One thing that brings a cold sweat to any parent is a child getting lost especially when travelling. We have been lucky that it has not happened too often to us but we do have a few things that we do with the girls to help prevent it and we are prepared if they do get lost. Here are our best travel safety tips for kids.
Our girls are older so you may be able to use these travel safety tips for kids younger than ours or you may be able to put them in the save it for a later bank for when you are needing family travel tips for teenagers!
We have done lots of international travel with kids now and plenty of local travel as well. It is one thing that I seriously worry
Marley has put our wits to the test on a couple of occasions and one was when we could not find her at Wat Pho in Bangkok Thailand only a couple of months ago.
I was just about to lose it when she reappeared. She had remembered the travel safety tips we had taught her over the years while we have been travelling and did exactly what she was meant to do.
I, on the other hand, had totally forgotten all of the travel safety tips I had taught her as the panic took over. I wish I had have followed my own advice so I was not as stressed when we found her.
Now that we are traveling with teens and they are older it has changed so
Travel with a baby or a toddler
Well when you are travelling with a baby, it is more than likely that the baby will not run off on you. We most of the time used a pram so we made sure Willow was locked into her pram or being worn when we were out.
People would still try to hold her or touch her in the pram but it was harder to get her out if that is what they wanted to do.
Travelling in the 3-10 age bracket
We found this was when we had the most trouble as they didn’t quite understand and would wander off the most. Travelling with a toddler or a slightly older child was the hardest time for us and our family travel. They knew their name most of the time and maybe their siblings but I was Mum and Mark was Dad and there were no real names involved.
There were some family travel tips that we tried to do early on but as you know in a pressure situation a kid can do whatever they feel like in the moment.
Making sure they know who they are
This may sound silly but there are kids at home who I have helped and when I ask them ‘What is your Mum’s name?’ what do you think the answer 9 times out of 10 is…Mum! We have taught the girls from a young age
- Their name
- Their home town
- A phone number when they were a little older
- Just enough information to get us back together
We are lucky that we have lived in a small town since the girls were born so we found that knowing their Aunt’s name and grandparents came in handy as well. Our last name is very distinct as well so most people knew us. Knowing their name is one of the best travel safety tips we can give.
We have also been lucky to have the ‘divide and conquer’ method with the girls. One parent, one kid. It has made it pretty easy over the time but there have been some hiccups.
When out at a theme park
This has had to be my worst nightmare with the number of kids that are around and they can move so fast when they see something they really want to look at and before you know it they are off.
A few years ago when we visited a theme park in Germany with some friends Thomas made the girls a necklace that they could wear that had their name and his phone number on it with his name as well. This was awesome and it was a huge relief for me as Europa Park is massive.
You can do this or you can:
- Write in pen a contact number on their wrist
- There are small ‘contact me’ tabs you can get to attach to shoelaces. You can check them out here.
- You can write your number on the inside of their hat
- If water is involved I always had our phone number written on the inside of their bathers at the top on a strap
- Have a tag stitched into the clothes with names and numbers on it
- Use name tags stuck onto the front of clothing. As much as people hate it they can really come in handy
Things you need to discuss with your older kids when you go out
When you are travelling with teenagers you need to make sure you all know where you are going. Not addresses or anything like that but for example the night market. I find this allows the kids to
- Imagine what it will be like
- Expect it will be busy
- Get a little prepared before they get there
- You can have this conversation with your younger kids too
As I have said we come from a small town so crowds were a new thing for our girls. At any age, we always made sure they understood that there would be a lot of people around.
Once you get there
Once we get to a place we normally take a minute to just watch what is going on. This has never been more important than while we have been here in Asia. The number of people at any one place is crazy here and there at times can be a crush in one section that makes it hard to stay together.
What do we do at a busy place
- We watch for a little while so the girls get an idea and so do we
- We pick a place that is easily visible and pick that as out ‘if I’m lost’ spot
- We try to make that place something the girls will remember like a candy store or ice cream vendor
- Plan a route we are going to take
- Make sure you all have a map if one is available
- Try to identify if there are people there who are in a position to help the kids or us if need be
*We do encourage the girls to wait at the end of an aisle if we are in a market or at the top of some stairs before heading to the place we decided on just in case we are just a little behind.
Safety when travelling with older kids.
Travelling with older kids can be
- I take a picture so I know exactly what they are wearing
- I give the girls a business card to where we are staying as an absolute last resort.
- They have a number of someone back home to call as well.
- We make sure we enter the local emergency number into their phone
- We add the hotel address, number and front counter managers name to a contact and into a notes page
- They have an idea of what the police/security team looks like
- They have a picture of us on their phones
If you do get separated
These are great family travel tips I am going to say below and I can guarantee you I have forgotten every single one every time they have been lost
- Try to stay calm
- Go to your designated area
- Don’t split up the rest of the group as it causes more trouble
- Try to find someone who knows the area you are in to help
- Let that person walk away from your spot so you are still there waiting
- Call name over the loudspeaker
- I am a yeller so I do try and call for them for a little bit
The safety word
I know many of my friends have a safety word that they use with their children at home. If someone they don’t know is trying to pick them up from school and they are unsure of they can ask what the safety word is. If the person doesn’t have the right answer they know not to go with them.
What can your safety word be?
- It must be something that is not commonly known
- Try for a fave food or even one that is not a favourite
- If there is an allergy maybe you could use that
We have a text with our kids that I ask them a question and there is one answer they give me that I know they need to be picked up or taken out of a situation.
For example, Willow and I used to have this text ‘I have to go to the supermarket do you need anything for tomorrow?’ if she responded ‘Yeah can you get me some lavender oil please’ or mentioned lavender she needed to be picked up. Lavender makes her itch.
We use this a lot in places now too. If they mention something they hate we know they feel uncomfortable and they may want to leave but don’t want it to be common knowledge. Once we are out of the situation we can then talk about what made them so uncomfortable in the first place.
If you are going out at night
There is nothing worse than being out at night with the kids and having restrictions on what you can and can’t do. We found this when we visited the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island. You are unable to have flashlights or anything like that as it can hurt the penguins so I was at a loss as to what to do.
Tips for night time activities with kids
- Buy some glow in the dark bands and put them on your kid, anywhere that they will attach to
- Buy a whistle if you are not able to have a lot of lights on
- Put a tiny light on the back of your child if they are smaller
- Let them have a small flashlight if it is allowed
- Put glow in the dark strips of their clothing, pram or backpack
Anything you can use to make it easier to find your child will help especially in the dark. I used to always have the same thing for when we would go out at night so I knew what to look for and what to tell other people to look for.
Out on the water safety with kids
We are lucky that our daughters know how to swim and they are confident swimmers but I absolutely get terrified that at some stage we will have to swim for survival.
Tips for being on the water with kids
- If they are not good swimmers immediately put on a life jacket
- Know where is life buoys are
- If you have a lot of water activities in the future invest in a basic swimming survival course
- Make sure the crew know if you are a strong or weak swimmer
We have had our daughters immunised from a young age. I know there is a shift in the amount of people who do and don’t immunise their kids. This is a personal choice that I cannot make for you but I believe it helps my children
Things for the parents to remember if your child does get lost
- Don’t freak out. It is so so so hard but it can be so hard to remember the answers to any important questions if you are losing it.
- Ask for help as soon as you can. Most people will want to help you even if they don’t speak your language
- This is where your picture will come in handy
- Your little one may not know they have even wandered off and may be having the time of their life exploring somewhere new
As I have said before these are all great travel tips and I wish I was able to put them totally into action every time I think one of the girls has wandered off.
Some added tips for extra travel safety with kids
- I never hide my children from hotel staff. If I need help and they don’t know I have a child we are in trouble
- I try to get the General Managers name or the person who will be there the longest during our stay and introduce them to the girls
- I have that name on my phone and in the girl’s phones too
- I always make sure the girls have a small amount of money with them to get an ice cream or a drink. They will stop wandering and sit to have something like this
As I have said all these family travel tips are great in theory but when put in the position we can all just not think straight. If I have to do one thing that puts my mind at ease every time we go out, that is the picture of the girls. When Marley was lost at Wat Pho I pulled out my phone, showed the man the picture and said lost.
He didn’t understand me but once he was made aware by an English speaking guide that over heard our conversation he was showing a heap of people and Marley was found quickly.
I believe that this was the most valuable piece of information I had about her right then and there that helped all the people looking for her.
More about the Author
Bec Wyld is a mother, wife, community care worker and once reluctant traveller. But now Bec has been to over 35 countries across the globe and is always seeking more adventures. She has planned, stressed, laughed and chatted in all of them. Bec’s writing can be found on Wyld Family Travel, as a guest poster on popular sites and contributor on travel websites including Lonely Planet Kids.