Every parent traveling abroad with a child for the first time hears it:
“Oh, good luck!”, said with wariness. It’s always more like a warning than encouragement. Most parents worry more about how other people will be affected by their child on a plane than what lies ahead at their destination.
It makes sense. You’re in a small space with strangers who are going to share in your child’s experience of flight. You are pressured by public transit norms that your child just doesn’t understand yet. It can be uncomfortable as your toddler screams into the ear of a man just trying to get comfortable in his neck pillow.
But what happens when you get off the plane and your toddler wants to run laps around your luggage cart? How do you handle feeling like your child is safe and secure while you are in a foreign country?
It’s a terrifying thought that something might happen while traveling abroad with your child; but, with a little preparedness, you can rest well and have a great vacation.
Consequence results from our everyday choices and is not just a sub-topic of discipline. Helping your child understand consequence in their daily routine can help them understand things that they may encounter during travel.
For instance, if your child wants to cross slippery rocks to get to the other side of a river, you might ask him, “What will happen if you fall into the water?” When he answers, you can ask, “What will you do when you get to the other side?” This helps your child learn to question his own impulses and develop a plan before acting out.
Practicing consequence at home can help your child make decisions they might come across when abroad with you, such as straying away or unexpectedly trying to cross a busy street.
If your child is 3 or under, this can be a hard concept to grasp. Impulse often outweighs communication at this age. It is important to teach your child to hold your hand when walking with you, especially in crowded, public places. If your child likes to be independent, consider using a backpack with harness to give them their freedom but also keep your security.
Memorizing Your Name and Phone Number
Does your child know your first and last name? More importantly, do they know your phone number? In the unlikely situation that your child is separated from you, knowing your name and phone number can help expedite your reunion significantly.
You can make up a song and practice it with your child to help them remember. For example, if your phone number is 1-555-1234, you can sing: “One, five, five, five – once I caught a fish alive – one, two, three, four – my mother threw him out the door.” It doesn’t have to make sense but rhyming makes it memorable.
If your child is too young to recite a song or you would like to take the extra precaution, you can order personalized temporary tattoos of your name and phone number on Etsy.
Medical Precautions, Travel Medical Insurance, and National Emergencies
One of the most important things to consider when traveling to any new destination is if there are any illnesses or outbreaks that you may be exposed to. Children are more susceptible to illness than healthy adults so checking with the Center for Disease Control’s suggestions for immunization will help prepare you and your child for any possible sickness.
Also, having travel medical insurance will help if you or your child get ill. Many countries have socialized healthcare but it may not be as quick or as thorough as privatized clinics or hospitals. Travel insurance will help you cover any costs that may accrue from a doctor’s visit.
Lastly, before you go on your trip, it is important to register with Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It is a free service that lets United States citizens receive news, updates and emergency information while traveling abroad. It will also let the US embassy or Consulate contact you in the event of a national emergency.
Traveling should be a time for kicking back and having fun, and yes, that is possible when traveling abroad with a child! With these tips, you can help keep your child safe and smooth the process if something does occur!
Sarah is a travel writer for her blog, The Worldwide Mama. When she is not adventuring with her family, she is either cooking, crafting or gardening with her daughter.