Nothing says summer like a trip to the beach, theme park, or county fair. But before you go, arm your family with a few basic rules for staying together and safe. Here are 10 tried-and-tested tips from the readers of WeJustGotBack.com for keeping kids safe in the crowd on your summer getaways.
Tip #1: When our family visits a theme park, the last thing we do before leaving the hotel is to take a digital picture of each of our kids. If one of them ever got lost, we could show the park authorities a current photo of the child in that day's clothes. --Ellen from Celina, TX
Tip #2: We write our cell phone number on our children's arms with a Sharpie. It will not wash off for several days. Don't worry -- it's not a tattoo and will eventually wear off! Not only do our kids have the number handy in case they get lost, but we feel that a child predator is unlikely to snatch a child so obviously marked. Our children also know to stay put if we get separated. They know they can ask a mom with children to wait with them, but they are to stay in one place and we will find them. --Harvard from Dallas, TX
Tip #3: Take a few of your hotel's business cards from the front desk (you also often find them on the nightstand in your room) and tuck them into your kids' pockets. If one of them ever got lost, he'd be able to tell someone the name of the hotel, as well as its address and phone number. --Angela from San Diego, CA
Tip #4: Tell your under-10 child that if she gets separated from Mom or Dad, she is to stay put and let you find her. Remind her never to exit a theme park or go to a venue's parking lot, which provides an easy getaway to predators. --Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, editor of WeJustGotBack.com
Tip #5: When we go away in the summer, I always pack glowstick necklaces and bracelets for the kids. I buy them online for around $10 per pack of 50. In the summertime, no matter whether we're in a city, at a theme park, or on a camping trip, we inevitably wind up staying outside after nightfall. My kids love wearing glowstick jewelry, and I love that it makes them easy to spot in the dark! --Rachel from Wells, ME
Tip #6: We bought a box of hospital ID bracelets. When we know we're going to a crowded location, we write our last name and cell phone numbers on them and put one on each of our children. We use them all the time, not just on vacation. I keep a few in my purse for when we visit any crowded place, like a shopping mall. --Chris from Grand Rapids, MI
Tip #7: My young kids and I practice looking for other moms with kids in tow who they could ask for help in case they get lost. It seems far easier and safer for small children to identify a mom in action and steer away from guessing who else could be helpful. There are not too many moms who would be unwilling to help a lost child! --Kristin from Williamsburg, VA
Tip #8: Shortly after you enter a theme park or beach area, get oriented by identifying landmarks together. If you feel that your child is mature enough (perhaps a savvy 10-year-old), agree on a designated meeting place in case you get separated. Have her repeat it aloud so it sticks. Never choose the entrance or parking lot. The ideal meeting place is an information center or lifeguard station, since staff are used to dealing with lost kids. --Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, editor of WeJustGotBack.com
Tip #9: My family plays the "What Am I Wearing?" game before we go to an amusement park, fairground, or any crowded place. I tell my kids to take a good look at me, then close their eyes and tell me what I'm wearing. If we ever get separated, it might help them locate me in a crowd. And they'd be able to describe me to a park employee or other helpful adult. --Angie from Dayton, OH
Tip #10: On a recent trip to New York City, we went over various "what if we get separated" scenarios with my 12-year-old son. One of the most important was "What to do if we get separated in the subway." The subways can get so crowded that my nightmare was that two of us would get on a train and the third would be crowded out and left on the platform. We told our son to always go to where he'd find an employee -- in this case, the ticket window in the station. So if my son was left on the platform as the train pulled away, he was to go to the ticket window and wait. We would have hopped off at the next station and returned for him. If my son ended up on the train and we somehow got stuck on the platform, he was to get off at the next station and wait at the ticket window for us. --Sandra from Manchester, VTWeJustGotBack.com is an award-winning family travel site. It features reviews of kid-friendly hotels and resorts, expert planning advice, readers' travel tips, vacation deals, and more. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
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