Travel Tips for a Safe Family Vacation
1. Current Vaccinations: Make sure everyone in the family is up-to-date with their vaccinations, especially if traveling abroad. If you are traveling abroad, also check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to see if any special vaccinations are recommended.
2. Medications: Consult your child's pediatrician to see which medications would be appropriate to have on hand in case of motion sickness, allergies, diarrhea, or other common travel ailments. Check the expiration date on your family's medications and be sure you have enough for the trip. Store all necessary medications in their original labelled containers with child-proof safety caps, and pack them in your carry-on instead of your baggage (which could get lost). Also pack a basic first aid kit so that you'll be prepared for minor scrapes, sunburns, and insect bites.
3. Insurance: Check your health insurance coverage to see what type of medical coverage you would have in the event of an emergency at your destination. If necessary, purchase traveler's health insurance. If you are renting a vehicle (car, boat, scooter, etc.) it is important to understand what kind of coverage your car insurance, home owner's insurance, and credit card companies may provide so that you elect the appropriate coverage on your rental agreement. You may also want to consider whether you'll need traveler's insurance. Traveler's insurance can provide reimbursement for non-refundable travel deposits if you have to cancel or interrupt your trip due to illness or severe weather. Traveler's insurance can also provide coverage for lost or stolen luggage and other travel-related calamities.
4. Carseats/Boosters: When traveling with small children, be sure to bring appropriate safety restraints or make arrangements to rent them when you arrive at your destination. Be aware that not all states have the same age, height, and weight requirements for carseats and boosters, so be sure you have the appropriate restraint for each place you are visiting. In addition, not all car safety restraints are approved for airline use. Contact the airline in advance to determine what kind of safety restraint is approved and whether any special arrangements are made for infants (e.g. bulkhead seating, stroller storage, pre-boarding, etc.)
5. Sun Safety: The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., so limit your family's exposure during that time and wear hats and protective clothing as much as possible. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that children should wear a product with at least SPF 30. Sunscreen should be applied at least 15-30 minutes before exposure and reapplied at least every 2 hours or every 40-80 minutes when swimming or sweating -- even if using 'waterproof' sunscreen.
6. Water Safety: Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death in children ages 1-4. Although its tempting to let down your guard on vacation, water activities require parental vigilance. Never assume that a lifeguard is watching your child or that a boat has the proper child-sized flotation devices and emergency gear. Pay attention to beach warning flags, weather conditions, and rip tide warnings. When booking a boat trip or other water activity, always call in advance to ask about safety precautions. If necessary, bring along your own child-sized U.S. Coast Guard approved flotation devices. Once you arrive, verify that weather conditions are safe and that safety equipment is in good condition, easily accessible, and that all members in your family understand how to wear and/or use the safety equipment properly.
7. Eye Safety: Eyes can suffer sun damage too, so when traveling to sunny locations everyone in the family should have sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection. Keeping eyes clean is also important. One of the last things you or your children want on vacation is a nasty eye infection. To avoid eye problems (and other communicable diseases), you and your kids should be vigilant about washing your hands. If you wear contact lenses, never expose your lenses to non-sterile tap, bottle or ocean water. Always remove your lenses before you swim and bring back-up pairs of contacts and glasses, a travel size sterile solution for your carry-on, and a full size sterile solution for your suitcase. If you plan to snorkel, consider whether you'll need a prescription lens face mask.
8. Healthy Drinking and Eating: Its easy to become dehydrated on vacation because you are often in the sun, active, and without easy access to water. Beware of ice or tap water in places where the water isn't safe to drink. Instead, bring bottled water or, if not available, stick to a familiar brand of sugar- and caffeine-free beverage. While trying new things is part of the traveling experience, try to keep the majority of your children's meals as nutritious as possible by filling their plates with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. Allow sugary sweets only after their nutritionally needs have been met. Easy to pack healthy snacks for kids include granola bars, crackers, and dried fruits. If you are flying with a child with food allergies, alert the airline in advance. If you are traveling to a foreign country, be prepared to communicate your child's dietary restrictions with restaurant staff in their native language. If you don't speak fluently, prepare a card written in the language the host country and bring it with you whenever you dine out.
9. Contingency Planning: Make sure your children understand the rules and boundaries whenever visiting a new pool, beach, amusement park or other attraction. Designate a meeting place in case you get separated and make sure they have your cell phone number with them (written on a sticker, plastic bracelet, or inside a piece of clothing).
10. Staying Connected: Increasingly, smart phones, tablets, and computers manage many aspects of our lives and are essential tools during travel for storing important numbers, hotel/travel reservation information, navigation, weather information, news, etc. When traveling beyond your normal range, understand which of your devices will work, whether roaming fees will apply, whether an international plan is necessary, whether power-cord adaptors are necessary, and which passwords you will need to keep on hand. For the most critical information (passport numbers, doctors' phone numbers, insurance numbers, etc.) keep a paper copy with you as a back-up and leave a copy at home with a friend or relative too.
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