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9 tips to stay safe when travelling with kids

The well-travelled EVIE FARRELL shares her advice on how to stay safe when travelling with kids, to ensure a hassle-free family holiday

Evie Farrell shares How to stay safe when travelling with kids
Evie Farrell and Emmie walking along a beach at Cape Tribulation in Queensland

How to stay safe when travelling with kids

Being robbed of everything in Spain, ripped off by taxi drivers in China, leaving our passports in the plane’s seat pocket in Thailand and having my credit card details stolen in Indonesia – these are just a few of the mistakes I made as I bumbled my way around the world with my 11-year-old daughter.

We ran the gamut of travel scams, medical dramas and dodgy deals and, while researching for my book Holiday Safe: The Complete Guide to Staying Safe When Travelling with Kids, I realised there are probably more cons I’ve fallen for and simply had no idea (although I don’t mind being somewhat oblivious to being ripped off).

Travelling with kids means parents – especially those travelling solo with kids – have to be a little more prepared than back in the day when we were trotting around Asia as carefree 20-something backpackers. And that’s okay, because all it takes is a little bit of planning and awareness to keep the family safe and happy on that big trip overseas, or even a domestic holiday. These tips for staying safe when travelling with kids are a good place to start:

Evie Farrell and her daughter Emmie at the Great Wall of China
Evie Farrell and her daughter Emmie at the Great Wall of China

1. Do a destination risk assessment

Checking your destination has never been so important. As well as its COVID-19 status, checking for possible disruptions or impacts – like your destination’s political climate, the weather (for example, Irukandji and stingers over summer in north Queensland, or cyclone season in many destinations around the world), major events and elections – is essential. It’s best to find out that a popular local celebration will overcrowd famous sites, or a major election will shut down a city, before you book your trip. The Australian government website smartraveller.gov.au is an excellent resource, and you can sign up for travel advisories and alerts too.

2. Always have travel insurance

Excellent insurance cover for your health, your flights, accommodation, and gear should be a non-negotiable – and insurance for Covid-related medical expenses and delays/cancellation/accommodation is a must for overseas travel. Make sure to buy your insurance as soon as you book, otherwise you won’t be covered if, say, a child breaks a bone before you start your trip and you can’t fly. This happened to us, and I lost money because I’d put off buying our insurance. Always read the product disclosure statement to check for any sneaky exemptions, and as the saying goes, if you can’t afford travel insurance you can’t afford to travel.

Evie and Emmie in Spain - How to stay safe when travelling with kids
Evie and Emmie in Spain

3. Have a family safety plan

Make sure you have a family safety plan that covers what you do when things go a bit off track – like getting lost or separated, if you’re in an accident or someone is sick or injured – and practice it before you go.

We always take a hotel business card (it has the hotel details in English and the local language) out with us, and we have a small safety bag that we keep in my daughter Emmie’s backpack with the hotel card, money and my phone number.

Leave your room key at the front desk when you head out (better than it being lost or stolen), and if you’re in an area you’re unsure about, let them know where you are going and when you should be back. Always use the hotel safe to store your passports, money and valuables.

Most importantly, I think, is to always listen to your gut when you’re exploring. If you have bad vibes, feel unsafe or something doesn’t seem right – then leave.

4. Photograph important documents

Take photos of your passports, travel insurance and any other important documents, such as children’s birth certificates. Store them in Google Docs or another document-sharing platform, and email them to your parents/friends too. When we were robbed in Spain, we lost all our luggage and documents, and having a photo of our passports on my phone helped us get home (with just a letter from the Australian Embassy and the clothes on our backs).

Evie Farrell and Emmie in Tokyo - How to stay safe when travelling with kids
Evie Farrell and Emmie in Tokyo

5. Protecting your money

Never give out your credit card details, even when dealing with what seems to be a reputable hotel. One common scam at hotels is for guests to receive a phone call in their room, purportedly from the front desk, asking them to confirm their credit card number. It’s not the front desk – it’s a scammer. Never give out credit card details over the phone.

Don’t carry too much cash or be flashy with how much you have. Split your money into different compartments around your bag, and – as daggy as it sounds – carry it in a bum-bag under your clothes when you’re out exploring. I always try to have small notes because I don’t want thieves to see how much money I have, nor do I want to be ripped off when paying with a large note.

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6. Medical considerations

Having immunisations before travelling doesn’t just protect your family, it protects the vulnerable communities you may visit in your travels. Pack a medical kit with bandages, saline, band aids, hydration tablets and any other medicine you need – take a letter from the doctor with the prescription. We also pack antibiotics, just in case. Dehydration can sneak up very quickly in children, so make sure to drink lots of water and give them hydration liquid if you see any signs including dry skin, fever or chills, dizziness, or dark or infrequent urine. Research your destination’s medical and hospital facilities.

7. Protecting your gear

When robbers broke into our hire car and wheeled off with all our bags in Spain it was awful, but it could have been worse. When hiring a car don’t get the fanciest – as tempting as it may be. Be inconspicuous and ask for a car without hire car stickers and signage. Don’t leave your bags in the car when you’re away – we only left ours for 30 minutes and, in that short time, it was all taken. Keep your valuables with you and, most importantly, don’t challenge robbers. It’s just not worth the risk.

Evie Farrell and her daughter Emmie ziplining
Evie Farrell and her daughter Emmie ziplining

8. Beware of scams

Some of the most common scams are the old “the taxi metre isn’t working” to make you pay a huge sum instead. Tell the driver you’ll find another taxi, and it will magically fix itself. There’s also the “your hotel closed/burnt down/is overbooked” scam – the driver just wants to take you to his mate’s place where you’ll be charged a fortune and he’ll get a kickback. Always use the official taxi queue, make sure the metre is on and never listen when the taxi driver conveniently knows another hotel for you to stay at.

Evie and Emmie at Gaudis La Pedrera Casa Mila in Barcelona
Evie and Emmie at Gaudis La Pedrera Casa Mila in Barcelona

9. Don’t forget your mental health

Travelling with kids can be tough, and it can be hard to get time to yourself. Sometimes you’ll need a rest, so make sure to look after yourself by having downtime. Stay in a resort for a few days and put the kids into kids’ club so you can have some alone time and a wine, and don’t be afraid to change plans if you need a break. Mental health while travelling is important to nurture and manage so everyone has a fabulous time together.

Holiday Safe by Evie Farrell cover

Evie Farrell’s 100-page e-book Holiday Safe: The Complete Guide to Staying Safe When Travelling with Kids is available for $20 via mumpacktravel.com

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