Tips for Keeping Kids Safe on Vacation

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Keeping kids safe on vacation was top of my mind after we lost my 5 year old son on a spring break trip. One moment he was playing on the lonely beach in the sand with my husband. The next moment he was gone. It was the scariest ten minutes of our lives, not knowing where he was. Looking back there are a few things we should have done to ensure that he’d never been lost in the first place. And there are also steps and precautions we can take in the future for keeping kids safe when traveling. Here are my tips and products that help keep kids safe when traveling. 

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Empty beach and ocean in Monterey California
Beach in Monterey when my son got lost.

Getting Lost (Scary for Kids & Parents!)

On our Monterey vacation I was on the hotel balcony watching my sons and husband on the beach below. My husband and teenager were poking in the sand with a stick, looking for crabs while my preschooler ran up and down the wet sand behind them. When the baby needed a diaper change I took her inside and returned to the balcony a few minutes later. What I saw next made my heart stop.

My eldest son was yelling up to me, “Mom, is Dillon up there with you?”

Then I saw my husband. He was running up and down the beach, calling Dillon’s name. My husband was stopping strangers to ask if they’d seen a little boy in a blue bathing suit.

I knew my son hadn’t gone into the water, I knew that (he was scared of the ocean’s big waves). I squinted my eyes at a crowd of people sunbathing in the distance. Had he wandered that far?

My husband was now in full panic mode. He ran around to the front of the hotel, concerned that my son might have gone with someone to the parking lot. My teenager was racing down to the crowd further down the beach. I raced down to the hotel lobby.

I met my husband in the lobby as he’d looped around the front of the hotel. He was cradling our 5-year old in his arms. My son had wandered into the lobby, wanting to return to the hotel room and asked for his mommy. The reception desk had wrapped him in a towel and had him stay put. Thank goodness, found.

Boy running by himself on the beach
One moment he was there, the next moment he was gone.

Tips to Keeping Kids Safe on Vacation

It was a scary 10 minutes and honestly, it’s taken its toll on us all. For the first month after our vacation, my son was extremely clingy and afraid of getting lost. He has cried during drop offs at school and Sunday school at church, something very unusual for my independent boy.

I started trying to think of ways that we could have kept him safe. What are the things we could have done? Should we do our research to find out where are the safest family destinations before traveling? What are the things I can share about keeping kids safe when traveling? Whether you’re heading out on a road trip, traveling to a theme park, staying in hotels or flying with kids these are some of the ways you can keep kids safe on vacation.

Crowded wave pool area at Blizzard Beach water park, Walt Disney World in Florida
Really hard to find a lost kid in a crowd like this.

Safety Travel Tips for Families

Outside of securing travel insurance for your vacations, there are precautions you can take now to ensure a safer trip. In today’s health climate of Covid-19, everyone traveling with kids wants to keep them safe from virus. Responsible travel is key with parents following the state guidelines, wearing facial masks when required, frequent hand washing and proficient use of hand sanitizer.

Using these precautions and practices, it’s possible to safely travel this summer, fall and beyond in 2020. Families that are traveling with teens will be able to talk about these safe travel tips. Naturally outside of the coronavirus, there are added safety measures that parents should be taking, especially when traveling with young kids. I’ll be going into depth on some of the additional tips and products that help keep kids safe on vacation and how to avoid potential dangers. 

1. Safety Tattoos for Kids

If my son had been wearing a SafetyTat when he was lost, it would have saved us 10 minutes of worry. The hotel lobby would have been able to call me immediately! SafetyTat is a water-resistant temporary tattoo. The original SafetyTat can be pre-printed with your contact information and applies with a damp paper towel. 

Boy wearing a Safety Tat, waterproof personalized tattoo on his arm
The SafetyTat temporary tattoo is water resistant.

Write-on SafetyTat peels and sticks with a bit of pressure. Simply write your name and phone number on the surface with the included water resistant pen. I love the idea of using the SafetyTat when traveling to busy locations like at the zoo, children’s museum or amusement park when kids can easily become lost.

Up close image of a Safety Tat, waterproof personalized tattoo on his arm
Write your number to personalize the SafetyTat and keep kids safe on vacation

In addition to returning lost kids, several of the SafetyTats have specific child-safety needs printed on the tattoo. Alerts like, “I have Autism”, “Allergies – Ask First!”, “Non-Verbal” and “Alert – Diabetic” help other adults know immediately about your child’s special needs. These special SafetyTats would be great for children to wear when in large groups where they might be separated from their parents, like at day camp, church or at a party.


2. Travel Baby-Proofing Safety Kit

Before settling in at the hotel, make sure you check out the room for any potentially hazardous items. Looped window cords? Furniture that your toddler or child could climb and topple over? Loose cables? Exposed electrical outlets? Bring a safety kit along with you on your travels to “baby-proof” the room (even if your child is no longer a baby, they might become curious).

Baby wearing a Mickey Mouse Ears hat in bed at the Disneyland Hotel
Enjoying the comfy quarters in the Disneyland Hotel.

Babyproofing can be especially important if you are staying with family on your vacation. Other families (like grandma & grandpa’s house) might have dangerous chemicals under sinks or medications where kids can grab them. If you’re taking medications with you, be sure that they stay inside their child-proof bottles and keep out of the reach of your children (consider a box with a lock).


3. Disinfect to Help Prevent Stomach Bug

Ugh, nothing ruins a vacation like coming down with the stomach bug. Help keep the bug from spreading through the family with frequent hand-washing, the use of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. Wipe down things in the airplane before flying, like the arm rests and pull-down table.

Disinfect items in the hotel room that are frequently touched, like the door knobs and remote control. Of course if spending your vacation in another country make sure that the water is drinkable before allowing your child to sip. Is water not potable in your hotel? Place a sticky note reminder not to drink tap water on the spigot. Keep bottled water next to the sink for rinsing toothbrushes.

Kids in a hotel bunk bed

4. Avoid Sunburn

If your kids are extremely prone to sunburn, consider indoor activities during the day and then swim at night. I’ve found that one of the best ways to avoid sunburn is to cover up as much as possible. My kids have rash guards and swimsuits from Primary with an UPF 50 rating. Use code AFF20PCT off your first order for a 20% off discount!

A hat for toddlers that can be worn while they’re splashing will protect scalps and faces. And of course, you can’t forget the sunscreen! Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before getting into the water otherwise it’s just going to rinse off in the pool. Reapply sunblock every hour and again when kids get back in the water.

Laughing boy at a hotel swimming pool splash pad


5. Protection from Insects

Nobody wants to get bit up by bugs on their vacation! I received a complimentary bottle of Fairy Tales Bug Bandit Repellent just in time for my trip to Orlando Florida. On my last visit, I’d gotten a nasty bug bite on the final day and it took ten full days to clear! I was hoping to avoid such a fate this time, especially for my kids!

The contents of Fairy Tales Bug Bandit are Deet-free and include lemon Eucalyptus oil, soybean oil, cedar bark, citronella, peppermint and rosemary blend. These non-toxic and pesticide free ingredients help to repel mosquitoes, flies, fleas, gnats and other biting insects. It’s proven effective in children 3+, though I did use it sparingly on my 1-year old’s legs and arms with good success.

Bottle of Fairy Tales Bug Bandit, DEET-free bug spray for kids

Simply spray the Fairy Tales Bug Bandit onto your body after dressed and ready to head outside. It worked like a charm! The smell is pleasant and works for several hours.

And then there was the day I forgot to apply the spray. I was headed to a conference and stepped outside briefly to access another building and within 2 minutes a bug got me. Within moments my ankle was swollen and itchy, ugh! I immediately texted my sister-in-law to remind her to spray the kids before they went outside! Happy to report that my kids returned from our week-long vacation without one bug bite.

Toddler walking outside at a Palm Springs children's museum

6. Pack a Get-Well Bag

Despite all preparations to kids safe on vacation, sometimes your child may get sick. Even something like nausea from motion sickness can mess up your travel plans. Rather than have to make a run to the 24 hour market at 3 am, have a get-well bag ready to go with what you might need.


Father and son on a beach in Carlsbad California collecting water for a sand castle

7. Car Seat Safety

For road trip travel, you’ll likely be using your child’s every day car seat or booster seat. However if you’re flying to a destination and using ride share or a rental car, you may face these issues. Consider bringing your own car seat when possible or renting one with the car.

However, you can’t assume that you’ll have the car seat you need when you arrive. For instance some ride share companies may provide car seats for some children. However they don’t have rear-facing car seats that children under two must use. For infants and toddlers, it’s best to bring your own.

Toddler asleep in her car seat holding a tortilla chip

For pre-K and up, bring along a mifold Grab-and-Go Car Booster Seat. Weighing only about one and a half pounds, the mifold is a booster seat designed for ages 4 to 12. So clever and convenient when using Uber, Lyft or a taxi.

For air travel, bringing a car seat isn’t necessary but I preferred it for my preschooler. She was able to take a nap during the flight and stayed safely in her seat, even during some rough turbulence. Just make sure the car seat you bring on board is labeled as FAA approved. The Cosco Scenera Next Convertible Car Seat is very inexpensive, lightweight and perfect for air travel. I also loved that I was easily able to remove the fabric cover and machine wash it after our trip.

Child in pink Costco Scenera car seat on an airplane

8. Stroller Safety on Vacation

If renting a stroller at your vacation location, be sure to inspect for any spots that might pinch little fingers. Always use the buckles to secure your child in tightly. Get in the habit of putting the stroller brake on each and every time you let go of the handle. You never know when the stroller might roll away from you. Never leave your child in a stroller unsupervised.

Baby sleeping in a stroller at Disney World

If traveling to Disney World or the Orlando area theme parks, consider renting your stroller from my partner Kingdom Strollers. Keeping kids safe on vacation is important to them so their strollers are well-cleaned & sanitized and in proper working order!

9. Safety After Dark

If you’re worried about losing your kids, it can be even more challenging once night falls. Remind kids to stay close to you. Carry a flashlight. I keep a supply of glow necklaces and bracelets for my kids to wear when we’re walking about after dark.

If walking in a dark area where there are vehicles, dress your children in light colored clothing. Consider adding a reflective strip of tape to their back and down each pant leg for better visibility. Wrap glow necklaces around the sides of a stroller to improve visibility at night.


Toddler and kid riding in a bike, wearing helmets
Ensure that kids are safe with helmets when needed.

10. Travel Toddler Safety

If you have a “runner”, keeping your toddler safely within arms reach is important on vacation. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve chased my toddler through hotel hallways and in the airport because she decided to bolt! If you have a child that won’t stay close to you on their own, this harness backpack is a lifesaver.

On a trip to Disney World I decided to get her a Skip Hop Toddler Leash and Harness Backpack. It turned out to be invaluable especially when I was carrying luggage or needed my hands free. I was able to loop the strap around my wrist and know that my daughter was going to stay next to my side. 

Toddler wearing a Skip Hop butterfly backpack with harness

The harness backpack held diapers, wipes and a few small travel toys (ideal for the airplane and in restaurants!). We practiced at home with it before our trip so my daughter liked wearing it. It also worked perfectly when standing in lines during our family vacation to Disney World. My toddler was able to stand by herself and the harness prevented her from climbing or running away.

11. Pool and Water Safety

Water safety is key to keeping kids safe on vacation, especially when traveling to family destinations like a beach resort, lake or hotel with a pool. Teaching kids how to be safe around water can only go so far. Parents will also need to be constantly watching and within arms reach of children, even if you believe them to be “strong swimmers”. The hot sun and strong currents or undertow can compromise even able-bodied swimmers into exhaustion.

One of the things I love about Disney Resort hotel pools is that they offer child-sized flotation devices for kids. We went on a trip somewhere else with our toddler last summer and had to do a Target run for “floaties” because we didn’t feel safe at the hotel pool without them. Bring them with you for your non-swimmers if the hotel does not provide them.

Two kids on the beach pool at Beach Club Walt Disney World resort hotel
Swimming in Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Beach Club Resort

If your hotel room is on the ground floor or has pool-side access, ensure that room doors are locked and dead-bolted so kids cannot leave the room without you. Check the gate around the pool for reassurance that children cannot access the area without an adult. If the hotel pool does not have a lifeguard, be on especially high alert. Ideally parents should join their kids in the water to be within arms reach.

Child wearing a life jacket at the Disneyland hotel pool
Poolside at the Disneyland Hotel with complimentary life jackets.

Another way you might not think of to keep kids save on vacation is by packing flip-flop sandals for kids to wear down to the pool. We saw many barefooted kids on a recent vacation. Unfortunately someone had broken a glass bottle just outside the pool gate. I don’t think anyone stepped in the glass. But in a child’s excitement to go swimming, they might not have seen it.

Water-resistant sandals are also a good idea at the beach. Kid’s feet should be protected against scorching sand and slippery rocks near tide pools. I personally use pedipeds for my youngest kids, in particular the pediped Flex Canyon.

Traveling with Kids? These 3 practical tips will help ease into the changes like missing home or time zone adjustment.

12. Bed and Sleeping Safety on Vacation

Just like at home, you should use common sense practices when putting children to bed. No blankets near infants, put baby to sleep on her back and lay little ones in a safe place. If your infant or baby is using a hotel or hand-me-down crib or pack n’ play be sure to carefully inspect before laying your child down for the night. Take a peek at the sturdiness, look for any loose screws, check the mattress pad and inspect for pinch-points. Older model cribs may have peeling paint, exposing metal beneath.

For toddlers and preschoolers, you might be wondering if you should have them sleep in a crib, pack & play or just in bed with you? Most kids in the 2-4 year age range are too tall to be sleeping in a crib. But you might not want them sleeping in their own bed or with a sibling for fear of them falling off the bed. Even at home in her toddler bed, my 3 year old frequently flops out of bed in her sleep (I lay a pillow on the floor to soften the 6″ fall!)

The Shrunks bed bumpers inflated

My partner at Kingdom Strollers gave me use of the Shrunks during our trip to Walt Disney World. The Shrunks Inflatable Kids Bed Rails are inflatable tubes that slip under the fitted sheet and act as a bumper.

Kingdom Strollers delivered the set to bell services so I could pick them up when I arrived (and they picked them up after my trip). Inflation and assembly into the bed took less than 5 minutes. I was able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing my preschooler would be comfortable and safe on the trip, even when sleeping in her own bed!

Child laying on bed with The Shrunks bed bumpers

Other Things for Keeping Kids Safe on Vacation

  • Before hitting the road for an extended vacation, be sure to schedule a pre-trip check up with your child’s pediatrician. The doctor will be able to check for any developing illnesses.
  • Bring your child’s immunization records on the trip.
  • Taking an international family vacation? Reach out to your insurance company to know where you can visit an English speaking doctor in case of illness or emergency.
  • Consider purchasing travel insurance to cover the things that your regular insurance will not.
  • Wash hands frequently and especially before eating. Bring hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • Point out fire rings at the beach, reminding kids not to step inside. Hot coals may be covered with sand and will burn feet, even if they’ve been sitting overnight.

 

Concrete and sand at Aquatica water park with grandma walking with two young kids

More Ways for Keeping Kids Safe When Traveling

  • Dress your child in very bright clothing when traveling. It’s so much easier to see them in a crowd if you can spot a bright yellow, orange or hot pink shirt.
  • Take a photo of your child each morning so you have a record of what they are wearing.
  • Remind kids not to touch wild animals (this includes squirrels and pigeons).
  • If visiting a National Park, follow all instructed guidelines, in particular bear safety tips like securing food at campsites.
  • Insist on safety precautions, like child-appropriate helmets when biking.
  • How to keep your child safe from predators, even while on vacation? Discuss “stranger danger” including staying within sight of parents. Teach kids what to do if a stranger grabs them.
  • Before going into an establishment (like a theme park or museum) discuss with your kids what to do if lost.
  • Remind children to stay put in case they are lost.

What tips do you have for keeping your kids safe on vacation? Share them in the comments!

Travel safety with kids is first priority. If you've ever lost a kid or had a child get sick on vacation, you know that safe travel is invaluable. These are practical and inexpensive ways to keep kids safe on vacation including travel with babies and toddlers, water safety, hotel room safety products and first aid tips. #FamilyTravel #Vacation #Disney | Disney Travel Tips | Travel with Kids | Family Travel | Safety Travel Tips | Toddler Travel

This post was originally published June 23, 2017 and has been updated.
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