If you believe everything you read in the media, it’s a big, bad world out there filled with potential dangers. And if you believe that, we’d never travel anywhere especially when we are concerned about our kids.
Take it from us, the world is not that scary, but we still gotta take care of our kids.
Below are some safety tips to keep in mind for travelling with kids so you can go away feeling relaxed, not anxious.
1. Childproof your room
Childproof your accommodation like you would your house.
When our kids were toddlers, we avoided floors high up with balconies when booking hotels and apartments, or made sure to lock the sliding door and stow away the keys.
We would also remove chairs from balconies or anything that could be used as a ladder.
At one hotel in Thailand, there was a large gap in the railing that our youngest could have stuck her body through and crashed to the pavement below. We couldn’t sit and relax on the balcony.
Also make sure beds can’t be used to climb out open windows and secure those windows.
And watch out for bunk beds too. Make sure they have safety railings secured and remove the ladders to prevent toddlers from climbing up.
Check that electrical outlets are covered, there’s no exposed electrical wires, cords from blinds can’t be wrapped around necks, sharp knives and other dangers in the kitchen are out of reach.
And keep your hotel door locked so they can’t escape. We still don’t know how our youngest did this when she was three, but she snuck out of our hotel room in Melbourne, got in the lift and found her way down to the lobby whilst we were occupied with packing – a terrifying moment!
2. Make smart choices
Know your child’s limits and capabilities and think about the environment you’re in to keep your family safe.
Don’t take a 10 km hike in the middle of a hot summers day. We stupidly attempted this in Africa and almost ended up with severe heat stroke.
We also went hiking in Colorado which is known for afternoon electrical thunderstorms. Again we started our hike too late and ended up on a mountain top in the middle of a storm – scary and not smart!
And dress appropriately. We attempted to hike to the top of Mt Kosciuszko (Australia’s highest peak) but didn’t make it as we were way under-dressed for the wind and freezing temperatures.
Our daughters love to do things like snorkelling, quad biking, and zip lining. We make sure there are plenty of safety precautions in place and we always triple check that children of their age can do it safely.
3. Drink plenty of (filtered) water
In some countries the tap water is not safe to drink so bottled or filtered water is your only option.
This includes brushing your teeth, so teach your children to brush with bottled water and remind them to keep their mouth closed when showering.
Also, be wary of ice in drinks which may be from tap water - ask for no ice. And fruits and vegetables that are washed with tap water - avoid these too.
It's important to keep up your kids' hydration whilst travelling, especially on hot days. Don't let them consume too much juice or soft drinks, water is always best.
It’s worth carrying your own water bottle with a filter to save money and ensure you’re drinking clean water.
LISTEN: We speak to the family who up and moved their family to Mexico, on our podcast for imperfect parents. Post continues after.
4. Eat where the locals eat
Be careful of food choices when eating abroad as some countries' health regulations aren't always up to scratch, especially when it comes to street food.
A good rule of thumb is to notice where the locals eat, and if a place looks busy then it's a good sign the food is safe AND tasty.
If you notice that a place is consistently empty, there might be a reason why.
5. Seat your child in the middle on public transport
When flying on planes with a toddler, sit your child in the middle between you and your partner, or if it's just two seats, then next to the window just in case you fall asleep and they try to wander off.
By not allowing them to sit on the aisle seat, this will keep them from sticking their legs and hands or heads out into the aisle and potentially grabbing hot coffee or being hit by the food trolley or people walking by.
Keep in mind it is your job to watch and control your children, not the flight attendants, and don't forget to bring an activity bag and a comfort toy from home to keep them calm and occupied.
6. Get your travel immunisations
Planning an overseas trip to a high-risk destination in regards to health?
Be sure to talk to your doctor or health care professional knowledgeable about travel vaccines. Visit them at least two months prior to travelling as some vaccinations need to be started six to eight weeks before departure and require more than one shot spread out over time.
Some airlines and countries won't allow you to travel to particular destinations unless you have proof of having been vaccinated.
Take any records you have of previous shots, and bring enough supply of any medications your child is currently taking.
7. Consider taking your own car seat
This was probably one of the most stressful experiences we had in South East Asia when our youngest was two.
Not all countries have car seats when traveling by minivan or other vehicles and trying to keep our daughter still and in our laps was stressful, so consider taking your own portable car seat.
8. Have a lost plan for theme parks and festivals
Before you enter a theme park or festival with large crowds, take a photo of your child on your phone so if you do happen to get separated you can show the authorities what your child is wearing.
Somewhere on your child or in their clothing, create an ID with your phone number and hotel name. Write it on them, put your business card in their pocket, use a bracelet etc.
Teach them that if they get separated to stay close to where they are. Staying near the last ride or attraction you visited makes it easy for you to spot them.
And teach them to go to the nearest shop or employee who will have a phone and know who to contact.
For your older kids, choose an easily recognised meeting point in case you get separated. Don't choose the exit or car park!
9. Ask questions about child care on cruises and in resorts
Most cruise lines and resorts offer kids clubs or child minding services which can come in very handy, but ask lots of questions before leaving your child in their hands.
Enquire about what activities are offered, where they will be located, what foods might be offered, and most importantly, who will be watching your children?
Set aside some time to do a quick tour with your kids and speak with the relevant supervisors. Watch and see how the child minders deal with and react to other kids and if the environment seems professional and safe.
Go with your gut!
10. Get travel insurance
Not having travel insurance is simply not worth the risk. Anything can happen and sometimes things go wrong. If this does and you are not insured, you can be up for a lot of money AND inconvenience.
Policy premiums are not expensive and we believe if you can’t afford travel insurance, then you can’t afford to travel.
It’s that simple.
Travel insurance is designed to cover unexpected medical emergencies and events.
What happens if:
- You get sick or injured on your trip?
- You need to cancel your trip unexpectedly?
- A cyclone damages your destination?
- There is a terrorist event?
- Your luggage is lost or stolen?
11. Stay vigilant at rest stops and public bathrooms
We always accompany our youngest daughter (aged six) inside a public bathroom, but with our eldest (aged 10) we wait outside the door.
It's up to you when you feel your kids are old enough to go it alone, and they'll let you know if they're comfortable with the situation, but a few safety steps include:
- Do a quick walk in to check for cleanliness and to see if there's another exit.
- Prop open the door and ask "Hey, are you OK in there?" You know they're OK when they answer, and it lets anyone else inside know you're watching and waiting outside.
It's important to be mindful of your children's safety whenever travelling.
But the world really isn't as scary as the media makes it sound and with a few simple things in mind when travelling you and your kids will have a great time.
This post originally appeared on Skyscanner, and has been republished with full permission.