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Guide to Safely Traveling With Children

Written by: John Maguire

A family vacation with children in tow promises to be exciting and filled with memories that can last a lifetime. With careful preparation, you can ensure that the experience is a positive one. When a family is in an unfamiliar environment, parents must be vigilant to detect potential dangers and keep children safe. From water to excessive sun to stranger danger, vacationing can pose dangers that demand a watchful eye over children to keep them safe and healthy.

Travel Safety

Travel safety is a priority, whether you're traveling locally or internationally, by car, airplane, or another means. Prepare children for the airport security screening process by explaining that employees check all bags and suitcases to make sure that passengers don't take dangerous items onto airplanes. Explain the process of stepping through the X-ray machine to children as well. Bringing along a car seat for air travel is recommended to ensure the child's safety in transit. Traveling internationally also may necessitate additional vaccinations prior to the trip. When traveling by car, make the trip easier by keeping kids busy with a box of small toys, games, and activities. Packing snacks will also help keep children occupied in the car. Stopping to get out of the vehicle every couple of hours should help everyone expend excess energy.

Pool/Water Safety

Swimming and spending time near the water is common while on vacation, but parents must supervise children constantly when near any type of water, including fountains, bathtubs, spas, wading pools, lakes, rivers, swimming pools, and oceans. A young child can drown in as little as 2 inches of water. Even children who know how to swim require constant supervision around water. It's also a good idea to provide a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vest for children.

Sun/UV Ray Protection

Vacations often involve sun-exposure. To avoid dangerous sunburns that can cause permanent skin damage, use sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and try to stay out of the sun in the middle of the day when the ultraviolet rays are at their strongest. Using sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30 is recommended. For optimal results, apply sunscreen about 30 minutes prior to going outdoors, and reapply it every two hours or more frequently after perspiring or getting wet. Children will often burn more easily than adults because of their sensitive skin. Protective clothing such as wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and UV-blocking sunglasses can also be helpful for preventing burns.

Children Getting Lost

When parents and children become separated, especially in an unfamiliar environment, it can be frightening. Before traveling, teach children what to do if they become separated from the rest of the family. Children should know their parents' cell phone numbers and how to make calls from a pay phone, if possible. Write down emergency contact information and hotel details, and put this information into children's pockets. Dress children in brightly colored clothing to help identify them more easily. Create a family "safe word" and teach children they should not go anywhere with a stranger who doesn't know it.


Illnesses like vomiting and diarrhea are common in children, and may cause dehydration. Signs of dehydration include reduced urination and concentrated urine, dry mouth and eyes, weakness and tiredness, headache, and dizziness. To rehydrate, provide small amounts of liquid every 10 minutes for a four-hour period. Water, rehydration solutions, broth, sports drinks, and diluted juice are good liquids to offer. As the body gradually rehydrates, urination should normalize and the other symptoms should dissipate. In cases of severe dehydration, medical treatment with intravenous fluids may be necessary.