Our children are precious to us, and we want to keep them close and safe. But they want to explore and check out the world, and sometimes, in the chaos that can happen while you are traveling…
There are ways to minimize the risk and ways to get reunited more quickly. Here are some ideas:
1. It’s your children’s responsibility to be able to see you. This is a standard rule in our family all the time when we’re out. (It’s modified when we’re in an enclosed space like a playground to be they need to stay within the clearly identified boundary or come to me if they want to leave.) It used to be they had to stay within my sight, but turning it around makes it easy for them to follow and keeps them connected. Sure, they might forget or stray a little, but they can easily tell if they are following the rule – no more, “Well, I thought you could see me!”
2. Dress your kids in the same color, or a bright color – and you, too!. We did all orange for a while, including us. It’s not something people commonly wear, and you can spot the orange quickly, and we all “go” together. Bright orange isn’t the most flattering color for a person (like me!) with very light coloring, but I’m not going for fashion. And everyone knew we traveled together – an airport employee joked, “Hey, there goes one of your kids!” as another person in orange walked by.
3. Take a photo (or video) before you leave with a camera you’ll have accessible. This way, you’ll have a recent photo, should you need it, and an easy way of telling what the child is wearing. If everyone is wearing something similar and/or bright, it’s even easier!
4. “Tattoo” your child with a contact number. We write a telephone number with pen on the child’s bicep (for short sleeves) or forearm (for long sleeves). We do this for things like a fair, a shuk, or another crowded place. It’ll wash off in a day or so, but your child (and police or employees) will have a way to contact you immediately. If you’re travelling internationally or won’t have access to a phone, you can use a family member or friend – just confirm ahead of time. Then you’ll know who to call to connect.
5. Talk expectations and plan. I try to always lay out expectations: when we go into the store, I expect…So I do the same when we travel. This includes things like stay close to parents, listen closely, etc. We also review what to do if they get lost: stay where they are, ask someone in a uniform for help (and stay there), don’t follow a stranger, and use their “tattoo” to contact us. It varies a little by where we’re going and the child’s age, but that’s the general plan.
6. Bring appropriate safety devices. Whether it’s a car seat, boosters, an in-flight buckle system (like the CARES Fly Safe harness), be sure your kids are traveling safe. There are lighter car seats and boosters, if lugging them will be tough. Here are a few ideas:
The Bubble Bum is an inflatable booster seat that is light and easy to carry AND has good safety ratings. We have two, and use them for things like taxis. You can also buy a foldable booster seat for kids who need the back. It’s very lightweight and good for taking with you. (The Amazon photo is being tricky right now, but click on the link to see the photos.
7. Stay vigilant. I know traveling with kids is hard. It’s exhausting sometimes. But this is NOT the time to relax, get lost in a book, take a nap, or do something else to “check out” a little (unless your children are strapped down and sleeping on a plane – and then you need to be sure you are still easily available). Especially while they are young and on the move, they need your attention. You can catch up on your rest when you’re there.
Any other tips you would add?