No matter how high powered your job, there’s no greater position of responsibility than that of a parent. From the moment we first lay eyes on our children our psychology changes instantly and irrevocably. Our priorities change near instantaneously and we abandon our self-interest in favor of protecting the tiny life we hold in our hands for the first time. But while parenthood is instinctual for many of us, there’s a lot more to it than simple instinct alone. We need to learn new sets of skills and proficiencies from learning the best way to get the temperature of a baby bottle just right to making sure that your home is a safe and hazard free environment to grow up in. As our kids get older, we become more and more adept at sheltering them from the everyday hazards and dangers present in our home and local environment. We develop a “safe zone” that expands ever outwards as our children grow in experience and intellect.
When we go on vacation, however, we’re no longer in an environment where we can perceive and preempt risks as they happen. We’re in unfamiliar territory and we need to master the precarious balancing act between staying vigilant and learning and adapting to our new surroundings. That shouldn’t put parents off travelling with kids. Far from it! Travel is a wonderfully edifying experience that keeps us humble and inspires a love of new experiences and adventures, and the sooner your kids are exposed to other places, people and cultures, the more broadminded and adventurous they’ll be as adults. That said, we have a responsibility to keep our children safe in exotic locales. Whether it’s an international cruise or a good old fashioned family road trip, here are some tips to help you do just that…
Before you go…
If you’ll be travelling abroad, it’s important to ensure that your kids are up to date on their vaccinations. They will be entering a different ecosystem in which they’ll be exposed to different viruses and bacteria to which they will not have had the chance to build an immunity on their own like polio or typhoid. Thus, before you go away, check with your doctor which immunizations or boosters they may need for your chosen destination. Needless to say, you should check what vaccinations you and your partner need too!
You should also carry out a risk assessment, so that you’re mentally and psychologically prepared to what threats to your children’s safety you may encounter. Looking up the infant mortality rate of your chosen destination is a good indicator of what you will need to remain vigilant against, Different countries have different attitudes and legislation as well as different infectious diseases. Some countries have distressingly lax attitudes towards road safety and you won’t have access to a drunk driving accident attorney in your new destination. You shouldn’t go into your vacation seeing doom and gloom around every corner, but you owe it to your kids to know the inherent risks.
Whether you’re travelling by plane, train or automobile, you’ve got to make sure your kids are as safe as possible. If you’re renting a car to travel, be sure to do so from a reputable company as they will have greater safety provision than a smaller local outfit. You should also bring your own travel seat for children who need one. Keep them buckled up but plan regular stops for them to stretch their legs. If you’re travelling by air, remember that air travel can be very distressing for young children. Talk them through the safety and security checks they’ll go through before you arrive at the airport so that the experience doesn’t get too overwhelming for them. It’s also advisable not to seat your kids in an aisle seat. Bored kids tend to get wandering hands which could easily catch on a passing service trolley or fellow passenger’s luggage.
Guard against separation
Even when parents are ever vigilant, kids can slip away and become separated from their parents in a crowded place. While this is a scenario that is every parent’s worst nightmare, it needn’t be disastrous. Make sure that you have a picture of each individual child on your phone or somewhere about your person. This will help authorities or local passers by to identify your child. Some parents get their kids to memorize their cell phone numbers or write them on their arms in sharpie so that it won’t wash off easily. This not only helps authorities or well meaning locals to reunite them with their kids quickly, this easy identification also discourages kidnappers or predators.
A more incognito solution might be to give each of your children a belt pack which can be worn beneath their clothing. In the pack they put the child’s medical information as well as their own contact details.
When travelling on foot through busy and unfamiliar areas, make sure that you hold hands with kids or keep some form of physical contact. You should also use the “adult sandwich” technique, where kids are flanked by adults to reduce their chances of wandering off. It’s also a good idea to pack brightly colored tops to help you to identify your kids quickly should you become separated. You should also make sure that your kids know and remember what you’re wearing to help them to identify you quickly and easily if you are separated.
You should also arrange meeting points with your kids wherever you go in the event that you get separated from them.
In the hotel
Hotels are fun and exciting for all of us, but especially for kids. Nonetheless, it’s important for them to conduct themselves in a safe way. Make sure that they don’t leave the room without you, nor should you leave them in the hotel room alone. It’s also a good idea to child proof your hotel room if you’re travelling with a toddler (duct tape is great for covering up electrical cables and such). Make sure that your medications, vitamins and the like are stored somewhere out of their reach, just like at home.
With just a little vigilance and planning, you can ensure that you and your kids have a safe and fun vacation.