World Travels With Toddlers: The Fear Factor
September 17, 2011
Founded and unfounded fears when travelling with toddlers

There is something petrifying about being a parent. From the moment your little bundle of love first emerges squinting into the world every part of life serves up a new set of terrors and neurosis.

First order of business: work out how to hold your baby without a) dropping it or b) damaging its delicate little neck. By the time you sort this out you worry whether the baby is gaining weight and developing normally. Each and every sniffle is considered a potentially fatal symptom of meningitis.

6 months later you are a sleep-deprived shell of your former self but at least have a pretty robust infant on your hands. An infant who starts to crawl, then toddle, then charge squealing with joy towards power tools, stairs, busy streets and people with ravenous attack dogs.

This takes a toll on the nerves of poor mum and dad, encouraging them to stay close to (or preferably inside) home - with the occasional dash to the local play park, grandma's house or (ooh, exciting!) the shops as the limit of adventure excursions.

Why, for heaven's sake, then go travelling?

Isn't life with small children exhausting enough without introducing a host of unnecessary concerns:
Will the kids be able to eat the food?
Where will we find nappies (diapers)?
Could they get abducted or, worse, caught in a tsunami or earthquake?

Of course, the experience isn't exactly a 'holiday' as you hazily remember from those halcyon pre-kiddie days. But it is important to know where the real issues are.

Not the biggest worry:

  • Food: There will always be something your kids can eat (be it plain rice in Korea or tortillas in Mexico) and when they are hungry enough even picky kids will eat!
  • Newsflash - Children around the world have bottoms!: The quality of nappies (diapers) may not live up to the cushioned, wick-a-away baby bum spas of home but they will do.
  • Bogie Men: Stories of child snatchers are overblown by the media - this is not a significant risk (but still keep an eye on your kids for your own peace of mindů).
  • Acts of God: If you follow local safety advice, a tsunami or earthquake risk will be lower than the risk of getting into your car at home.

Worth worrying about - the quadruple-headed hydra of traffic, falls, water and disease-carrying bugs:

  • Roads in developing countries are often much less safe than at home. Unsafe vehicles on poorly maintained roads and free-for-all traffic rules can make for a lethal cocktail.
  • Also, keep a tight rein on the little ones near traffic as there can be bikes, trams, cars all over the place (even on the sidewalk!) and toddlers have little sense of self-preservation.
  • It is surprising how many of the world's wonders exist on top of precipitous cliffs! As you gaze at the view, inquisitive little tikes think nothing of the big red signs saying 'DANGER, CLIFF!' and delight in nothing more than clambering right through the barriers to peek over the edge.
  • Toddlers typically can't swim so it's important to check accommodation for river, pond, well or sea access.
  • Also, drinking untreated water can bring on a number of nasty diseases and toddlers are too young to appreciate the difference between treated and untreated water. Don't have ice in your drinks!
Bug based diseases:
  • The best route is to avoid countries with malaria. However, even apparently safe countries life New Zealand can have killers like amoebic meningitis lurking in their thermal hot pools (giving us a few tense days after an unwittingly risky swim in a geothermal warmed creek).

The Bottom Line: adventure travel with kids is more stressful than either a) travelling without kids or b) living with kids at home. However, if you get your jabs, take the safest modes of transport available, run a safety check of any new accommodations and stay away from countries with malaria you will be fine. Just don't put your head under the water in any geothermal pools you dip into!!!

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World Travels With Toddlers: Packing
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World Travels With Toddlers: The Jabs!