25 FAMILY TRAVEL SAFETY TIPS WHEN TRAVELING ABROAD
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by Kristin Young | Updated On: June 19, 2019
When you have children, you’ll do ANYTHING to keep them safe. It seems that these concerns are often what keeps parents from traveling abroad. Most people in the world are wonderful and helpful, but following these family travel safety tips will help ease your mind when your family is traveling abroad.
Research your Destination
We’ve traveled to many destinations that have additional safety concerns. The key is to know what the issues are (political instability, terrorism, diseases) and plan your best to mitigate risks. For example: Europe has, in the past few years, had several issues with terror attacks at large gatherings, concerts, and events. Possibly avoid these events if there is an increased threat level. If you’re set on going, just understand your risks and be extra-vigilant. Everyone has their own level of comfort when it comes to safety. Check out the
United States State Department Travel Advisories ,
Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Website,
and the UK Government Foreign Travel Advice.
Remember that sometimes issues are only happening in a certain area of a country, so if it’s a threat level 3 or 4, just make sure to do extra research on the particular area that you are considering.
Get the Necessary Vaccinations
Talk to your doctor or pediatrician about the potential health risks of the destination you’re considering. Often, especially in the developed world, they’re minimal, if any. Our doctor always refers us to the travel nurse at our local health department, who’s up-to-date on any potential health issues around the globe.
Research the Local Laws
With so much information on the internet now, it’s incredibly easy to find out about the laws in other countries. Most of the western world is similar to the U.S., but every country has its own quirks. A simple search for “laws in X Destination” will usually have results for laws that may not be the norm elsewhere around the globe.
Register with STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program)
This quick online trip registration allows the local embassies and consulates to know which US.. citizens are in the country and where, should an emergency arise. Not only does it help the authorities know who to look for in case of a disaster, it also gets you real-time text or email updates on any safety or security concerns in the areas you are traveling. This program is for U.S. citizens, but similar programs are offered to citizens of other countries.
Get Travel Insurance
There are so many things that could go wrong, especially when traveling with little kids. I’ve taken a chance without it a few times, mostly because of a lack of planning, but I wouldn’t recommend that. Just like all insurance, you probably won’t need it, but if you do, you’ll be SO glad you have it. For me, World Nomads is the best. You can research and research, but World Nomads offers great affordable coverage, is endorsed by Lonely Planet and National Geographic, and is the one almost every travel blogger I know uses. CHECK PRICES HERE
Scan all passports, credit cards (front and back), and itineraries and save them in Google Drive or Dropbox, or email them to yourself so you can access them if your originals are lost or stolen.
Have a Working Phone
Cell phones with internet access have completely changed travel. Having access to GPS saves you from unfurling a huge map every time you want to figure out where to go. It’s all on your phone, and with everyone always staring at their phones these days, you won’t stand out. Plus, there’s access to restaurant reviews, hours of operation, entrance fees, and just about any other information you could want. Getting a working phone overseas can be a task that’s difficult or expensive, depending on your cellular carrier. I’ll go in to the nitty-gritty of that in another post though.
Respect the Local Culture
Please, please, please be respectful of other societies’ cultural norms. Our goal is to raise respectful global citizens who understand that we are all different, and that’s okay. You are a guest in the countries you visit, so be respectful of that.
This is mostly for women, but standards of dress in more conservative countries can be quite different than what westerners are used to. Inappropriate dress can lead to unwanted attention and harassment.
Check your Politics at the Door
If you’re an American, like us, people will know. Yes, I hear people say they will just pretend to be Canadian. Well, I’ve always found that people know immediately that we are Americans (I still really don’t know how though). American politics abroad are a real hot-button issue. Many people HATE our leaders, and will want to discuss it with you. The best way to deal with it? Just don’t engage. If they hate our president, but you love him, just pretend that you don’t. It won’t kill you, but it will save a lot of drama. However, usually people understand that we as citizens are not the same as our leaders.
Try to Blend In
Nothing screams tourist more than a constantly pulling out a huge map or walking around with a camera around your neck. Don’t wave money around, and try to keep valuables like an expensive camera tucked away in a bag when not in use.
Know Where You’re Going
Study the map, and know where you are headed – or at least look like you know where you are headed. If you’re feeling lost, take a minute to stop and consult the GPS or map so you can continue on with confidence. Looking like you know what you’re doing makes you less of a target for petty crime.
Pay Attention to Where Your Driver is Taking You
Try not to hop in a cab without any knowledge of what direction you should be going. Attempt to know the route and mentally follow along – or better yet, use your GPS. This is a good tip for safety, and also to make sure you aren’t getting ripped off by your driver.
Avoid Non-touristy Areas at Night
Going out after dark is just inherently more dangerous, especially in places you’re unfamiliar with. Stay in well-lit locations with plenty of other people around. Don’t go to extremes with this though. Use your best judgement, but don’t hide indoors just because the sun has gone down.
Keep Money in Multiple Locations
Wallets and purses can get lost or stolen, and no access to money will really ruin your trip. Keep multiple credit cards in a couple of locations so you will always have a Plan B.
Hide Valuables in a Diaper
If you travel with diapers, they’re a perfect safe for the beach. Wrap your cash, cards, and phones up in a diaper like it’s dirty. Just make sure you don’t toss it in the trash as you leave!
Be Prepared for Pickpockets
This is the most common issue you will face. Pickpocketing is rampant in many large cities, especially on the metros. Keep your possessions secure and in front of you. I always carry a cross-body bag with a zipped top. Men, DO NOT put your wallet in your back pocket!
Don’t Bring Jewelry
Not only is it completely unnecessary, but wearing diamonds and other fancy jewelry increases your risk being a victim of petty crime. Usually while traveling, you’re doing adventurous activities and covering a lot of ground, making you more likely to break or lose it as well.
Learn a Few Important Phrases
You’ll probably want to know at least a few key words or phrases in the local language. Although English is very prevalent around the world, in an emergency it’s important to know at least a couple words of the local language. Try to learn these before you go:
In addition to safety phrases, you may want to learn a couple of other essentials like food, drink and bathroom.
Watch Your Drinking
Having a drink or two is just fine, but getting too drunk makes you an easy target.
Drink Bottled Water
You can sometimes get away with drinking the local water, but I always opt for bottled or purified water. We have a Camelbak UV water purifier and water bottle filter that works great. We’ve also traveled with a lifestick. Both essentially do the same thing, and we recommend them both.
Watch What You Eat
I think almost everyone has heard of Montezuma’s Revenge or Delhi Belly. Traveler’s diarrhea is VERY common, so just expect your system to react a bit. However, sanitary standards for cooking in many countries are VERY different than the U.S. Most restaurants will be fine, but street food can be hit or miss, so go to the places that are busy. If there’s a steady stream of traffic, not only is the food probably good, but it’s likely also very fresh as well.
Let the Kids Run, but Watch Them Like a Hawk
This rings true for just about any public place, whether abroad or not. I love to let my kids roam, feel free to make choices, and initiate new friendships. However, I don’t let them out of my sight. When we’re in a crowd and I need to use both hands, my children (both toddlers) must keep one hand on my leg until I have finished and can pay attention to them again.
Teach Kids Who to Trust
This is a great rule – not only for travel, but for life in general. My children know that if they can’t find me, they should look for a police officer or another mom with children. Typically, most other moms will be a safe bet to help your child get help.
Use Your Judgment, Like at Home
People around the world are just like people at home. Some are bad, but most are really wonderful. You can sense when you are in a place you shouldn’t be, or see a suspicious person. Trust your gut, and pop into a store or restaurant to formulate a plan to get to a place you feel safe.
The world, for the most part, is full of friendly people going about their daily life, just like you. Use your common sense, and avoid people and places that don’t feel right. But don’t let the fear of the unknown keep you from getting out and showing your children all of the wonderful people and places this planet has to offer.