Travel Safety Tips for Kids – Preparing Your Kids In Case They Get Separated
Crowded, unfamiliar places never bothered me until I had kids, and then I understood why my own mom seemed so stressed when we went to Disney World or the county fair: she was worried about losing me. With my own children in tow, I often feel anxiety taking me over when I think about traveling to a busy city or unfamiliar territory. Not wanting to let my anxiety override my wanderlust, my husband and I came up with some strategies for traveling with our young ones that we continue to use today to teach them what to do in case our family is separated from each other.
Some of the travel safety tips for kids we have garnered from our travels:
Have a Plan and Share It (Often) with Your Kids
Every time we go to the mall or a large populated area, I ask my kids, “What do you do if you become separated from me?” They answer, “Stay where I am.” My kids learned at an early age that if they get lost, they are not to wander but should stay in one place so that Mommy and Daddy can find THEM. And even though they roll their eyes at me now, I still ask them whenever we are traveling somewhere new.
Orient Your Child to New Locations
Just because your kids may be young, doesn’t mean they can’t take note of their surroundings. Upon arriving at your hotel, point out distinguishing features of the hotel to your child that he or she might recognize if you become separated — it could be a beautiful chandelier or a cool fountain. We always point out the front desk and the concierge as someone who can help them. Also useful in orienting themselves to a new location is knowing where the bathrooms are — for more reasons than one!
Make It Age-Appropriate
Now that our children are in grade school, we take it one step further by pointing out landmarks that are near the hotel – identifying street signs, Starbucks, or stores they like. As soon as your child can memorize your mobile number, quiz him or her on it regularly to keep it fresh in their minds.
Everyone Should Always Carry ID
It may sound excessive to some, but always have your child carry some sort of identification, especially when traveling abroad. Because passports are too easy to lose, we carry photocopies of our passports, and keep the actual documents in the hotel safe when out exploring.
In addition, you might find it helpful to put one of the hotel business cards in your child’s pocket. In the event they do get lost, they will have the address and phone number with them. It’s also a good idea for parents to carry a recent photo of your child. In the age of Smart Phones, that’s pretty easy to do, but keeping one in your wallet is a good back-up plan.
Conventional wisdom seems to have shifted a little in recent years on who are appropriate persons to talk to in the event our kids become lost. Uniformed police, firemen or EMTs are always OK, but we also tell our kids to look for a mom with kids, if they become separated from us and feel they are in danger. If you are traveling to a foreign country, do a Google search with your child prior to your trip to view images of police uniforms in that country.
What’s Too Personal to Share?
Discuss with your children what they should and shouldn’t tell a stranger. Discuss the difference between being polite and over-sharing. You might find it helpful to role play with them and discuss appropriate responses to strangers’ questions.
Repetition is Key
Go over your family plan frequently, and continue to practice it even after your kids start belly-aching about your repetitiveness. When thrown into an unplanned and possibly dangerous situation, both you and your child will feel empowered because everyone knows “The Plan.” Not only will The Plan help keep your kids safe, it will foster a sense of independence throughout their childhood while keeping your anxiety at bay.
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Erin is a native Floridian who has resided in Atlanta since 1995. Her husband Mike and she have two funny, smart, active girls and two cats.