Although theft and pickpocketing are concerns, you also have to be vigilant for other safety issues like food contamination, accidents, and weather-related issues.
It might seem overwhelming at first, but it’s no reason not to travel with your family! It just means you need to arrive prepared and plan your days to maximize safety. Here are six actionable, best practices for doing just that.
1. Perform a Proper “Advance”
An “advance” is a professional term among bodyguards where a team researches a client’s destination, then arrives early to make sure everything is safe. Although you might not have a team of bodyguards or a good way to arrive at a destination before your kids do, you can do a “virtual advance”. Basically, you can do a lot of research and preparation to keep your family safe.
After that, deeply research the country, city, and even neighborhoods you plan to visit on your trip. Know what the local hazards are, where the nearest hospital is, and which hotels have on-site security and a reputation for safety.
Once you’re on-site, plan your days ahead of time, including as many details as you can work out. If you’re planning, traveling, and watching your children that’s a recipe for fatigue and missing important details. Cut out the planning and focus on your family and experience.
2. Use the Photo-a-Day Trick
This is a simple practice you should even use in daily life at home.
If a child gets lost, parents are often so worried they have difficulty remembering what that child was wearing and other important details. In a foreign country, where the language and customs are different, this problem increases tenfold or more.
So, each morning, before you set out for the day, take a quick photo of each member of your family. Make it a habit and frame it as a celebratory vacation snapshot to make it fun for the kids.
If something happens, that morning photo means you can immediately show local security or police a very recent image of your child (complete with a current outfit). You can even text it to them, so they can share it instantaneously to everybody able to help.
3. Food Travel Safety: Open It, Peel It, or Forget It
One of the most common family travel safety concerns is food. Many countries have lower water treatment standards than the United States, as well as food safety regulations that are laxer and less vigorously enforced.
Food-borne illnesses ranging from “Delhi Belly” or “Montezuma’s Revenge” can occur while eating out during travels. Usually, this can ruin a day or two of vacation as you or your children are tied miserably to the nearest toilet. In some cases, it could escalate to an infection.
That’s why the statement, “open it, peel it, or forget it” is a good rule of thumb that even small children can remember. Don’t drink anything you didn’t open yourself and came with the seal intact. Don’t eat fruit you didn’t peel yourself. And if those don’t apply, forget the whole thing!
Also, remember to never accept ice in your drink. The water that made the ice almost always comes from the same source as the drinking water that you should avoid.
4. Hydrate Early and Often
Speaking of water, heat exhaustion and dehydration are additional risks that travelers of all ages should watch out for. This is especially true of families since children tend to self-monitor for these issues, but also can distract parents from keeping an eye on themselves.
Always carry bottled water with you when traveling, and replace the bottles with new ones as they empty. Put on sun hats and loose, long-sleeved shirts, and wear sunscreen. Stick to the shade in the afternoons. In especially hot regions, consider doing your sightseeing in the mornings and evenings, and stick to the hotel or an air-conditioned tourist attraction during the heat of the day.
Two veteran travel tricks you may want to consider:
- If your hotel room has a freezer, put half-full water bottles in it at the end of the day. In the morning, top them off. That keeps your water cool well into the afternoon.
- Keep a disposable ice pack in your bags. If your kids get overheated, pop it and hand it to them as a way to cool down.
5. Travel Safety Supplies: Pack a Good First Aid Kit
Even small wounds or even small blisters can ruin an otherwise perfect day. Having a first aid kit on hand can help small “boo-boos” stay as boo-boos and not turn into something serious.
The art of a travel first-aid kit relies on packing enough tools to deal with emergencies, but not overburdening yourself everywhere you go. Experts recommend a travel first-aid kit contain the following:
- Bandaids and sterile gauze
- Antibacterial ointment
- Hand sanitizer
- An instant ice-pack
- Medical tape
- A small pen-knife
- Spare sets of all family prescription medications
- Pain relievers, allergy medication, and antri-diarrhea medications
Less than this risks being unprepared for the most common problems. Yet, more is usually just extra weight.
6. Watch the Crowds
You should watch crowds for two reasons. First, the most crowded areas in tourist towns are where the pickpockets hang out and watch for victims. When crowds get thick, it’s time to go on high alert. Stay especially vigilant, and keep your kids within arm’s reach.
The second reason has to do with awareness. In most new places you’ll visit, you won’t know the subtle signs that indicate trouble is starting. At home, your intuition and general knowledge of what’s right and wrong will give you a “gut feeling” that a place has become more dangerous, and you’ll act on that feeling and leave. In a foreign city, you don’t know those context clues.
Do you know who does know those clues? All the locals surrounding you. Keep an eye out for changes in the mood or behavior of people around you. It can be your best early warning system of danger beginning to appear.
Want more information and inspiration on family travel? Make sure to read the articles below!