Whether you're staying in the U.S. or traveling out of the country, there's always the issue of safety when traveling with kids. We taken our boys to over 5 different countries so far and while I'm not overly paranoid, I've watched my share of true crime shows and am fully aware that we're not surrounded by saints. At the same time, the Bible clearly says He gives His angels charge concerning us, to guard us in all our ways. We shouldn't live in fear but we can be wise and take precautions, especially when traveling with littles.
We've all felt the pure panic that runs through our veins when we lose sight of a child for a moment while tending to another or have had two toddlers split in separate directions in a crowded place! It's bound to happen at some point so it's better to expect it and talk about how to prevent it than to let it be a surprise every time.
This last trip, something unusual happened that blew my mind. It was one of those things that I never would've anticipated and hasn't happened before but dear heavens, if the circumstances were different it could've gone horribly wrong. I'll definitely be talking to my boys from now on about safety and what to do if they "can't find mommy"!
We had several of these throughout the trip. These talks consist of the basics (hold hands, stay extra close to mommy/daddy, make sure you can always see mommy/daddy, etc.) and usually happen right before we go into a situation where they need to be extra attentive. The goal of any vacation is to relax and have fun, but getting serious with them right before the fun begins or right before walking into the airport, etc. never hurt.
On our last trip they traveled by plane, ship, taxi and water taxi and I'm always so proud of them. They had their own luggage in the airport which helps to keep their hands busy. When they got tired of pulling their luggage, they would either hold our hand or if our hands were full, hold onto the fur keychain I have attached to my purse.
SAFETY WRISTBANDS & TRACKERS
So far, the only way we've traveled with them outside the U.S. has been on Royal Caribbean cruise lines. This could change soon but cruising makes things easier all the way around. When you board there are colored safety wristbands the children have to wear the entire trip. There's also on board childcare and activities for them in a safe zone and they're checked in and out with a photo ID. We love having this option so that we can relax without worrying about the kids. This also helps us to be more refreshed and alert for when we decide to take them off the boat and to the beach.
I've been looking at some other options for when we take them to beaches and different cities here in the states. Brandon found these Jiobit GPS Trackers online and I think we're going to try them. It has real-time tracking so you can see where they've been, but also where they're going. You can set it up with "trusted places" for all the places you're expecting them to be and your phone will alert you anytime they leave a place to arrive somewhere else. I feel like this would be such a great thing to have anytime you're separated but especially when traveling.
MAKE A TRAVEL RULE
I read this on World Travel Family blog and it made me realize it's time to make this rule even though they're young. Here's an excerpt from their blog, "...If you get lost, stand still in the nearest safe place. Don't move an inch, mom or dad will find you..." Their post goes onto say that this rule goes for every location - around a road or train platform, move away from the traffic and stand still.. at the beach or anywhere, their children stand still and wait.
If only toddlers understood and obeyed all our rules though! This isn't always going to work for younger children which leads me to what happened on our most recent vacation. :-/
It was a relaxing day on the beach in Puerto Rico with Brandon, the boys, my mom and my sister. With four adults watching the boys I was just comfortable enough to lay down, close my eyes and actually relax without stressing about the kids. We must've been out there for at least an hour sunbathing and watching the boys play. I looked up and saw both boys playing in the waves, 20 seconds later I looked back up and Bryce was gone!
Looking up and down the beach I spotted him about 90 yards to our right running just as fast as he could AWAY from us and he wasn't stopping! Of course, I took off in a chase like Matt Damon in the Bourne series (only in a bathing suit :-/ ) and scooped him up. His scared little voice whimpered, "mommy, where did you go?!" Poor fella had lost his bearings when he came out of the water and didn't see mommy on the semi-crowded beach. Instead of calling me his first instinct was to run down the entire beach looking for me.
I thought we learned our lesson but with two around the same age sometimes each has to learn for themselves. A week later on the same beach Kasen took off! Just sitting there, four adults with two children. One minute he was there, the next I looked up and he was gone, running down the beach looking at everyone trying to find mommy.
We've gone to a lot of beaches with them and this has never happened before so for it to happen twice on the same beach makes me think it may have had to do with where we were. Still, the stand still and call mommy rule would've been helpful then.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
This experience made me realize that you can take all the precautions, always wear lifejackets, have four adults watching two kids, do all the things and still, something could happen. Child safety while traveling or even at home in our own communities is a challenge and it really does take a village.
I was surprised how many people on the beach were just watching Bryce run away. Maybe they thought he was going to someone he knew, maybe they were afraid of what we might say or think if they stopped him, but when weighed against the consequences of turning a blind eye, it's really best to step in. If I hadn't seen him when I did, I would've been SO grateful someone had stopped him!! The alternative is sickening.
Let's not judge other parents but instead, let's be the person that sees a kid who's lost or separated from their parents, reminds them to stand still and wait with them for mommy and daddy to come.
Thanks for reading!