There are all kinds of reasons why the COVID-19 virus has made many of us miserable. There are many who will have been personally affected by it and experienced it’s horrendous effects for themselves. Even if they’ve been able to avoid personal contact with the virus, they may have lost someone close to them as a result of it.
Yet more will have been negatively affected by it in some way or another. Many of us will have had to take a significant pay cut over the last few months. Indeed, the average British family is over £500 a month worse off, as a result of the virus and the lockdown.
As well as the sharp drop in income, the continuing travel restrictions mean that most of us have long since abandoned any hope of summer holidays. This will be most keenly felt by families with young children who were going to take their little ones on their first holiday this year.
But rather than bemoaning the loss of one opportunity, we should celebrate another. We now have the opportunity to do mor careful planning and put greater measures in place to make sure that our kids are safer and happier, and that we can travel safe in the knowledge that our little ones are well protected.
In this post, we’ll look at some of the ways in which you can ensure that your kids are well protected without impinging on their enjoyment of the experience.
Finding the difficult balance between safe and happy
There’s certainly a balance to be found between ensuring that our kids are safe and secure and that they are also happy and able to enjoy every aspect of the travel experience. We all know that young children are like sponges.
They haven’t developed the miopia that we pick up as adults that allows us to curate the sensory input we receive and shut out what isn’t important to us. They pick up on everything– not just what we say but our expressions and emotions. When we feel panicky and stressed, they feel panicky and stressed.
As such, we parents need to walk a fine line between keeping our kids safe and keeping our kids scared. With a cheerful demeanour, a little forward planning and consistent vigilance, the whole family can enjoy a holiday that they’ll remember fondly forever.
It starts with choosing the right destination
Some destinations are riskier for families than others. But don’t assume that just because you’re travelling with little ones means that you have to stick to the same old boring Spanish and Greek resort towns.
There are lots of surprisingly kid friendly destinations all over the world for kids whose parents expect a little more adventure from their getaways. From Nicaragua to South Africa to Singapore you can give your children a dose of wonder without worrying about their safety constantly.
Bring something that discourages wandering
Kids get bored easily. And when they’re bereft of stimuli, they are likely to wander off in search of it. Children are, after all, natural explorers and the temptation to engage with the world around them is something that we, as adults, tend to forget.
Even if they don’t go wandering off, they may start to get experimental with your beautiful Ray Ban sunglasses or your car keys. Everything is a toy to curious young hands. Therefore, you should bring a few carefully chosen toys and games and use them strategically at times when your child might encounter boredom- like if you experience delays at the airport or have to queue for a long time to see a popular attraction.
Make sure they know what to do if you get separated
Getting separated from your children in a crowded place is every parent’s worst nightmare. But there are lots of ways in which you can mitigate the risks and give yourself peace of mind when visiting places that you know will be very busy.
Pick a prominent landmark and make sure that they know to find you there if you ever get separated. Pack distinctively coloured clothes so that you’ll be able to spot them in a crowd. You may even want to put a little coloured tape somewhere visible like their arm or shoulder. It works for your luggage, after all.
When travelling, use the “parent sandwich” formation, whether you’re walking around a city centre or taking your seats on the plane. If you and your partner flank your child/ren on either side, each holding a hand, there’s much less chance of your child wandering off. Moreover, it helps you all to feel more like a cohesive family.
If you’re going to a busy venue or event, you may want to take a photo of your child on your smart phone so that onlookers will known what they look like including what they’re wearing on the day.
Travelling at night? You may want to pack some glow sticks. They’re not only enormous fun to play with, they can help you to identify your child in dark surroundings.
Making sure your hotel is safe
Wherever you go and whatever else you do, you’ll likely be spending a fair amount of time in your hotel room. So it’s up to you to look beyond the precisely manufactured aesthetics of the surface to ensure that your hotel room is a safe space for your family.
When you check in, politely request a room on a lower level. Some hotels take this precaution for families with young children but it can’t hurt to ask just to be on the safe side. This will mitigate the risk (however slight) of accidental falls as well as potential complications in the event of a fire.
If you’re travelling with a baby or toddler, the hotel may provide a cot which you will want to inspect to ensure that it complies with current safety standards. Check for broken or missing slats as well as scuffs, marks and other indicators that it has not been well looked after.
Make sure the mattress fits snugly and the supports are securely attached to the headboard and footboard. You might feel a little self-conscious inspecting it, especially if a porter has shown you to your room. Nonetheless, a little embarrassment is more than worth the risks you’ll avoid by properly inspecting the cot / crib.
It’s also a good idea to do a quick sweep of the room and look for obvious things like snagged carpets that could be trip hazards or exposed wiring which could lead to electric shock when curious little hands enter the equation.
Some parents like to bring some childproofing equipment with them like socket covers, doorknob covers and toilet locks. However, if all that sounds cumbersome, never underestimate the childproofing that can be done with a roll of gaffer tape.
Talk to them!
Finally, never underestimate the power of communication when it comes to keeping your kids safe and happy.
Of course, parents have a lot of demands on their time and attention when they travel. But keeping an open line of communication can allow you to prevent issues before they happen. Ask them how they’re feeling often.
If they’re bored, you have the opportunity to provide them with stimulation to prevent them from wandering off.
If they’re hungry, you can give them something to snack on so they’re less likely to be distracted by an icecream stall. If they start to feel woozy or get a headache, you have plenty of time to get them out of the sun before they feel worse.