Traveling as a family has always been an adventure. Even with our fast-paced travel, our family's safety has always been paramount. We travel with two young children. We must be sure that our location and day to day actions keep us safe while we enjoy other cultures. With our experiences, I will provide 6 simple tips to help keep your children and family safe while you travel.
Before I jump into our tips, I must tell you about a real-life encounter that put our safety precautions to the test. Our latest Euro-trip ended with a 4-Day stop in Paris. When we arrived in the city we transferred from a train to the metro. As I stepped onto the metro with our bags, a man intentionally stepped in front of me and stopped with plenty of room behind him. When I motioned to the space behind him, he stared at me, so I side-stepped to go around him. He then shuffled the same direction and did not allow me to move. I again motion behind him, only to receive a blank stare. I sides-tepped once more and again this stranger shuffled with me, similar to how you would guard somebody in basketball. That is when I realized he was doing this on purpose. I immediately pivoted to put my back towards the aisle lined with seats and look towards this man as well as anyone that was previously behind me. As I turned I simultaneously felt something slide out of my back pocket and I then saw the man that had been behind me. The man who would not let me past had put me in position for the man behind me to steal from my pockets. Fortunately, all the man was able to steal was a bag half full of gummy bears (#dadlife). The thief was so quick I never saw him conceal the gummy bears once he had them. I was not concerned, they had gotten anything of value because my phone and wallet were in my front pocket with my right hand on them. This is one tip that will be covered later that will ensure the safety of your belongings. Both men knew I was aware of what they had done and immediately departed the metro at the next stop. Before we arrived at the next stop, however, I had looked up at my father-in-law and could tell he was physically agitated. While the two men worked on stealing from me, a third bent down in front of my father-in-law to tie his shoe. He had gotten too close, so Ed stepped back to give the man more room only to feel his front pocket pulled away from his body. The man tying his shoe had half of his hand in my father-in-law’s front pocket. This man immediately departed at the next stop with my assailants. Some of the security measures we followed mitigated the severity of this incident and below are some tips we follow to ensure the security of our family while we travel. Some of these safety travel tips can be accomplished prior to leaving your home.
6 Simple Ways To Keep Your Family Safe On Vacation
1) Research your destination.
The State Department website is an excellent resource you can use to research your destination’s demographics. You can select any country you are interested in traveling to and you will be given a national security level numeric, 1-4 rising in risk severity. Embassy information, nation-specific safety/security guidelines, passport and vaccination requirements are samples of the vast and imperative information this website can provide you.
2) Enroll in STEP.
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a service also provided by the State Department. You can enter your itinerary and contact information for your trip. The program will automatically contact you if there are any applicable embassy alerts.
3) Pack in preparation.
When we travel, we always bring a photocopy of our passports that we keep separated from our actual passports. If our passports are lost or stolen, a photocopy guarantees easier replacement at the nearest embassy. The previously listed State Department website can help you locate the closest American Embassy. Cash is another item we bring distribute amongst ourselves/things. This guarantees that if we lose our credit cards or have money stolen, we still have the capacity to purchase food and other essentials.
4) Be aware of your surroundings.
Avoid problematic areas listed on the State Department website. Heavily trafficked and highly congested tourist areas are prime locations to remain vigilant. In Paris, we were at one of their main train stations which facilitates the mass movements of thousands per day. This station is ideal for pickpockets because hundreds of unsuspecting travelers flow through, thus providing a plethora of opportunities to these criminals. Additionally, the presence of large bags highlighted me as a tourist and an easy target. Maintaining awareness of your environment can alert you to be more conscientious of your surroundings and when to be more alert.
5) Secure your valuables.
You must always secure your important items, whether it is your luggage or personal effects. On trains, you cannot always have your luggage with you so we have used a bike lock to secure our bags at the baggage racks. We always keep our passports, cash and credit cards with us and ensure they are secured deep within a zipped bag at all times. In busy areas, my phone and wallet are always in my front pocket with my hand on top. The diaper bag is another resource we utilize for valuables. The bag has inner pockets with zippers that allow us to secure important items. We always ensure our valuables are safe prior to busy and congested areas; a tactic that saved me from losing my wallet and phone in Paris.
6) Know who to contact.
If you are a victim of any crime, theft or lose valuables, know where to turn. The State Department website provides the equivalent to 911 in any country as well as embassy contact information should you need their assistance.
Preparing for your trip if the best way to ensure the safety of you and your family. The research will provide you with the resources to know potential hazards, what expect and where to turn for help. Traveling should not be scary and knowledge coupled with attention to your surroundings will avoid possible setbacks you could have otherwise avoided on your tip.
EDIT: Since writing this, we have started using the Tile to track our valuables. We had a lost key mishap and we vow to not lose any more valuables. Tiles are not expensive and give a great piece of mind! They are so easy to set-up/use and with your smart phone, you can find things you lose….including your children. We plan to use these on ALL of our future travels by clipping them to our kids and backpacks. In crowded cities, my worst fear is my children getting out of my sight or being coerced away. The piece of mind is priceless. You can get yours HERE or in the link below.
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