Traveling in unfamiliar locales can increase your child’s risk of getting lost, especially if you're dealing with crowds. Here are ten tips to help you keep your child safer on vacation.
1. Make jewelry. Before leaving for vacation, have your kids make bracelets with your cell phone or other contact number. Just use beads imprinted with numbers (available at most craft stores) and string them on nylon cording. Have your kids wear their bracelets during your trip and you won’t have to worry about them remembering the number to call.
2. Give them a cell phone. Most kids can be taught to use a simple cell phone. Consider letting them carry one while you’re out in a crowd as a just-in-case backup.
3. Dress them right. Dress young kids in bright colors to make them easier to spot. If you have more than one child, try dressing them in the same bright color. It’s much easier to herd three little kids on and off a crowded train when they’re all wearing bright red shirts.
4. Give them a bag. Kids over age three can carry a small backpack while you’re out. Stock it with a whistle they can blow (for emergencies only), a snack and small water bottle, and a card with your contact information and someone else’s (perhaps Grandma's back home).
5. Keep them close. If they can’t see you, you probably can’t see them. Teach kids to keep one parent in sight at all times. Young kids can be taught that they should never be further than an arms reach away.
6. Pick a meeting place. Choose a landmark that can be seen from most anywhere; perhaps the Ferris wheel at an amusement park, the fountain in the middle of the mall, or the lifeguard stand at the beach. Tell your kids to meet you there if they get lost. Make sure they are able to repeat the meeting place back to you.
7. Put toddlers in a stroller. Especially in crowded areas, keeping small kids contained will keep them safer. If your toddler doesn’t like the stroller, keep bribes like a special snack or toy on hand to distract them while you navigate the crowds. Better yet, carry them in a backpack carrier.
8. Have a well organized bag. Use a backpack or shoulder bag with plenty of pockets and organize it so that you can grab essentials quickly. Then you won’t be frantically trying to dig through your purse for change while your child wanders off.
9. Teach kids what to do if they do get lost. Telling them to look for a police officer is often impractical; they’re unlikely to find one in most locales. If there are police officers around, by all means point them out. Otherwise, point out a store employee, lifeguard, or concession stand where they could get help. Tell them when in doubt to ask a woman for help rather than a man (women are statistically less likely to harm a child).
10. Bring photos. In the event your child does get lost, a photo is invaluable to those searching for your child. Make sure to periodically update the photo you carry.