DPS puts out holiday travel warning

December 19, 2010 8:37:29 PM PST
A trip to Mexico is a tradition for many Houston families over the holidays, but a travel warning has some re-thinking their plans. The recent spike in drug violence has many staying home. Over the next few days, thousands of people will be traveling by air and by ground. But the Texas Department of Public Safety put out a warning last week, urging holiday travelers to stay out of Mexico.

"I'd rather just stay with my family and enjoy the holidays," said Oscar Salinas.

The Salinas family had a tough decision to make -- spend Christmas in Houston or with family in Mexico.

"My mom was gonna go see my aunt and her newborn," said 13-year-old Jackie Salinas. "And I couldn't go see it because I didn't want to die."

In his most recent trip, 16-year-old Omar Salinas says he has witnessed shootings and people tossing grenades.

"You can hear all the noise," he said. "You can't sleep. Helicopters; it's dangerous."

Typically, the Salinas family visits Matamoros once a month. But this year, with mounting drug cartel violence -- kidnappings, murders and sex assaults -- Oscar Salinas and his daughter will spend Christmas here.

"There's a lot of violence going on and I've gotta protect my family," he said.

"Ultimately, our recommendation is not to go," said Major George Rhyne with the Department of Public Safety.

DPS says with the violence spilling into tourist hot spots, like Acapulco, Monterrey and Mazatlan, the country isn't a safe place for American citizens.

"You travel at your own risk," he said.

It's a risk that only 16-year-old Omar is willing to take this year.

"Are you guys worried about him?" we asked his father and sister.

No," said Oscar. "Because he's gonna go with his grandma and grandpa, cousins. They're gonna take care of him."

His sister says she won't go back to see her family until the violence ends.

"Hopefully it ends really soon because I wanna go see them," she said.

If you still plan on going to Mexico, here are some good tips from DPS. Carry travelers' checks instead of cash and have a copy of the serial numbers. If you're robbed, you can get a refund. Also, don't cross the border with Christmas gifts. Doing so will make you a target. Finally, check the U.S. State Department's website for security updates before you leave.

The next few weeks are expected to be busy travel-wise for Texans. AAA projects that 7.5 million Texans will travel 50 miles or more from home for Christmas and New year's. That's a three percent increase from a year ago. Nationwide, 92.3 million Americans are expected to travel during the year-end holidays.


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