Like any big event, it is always important to prepare yourself before traveling abroad. Traveling outside of America is a wonderful time to enjoy all the world has to offer while exploring new places and people. Unfortunately, news reports (and my own personal experience) have proved that people and places are not always as we imagine, so it is vital to remain vigilant no matter how friendly things may seem.
When traveling, educate yourself as much as possible prior to arriving at your destination and keep family members up-to-date on your travel details and itineraries. Kids are often more susceptible to prying eyes when parents are unsure of their surroundings. Always plan ahead and know where you are going and instruct your children to stay with an adult while traveling.
Teach your children the importance of safety. Be persistent and tell your kids that the lessons they learn now will benefit them in the future. Learning to stay safe at a young age can be useful later in life; particularly if they decide to study abroad or pursue a traveling profession such as a flight attendant or writer.
Make Sure You're Up-To-Date on Immunization
Research the country you're traveling to and check if there are any geo-specific immunizations you need to take in advance.
Be Cautious How You Dress
When packing, travel light and avoid bringing high-priced items. Don't be a target — avoid dressing in ways that might mark you as an affluent tourist. Expensive jewelry, pricey clothing and leather accessories might draw the wrong attention. "By not standing out, you are less likely to be the target of a crime," explains Nick Gozik, director of the Office of International Programs at Boston College, in an USA Today interview.
Protect Your Passport
Protect your passport like it's the last piece of gold on Earth. Without it you can't get in or out of the country. Your children might beg you to let them hold it themselves and insist that they're "a big kid," but be prepared to say no. Tell them it's too important; that you need to keep it safe on your person. Older children can carry their state issued ID cards, but it is strongly discouraged to allow teens/tweens to carry their passports. A better solution is to have children carry an identification badge.
For additional passport concerns involving international custody issues, please visit the State Department’s International parental Child Abduction website.
Have Your Children Carry Around an Identification Badge
Before traveling abroad, make an identification card for your children. Easyidcard.com allows you to make a "child travel card" badge that includes an up-to-date photo of your child, your name and direct contact information, lodging contact and important medical conditions for a minimal cost. If you're looking for something free, there's dozens of templates online.
Keep in Contact With Someone at Home
For more than a month an American couple went off the grid in Peru and their parents feared the worst, according to a CNN article. Family members filed a missing person's report on the couple, and a month later were reportedly relieved to learn they had just been traveling in Amazon villages without electricity, Internet or phone service.
Before leaving the country, appoint someone to be your point of contact and check in with them frequently. Update them on your whereabouts and let them know you're safe. Leave a copy of your itinerary with other family members as well.
An additional option is to set up an online virtual “safe” as a secure interface to store important documents in case of an emergency. Many of these services are low cost and provide you with instant cloud access from any web browser.
Written & Edited by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International