Kid Safety on Vacation – 50 Things You Must Know Before Traveling

My family and I travel while I run my company Purveyor of Geekery

50 THings you Must Know to Keep Kids Safe While Traveling

The last thing any parent wants to think about is the worse case scenario, but it is so direly important to consider it in advance. The proper planning and education can mean the difference, literally between life or death. Sadly, a lot of these tips are tips because it happened somewhere to someone else. Travel preparation is often taken lightly because it is fun: what suitcase, what socks, what else? Safety is often overlooked or not talked about because it is NOT fun.

It’s not fun to think of our own children being kidnapped, or injured or dying. It’s not fun imagining yourself that completely and utterly helpless, that far away from home. Or worse: our children being helpless if something happened to you. So do the hard planning, have the hard talks and teach the hard lessons. Preparing our families for safety should be #1 on our travel to-do lists, because with a bit of preparation and a lot of mindfulness we can help to keep our children safe while we teach and explore and discover the world around us.

I’ve left out some of the more obvious and common sense tips, the ones that are often repeated elsewhere like “carry first aid kits” and “use a seat belt” in favor for the often times overlooked like checking insurance plans or just straight genius like how to search for a toddler at the beach. Do you have something to add to the list? Send me an email via Contact Me.

Travel Safety Considerations Before You Leave:

  • Double check insurance plans. For overseas travel, it might be necessary to get supplementary travel medical insurance, as many insurance plans in the US will not be applicable in a foreign country.  Natural Solutions Magazine
  • Do your research on the destination. Research your family travel destination thoroughly before you book a plane ticket or guided tour. Consider both health risks such as drinking water and infectious diseases, safety concerns from petty theft to terrorism, beach warning systems, local weather, etc. Find out what other family travelers have to say. Kids Can Travel Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forums and the Center for Disease Control’s Travel Center are excellent places to start
  • Preplan for Child Safety Seat Use. If possible, evade the busiest times and days for flying as this could make it much more likely you will have space that is adequate.  The Child Safety Seat needs to be fitted in a seat by a window so other commuters are not stopped from getting into the aisle.  And children are not allowed to ride in emergency exit aisles. Her City Lifestyle.
  • Pack to Avoid Public Displays of Affluence. If you’re travelling abroad then you’re more than likely to be richer than most of the locals, but advertising this fact by wearing gold jewelry or carrying a $2000 camera around your neck is not advisable. It makes you a target for thieves. Leave your jewelry at home and keep your camera in a bag when you’re not using it. Lonely Planet
  • Teach your kid how to trust their gut. This is incredibly important if a kid finds themselves alone for even an hour. To really teach kids how to listen to their own instincts we should ideally create an environment where they can say “no” respectfully to *anything* if they do not feel right about it for whatever reason- even a hug from grandma! Raising Miro has a MUST READ ARTICLE. Go there. Do it. Especially if you are traveling with older kids.
  • Request car seat installation points/anchors when booking rental cars & taxis. In the past car restraints offered to us by rental companies have been broken, the wrong size for our infant, not there at all when we arrived, and the hire car missing installation points.  Rather than put our child at risk we now either take our own car seat or hire one at our destination.  When booking your car request that the car you hire has enough restraint installation points in place for the children who will need them. Bubs on the Move
  • Explain to your child the difference between a “problem” and an “emergency” and what to do in both situ. Miro and I have discussed that if the following should occur, they should be considered serious and treated as an “emergency”:
    • If either one of us is unconscious
    • If either one of us in excruciating pain
    • If either one of us bleeding
    • If either one of us is having seizures Raising Miro
  • Preplan if using the hotel’s crib. Find out if your hotel’s cribs meet safety requirements set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. If they don’t know or can’t tell you for sure, you may want to contact a local equipment rental company or have a cheap pack and play mailed to the hotel before you arrive via Amazon or another online store. Most hotels won’t mind holding a parcel for an arriving guest.
  • Visit your child’s pediatrician. Bring your child’s pediatrician a complete travel itinerary. Your itinerary should include where you’ll be and your planned activities so your doctor can assess which diseases your child may be at risk of contracting and whether additional immunizations are appropriate. Then Get an up-to-date record of your child’s immunizations for the trip. Immunizations not only serve to prevent disease but some countries have immunization entry requirements to protect their own citizens from imported diseases. Parents
  • To fly with a car seat or not? When international flights command $1000+ USD a seat, it can be a hard decision as to whether to keep your under 2 year old on your lap or in a car seat. Car seats are recommended, but some airlines like Virgin offer Sky Cots so the choice can be confusing. Sky Cots are great if your baby isn’t sitting up on their own yet. The Snow Momma’s Blog suggests buying three seats (a row) to create a comfort zone, or upgrading to first class where there is usually some room on the floor for them to crawl a bit. However if they are walking, look out. Nothing will stop them from wanting to explore…except their own seat with an FAA approved car seat installed.
  • Make a list of medical facilities in the area. The tendency is to go to the first medical facility you happen to spot or come to, but it may not always be the ideal one. And so, it’s good to plan ahead. Usually for children, if there’s a children’s hospital in the community, that’s the best place to start. Public News Service

Travel Safe with Kids En Route:

  • Disinfect everything. The biggest safety risk in flying with kids is germs. It’s not the recirculated air, it’s the stuff everyone else has touched. So wipe down everything – tray tables, armrests, remote controls, seatbelt buckles – before kids sit down on the plane. Keep a packet of wipes handy for after the bathroom, too. Natural Solutions Magazine
  • Don’t eat off of the tray tables directly. Four out of six tray tables tested positive for the superbug methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and norovirus, the highly contagious group of viruses that can cause a miserable one- or two-day bout of vomiting,diarrhea and cramping, was found on one tray. So wipe them down and then instruct children not to eat off of them directly. You probably shouldn’t touch the in flight magazines, either.  Gutsy Traveler
  • In Winter, Test Your Snowsuit for Car Seat Safety. Not many parents know that car seat manufacturers recommend that snow suits and thick winter coats are not used whilst travelling in the car. It’s really easy to check if your baby’s winter coat or infant snowsuit is too thick to be safe in a car seat. Visit Little Bird for the 7 step test.
  • Talk to your kids about TSA Security Procedures. For tips on talking to them about patdowns and protection see Delicious Baby
  • Check weather forecasts, construction and road conditions. Check the weather report and heed precautions and advisories.  If weather warnings suggest a severe wind chill or extremely low temperatures, consider avoiding outdoor activities or driving until the weather improves. Be aware of avalanche warnings Hotel Fun 4 Kids
  • Discuss Subway Separation Plans. The subways can get so crowded that my nightmare was that two of us would get on a train and the third would be crowded out and left on the platform. We told our son to always go to where he’d find an employee — in this case, the ticket window in the station. So if my son was left on the platform as the train pulled away, he was to go to the ticket window and wait. We would have hopped off at the next station and returned for him. If my son ended up on the train and we somehow got stuck on the platform, he was to get off at the next station and wait at the ticket window for us. Frommers
  • Be prepared for public transportation. The more you know about your itinerary, fares, wait times, transfer locations, and walking distances before you leave the house, the better your trip will go. There are plenty of trip planning and bus tracking tools for mobile devices, and they work great for parents in a pinch. But it’s hard to click a bunch of tiny icons on your phone while also hanging on to hands and schlepping strollers. Grist
  • Know what is going on in the car at all times. Turn the radio down, the phone off and pay attention not just to where the care is going, but what is going on in the car. Seriously. get the phone off of your ear and focus. Pull over to make calls. Power windows in vehicles have killed or injured thousands of children. It takes just 22 pounds of force to suffocate or injure an infant while power windows can exert an upward force of 30-80 pounds of force. Since 1990 over 50 children have been killed by power windows, with untold numbers of brain injuries and amputations of fingers, etc.; most of them to children age three or younger. This is just one of the numerous things that can happen in a car.

Family Vacation Safety in Crowds:

  • Dress children in bright colored clothing so they can easily be spotted.
  • Take a photo of your child each morning when you leave. Before you head out, take a photo of your child with your phone.  This way, if you did get separated, you would be able to tell authorities what your child was wearing, and they would be able to get a visual on what your child looks like. iMom
  • Discuss who to ask for help in an emergency. When Miro was younger, he understood the best thing to do was to find another mother with kids in his immediate surrounding and ask then for help.  Now he knows to contact an official, a shop owner, a manger of a hotel, a policeman and in extreme cases an embassy official. Raising Miro
  • Business cards in their pockets. Leave a hotel card and/or your business card in their pockets. 3 Kids Travel
  • Provide contact information. Whether it is on nightclub style wristbands, temporary tattoos, shoe tags, laminated notes in shoes, written in sharpies under the sleeve, or business cards…be sure that children not only have contact phone numbers and hotel names on them at all times but that they know how they should use them when asking for help.
  • Make a game out of it.  Play the “What if …” game with your children. If you ask my toddler, “What if Mommy gets lost?” (they never think they are lost) she will tell you, “Find another mommy, take off my shoe (or bracelet or scope) and ask the mommy to call you!” Make a game of remembering what color each of you is wearing that day. Practice pointing out possible mommies that you could ask for help. Child Safety by Kay Green
  • Keep the kids in the middle. The physical arrangement of your family members can add another dimension of safety and security. If your family comprises two adults and one or more children, use the grownups as bookends. For example, when you go through security, have Mom go first, followed by the kids, Dad bring up the rear. Kids are easy prey for theft, so keep them between you and your adult travel partner as much as possible.  Travel Nerd
  • Have a lost plan. If your child is lost, he or she should stay put for a few minutes, to give you time to find them. Staying near the last ride or attraction you visited makes it easy for you to spot them. Go Florida @
  • Never leave the area. Remind her never to exit a theme park or go to a venue’s parking lot, which provides an easy getaway to predators. Frommers
  • Familiarize yourself on how your destination handles missing children. Disney Cast Members have “Lost Parent” training. Other major theme park and travel destinations have systems in place to reunite missing families ASAP as well. Search the web before you go to figure out what to do BEFORE you find yourself needing to know, then  go over the info with the rest of your family.
  • Teach your child to yell “THIS IS NOT MY PARENT! HELP!” A child screaming No! or incoherently is easy to mistaken as another parent dealing with a hissy fit, so teach your child to yell “This is not my parent” if a stranger tries to take them away in order to attract the kind of attention the will save their lives.

Keeping Kids Safe At the Hotel:

  • Secure a hotel room on the lower levels. There’s not a fire department in the country that can easily fight a fire above the eighth floor, so ask for a lower floor. Check the US Fire Administration website for a database of fire-safe hotels Peter Greenberg
  • Baby Proof Your Room. Hotels don’t always have safety features like child-safety locks and other precautions. Choose a ground floor hotel room or a room without a balcony. Cords used to open and close drapes can form a strangulation hazard; tie them up out of the way. When with babies and toddlers, travel with a bag of plastic plug guards. Natural Solutions Magazine
  • Travel with Duct Tape.  I really wish I invented this tape, this is one of the best multi-purpose tapes I’ve seen or used.  Once you are in your hotel room, you can use this to tape off electrical outlets, soften sharp corners, tape up blind/curtain cords and any other hazards in the room.
  • Disinfect the Remote Controls. Or use the plastic bag in the ice bucket to cover the entire remote control. Gutsy Traveler
  • Use hotel door locks and alarms. Use a door alarm on your hotel door while on vacation to protect you from an intrusion OR from a child leaving the room without you knowing it. Chicks and Cubs
  • Examine the Equipment. If you are using a hotel crib, make sure that none of the slats are loose, missing, or cracked, and take off any pillow, comforter, or soft bedding that sits in the crib. Wipe it down with disinfectant wipes. Parents
  • Use Your Eyes. Check under the bed and in drawers to make sure that room service hasn’t missed any potential chocking hazards, sharp objects or other dangerous items that your child may find.
  • Avoid going barefoot in the hotel room. Pack cheap foam flip flops and require that they be worn…everywhere, even in the shower. Gutsy Traveler
  • Visit Resort or Cruise’s Child Care & Play Programs. Parents should set aside a morning or two at the start of the vacation to visit the play program with the child and see how the supervisors and other children get along together. The younger the child, the greater the need for someone to ”intervene” for him or her and find out how things are going. But some kids will speak up right away if it’s no fun or they don’t like the atmosphere. For information on what to look for, from footage ratios to safety devices visit the New York Times Travel Article here. Have a backup plan if the program is a no-go.
  • Don’t use hotel room safes to store valuables. The innkeeper liability laws limit how much the hotel is responsible for items left in your hotel room–even if it’s in the safe. Even worse, they’ll often charge you for the privilege of using that safe. You’re better off storing valuables like passports in the front-desk safe. Confirm how much they’re liable for, and a get a written receipt of the items you’ve left there. If you have to leave items in the room, like a laptop, consider storing it in a slashproof bag. Then use a cable lock that holds the zipper shut and secures the bag to a stationery piece of furniture. Peter Greenberg
  • Don’t open the door without knowing who is on the other side. Keep the door locked at all times when you are in the room ad call the front desk to verify unexpected deliveries, room service, or room repairs. Instruct your kids to do the same.
  • Don’t leave young kids in the room by themselves even if just running out for ice. Instruct teens to lock the door behind you if you step out and to ignore all knocks when an adult is not in the room. When you knock to get back in, you’ll say “It’s mom/dad.” Never answer the door for someone who says that their parents sent them and teach them to call the front desk to confirm emergency personnel.

Child Safety At Your Vacation Destination:

  • Choose a meeting point. Shortly after you enter a theme park or beach area, get oriented by identifying landmarks together. If you feel that your child is mature enough (perhaps a savvy 10-year-old), agree on a designated meeting place in case you get separated. Have her repeat it aloud so it sticks. Never choose the entrance or parking lot. The ideal meeting place is an information center or lifeguard station, since staff are used to dealing with lost kids. Frommers
  • If your preschooler goes missing on the beach, try following the wind. Whenever a young child got separated from his or her family on the beach, {as lifeguards} we always looked down wind. Why? Because nine times out of ten a little kid will follow the path of least resistance and walk with the wind. So -Becca from Jacksonville, FL via blog
  • Get in the habit of looking back when you get up to leave somewhere. Travel is very distracting {especially with kids!}, and you’re probably carrying more stuff than when you’re at home. Lonely Planet
  • Use Sunblock. It’s obvious to use sunblock on days when the sun is blaring down on you in the heat of the day, but did you know that you can get burned on overcast days and even in snow?
  • Use Sunblock…Correctly. Having the kids use waterproof sunblock before hitting the pool, beach or any other water activity is always smart. However, if they are slathering it on immediately before hitting the waves, it will be useless. Sunblock needs to be applied 20 minutes before water exposure in order for it to set on the skin. Anything less will get washed away. Be sure to take 20 minute breaks every few hours to reapply as well.
  • Note the location of exits for bathrooms and rides: Some restrooms and park rides have multiple exits, and your kids could come out in an entirely different location than you expect. Go Florida @
  • Plan mid-day breaks. Kids get tired. And tired kids make parents even more tired. When you are tired, you are more likely to get hurt, either physically and emotionally. Consider a mid-day break, perhaps a swim back at the hotel, to avoid mid-day heat and crowds. Themepark Insider
  • Get Glowing. When we go away in the summer, I always pack glowstick necklaces and bracelets for the kids. I buy them online for around $10 per pack of 50. In the summertime, no matter whether we’re in a city, at a theme park, or on a camping trip, we inevitably wind up staying outside after nightfall. My kids love wearing glowstick jewelry, and I love that it makes them easy to spot in the dark! Frommers
  • Know the Code. If you are skiing, discuss ettiquette and rules with your child, and have them memorize and recite the NSAA Your Responsibilites Code. Park City Mountain Resort
  • Discourage “checking-in” and geo tagging. Checking-in at certain locations on Facebook, Foursquare or other social networks is “cool” but could affect your kids’ online reputation and privacy and could expose your home and family to risk. Make sure your kids turn off any geo -tracking tools, and avoid “checking in”. Pure Sight Negotiate with kids that they can tag their photos and check in once they’ve returned home.

Do you have a tip that needs added here? Contact me. 

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My family and I travel while I run my company Purveyor of Geekery

2 Responses to “Kid Safety on Vacation – 50 Things You Must Know Before Traveling”
  1. Lainie Liberti

    Incredible resource and great tips! Thanks for compiling this list. And thank you for including our post as well!!

  2. Destiny

    This is awesome! It really helped me organize my thoughts for traveling this summer. I found these bracelets: which my daughter absolutely loves. She thinks she’s wearing jewelry ‘like mom’. So cute!

    Also, you mentioned sunscreen, but I think it’s helpful to note the sunscreen sticks, most major brands have them, but it’s easier with toddlers because it doesn’t get into their eyes or smear all over the place.

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