What better way to share the world with your family than to take them travelling? From Kids’ Clubs in Fiji to mega-cruise ships, children are increasingly being catered for throughout the travel industry. Airlines and tour companies regularly book seats for the smallest intrepid travellers, and even mountain trek stores offer gear for children under 12.
Lifelong memories are created when families travel together. Kids learn about different cultures and bridge the gap between the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality.
Travelling as a family is the perfect way to expose your kids to the outside world and connect them with their fellow humans at the same time.
That said, travelling with kids can be challenging. There are health and safety concerns which you should be aware of before you travel. Taking extra precautions before you leave for your holiday helps take the stress out of travelling with kids. You’ll be better prepared to deal with a day of sightseeing, too much ice cream, or even a medical emergency.
To help you prepare, we’ve put together a practical guide filled with health and safety tips so that your holiday, whether by car, train, plane or boat is as enjoyable and trouble-free as possible.
Table of Contents
- Planning Your Next Family Holiday
- The Ultimate Health and Safety Packing Guide
- Safety Tips for Taking Children on Holiday
- Tips for Keeping Teens Safe on Holiday
- 14 Tips for Keeping Your Kids Safe on Holiday
- Keeping Kids Safe While Flying
- Keeping Kids Safe on Cruise Ships
- Top Tips for Road Trips With Kids
- How To Deal With Common Travel Illnesses
- Top Tips for Staying Healthy on Holiday
- What To Do if Your Child Gets Lost on Holiday
- What To Do In An Emergency
- Important Contact Information and Resources
Planning Your Next Family Holiday
Planning a holiday with your children is exciting, but travelling with kids involves more than just packing the iPad and extra snacks. You’ll naturally need to take into consideration their health and safety, particularly if you’re heading overseas.
If you have very young dependents, consider how you’ll help keep them safe from insect bugs and stomach upsets, and if they’re older, consider discussing important safety measures with them.
Ask yourself these questions:
Where should we travel to?
- Choose destinations with reputable medical facilities that are easy to reach.
- Are there diseases to consider? What about contamination of food and water?
- Will you be able to access public toilets regularly?
- Consider the political situation and the local attitude towards foreigners.
Will I be able to access the hospital or the consulate if I need help?
- Think about your location and how quickly your family can get medical or consular help if needed.
- Do you or your children have pre-existing medical conditions which may cause complications?
- Will there be language barriers to getting medical care in an emergency?
Which type of accommodation is recommended for families?
- Some hotels offer a range of facilities for children such as kids clubs and babysitting facilities, while others don’t cater for them at all.
- Check with the hotel if you need to bring your own cot, high chair or car seat.
- Research the safety standards of local babysitting services.
- Is there wheelchair access if required?
How should we travel to our destination?
- Evaluate how far you’ll need to travel.
- Have your kids been on a plane or a ship before? It can be hard to ascertain whether they’ll be able to travel comfortably for such a long time.
- What transport options are available once you arrive at your destination?
How will we be able to stay in touch?
- It’s great to take your kids off the beaten track, but you’ll need to be able to contact someone if there’s an emergency.
- Will there be mobile phone reception at your destinations?
- Will you need to purchase global roaming or a local SIM card when you arrive?
When is the best time to travel?
- Holidays happen all the time, but the best times to travel are outside of rainy seasons when there’s less risk of insect-borne diseases.
- Keep in mind if you have an infant, most airlines won’t allow them to fly under two weeks of age.
Should we get any vaccinations?
- If you’re travelling on a cruise ship, the risk of malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases is very low.
- If you’re visiting certain overseas destinations make sure you are up-to-date with shots such as Hepatitis A, Diphtheria, Tetanus and influenza, before you travel.
- Ask your doctor about necessary vaccinations for the country you’re visiting.
Do we need passports and visas?
- Apply for passports and visas well in advance of your overseas holiday.
- You won’t be able to leave the country without a passport.
- You won’t be able to enter a destination without a visa (if needed).
Should we book ahead?
- It’s a safer option to book ahead for as much as you can before you leave for your holiday. You may be too tired from the flight to flag down honest taxi drivers, and not have enough time to research reputable tour companies.
- If you travel with any special equipment, like a wheelchair, talk to your travel agent or contact the airline directly to make special arrangements and request extra help.
Is travel insurance important?
- Travel insurance may cover you for unexpected expenses like cancellation fees, lost luggage, flight delays, and overseas emergency medical costs.
- Taking out comprehensive travel insurance is a small cost to pay for peace of mind in the event of an emergency overseas.
- Speak to your insurer about the best cover for your family and always read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) before purchasing a policy.
What type of travel insurance does my family need?
- Some travel insurers will allow you to travel with up to 10 dependent children aged under 21 (not in full time employment) with Family Travel Insurance for your holiday.
- Grandchildren may also be covered.
- If you’re taking your kid’s friends on holiday, they will likely need to be covered under their own travel insurance policy.
What’s the best insurance for infants and kids?
- Most insurers offer cover especially catered for families. It’s a cheaper way to cover your entire family instead of purchasing cover individually. Look around for the best deal for your family.
- Some insurers provide unlimited cover to children under 21 years for a small additional cost, or help you save with a variable excess.
Speak to your insurer for a quote and compare the insurance policies available. Once you’ve found the policy with the best value, read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for further information.
The Ultimate Health and Safety Packing Guide
Take the worry out of figuring out what to pack with our ultimate health and safety packing checklist so you and your family can focus on the fun!
Here's our suggestions for what to pack:
- Passports and visas (plus photocopies)
- Vaccination documents (if required)
- Hotel, transfer and flight documentation
- Travel insurance certificates
- Sun screen
- Light, breathable, clothing to help prevent mosquito bites
- Closed, protective and non-slippery shoes that are easy to put on and take off
- An umbrella and a waterproof, windbreaker jacket
- A second set of clothing in case of accidents or injuries
- Socket protectors to childproof electrical outlets at your hotel
- Drink bottles to avoid dehydration
- Car seat (some countries don’t provide car seats for children)
- Collapsible stroller (bring your own to be sure of the quality)
All families should carry a first-aid kit, but it’s especially important for families travelling off the beaten path when you won’t be able to reach convenience stores or chemists. There are plenty of small travel first-aid kits that are easy to carry.
Your first aid kit should contain:
Safety Tips for Taking Children on Holiday
Toddlers and young children are often eager to experience plane and train rides. It’ll be hard to predict what young children will be like on-board a plane, or sitting on the Eurostar, but try to factor in experiences that cater for children in a supervised environment. It’s a good way to keep your kids entertained and safe at the same time.
Here's a few of our ideas for travelling with children:
Hotels and resorts have long understood that if the kids are happy and safe, Mum and Dad will relax. Pick accommodation that includes supervised kids clubs with plenty of safe activities for your children to participate in.
Kids of all ages love visiting the beach. Choose beaches that are calm and patrolled by lifeguards and remember to pack plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses and floaties!
Don’t overload yourself with bags. It’ll make it hard to take care of your children and you’ll also be an easier target for thieves. Collapsible strollers are very useful if you plan to do a lot of sightseeing. Bring your own because not all strollers provided are of good quality.
Child restraint standards differ around the world. Some countries aren’t as strict as Australia when it comes to the safety of car seats and child restraints. Research the destination you’re travelling to and bring your own if needed. Baby seats are not always provided with rental cars and some countries don’t use them at all. Bring your own baby seat if you plan to travel by car.
Young children may want to venture off on their own, but it’s important they have constant adult supervision to ensure they’re safe. Areas such as congested cities require you to be diligent about their safety. Pools on cruise ships aren’t patrolled, so you need to keep an eye on your kids at all times. Prevent your child from falling down the stairs by hiring or bringing your own stair gates.
Cultural Awareness and Local Laws
Attitudes may differ overseas to what you’re used to at home. Laws may be vastly different to Australia, and in some countries smacking children is illegal. Research the destination you’re travelling to so that you’re well prepared.
If you’re planning on using a nanny or babysitter, research the accreditation standards of child care providers. Ensure they’re qualified and well trained in first-aid, and have a good ratio of staff to children.
Babies and Toddlers
Many parents take their babies and toddlers to visit family overseas, or experience new places together on their annual holiday. Babies sleep much more than older children but can crawl or walk away from you, so you’ll need to take into consideration where they’ll sleep and what they’ll try to explore. Avoid bunk beds for babies and very young children. Instead, bring a portable cot for your baby to sleep in, or hire one when you reach your destination.
Tips for Keeping Teens Safe on Holiday
Travelling with teens navigates the delicate balance of adult supervision and freedom.
Teens want to meet other teenagers, experience new things, and generally avoid their parents wherever possible. But while they may be able to google their way out of being lost using their smartphone, it’s still wise to consider these tips to keep them safe on holiday.
Keep your teen safe by ensuring they have a mobile phone with roaming, or have purchased a local SIM card to keep in touch with you. Even if they’re just chilling at the hotel’s pool, make sure you know where they are or where they’re heading to.
Meet up often
If you allow your teens to wander, set certain meeting points and times throughout the day for them to check in with you. You don’t have to be with them every single moment, but it’s important you meet up intermittently so you know they’re okay.
Put the hotel’s business card in their wallet so if they’re lost, they’ll be able to show the card to a taxi driver and find their way back to the hotel.
Share the holiday planning
Teens are master collectors of internet knowledge. Give your teen the task of researching the destination before you go so that they’re familiar with the area and any scams involving tourists. Encourage them to learn about local laws and customs so they don’t break or offend them when you aren’t around.
Pack a small travel health kit
Your teen can then treat minor scrapes, sunburn, diarrhoea and headaches on their own. Make sure they know how to take the medication and how to use the items.
Explain to your teen that they need to eat properly and keep hydrated, and regularly apply insect repellent and sunscreen.
Find safe activities
Choose safe adventure sports for adventurous teens, and always book activities through a reputable company.
Teen clubs are a great way for teens up to age 17 to meet one another in a safe environment while on holiday.
Remind teens to look after their belongings
Tell your teen that they should keep their belongings close and secure, and be aware of their surroundings at all times.
Remind your teen that flashing expensive phones or tablets around puts them at risk for theft.
14 Tips for Keeping Your Kids Safe on Holiday
Keep your children safe on holiday with these top tips:
- Take a photo of your kids before you leave the hotel each day. If they go missing, you will have photo evidence of what they were last seen wearing.
- Teach your children about the local laws and why they shouldn’t break them. If they are old enough to operate a camera, remind them that certain government buildings are off limits for budding photographers.
- Respect local customs by dressing and behaving appropriately, especially in sacred places and near government buildings.
- Your holiday destination may have different laws regarding breastfeeding in public. Research the local laws to avoid any sticky situations.
- Keep a fully charged phone with you that has emergency numbers installed. If you have older children, give them a phone which has phone numbers they may need, including the local dialling codes.
- Buy your children appropriate footwear – if you’re taking them hiking, buy closed, sturdy, non-slip shoes; if they’re going swimming, a pair of swim shoes will protect their feet from sharp coral, stonefish and sea snakes.
- Pack a travel health first-aid kit and include a small, portable flashlight. Depending on where you’re travelling to, a flashlight can come in handy where streetlights are dim, or when using a dark, public bathroom.
- Have your child wear a wrist band or ID bracelet with your name and emergency number on it.
- Child proof all electrical outlets and prevent stair tumbles by using a stair gate.
- Move chairs away from windows and balconies so kids can’t climb them.
- Remind your kids about pool and water safety when you arrive to prevent injury. Don’t let them go to the pool without adult supervision. Ask the locals if the waterways are safe, and swim only in calm and patrolled areas.
- Keep babies safe at meal time by using an easy to carry fabric high chair.
- Familiarise yourself with the fire escapes of your accommodation.
- Traffic laws differ throughout the world. Car seats, seat belts and bike helmets may often not be required in the destination you’re headed to, but parents and caregivers should follow the safety practices they're used to in Australia. You may need to pack your own car seat.
Keeping Kids Safe While Flying
Taking your kids on a plane is exciting! There are plenty of new experiences to be had, such as checking in at the airport, boarding the plane, and taking off and landing. However these experiences can be a source of stress for parents too.
- Some airlines won’t allow newborns to fly so check with the airline before booking.
- Request seating where it’s easy to reach the toilet.
- Explain security screening to your children and that they may have to remove certain items of clothing while they walk through the metal detector.
- If your child has special needs, organise help from the airline and airport staff in advance.
- Reduce air pressure pain in the ears by breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby, especially during take-off and landing. Give older children a drink of water or a chewy sweet to suck on. Ear plugs may help too.
Keeping Kids Safe on Cruise Ships
Cruising with the family is a great way to experience a package holiday. Entire families of multiple generations regularly travel together: parents laze by the pool while grandparents and grandchildren enjoy fun in the sun. But there are some precautions you should take to ensure your children’s safety.
- There are hundreds of people at a time using the ship’s pools. Children must be supervised by an adult at all times.
- Make sure your children wear a wide-brimmed sun hat, sunglasses and enough sunscreen to reduce the risk of sunburn.
- Some areas are restricted to adults only, and children won’t be allowed in. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult in the entertainment lounges.
- Pack a nightlight or flashlight so that your child doesn’t bump their head or stub their toe. Ships can get very dark at night.
- Bring some duct tape to childproof electrical outlets in your room.
- Gastrointestinal illnesses spread very quickly on cruises, but they can be greatly reduced by carrying a hand sanitiser and washing your hands often, especially after you use the bathroom and before you eat.
- Let the wait staff know if your child is allergic to certain foods, and they’ll be able to direct you to meals your child can eat.
- Ensure your kids keep up their fluid intake by drinking lots of water. Ships have filtered drinking water which is also used to prepare food.
Top Tips for Road Trips With Kids
Domestic road tripping is a great way to flex your children’s travel muscles. Prepare well before you travel so you arrive safe and happy.
Before you leave:
- Check tyre pressure/tread depth and service your car.
- Pack plenty of water in non-spill cups and snacks in containers that can be easily opened and eaten.
- Make sure your road assistance plan is current.
- Make sure all car seats are installed properly.
- Put visors or sun shades on the car windows to protect your children from the sun.
- Plan your journey to include toilet stops and breaks every two hours.
- Talk to your kids about the journey and explain that you won’t be able to take your eyes off the road to help them.
- Check basic car safety equipment such as a flashlight, jumper cables, a first-aid kit, small bucket (for children who suffer motion sickness), wipes and a spare change of clothing for each child.
- Visit the doctor if you have a child who suffers from motion sickness. Your doctor will prescribe medication to help them.
- Ensure your children wear their seatbelt at all times during the trip.
- Eat light, small, fresh meals. Avoid heavy, fatty foods.
- Drink plenty of water, and encourage your kids to keep hydrated.
- Pull over immediately if you feel tired.
- Keep the car well-ventilated to reduce the impact of motion sickness.
How To Deal With Common Travel Illnesses
Parents aren’t thinking about getting sick when planning a holiday, but there are plenty of illnesses you and your family can experience while travelling.
From sea sickness to gastrointestinal illness, it’s best to take precautions before you travel, and have a plan of action in case anyone in the family falls ill on holiday.
While many people suffer from motion sickness, it’s common in children between the age of 2 and 12 who are exposed to certain types of movement, such as long or winding car rides (or shaky home videos). Symptoms include dizziness, tiredness, headache, sweating, burping, nausea and vomiting.
Like motion sickness, sea sickness can occur in anyone. It’s brought on by a mismatch between the rocking of the ship and your body’s natural inclination for balance. Symptoms of sea sickness include dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting.
Gastrointestinal illness/food poisoning
Food poisoning is a type of gastroenteritis caused by bacteria in undercooked or poorly prepared food. Known on cruise ships as Norovirus, it’s easily spread between passengers, including babies and children. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, headache, and loose stools.
Before you travel:
- Ask your doctor for medication which may help with motion sickness.
- If you’re travelling on a cruise, book an outside cabin in the middle of the ship to help reduce the amount of rockiness you may feel on-board.
- Pack plenty of hand sanitiser and wipes.
- Eat light meals before you depart and don’t travel on a heavy stomach.
- Eat small, light meals and avoid heavy, fatty foods.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet and before meals.
- If your child falls ill either from motion sickness or gastroenteritis, give them plenty of water and rest.
- Avoid giving your child dairy products for at least 3 days after they recover from gastroenteritis.
- Your child may not feel like eating, but don’t stop feeding them for more than 24 hours.
- Avoid restaurants or street food vendors that aren’t clean or don’t have a good reputation amongst tourists.
Seek urgent medical attention:
- If your child has severe abdominal pain.
- If they can’t keep fluid down for at least 30 minutes.
- If your child has blood in their diarrhoea.
- If your child is less than a year old and has symptoms of food poisoning.
Top Tips for Staying Healthy on Holiday
- Visit your doctor at least 6-8 weeks before travel for a general check up and ask about required vaccinations.
- Pack plenty of wet wipes and hand sanitiser to reduce your children’s chances of picking up diseases.
- Pack allergy translation cards so that the wait staff will be able to understand what your child can’t eat.
- If you have a baby that you formula feed, check if the formula is available in your destination. Starting a new formula on a holiday could lead to reactions and tummy upsets, or your baby may refuse to drink it!
- Drink only bottled water. If you can’t get bottled water, take your own pocket water purifier and some reusable bottles to purify water from the hotel.
- Avoid insect bites by applying a tropical strength insect repellent, especially at dawn and dusk. Wear light, long pants and shirts and check clothing for ticks and insects when you get back to your hotel.
- Protect your children from the sun. Get them to wear a hat, sunscreen and clothing to protect their limbs. Avoid the midday sun and reapply sun protection when necessary.
- Wash their hands regularly – especially before meals and after using the bathroom.
- To help avoid food poisoning, teach your kids the traveller’s mantra - eat only washed, peeled and cooked food.
- Avoid ice when ordering cold drinks – ice made with local water can upset the tummies of all family members.
- Avoid stray animals, even if they’re very cute. Animals overseas can carry rabies (such as dogs and monkeys in Bali), which can make them aggressive and be passed on to you through bites or scratches.
- Keep activities simple and remember your child’s limits so that you reduce the chance of them being injured.
- Keep the effects of jet lag to a minimum by planning ahead for different time zones. Once you’ve arrived, get out in the sun and take small naps to help your child adjust.
What To Do if Your Child Gets Lost on Holiday
Children can be curious, which is what you want when they’re on holiday. But sometimes that curiosity can lead to them disappearing from right under your nose.
Here are a few tips to help you prepare before you travel as well as cope in the situation if your child just go missing.
Before you travel:
- Dress your child in bright clothing so they’re easier to seek out in a crowd.
- If your kids are old enough, familiarise them with a meeting point they can reach easily in the event they’re lost.
- If you can, invest in a wearable tracking device for each child.
- Take a photograph of your children on your smart phone before you head out sightseeing.
- Speak to your children about crowd safety before you depart on holiday. Develop a plan they can follow if they become lost, such as seeking out the police, a lifeguard or a mother with children.
- Give older children your mobile phone number, and write it on the arms of younger children with a permanent marker. Make sure they know their full name, the names of their parents, and the hotel where they are staying.
- Use a buddy system. If you have the same amount of adults and children in your group, assign one adult to watch one child at all times.
- Make sure all members of the family know the plan for the day. If the plan changes, let them know immediately.
What should I do if my child is lost?
- Don’t panic. Your mind may be racing with thoughts of child abduction, but you’ll need to focus and stay calm to find your child.
- Keep still for a few minutes. You and your child may have lost sight of one another and you won’t hear them call for you if you begin running through the crowd straight away.
- Ask for help. Most people around you will help if they are aware of the situation. Seek out a police officer or official and let them know what has happened.
- As hard as it is to stand and wait, do so if officials ask you to. They are trained to search for missing children.
What To Do In An Emergency
If you or your family are involved in a medical emergency:
- Remain calm.
- Call an Ambulance.
- Inform the hotel reception, as they’ll be equipped to help you.
- Get a medical report from the doctor – you’ll need this for your insurance claim.
- Contact your travel insurer – they’ll provide 24-hour emergency assistance.
Important Contact Information and Resources
Register your trip on Smartraveller.
They’ll send you an alert if there is an imminent threat such as an earthquake, terrorist attack or tsunami and they can also let your family know your status overseas.
If there isn’t an Australian Embassy in the city you’re travelling to, go to the nearest consular which provides help to Australians.
Contact the Australian Government’s 24 hour consular assistance line:
You can also find information from the following websites:
Information about vaccinations
Information about passports
- Australian Passport Information Service
- Ph: 131 232
- Medicare Australia
- Ph: 132 011
You’ll also need the contact details of your
- Travel insurer
- Travel agent
- Cruise company