Information about travelling with children
Travelling overseas with children can be fabulous but there are a few challenges families face before setting off. Here are some tips we swear by, inspired by our travel clinic, aid worker and personal experiences.
1. Plan properly
Organise your travel itinerary with a child in mind. It’s incredibly difficult to handle travel with children without a proper plan, simply because of the extra luggage, the fact that small children rarely sit still and the fact that you’re in an unfamiliar place. If you’re taking the kids with you, doing anything at all on impulse is a lot more of a challenge. Bear this in mind from the start and the whole thing will be a lot smoother.
2. Get vaccinated
Make sure you and your children have seen a specialist travel health nurse 4-6 weeks in advance to discuss the vaccinations you will need. Knowledge is key, and going to a private travel clinic is invaluable – unless you’re lucky enough to have a enthusiastic and experienced practice nurse at your GP surgery.
It’s also a good idea to learn all about basic mosquito bite avoidance, food and water hygiene, common gastrointestinal diseases and travellers diarrhoea so you know what to expect and how to deal with issues if they happen.
3. Be alert – road and travel safety
Road traffic accidents are common causes of death and injury overseas. And in many countries the traffic is total chaos, nothing like the relative calm we experience in Britain. Roads can be a great deal more dangerous abroad, especially when they drive on the other side of the road, which makes things even more complicated with little ones around.
Be aware of the extra risks. Maybe get a taxi instead of a local bus, especially if the roads are treacherous . It might not be so much of an adventure but with little ones in tow, transport safety is more important than ad hoc adventures. Take the same precautions you would in the UK – wear seat belts, don’t seat small children directly in front of air bags and use child locks.
Check the following before getting on a boat:
- Does it look overcrowded?
- Can you see life jackets or lifeboats?
- Does the captain look like he knows what he is doing?
Health and safety regulations are non-existent in some countries, and there have been numerous serious accidents on boats carrying tourists, most notably in Thailand. If a boat or its crew look dodgy, step away.
4. Get travel insurance
Make sure you have full travel cover for the whole family, a policy that includes the full cost of emergency repatriation. It’s important to know most insurers won’t pay a claim if you catch a disease you could have been vaccinated against, but decided not to.
If you have any pre-existing ilnesses or medical conditions, or your children do, it’s essential to tell your insurer. If you don’t tell them everything they need to know, they won’t pay your claims. If in any doubt at all, ring the insurance company to confirm exactly what’s what.
5. Bring entertainment
When travelling with little ones, entertainment and distractions are vital. You could end up waiting for hours and hours in a foreign airport with nothing to do, especially when it’s an airport with very basic facilities.
You might not be able to get insurance for your child’s electronic gadgets, deciding to leave them at home, but there are plenty of old fashioned things for kids to engage with: books, comics and magazines, traditional games, packs of cards, drawing books and crayons are all good.
Entertainment is particularly important on board an aircraft, where bored and disruptive children can make everyone else’s journey a misery.
6. Prepare the kids
In the time leading up to your trip, involve the children in discussing the places you’ll be visiting. What will the weather be like? What food might they eat? How should they behave aboard an aeroplane? The more you discuss the holiday, the more informed your children will be and the less shocked they’ll be by a totally unfamiliar foreign culture.
It’s also a great idea to learn a few phrases of the local language together, always an excellent ice-breaker and especially so with children.
7. Bring a first aid kit plus extras
Take a first aid kit with you. Pack the basics plus things like travel sickness pills and boiled sweets in case take-off and landings give your children ear pain.
It might be a good idea to take a stash of lollies and sweets with you, a sensible alternative to local ice cream, which could easily carry Hepatitis A in at-risk areas, and fruits washed in water, which could easily give them traveller’s tummy.
Think about taking these too:
- Fungal cream
- Calamine lotion,
- Calpol and a thermometer
- A water bottle for each child
- Their own plastic cutlery and bowls
- Alcohol wipes and gel
- UV clothing and hats
- Factor 50 waterproof sun cream and lip salve
- Buoyancy aids for swimming
- Toys and games they love, excluding expensive things you might lose abroad
- Insect bite relief
- Oral rehydration salts
- Sterile needles and other clean items not always available abroad, for example sterile bandages
8. Take safety precautions
Write your contact details on your child’s forearm with an indelible marker pen. It seems strange but it works if your child might wander off. Alternatively you can get special ID bracelets here.
9. Watch out for animals
Get the rabies vaccination. And when you get there, warn your little ones to keep away from animals and make sure they know to tell you if they get bitten or scratched.
10. Take a night flight
Lastly, take a night flight. With luck your children will sleep for most of the flight and wake up refreshed and ready to go instead of worn out, over excited and fractious.