Does your family vacation planning list look something like this?
Decide on a destination. Check.
Scour the internet for the best travel deals. Check.
Pack the entire house into TSA regulation size luggage, or pack the car to full capacity. Check.
Make sure the pets are cared for and the house is secure. Check.
Charge every battery in every device so your children are entertained until you make it to the hotel. Check. Check.
If so, you’re not alone. Planning a family trip can be an overwhelming task. Not only do you have to be sure little Susie’s favorite teddy bear that she can’t sleep without gets packed, but you also must make certain your home is secure while you’re away. Plus, you’re going on vacation. You don’t want to think about anything but relaxing and having fun. Unfortunately, while you’re traveling anything from an upset tummy to a missing child can happen. That’s why it’s best to be prepared. Using the following tips can keep your dream trip from turning into a nightmare.
1. Research the Area
Before committing to a location, make sure it’s family-friendly. Go on family and parenting websites or forums to see what other parents have to say.
2. Prepare for “What if”
Take the time to teach your children what to do in different scenarios. What if they are lost? What if Mommy and Daddy are hurt? What if a stranger talks to them? What if you’re separated getting onto a train or subway?
Use age-appropriate terms to prepare your children for any situation. Don’t wait until you’re on the trip or only go over things once. Remember that children think they are invincible and won’t pay attention. Make a game out of practicing different scenarios so your child is equipped to handle anything.
3. Teach Kids to Trust Their Gut
You don’t want to make your children more frightened than excited about vacation. Instead you want to instill confidence that they can take care of themselves if necessary. Give them permission to say “no” and cause a scene when something doesn’t feel right, such as a stranger trying to take them.
4. Go Over TSA Security Regulations
If you plan to fly, make sure your children know what to expect and what is expected of them. Let them know they will be patted down and will have to walk through an x-ray machine. Also, teach them what words to never say in an airport. You don’t want to spend your vacation in an airport holding cell or put on a no-fly list because your child said the word “bomb” in the security check point.
5. Prepare for Medical Emergencies
Be sure to pack any prescription or over-the-counter medications needed and an emergency kit for injuries, especially if you’re driving. You also need to teach your children what to do if someone else is injured, unconscious or having a seizure. If you are traveling to a foreign country, make sure everyone knows the equivalent for 9-1-1.
6. Use a Reputable Travel Site
When you’re booking tours or guides make sure to use a reputable company or website. If you decide to rent scooters or jet skis after you arrive ask someone at the hotel to recommend a good company. You don’t want to give your credit card information to criminals who set up fake businesses targeting tourists.
7. Put ID Tags on Young Children
Use shoe tags or temporary tattoos with your contact information for someone to reach you in case you are separated. You can also write your information on the back of your hotel’s business card and place it inside their pocket. However, don’t display their name on clothing or bags. If an adult uses their name, a child is more likely to trust them and go with them.
8. Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi
Using public or unsecure Wi-Fi allows hackers to have access to your identity, bank accounts and any other information on your device. Make sure your children understand this rule and follow it.
A better solution is to use your tablet or smartphone to create your own secure Wi-Fi hotspot.
9. Choose the Safest Hotel Room
Experts say that the safest rooms are between the third and sixth floors. This location makes them too high to be broken into and low enough for fire ladders to reach.
10. Keep Your Room Secure
Use locks on the door and any windows that may open. You can also use a door alarm to alert you of a break-in or if your child is trying to break-out.
Never write your room number on your key card or leave cards lying around your room. If the card is lost, a thief would know which room the key belongs. Any key cards left lying around the room can easily be stolen when the maid is cleaning or not paying attention.
11. Dress Children in Bright Clothes
Dress your child in something that makes it easy for you to see them in a crowd, or have the family wear matching colors. Use your phone to take a picture of each family member before leaving the room each day, and then send the pictures to everyone’s phone. If someone gets lost, the photos can be used for others to help identify the lost party.
12. Don’t Over Share
Although one of the best parts of social media is to fill your friends with FOMO, wait until after you get home to share photos of your trip. Make a deal with your teenagers (bribe them) to wait until after your vacation to tag photos. Using geo tagging and “checking in” lets everyone know that your home is unoccupied. It also allows people with bad intentions to hack into devices and use the information shared online as a way to track your children’s movements so they can grab them at an opportune time.
13. Maintain House Rules
Letting bedtime slip is one thing, but allowing children to go places by themselves is completely different. If you think they’re not old enough to go to the mall, a concert or sporting event without an adult when you’re home, you shouldn’t allow it on vacation either. Not only are they in a strange place, but most tourist areas are hotspots for criminals. The same thing goes for leaving younger children in the hotel room alone. You may feel it’s safe to go downstairs for a grown-up dinner after they’re asleep, but it’s not. Chances are extremely slim that anything will happen, but why take the chance?
14. Travel with a Group
Join a travel club, or vacation with another family. There’s safety in numbers. With a travel club you can be secure in the knowledge that reputable accommodations, tours and activities are booked. Plus, they usually have a host or guide go along to make sure everything goes smoothly.
15. Don’t Overschedule
It’s normal to want to get as much out of your vacation as possible, but it’s never a good idea to overdo it. Everyone will be excited, exhausted and distracted, creating the perfect opportunity for mistakes to happen. Someone could walk into traffic, a little one could get separated from the group or a purse could get stolen. It’s always much better to be alert and pay attention to your surroundings.
Some of the greatest memories are made during family vacations. It’s an excellent time to spend quality time together, enjoy each other’s company and create lasting bonds. With a bit of preparation you will have the peace of mind that you have ensured a happy and safe trip for your loved ones.