Where to take the kids is one of the most frequently asked questions on family travel forums and travel safety is one of the most emotive. Taking a child changes even the most seasoned travelers perspective on everything from health hazards to street crime. And while each family will assess risk differently there a few things to consider when you trade in your backpack for a child carrier.
Research your family travel destination thoroughly before you book a plane ticket or guided tour. Consider both health risks such as drinking water and infectious diseases and safety concerns from petty theft to terrorism. Find out what other family travelers have to say.
Select a destination you feel comfortable traveling to. If you are apprehensive before you depart you are likely to be anxious on the trip. And while you may miss out on an opportunity to introduce the kids to a foreign language or a new adventure chances are the kids will perceive your discomfort and be uneasy too. Build your confidence in baby steps and extend your reach a bit with each family trip.
Investigate air safety policies at all departure points and pack your suitcases and hand luggage accordingly. Keep an eye on your luggage at all times and introduce the children to airport security rules before you leave home. Entrusting a favorite stuffed animal to security personnel or a conveyor belt may be terrifying for a toddler.
Consider travel insurance. Find out what your health, auto and credit card policies cover and determine what additional insurance you require. Bear in mind your travel destination as well as the type of adventure planned.
Make two copies of all travel documents - passports, insurance cards, emergency medical numbers, credit cards and itinerary - pack a copy in your suitcase and leave one with a relative or close friend.
Apply the same rules on the road as you would at home. If you don't allow the kids to swim unattended in your backyard don't permit them to do so in the hotel pool. If they wear a life jacket in a local lake they should wear one in a foreign ocean.
Don't forego safety simply because the solution is cumbersome. Bring or rent a car seat if you plan to travel by automobile (car rental or taxi) whether you are touring a city or exploring country roads. Pack helmets if the rental bike company does not offer them.
Keep a close eye on your children at all times. Hold their hands in crowded markets, squares and streets and don't let them wander about alone. Carry a recent picture of each child and equip each kid with an identification card, a document with the child's name and parents name as well as the name, address and telephone number of your hotel.
Don't assume pedestrian rights are analogous everywhere. In many countries a zebra crossing or crosswalk is merely an opportunity. Don't step off the curb until you are sure the traffic will stop.
Take the same precautions on a family vacation as you would on a solo trip. Dress modestly and don't tour your travel destination wearing expensive jewelry or a camera around your neck. In addition to the loss of the article and any bodily harm, witnessing a theft could be traumatic for the children.