Fun and Safe Family Vacations
There is a lot to be checked off our to-do lists before going on vacation: making reservations, packing, shopping for new swim suits, making arrangements for pets and so on. But, does planning for the health and safety of your family make the list? None of us want to think about our child getting lost or a family member being injured far away from home, but in reality we have to consider the worst case scenario in order to be prepared. Read on for great tips and to learn why you should make safety the #1 item on your family vacation check-list.
- Research your destination. Consider travel distance, local weather, exposure to infectious diseases, water quality, and other safety concerns – such as crime – to choose the best location for your family.
- Prepare for use of car seats. Your child should continue to use the most appropriate seat throughout your travels. If traveling by airplane, children are best protected when properly restrained in a FAA approved car safety seat appropriate for their age, weight and height until there are at least 40 pounds. Airlines will typically allow families to bring a child’s car safety seat as an extra luggage item with no additional luggage expense, but be sure to check the airline’s website so you understand their policy before you arrive at the airport. Be sure you know how to install your child’s safety seat with a seat belt in case taxis or rental cars do not have the appropriate anchors for your child’s car seat. Be sure to always pack the child safety seat instruction manual for reference.
- Preplan for crib safety. If using a hotel’s crib, call ahead to be sure it meets the US Consumer Product Safety Commission requirements. If not, you can contact a local baby equipment rental store and request a pack and play meeting safety requirements mailed to your hotel, as most don’t mind holding a package for an arriving guest.
- Talk to your children about safety. Before leaving, explain to your child the importance of safety and why you may set certain boundaries while traveling. Teach children how to listen to their instincts, differentiate between a problem and an emergency and how to deal with both.
- Visit the doctor. Schedule a pre-travel appointment with each family member’s doctor 4-6 weeks in advance to accommodate for potential immunizations. Bring your travel itinerary with you so the doctor can assess your areas of travel for possible diseases and help you learn appropriate precautions. Also, request a copy of your child’s immunizations to take along with you.
- Know the medical facilities. Research the locations of the nearest and/or most appropriate medical facilities for you and your child. This is especially important if anyone in the family has a chronic condition. Take time to document each family member’s medical history to keep with you so important details are not forgotten in case of a high stress emergency situation.
- Check current travel warnings. The CDC’s Travelers’ Health site has specific information on locations with health warnings and your traveling situation (such as if you are pregnant): http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ .
- Examine your insurance plan. See what you can expect for coverage while traveling, especially if traveling overseas. It may be necessary to purchase supplementary travel medical insurance if your coverage is not applicable in a foreign country.
- Pack to avoid displays of wealth. Leave expensive jewelry at home and tuck your nice camera away in your bag when you are not using to avoid becoming a target for thieves.
- Prepare your child for airport security. Let them know their back packs and favorite stuffed animals will have to go through the X-ray machine, but they will get it right back. The can also be intimidated by all of the security staff and procedures, so offering reassurance is helpful. When they know what to expect, there will be less of a chance it could be problematic.
- Have hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes for surfaces easily accessible. The best way to prevent illness while you travel is to wash hands frequently. Sanitizing gel comes in handy when soap and water is not available and wipes can be used to disinfect surfaces children are touching or you’ll be eating from, such as airplane trays or convenience store tables.
- Pre-plan for public transportation. The more you know about how you will get around the more efficiently you’ll be able to utilize and manage your time. Research the best options and routes for your destination.
- Have a separation plan. Kids can easily get distracted, as can adults, while walking through airports, crowds at subway stations, or any new environment for that matter. It is essential you have a plan in case you are separated. Talk with kids about who to ask for help in an emergency and how to do so. Ideas for identification include: dressing children in bright colors so they are easily spotted, take a photo of your child each morning so you can show authorities if needed, have your child keep your business card and/or the hotel business card in their shoe or pocket, have them wear ID bracelets with your contact information, or use a sharpie to write your phone number under a sleeve. No matter how you provide identification, make sure it is with them at all times and they know how to use it.
- Practice safe driving and discuss car behavior expectations with children. If taking a road trip, eliminate distractions such as your cell phone and pack activities to help keep children occupied. Be sure they understand why it is important for you to keep your eyes on the road and not handing them back a snack. Utilize rest stops to resituate and refresh snacks and activities.
At Your Destination
- Review your separation plan. See above.
- Familiarize yourself with your destination’s missing person procedures. Some theme parks or other resorts have written policies. Learning about how your location handles these situations can save precious time and increase efforts to reunite family members.
- Teach your child stranger safety and how to attract attention. Teach your child “NO, GO, YELL and TELL.” If in a dangerous situation, kids should say no, run away, yell as loud as they can and tell an adult. Teach them to yell, “THIS IS NOT MY PARENT!” to attract attention.
- Visit the resort or cruise child watch programs. Observe how staff interact with children and review the daily schedule for appropriate activities for the age of your child. Have a back-up plan if the care doesn’t meet your expectations.
- Discourage “checking-in” and geo tagging on social media. Displaying your location could put your empty home or family at risk, harm a family member’s online reputation, and harm their privacy. Wait until after you return from vacation to post and tag pictures.
- Consider a mid-day break. Traveling makes everyone tired. Children and adults alike are more likely to get hurt when worn out. A mid-day break helps everyone recuperate.
- Use sunblock and bug repellent. Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before heading outdoors and reapply throughout the day. Use an appropriate bug repellent to decrease uncomfortable bites and exposure to potential illness.
- Pack a mini medicine cabinet. Pack daily medications for each family member and add a fever and pain reducer (child and adult versions), Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for allergic reaction and itch bug bites, antibiotic ointment, aloe vera for sunburns or rashes, band-aids, thermometer and tweezers for splinters or ticks. Be sure these medications are stored out of reach and site of children while traveling.
AAP Travel Safety Tips: https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/pages/Travel-Safety-Tips.aspx
Keeping Your Children Healthy and Safe on Vacation: http://childrenshospitalblog.org/keeping-your-children-healthy-and-safe-on-vacation/
50+ Things You Must Know About Kid Safety Before You Travel: http://iheartfamilytravels.com/2013/03/26/kid-safety-on-vacation-50-things-you-must-know-before-traveling/