To help keep kids safe, healthy, and happy while traveling during the busy holiday season, American Humane Association, the 135-year-old charity dedicated to protecting children and animals, issued the following series of easy-to-follow tips:
- If you’re traveling to a foreign country, be sure your children are properly vaccinated and up to date on their immunizations. Visit your pediatrician to discuss any special medical needs well in advance of travel. For overseas travel, it might be necessary to get supplementary travel medical insurance, as many insurance plans in the U.S. will not be applicable in a foreign country.
- The TSA has strict restrictions on the amount and type of medication allowed on flights. There are many nuanced restrictions and things parents traveling with children should know prior to their trip. Check the TSA website and prepare in advance for restrictions. http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/what-expect-if-passenger-needs-medication.
- Cuts, colds and viruses don’t take vacations. Pack children’s dosage medicines, antiseptic wipes, anti-diarrheal and any necessary prescriptions. Be sure to bring your medical insurance card and 800-contact number in the event you need to locate a doctor.
- Pack appropriate clothing for the journey and the destination. Because of their smaller body mass, children are more susceptible to overheating and chilling than adults. Dress in layers of appropriate clothing. Children may feel uncomfortable on a flight wearing bulky clothes needed for their destination and vice versa.
- Prepare children about important cultural and other facts they should know, including fun information about customs and sights, as well as precautionary tips such as traffic flowing on the left side of the road in some countries, the name of the hotel in which they are staying, and who to contact in the event they are separated from you (U.S. Embassy, police, Travelers Aid).
- For young children, make sure to attach an emergency contact note to their clothing with phone numbers, home address, hotel address, and important information about the child (allergies, medical information, etc.) so that if the child wanders off, the family can easily and immediately be contacted.
- If the child is old enough, make sure they have important contact information memorized. For older children who have their own cellphones, be sure your number is on their contact list and vice versa. Cell phones may not work in foreign or remote destinations. Check with your cell phone provider about reliable coverage during your trip.
- Keep a recent photo of children on your cellphone or download the free iPhone app Lost Kidz to send out an “Amber Alert” to similar users nearby in the unlikely event children get lost or go missing.
- 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.
- At airports and train stations, Travelers Aid is a helpful resource if you experience an emergency (such as finding a lost child) or need help or more information about navigating between airport gates and getting useful information about your arrival location (such as finding trustworthy cab/public transportation services). Check the Travelers Aid website to see if the airport or train station you are using has a Travelers Aid desk. www.travelersaid.org
- If you're flying with a baby, try to feed them (nurse or bottle) during takeoff and landing. Unlike us, they can't consciously yawn and swallow, so this gets their little ears popping and safely relieving pressure.
- Car accidents are still the leading cause of injuries and death. Make sure kids are buckled up in taxis and during transfers (people often fail to follow their own rules when they’re on vacations), and be sure to bring along or rent an approved child seat for toddlers if you’ll be renting a car.
- If you are on a cruise, do be extra careful with young children and keep them close at hand. Today’s cruise ships are designed to be safe, but they are big and not every danger can be prevented.
Relax...And Be Safe:
- 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.
- Know the location and contact information for the US embassy in your foreign destination. Find out this information prior to your departure http://www.usembassy.gov/ In the event of an emergency such as a death, arrest, illness, injury, missing persons, victims of a crime and other emergency circumstances, contact the embassy immediately.
- Sanitation and water safety have improved dramatically around the world in the past few decades, but in a number of countries, bottled water may be the best option. Nothing ruins a vacation like a gastro-intestinal upset, and children are more susceptible to dehydration from such illnesses.
- If your destination or resort involves water sports (ocean, lake, pool) use the same common sense precautions you would at home, making sure children do not swim unsupervised. If traveling with a toddler, use extra caution around unfenced pools and other bodies of water.
- Remember those medicines you so carefully remembered to pack? Be sure to keep them and other potentially hazardous things (blow dryers, scissors, etc.) out of children’s reach, as you would at home.
- See the sights everyone loves to see – and don’t lose sight of those you love. Hold children’s hands in crowds or let them walk in front of you so they stay in your sight.
- Problems can occur anywhere, but when traveling, use common sense in what you allow your children to wear and display, especially when traveling overseas where the standard of living may not be as high. Dress them modestly and don’t let kids sport ostentatious clothing, jewelry or expensive electronics.
- Make your trip enjoyable, not a marathon. A voyage is about the journey as well as the destination. Kids may seem to have boundless energy, but they don’t have the stamina of adults. Pace yourself and your ambitions so you can take the time, enjoy yourselves, and create an unforgettable experience for you and the children with whom you are traveling. It’s about making memories.
“Traveling with children can be a wonderful, fulfilling experience that enriches the lives of the youngsters and adults alike,” said American Humane Association’s President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert. “The key is to prepare and pace yourself. In this way you may all stay safe and healthy as you experience the joys of travel.”