Some people say that having young kids means taking a hiatus from international travel. But having young children doesn’t mean you have to hold back your insatiable wanderlust.
To help you feel comfortable traveling abroad with your children, we asked the top 20 family travel bloggers this question:
“What is the one piece of safety advice you would give to parents who are traveling abroad with their young children for the first time?”
From some practical advice, like always keeping an eye on your kids, to innovative suggestions, like disabling the geo-tagging feature before posting to social media, these family bloggers offer a wealth of information about keeping kids safe while traveling abroad that they’ve learned the hard way – by actually traveling with their young kids.
Travel Safety Tips from the Experts
Josh Bender, author of Travel with Bender, self-proclaimed nerd, and father of two:
The best safety item I’ve travelled with for young children is the Bubblebum inflatable car seat. This is so easy to use - it deflates and inflates in seconds, and it’s compact and can be used in most parts of the world. My kids enjoyed using them as pillows when an impromptu nap was called for. They’re really well constructed and come in a range of colors and patterns. It saves money on either renting one from a car rental agency or buying one when taking your next road trip.”
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Colleen Lanin, founder of Travel Mamas and mother of two:
- Tell kids what to do if they become separated from you. They should stay where they are so you can come back to find them. I have always told my kids to look for a mom with children and tell her that you need help finding your parents.
- Dress kids in bright colors so they are easy to find in a crowd. It may sound cheesy, but you may even want to dress all of your kids in the same color so they are easy to spot.
- Write on your child’s arm with a permanent marker like a Sharpie, ‘If found, please call…’ and list your cell phone number so that if you become separated, you are easily reached. There are more subtle products like temporary tattoos and bracelets that work the same way.”
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Eric Stoen, author of Travel Babbo and adventurous father of three:
My advice would be to know where your kids are at all times! It sounds simple and obvious, but a few years ago I was in our rented apartment in Paris with my 6-year-old daughter. She decided to sneak out and walk over to the playground by the Eiffel Tower where my wife and other kids were. I was getting work done in one room and never heard her leave.
When I realized she was gone, I ran out frantically searching for her. I looked everywhere between the apartment and playground for half an hour before coming back to the apartment to find her and two nice policemen waiting.
Basically, she had left the apartment confidently, but got turned around and couldn’t remember where the playground was. A couple found her at the Eiffel Tower and called the police, and she led them all back to the apartment. It was a stressful half hour! I learned never to assume that kids will stay put or patiently wait.”
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Kevin Wagar, co-author of Wandering Wagars and father of two:
Traveling with kids is a blast, but it’s good to keep in mind that not every destination has the same views on safety as you might have back home. Always research a destination beforehand to see if they have things like car seats or even seatbelts.
If you are heading out on the water, make sure that there are life-jackets that fit your child. It’s surprising how many places don’t have those in stock for young adventurers.”
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Check out our list of safe travel destinations for families!
Lindsay Neiminen, author of Carpe Diem Our Way and mother of two boys:
My best piece of safety advice for parents traveling abroad for the first time would be to ensure they have adequate insurance, as you never know when an accident can happen! We have been very fortunate and have only ever had one doctor's visit (costing only USD15 for the visit and a prescription in Jordan), but accidents can happen anywhere, and I always ensure I am prepared.
A second piece of advice is to always register with your country's embassy or notify your government of your travels. It makes it much easier to get a hold of you if a situation were to arise. I have had the Canadian Embassy in Amman email me about possible protests in the area and recommended that I stay out of the area.”
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Jason Jenkins, creator of An Epic Education and lover of travel with his wife and kids:
There are lots of important safety tips for traveling families, but most of them center on one thing: preparation. If you’ve prepared your kids for travel, then most safety issues are covered.
Before you head to the airport, put together a family safety plan. Include them in the process. Sit down together and ask lots of “what if” questions. Then answer them together, one at a time, so that the entire family is on the same page.
It may even help to role-play a few scenarios so the kids can better imagine the situation. Practice going through customs. Practice getting lost in the market. Practice how they should react in situations that might be in store for you where you’re traveling.
And don’t make it too serious. Be goofy, and overact it to keep the kids relaxed and engaged. In the end, the kids will feel part of the travel process and grow more confident stepping out into the world.”
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Keri Hedrick, author of Our Globetrotters and mother of three:
When entering a crowded place, always agree with your children on a rendezvous point. Explain to them who they should speak to if they get lost and find a prominent landmark that they should look to head back to if you become separated.”
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Rob Taylor, co-author of 2 Travel Dads, which documents his travels with his husband and two sons:
Have a plan for how to deal with medical emergencies, such as random falls or severe allergic reactions. We always travel with our allergy emergency response kit and have researched how to use local hospitals or emergency insurance before we land in a new country.”
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Learn how travel medical insurance protects your family as you travel abroad.
Jurga, creator of Full Suitcase and mother of three:
It’s difficult to give just one piece of safety advice to parents who are traveling abroad with their young children for the first time. Here are some of the tips that come to mind first:
- Get the necessary vaccinations
- Carry some basic medicine against fever, pain, and stomach problems – and also a basic first aid kit
- Make sure you have good travel [medical] insurance and know their 24/7 phone number
- Look up the emergency telephone number of the country you are traveling to (e.g. 112 in most European countries)
- Talk to your kids about what to do in case they get lost (a wrist band with your child’s name and your telephone number is always a good idea)”
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Kyle McCarthy, co-founder of the Family Travel Forum, which serves those who “have kids, still travel”:
I would advise parents who are traveling with young children for the first (or any) time to not let children eat anything they have not approved. In my experience, young kids are curious and ready to sample any colorful beverage or food item regardless of where they find it, and the illnesses that can result often have a much bigger impact on the young than on adult travelers.”
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Did You Know?
Diarrheal illnesses are especially common in babies and young children. Check out this infographic to discover tips for prevention!
Dawn Nicholson, mom to the blog 5 Lost Together and mom to three children:
When traveling in the developing world, expect that safety standards won't be the same as in your home country. There may not be proper railings at your hotel, car seats may not be used regularly, and tap water might be unsafe to drink. But don't let that stop you from visiting. Research your destination, use common sense, and bring supplies from home.
When traveling in countries with mosquito-borne viruses like malaria, dengue fever, and Zika, come prepared with supplies to protect your kids. Bring long clothing, DEET insect repellent, mosquito bracelets, and ultrasonic mosquito repellers for your room.”
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Eileen Gunn, founder of FamiliesGo! and mother of one:
Before you travel to a foreign country, find out what their rules and regulations are regarding baby seats and booster seats for kids in cars. In countries where the law requires them and they are well regulated, you can usually rely on your car rental agency having a seat for you (if you reserve one).
And you can count on them being good quality, relatively new, clean, and easy to install properly. If you have trouble installing it, someone on staff can usually help you.
My experience is that in countries where they aren’t required, you can’t rely on car rentals having a seat for you when you get there, even if you request one in advance. And if they do have seats, they might be old, stained, not good quality, not easy to install properly, and the staff won’t know how to install it.
So if you’re renting a car in a country where they aren’t required by law, I recommend bringing your own car seat or booster, as inconvenient as that is.”
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Eulanda & Omo, the husband-and-wife duo behind Hey! Dip Your Toes In:
As exciting as it is to share your journey, don't use the geo-tagging feature on any social media posts you share whilst traveling. In fact, share any photos and videos only when you return home if at all possible. This keeps the specific whereabouts of your family private, and makes you less vulnerable to any potential threats.”
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Jennifer Taylor, founder of Mom Tricks and self-proclaimed “spoiler of children”:
Plan, plan, plan ahead of time. Knowing your exact itinerary and exactly where you're going and staying will make things so much easier on both you and your children. Try to arrange everything ahead of time, including knowing how you'll get from the airport to your accommodations. There's nothing worse than having to hunt down a taxi or figure out the bus system when you have luggage and kids in tow!”
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Natalie Tanner, founder of The Educational Tourist and mother of two:
The most important safety advice I can give families is to always stay together. It is easy to get separated in busy places like train stations, airports and even theme parks. Go over with the kids what they should do in the event they get separated from your group.
Should they stay put? Should they go to the last spot you were all together? Our kids know to stay put and if they need an adult, find a mom that passes by (if they don't see a police officer). A fellow parent will likely help and are much easier to locate than uniformed police officers.
We always make sure our cell phone plans make texting and phone calls an option when we travel. That way, kids can text or call if they get separated from us. Kids too small to know phone numbers can wear them as 'tattoos' or tied-on shoe laces. Put a hotel business card in everyone's pocket, too.”
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Carrick Buss, co-creator of Along for the Trip and father of two:
Our best travel tip for traveling abroad with children for the first time can be boiled down to “be prepared.” That may sound overly simplistic, but it is sound advice. Do your research on the place you will be traveling and find a happy balance in preparing your kids without scaring them. Obviously, the amount of information you divulge will depend on your children’s ages. We find that our kids work better when they are well-informed travelers.
One example of how we handled this was during our first trip abroad to Paris, London, and Dublin. We knew that in Paris and London in particular, we would be fighting crowds on public transportation, so we talked to our kids about safety, sticking together, and what to do in case we were separated. We had a plan for the Underground and metro in which we would enter and exit in this order: parent, child, child, parent. That way, if a child didn’t make it on or off, there would always be a parent with him or her.
We also made sure our kids knew the name of our final destination. They became experts at reading subway maps on that trip. Just having that plan made the overwhelming crowds more manageable for our kids.
Making sure your kids know, or have on them, the name of your hotel and any pertinent cell phone numbers is also wise. Even the best plans can go awry, however, and we have found that when the adults can maintain level heads, the kids can roll with it, too. Happy travels!”
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Leanne, co-founder of Born to Adventure and mother of five:
For kids not to put themselves in harms way, it is so important while traveling that they are able to follow instructions. Even young kids need to understand what the expectations are for behavior. Before you get on the plane teach them to STOP! Make it a game when you are going for walks, much like a game of 'freeze'. Knowing that can they stop in their tracks to avoid any danger gives a parent more peace of mind.
Also training them to walk holding a hand, or waiting patiently while holding onto your leg, a suitcase, or a cart also allows you to go through an immigration checkpoint, look at a bus schedule, or talk with a stranger without worrying about your kid taking off.
We also found it useful to have a backpack and/or front pack to keep younger kids contained when we were going to be distracted with other travel business. Prep them for what it might be like at different points along the journey. Young kids can understand a lot - don’t underestimate them.”
Bryanna, co-founder of Crazy Family Adventure and mother of four:
When traveling to a new country with kids, it is important to talk to them about the culture and to explain that some things may be different than what they are used to. It will help them to feel more relaxed and to understand what is going on around them and what some of the other rules or customs are. Kids are so adaptable, but it is also important to have lots of conversations so they don’t feel overwhelmed or scared in a new place.
Beyond that, it is the same conversation you have anywhere you go about staying close to you and not running off in an unfamiliar place unless they talk to you about it first.”
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Shobha George, creator of Just Go Places and mother of twins:
Take some standard medicines with you in case something happens, such as pain relievers and allergy medicine. For example, we always traveled with British Calpol because that is what my children were used to. We learned the hard way when they had a cold and they absolutely hated the bubblegum flavored or grape flavored children’s cold medication in the USA.
When you are dealing with cranky, sick, and tired children, giving them something you know they have taken before and will accept makes a big difference in getting past small hiccups on your travels.“
Katja Gaskell, co-founder of the blog Globetotting, and mom of three:
The only two times I've lost my children have been when we were out and about in our home town of London, so my tips for keeping kids safe when abroad ring true for when you're at home, too! If we go to a new place, such as a museum, we organize a meeting point should anyone get separated.
If, however, we're just out wandering around, I tell the kids to stay exactly where they are and that we'll come and find them. The big kids know my phone number by heart and I have an ID bracelet for the youngest that details both mine and my husband's phone numbers (a sharpie marker does the same trick!).”
All of this tried-and-true advice will no doubt come in handy as you travel with your young kids. These family travel bloggers shared the best tips and tricks they’ve learned while keeping their own children safe while traveling. And we hope their breadth of advice makes you feel more confident in being able to safely travel abroad with your young kids.