Family vacations are important experiences for children during their formative years. Taking trips together is a great way to bond with your kids, create lasting memories, and encourage them to keep learning and exploring on their own as they become adults.
While a vacation is supposed to be fun and relaxing, it’s not always a walk in the park to plan one – especially with kids.
Traveling with children can be complicated, and there are typically extra steps to follow in the planning process. You need to ensure everyone is properly packed, prepared, and that you have enough kid-friendly activities planned to keep from hearing the dreaded “I’m bored” while away from home.
Most importantly, however, your planning needs to include precautions that will help your kids stay safe while traveling. No parent wants to think about any harm coming to their kids. While risks might be low, things do happen, and it’s better to be prepared for everything.
Not sure where to get started? Let this be your guide to keep your kids safe and offer you peace of mind.
Pack Easily Identifiable Clothes
Packing the right things is crucial for any family trip. However, if you have younger kids, being thoughtful with their clothing selections can make a big difference. In addition to making sure they have appropriate clothes for the climate you’re heading to, brightly-colored/distinct options will help you spot them from a distance.
If your child happens to wander away or get ahead of you in a large crowd, being able to spot them quickly will ensure they don’t get too far. Some examples of distinctive clothing include:
- Vibrant colors like red, orange, yellow or bright green
- Specific, distinctive logos
- Shirts with characters
There are no specific rules when it comes to what clothes to pack. However, whatever you think will help your child stand out in a crowd should go into their suitcase.
Practice the Buddy System
The buddy system has been used by families for years because it’s effective and safe. Essentially, it means your children are never alone, and they’ll always have a “buddy” with them no matter what you’re doing.
This system is especially effective if you’re heading to a theme park or area with a lot of specific attractions. Your kids might want to do something specific. The buddy system allows them to “branch off” as long as they have their partner with them.
You can teach your kids about this concept by assigning them a “buddy”—or an adult family member—and making sure they know they aren’t to go anywhere while traveling without that person.
Pack Extra Waters
When you’re packing for your trip, make sure you go beyond the basics. Many families tend to travel during the summer and head to warm locations. While it’s great to have fun in the sun, young children – especially babies and toddlers – are more susceptible to dehydration.
Water might not be something you initially think about packing. However, having a few extra bottles packed while you’re out and about can mean the difference between your kids staying cool and healthy and overheating quickly. They’re especially important for long walking days if you’re heading to a theme park or spending a lot of time in nature.
Keep an Eye on the Weather
Speaking of spending time in nature, there’s no better way to connect with your family! Multiple studies have shown the health benefits of being outside, and most kids love spending time in the great outdoors.
However, if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in nature, keep an eye on the forecast. You might have to deal with everything from rain and storms to extreme heat. Depending on where you’re traveling, extreme cold can also be a problem.
Children are more susceptible to things like heat stroke and are more likely to get frostbite. Utilize weather apps, listen to local forecasts, and have the right supplies on hand to keep yourself and your family protected from inclement weather conditions.
Research Kid-Friendly Activities
Once your “bags are packed and you’re ready to go,” there’s still the important step of figuring out what to do when you get to your destination.
Kid-friendly activities can make the difference between a memorable vacation for the right or wrong reasons. Thankfully, most kid-friendly hotel options are usually designed with safety in mind, and offer easy access (even on-site) to family-friendly fun. When you choose activities specifically meant for the whole family, it can increase your peace of mind and allow you to relax a bit while enjoying that time with your youngest travelers.
Some examples of kid-friendly activities you can all enjoy include:
- Live concerts
- Magic shows
- Theme park rides/attractions
It can help to make sure your hotel is family-friendly. Doing a bit of research before you travel will help you find plenty for your family to do, but it will also ensure you book a hotel that is safe, secure, well-monitored, and offers the accommodations your family needs.
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Designate a Meeting Spot
With the buddy system in place, you can feel comfortable knowing your kids will never be without an adult nearby. However, that doesn’t mean your larger party won’t ever get separated. You might accidentally split up in a large crowd. Or, maybe different people want to do different things at the same time.
No matter the situation, it’s a good rule of thumb to have a designated meeting spot. As soon as you get to your hotel or location for the day, pick a “landmark” or easy-to-remember spot for everyone to reconvene at a given time. Make sure your kids know to go to that spot (consider having them look at a map or directory beforehand) if they get lost or separated, as that’s where you’ll come looking for them. This is especially important for kids without phones.
What to Do if You Lose Your Child
Unless you’re purposely splitting up and your child is doing something with their “buddy,” the idea of getting separated is every parent’s worst nightmare.
Losing your child – especially in an unfamiliar place – is terrifying, but the most important thing you can do is stay calm. After taking a deep breath, it’s easier to start working through a plan of action that should include the following.
- Immediately report your child missing to nearby authorities. Security guards and police officers can be found in most public places and should be your first source of help.
- Talk to nearby employees. They may be able to do things like lock the doors of a building or announce your missing child over a loudspeaker.
- Go back to your designated meeting place, or make sure one member of your party stays there while the others keep looking.
You can reduce the risk of your child getting lost on vacation by creating a strategy with them ahead of time. Make sure they know what to do if they get separated. That could include things like finding a security guard to talk to. You can also slip a phone or GPS tracker into their pocket or backpack each day, so even if they leave your sight, you’ll be able to find them.
Traveling with your kids should be memorable and fun. With a little extra time spent planning, you can keep them safe and enjoy a more relaxing experience on your next family vacation – no matter where you go.