We all remember those great holiday trips from when we were kids – the early morning trip to the airport, the excitement of the flight, the fun and adventure of a new and wonderful foreign playground to explore. These are memories we cherish as we get older, though at the time we probably never realized the stress our parents were under!
With the school holidays and Christmas fast approaching, many families are now planning their overseas trips to catch up with family and friends, or to simply take a break from work and go exploring. We all know that travelling with young ones can be a struggle at times, but there are ways to make holidaying abroad with your kids a lot easier. If you’re travelling with kids this summer, here are some tips to help you pack some extra caution in their luggage to make sure they, and you, have a happy, safe and stress-free trip.
Be extra careful BEFORE you leave as well as on your holiday.
Craig Morrison, Southern Cross Travel Insurance CEO, says that claims as a result of childrens’ accidents and illnesses are very common over the summer break, and he is constantly surprised by the random nature of the incidents. Typical injuries from accidents that happen both before departure and while on holiday include broken bones from trampoline or climbing equipment falls, grazes and injuries from bicycle tumbles, cut feet from going barefoot (coral cuts are quite common for example), and reactions to insect bites.
“The other week I heard a story about a family almost missing the start of a cruise because the youngest child had fallen out of bed and hit their head on the bedside table at a hotel. Although the injury wasn’t serious, the result was a cut that needed stitches. By the time they’d gone to hospital and waited for treatment they came close to having to re-plan their entire holiday.”
“Anyone with young kids knows you simply can’t predict the type of mischief they can get up to – all you can do is try to prevent the obvious stuff from happening by being a little more safety conscious. For example, if they’re riding a bike or a scooter, they should always be wearing a helmet and protective footwear.”
Visit the doctor
Another great tip is to visit the doctor before you leave for your trip and make sure you have all the jabs and medication required for your destination. It’s also a good idea to check with your doctor about any pre-existing medical conditions that you or your children may have. You’ll need to declare these when you buy your travel insurance if you want the option to be covered for them.
If someone in the family has a serious allergy, as well as carrying an EpiPen it may be useful to take a card from your doctor with the details of the allergy in the language of your destination. Special needs children should wear an identity bracelet that has the details of the child’s condition and treatment. Ask your doctor about this if you don’t already have one.
Before you get to the airport you should check with the airline about any luggage restrictions, especially if you intend to take a stroller or car seat for example.
It’s a good idea not to check in your stroller unless you plan to carry your child, as many airlines allow you to take your stroller all the way to the departure gate. They’ll check the stroller in at the gate and usually have it waiting for you when you get off the plane. Some airlines will even let you bring a small stroller on board if there is space. Once again, it pays to check with the airline in advance so there are no hassles at the airport.
If you’re checking in a child’s car seat, cover it beforehand to protect it from the elements during loading and unloading. It can be as simple as a bin liner to stop the cloth getting damaged by rain.
The kids’ bags
Young kids love to pack their own bags, but make sure you oversee their efforts to ensure the essentials go in. This includes some in-flight entertainment in carry-on luggage. Favourite books, a soft toy and maybe a compact game can go a long way to relieving the boredom if a flight gets delayed for example.
It’s a good idea to have a change of clothes for each of your kids in a plastic bag in your hand luggage. This is a great precaution against a drink spill or air sickness during the flight, which can make the journey more uncomfortable for everyone!
Also, kids touch everything and planes can carry a lot of unwanted germs, so it’s a great idea to take along some hand cleanser to minimize any risks.
Remember to keep an eye on your luggage when you’re in transit. When you’re carrying young ones as well as looking after all your luggage, tickets, passports etc. - it can be very stressful. It’s a good idea once you’ve cleared security at the airport to make use of child play areas to burn off a bit of energy before the flight. This can also give you a bit of a breather and perhaps time to have that coffee.
While you’re at the airport and before you board, it’s a good idea to take your kids to the toilet in case there is a delay before takeoff. It’s also a good time to change babies into a fresh nappy if they need it.
On the plane
So now you’re on the plane, and those precautionary measures should be kicking in where you might have had bored, hungry or over energized kids. Having said that, it never hurts to have a few extra tricks up your sleeve!
- Pack some favourite snacks, in case the airline food doesn’t go down too well. Crackers, dried fruit and low sugar muesli bars are ideal. Full tummies often help kids nap!
- Balloons and play dough can keep bored kids occupied and don’t take up much space in your bag.
- To help with blocked ears, give your kids a bottle to drink during take-off and landing. This encourages swallowing which helps equalize the pressure in their ears. Chewing gum or sucking on a lollipop also works well if your kids are old enough.
Of course when you’re on holiday, it’s important to make sure you exercise the same caution and focus on the safety of your kids as when you’re at home.
Morrison says “it’s easy to forget that parents spend a lot of time and money accident-proofing their own home, but when staying in different accommodation that same level of safety isn’t always in place. So when choosing holiday accommodation, check what level you’re on and if there are balconies, make sure that they are safe for young children. Balconies shouldn’t have wide railings that children can squeeze through and the railing must be high enough that children can’t climb over.”
The same applies to seat belts in taxis. When you’re having fun on holiday, it’s easy to forget that you’re trusting a complete stranger to drive you and your family to your destination - so always use the seat belts as you would in your own car.
Remember that accidents can and do happen occasionally, and many are impossible to predict. The best way to avoid them is to be as prepared as possible for the random and completely unexpected nature of accidents by being safety conscious.
Some of the larger claims we see
What are some of the larger claims we receive? Some of SCTI’s recent claims involving children on holiday include:
- $70,000 – child had a thumb severed by a tow rope while water tubing and had to undergo complex microsurgery.
- $19,000 – child suffered a seizure requiring a doctor escort to New Zealand for ongoing investigation
- $5,000 – child developed chicken pox and missed flights home
- $4,000 – child admitted to hospital with Rotavirus
- $4,000 – child required surgery on broken arm after falling off a trampoline
As you can see, many of the larger claims we receive are completely random and unexpected – and this is what travel insurance is for. Of course it is always better to avoid accidents and illness if we can, especially when they concern our precious little ones.
Other useful tips
To help you be prepared if the unexpected happens:
- Know basic first aid, such as what to do if a child chokes, is stung by an insect or suffers a sprain.
- Pack a first aid kit suitable for your destination.
- Be very clear to communicate between adults about who is responsible for watching children, particularly around water.
- Reinforce pedestrian road safety – particularly if cars drive on the other side of the road.
Buy your travel insurance early.
To protect your holiday plans (as well as the expense caused by cancellation or delays) always buy your travel insurance early – as soon as you’ve booked your flights is best.
Remember travel insurance for accompanying children is free! At Southern Cross Travel Insurance we wish you and your family an enjoyable, happy and safe holiday!