No matter where you are travelling and with who, travelling comes with potential safety risks. Even travelling as far as your own backyard can pose dangers, and especially when travelling with kids. There is something about kids that makes them magnets for potential injuries or illnesses. If it can happen, chances are it probably will, so the best option is to be prepared for every scenario during your family travel and ensure their safety along the way.
No matter how prepared we are, it’s impossible to account for every possible safety risk when travelling, just like we can’t prevent every illness or injury when we are at home. Unless you keep your kids in a giant safety bubble… but somehow that scenario seems unlikely (i hope).
So how do you travel safely with kids, without letting it ruin your chances of having the most awesome family holiday ever?
TRAVEL SAFETY TIPS FOR FAMILY TRAVEL
We have all heard of the dreaded Bali belly or related stomach ailments from drinking water in countries where the water is polluted and unsafe. Nothing worse than spending a day hugging the toilet while your body recovers from the dreaded bug. It sounds horrible enough for us adults to suffer, but can you imagine your child experiencing it instead? Awful!
We had this experience travelling in Vietnam with our 16 month old. In her case it was over in a couple of hours, but very stressful when it was our first time experiencing any kind of illness for our little one.
There is also a high risk of contracting diseases such as Hepatitis A in countries that are lacking in high hygiene standards. As such, it is recommended to follow any recommended vaccination schedules before you travel.
To minimise the risk of contracting stomach bugs or more serious illness while travelling, it is essential to pay close care to hygiene and cleanliness of yourself and your children. Also take care when choosing what you eat and where you eat. This may mean avoiding some foods that may be considered ‘risky’.
Travel safety tips for preventing illness:
- Wash hands frequently – especially before meals and after using the toilet
- Carry antibacterial hand gel in your day bag
- Drink bottled water only
- Brush your teeth using bottled water
- Choose food wisely – avoid anything that has been sitting out in the heat
- Wash fruit with bottled water or choose fruit with removable peel
- Have all recommended vaccinations before you travel (and if you are young and hot-blooded there is a chance you want to do one of those Minneapolis STD tests too)
- Discourage children from putting their hands in their mouth
- Place a sheet or blanket on the ground before allowing babies or small children to play
- Pay close attention to cleanliness of places serving food
- Avoid foods that have an unusual odour or colour to usual
It can be difficult reminding children of all the precautions while travelling, however if your children are old enough, explain the risks and hopefully they will be more vigilant.
If illness does strike, there is a risk of dehydration with diarrhoea or vomiting, therefore it is essential to keep up fluids. If your child is struggling to keep everything down, water included, try giving them water just a small sip at a time every few minutes.
When travelling with kids, injuries are almost guaranteed at some point, from a scraped knee to something more serious and it is impossible to prevent every injury your kids may receive while travelling.
Travel safety tips for minimising injury:
- Always wear shoes to protect feet from sharp objects
- Ensure shoes are comfortable to prevent blisters and rubbing – wear them in before you travel
- Inspect play areas for dangerous materials
- Supervise your child’s playtime
- Always keep your child in your line of sight when travelling
Some injuries will happen despite your vigilance, therefore you also need to be prepared. When travelling with kids, a first aid kit with basic medical supplies is a must. At the bare minimum, be sure to pack bandaids, bandages, antiseptic cream and disinfectant wipes to treat minor cuts and scrapes.
Preventing Insect Bites
In some parts of the world, particularly through Asia, Africa and South America, there is a high risk of contracting Malaria through mosquito bites. This is a highly contagious disease which children are very susceptible to contraction. Preventing insect bites is best managed through wearing clothing that leaves little skin exposes and through the use of insect repellant.
However, most insect repellents are not suitable for babies and young children under the age of 24 months due to the the chemicals and potential reactions. If this is the case, there are some natural alternatives, or you may consider other precautions, such as taking a wall plug insect repeller or having a mosquito net over the child’s bed or cot to keep them safe through the night from insect bites.
It is helpful to test the insect repellent sprays with your children before you leave to ensure they do not have any skin reactions. If all is fine during your trial run, you may want to consider spraying their clothes before you pack as an extra precaution.
If travelling to hot destinations, or anywhere that will involve a lot of time outdoors in the sunlight, you need to take extra steps to keep your children safe from sunburn. Serious sunburn can lead to sunstroke and dehydration, which can cause sickness, fever, diarrhea and fatigue. Pretty much all the things you don’t want your children to experience on holiday.
Pack sunscreen with a high sun protection factor, such as SPF30+. Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going into the sun to give it time to create a sun barrier. Sunscreen will remain effective for different periods for each individual. Also be mindful that reapplying sunscreen does not necessarily prevent sunburn for longer, as you are recommended to spend some time out of the sun in between.
Travel safety tips for preventing sunburn:
- Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going outdoors
- Use high SPF rating sunscreen
- Avoid direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day
- Wear a hat, and quality sunglasses for all ages
- Cover up with long sleeves and long pants
- Wear light cotton clothing to avoid being too hot
In case you or your children do experience sunburn, make sure you pack aloe vera gel to sooth sunburn. This will minimise the level of discomfort.
These days travel safety incorporates much more global awareness than ever before, with so many parts of the world in unrest. This means it is essential to do your research before you travel to make sure you are choosing destinations that will be safe for your family. No location in the world is completely safe and secure from potential risks, whether it be natural disasters, terrorism or victim of unexpected and unfortunate crime, so it helps to be as aware and armed with as much information as you possible can.
For this reason, travel insurance is essential in case you need to cancel a trip and recover some costs due to a chance in the safety of the destination (learn what is an EHIC before traveling to Europe). It also helps you manage expenses that may occur while travelling in case of trouble circumstances.
A great resource for current travel safety tips and destination information is SmartTraveller, which allows you to set travel alerts for your upcoming destinations.
If you are planning an upcoming trip with your family, make sure you check out our family travel guide to help you plan, prepare and execute the perfect holiday with kids.