one of the few working residences of a monarch that is open to the public. Royal Collection operates tours of the palace every year when Queen Elizabeth visits Scotland, usually in August and September. This year, they run from July 23 to Oct. 3. Visitors can see inside 19 state rooms, including the throne room, where Prince William and Kate posed for official photos after their wedding. Find more information at www.royalcollection.org.uk.



Holiday fun in Alexandria

Awake the Lakes, the annual Memorial Day weekend festival in Alexandria, Minn., kicks off at 7 p.m. Thursday with music on the courthouse lawn. Most festival events take place Friday and Saturday, including a rib fest, beer garden and live music at Carlos Creek Winery (offered all weekend), followed by fireworks (Friday); and a breakfast with Big Ole, a classic car show, speedway races, petting zoo and a Habitat for Humanity motorcycle ride (Saturday). On Sunday a 5K/10K/one-mile run begins at 10 a.m. at the winery, followed by a worship service at 11 a.m. at City Park. On Memorial Day, folks can celebrate the holiday with a pancake breakfast, followed by a parade and a shooting show. Hours vary. (1-800-235-9441; www.awake thelakes.com).