Perhaps the biggest thing stopping many families from overseas travel with kids is the fear or worry that something could go wrong. Parents have concerns about whether they are putting their kids at risk, over which destinations are safe and child friendly, and the complicated grappling with travel insurance policies. I want to take the time to ease some of the major worries and provide solutions and ideas to make your holiday planning with kids all that much easier and stress free.
Family Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is a no-brainer and absolute necessity for any trip, but when travelling with kids it is even more important. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that higher priced insurance products must equal a much better product. This is the number one mistake many travellers make as some of the premium priced travel insurance options are purely priced according to the highly inflated commissions being paid to agents selling them - often more than 40% commission! I know this first hand after working as a travel agent where our number one commission earner was travel insurance.
The lesson in this is to shop online for your travel insurance where you are getting the rack rate from the insurer or at least a discounted price from online retailers. When looking for travel insurance you should be able to find a well-priced travel policy that provides unlimited medical, evacuation and cancellation cover as these are the most important aspects of your cover. Additionally, any decent policies will include children travelling with their parents at no additional cost.
Make sure you read the product disclosure statement carefully to understand your entitlements. Common pitfalls for travellers include the car rental excess with many not realising they have a nominated amount (often around $4000 AUD) to cover car rental excess in the case of any damage or accidents. Don’t get caught out by car rental companies charging you additional on collection of a vehicle to reduce your excess when you have already paid for this cover in your travel insurance.
For Australian families I highly recommend and have personally found Travel Insurance Direct to be exceptionally good for travel insurance. We always opt for their top level of cover which is very reasonably priced and has the unlimited benefits where you really need them. The couple of claims we have had to make over the years have always been processed efficiently and without any troubles. Click here to organise your travel insurance quote.
Your travel insurance should be organised and paid for at the time of making your first major purchase for your trip (normally air tickets) but there are a number of other quick things you can do to get your family prepared and tick all the safe traveller boxes.
The DFAT Safe Traveller website is the place to register your travel details so that the Australian Government are aware of your family’s whereabouts. It speeds things up if you end up in a situation that you require help or assistance.
Copies of Documents
Taking photos of important documents and sending them to yourself so that you have copies for any unplanned circumstances such as lost or stolen baggage can be a saviour. A copy sent to a relative or friend at home is also a good idea in case you need somebody to make a trip to the embassy on your behalf.
Friends and Family Contacts
For obvious reasons ensure at least one relative or friend has a copy of your itinerary and emergency contact details.
Check the countries you are visiting as to whether a visa is required for stays. Some countries may permit you to apply for visas on entry however when travelling with kids it can still be easier to apply and process the application before your departure to make the border crossing quicker with tired kids.
The last thing you need on holidays is getting ill from preventable diseases or infections. If travelling to more remote or less developed countries it is a good idea to check with your regular doctor for any recommended vaccinations or medications.
Airplane safety with kids
Flying with kids can be the most draining part of travel with kids however it is possibly the safest part of your trip. If you are a nervous flier you can look up airline safety ratings on websites like https://www.airlineratings.com/airline-ratings/. After flying many different airlines I will admit that there are some I probably wouldn’t fly with again however for the most part many airlines are very good. Now that we travel as a family we do always opt for highly reputable airlines with excellent safety records. It’s just piece of mind that I don’t mind paying more for when travelling with my kids.
Once you are ready to hit the skies many airlines provide you the option to travel with approved child car restraints if you have a baby or toddler. If you are keen to take this option make sure you check the airlines website for approved restraints. Alternately if you don’t want the hassle you can request a bassinet seat which is normally located on the bulkheads. The bassinets are great on long haul flights to give you some hands-free time with a baby but bear in mind you may need to consistently wake a sleeping baby if the flight is turbulent as you will need to seatbelt your little one whenever the seatbelt indicator is turned on.
Common sense is the key to flying safely with older children in their own seats. Ensure kids know to operate their seatbelts properly and that they keep their seat belts on while seated.
Ground Transport – Child Restraints
Ground transport is the big kicker for me when travelling with my kids and I know the topic of child car restraints when travelling is a hot topic on many discussion forums. I would never throw a baby or young child into the back of the car unrestrained in Australia where the road rules are highly regulate, where we are travelling in modern safe vehicles and have efficient emergency services on hand. So to attempt to do this overseas where the infrastructure or scenarios are considerably less developed seems like a high risk to me.
Navigating your way through the options for safe travel with babies or toddlers can be difficult and many parents understandably are not comfortable with travelling without proper car restraints.Fortunately as the family travel market continues to expand internationally you now have plenty of options to research and find alternate arrangement.
When choosing your destination it might be worth considering places that mean you don’t need to travel via cars. Europe is fabulous for this as you can travel everywhere you need to go on planes, trains, buses and boats negating the need for child car restraints. It’s also a super fun way to travel with kids as they love all the different modes of transport! This is one of my favourite ways to travel as I love not having the hassle of directions, parking or dechipering road signs- I would much prefer to sit back and watch the scenery go by from public transport
Photo by Errol on Unsplash
Most popular family destinations now have dedicated drivers and tour services catering for families with young children which include appropriate car restraints. Popular family destinations such as Bali, Thailand and Fiji all offer these type of services. We opt for this type of arrangement whenever we visit Thailand and it means we are met with a familiar face with high-quality vehicle and child restraints fitted to take us wherever we need to go. Some quick research online and you will find these services quite easily.
If you are comfortable driving overseas taking your own child restraints is another great idea and gives you the flexibility of self-touring. If you don’t want the inconvenience of taking your own you can always hire restraints from the car rental company. Great destinations for hiring a car and heading off on a road trip include North America, New Zealand and Australia.
Limit your need to use taxis without car restraints by booking accommodation in the centre of town. Having the ability to walk most places not only makes your day easy and accessible with kids but cuts down on the cost and need for taxis. It will also put you in the position to potentially use public transport where available.
Remember not to lose all the fun. A ride in a tuk tuk is loads of fun for kids but you can lower any risk by travelling short distances.
Medications/Access to medical facilities
Fingers crossed that you never need to access emergency assistance but it can be helpful to be aware of what medical services are available at your location. Some basic research before leaving home so that you know what major hospitals are accessible and which hospitals have English speaking staff can be handy information to tuck away in your documentation. A great idea is to also make note of the emergency services contact number in the country you are visiting.
Your travel insurance company can be a vital source of information when in need and should be contacted at the earliest convenience if required. The overseas assistance operators will be able to provide you advice and recommendations if you need to seek any significant medical assistance and will advise what process to follow. They can also help with potential evacuations if the situation requires.
Don’t forget to have scripts filled and medication packed ready for your travels as you don’t want to be trying to replace medications overseas.
Reputable Tour Operators
Like with ground transport and airlines it pays to do some research on tour companies to check that they are reputable and highly recommended. TripAdvisor is a great source of information and has the benefit of comparing similar tours to see which one will best suit your family.
If you don’t like the idea of cars without child restraints you may be able to find companies who operate coach services instead.
Illness from food and drink is probably the most likely issue you will encounter travelling with kids. With little hands touching and playing with absolutely everything when travelling it can be hard to keep them germ free and healthy. Carrying the little bottles of hand sanitiser can be a real saviour when taps and soap aren’t readily available and should be encouraged particularly before eating. It is important to be aware if water is safe for drinking and when it comes to kids this includes teeth brushing and ingesting water in the shower or bath. Not particularly environmentally friendly but bottled water is a must in some countries.
When it comes to food unfortunately it is a matter of common sense. We are reasonably free-thinking when it comes to food when travelling as we love to try different places and the small local restaurants and street vendors particularly in Asia often have some of the best food. Be mindful of salads in places that might have been washed in non-potable water and keep your eye out for particularly unhygienic cooking practices or lack of refrigeration but otherwise it is really luck of the draw.
The most horrendous food poisoning that left me incapacitated for four days was after eating a meal from a five-star resort so there is no perfect answer. Packing some hydration sachets and some form of gastro medication can be a life saver and if your kids are unlucky enough to get food poisoning you need to keep a close eye on their hydration particularly in hot climates.
Travelling with infants (extra considerations)
When travelling with babies and infants consider your destination to assess what facilities are going to be available and make a list of what necessities you might need to take with you.
Sterilising (bottles/utensils) – if your baby is on bottles you may need to travel with sterilising equipment. Forget about taking anything bulky as the easiest and most effective travel option are the sterilising tablets along with a Tupperware container. It works a treat and can be organised in any hotel room.
High Chairs – you can purchase some fantastic travel high chairs that tie onto normal chairs but also fold down to a small parcel for transporting. These can also come in handy for eating-out so you don’t need to find restaurants with high chairs. Most large hotels will provide these complimentary so best to double check and avoid carrying extra gear if not needed.
Stroller – Many places now have options to hire strollers when you arrive in the country or you might prefer to travel with your own. Almost all airlines will check a pram without additional cost so we always found it easier to take our own. Invest in a decent pram bag to keep it from getting completely banged up in transit and then you can be off and away once you arrive at your destination. For some reason though airlines are very good at losing prams! We managed to have two disappear over our travels with one never showing up again and the other re-appearing many days later. If you take a pic of your pram before you travel any insurance claims against the airline will be much quicker and simpler.
If hiring a stroller from overseas make sure you have a close check on collection that the essentials such as the brakes are in good working order before heading off.
Cots/sleeping – Standards for cots or cribs throughout the world can differ tremendously and depending how nervous you are having a good quality travel cot that you can take with you is often a good investment. It can even save you money by not being charged for additional cribs/beds at some hotels.
If you like to travel light make sure you contact your accommodation before departing to ensure that you have reserved a cot. If you are arriving late at night or when your baby is due for a sleep it is worth requesting for the cot to be set up in the room prior to check-in as you could wait a considerable time for one to be delivered – not what you want with an over-tired baby or toddler!
Keep it in Perspective
Remember when it comes to travel there will be obvious dangers and risks but probably not significantly more than what you experience every day at home. Trust your parental instincts and more than likely everything will run perfectly smoothly.
Don’t let fear restrict you from venturing further or experiencing more in life. You might recall as a kid that you had the liberty of not fearing much in life at all - except for big hairy spiders!
As a kid I loved to go snow skiing and would push off at the top of the hill and cruise down without a care in the world or a single thought about what might go wrong. This same experience as an adult now translates to OMG I think I am going to fly off the side of the mountain and break all the bones in my body. The brain over time has developed this intense cycle of over-thinking and excessive worry that can paralyse you from doing the really fun and wonderful things.
Travel with kids is no different. Push off from the top of the mountain and just enjoy the ride to the bottom taking in all the adventure and adrenaline along the way. You just never know what your family may discover!
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