Kid’s Water-Safety While Traveling

K kayaking

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My daughter earned her first ribbon in swim class today! I was so proud of her as she jumped off the edge, turned to float on her back, and then swam to the edge all by herself! It really got me thinking about all the time I’ve spent worrying about water safety leading up to vacations. I tend to be particularly anxious about the kids around water and that is exasperated by the fact that I can’t swim very well! This touches on some of my deepest fears as a parent, so today I am sharing 4 ways you can keep your young children safe around water!

Swim lessons

This is #1 and can’t be overstated! Whether you pay for lessons or teach them yourselves, making sure your child is swim competent is the best life-long way to keep them safe in the water.

With very young children, consistency is the key to learning to swim. I recommend weekly year-round lessons if at all possible. If year-round is not available, aim for several times a week during the summer. Again, these don’t all have to be expensive private lessons! Give the kids some practice every time you’re staying at a hotel with a pool!

HJ receiving her swim lesson ribbon
HJ was so proud of her swimming ribbon, even if you can’t tell from this picture!

Full Attention

For many many years, this is what keeps your kids safe in the water. When I’m actually in the pool splashing around with the kids it’s not too hard, but it gets much more difficult when we are around water. Especially if you are watching multiple children, it’s hard to keep eyes on them every second of the day.

Last year my daughter ducked out a side exit from a restaurant in Miami. There were 10 adults all in her family all of whom had been playing with her and passing her around the entire breakfast, but no one keeping an eye on her at the critical moment. A stranger brought her back to us right at the moment we realized she was missing. I thank God that nothing happened to her! How much scarier would this have been if it happened somewhere with water around? Once a non-swimmer falls into a body of water there is only a very short period of time to fish them out.

One workaround I came up for was matching bracelets for adults and kids. Cheap silicon bracelets work great. Just slip a pink bracelet on the kid and also on an adult. If the adult needs a break they can communicate with another adult and pass them the bracelet. This way there is never any confusion over who is currently keeping an eye on the child. If you have multiple children just add another bracelet color to the equation. We also customized our bracelets to include my phone number in case the kids ever go missing in a crowd.

Water safety on the beach
Chris playing with the kids on the beach in Hawaii. Even though they weren’t in the water I kept an eye on them so I could jump up and help Chris out if needed.

Kid-Proof the Location

There are tools on the market to help safeguard during those moments when the kids escape your attention. They have bracelets that sound a loud alarm when they come in contact with water, sensors placed in the pool that alarm if they detect movement in the water, and portable fences to install around pools. Most of these products are aimed at pool-owners, but could also be taken on vacation under the right circumstances.

In any instance, these products should never be used instead of paying full attention. They are all intended as a back-up and are not a substitute for constant vigilance.

Although I’ve never purchased any of the above devices, I have come prepared to prevent my children from getting outside to the water. While staying at a lake house last year, I was concerned the children would wake up in the middle of the night and wander outside. We solved this problem quickly and cheaply by installing kid-proof doorknob handles in the room we all shared. Since I was paranoid I also brought door alarms that I quickly and easily installed in our bedroom. It all turned out to be unnecessary because the kids climbed into bed with us as soon as they work up, but the small cost was well worth the peace of mind.

Mother and daughter in cabin by the lake
For a friend’s wedding, we stayed at a lake house where the doors and windows opened out onto the deck and lake. I was very concerned about someone leaving a door open or my kids otherwise finding their way outside. Some cheap and easy child-proof door handles and door alarms were great for my peace of mind.

Water-Proof the Kid

When we splash around in the ocean or even sometimes play on the beach, we make the kids wear puddle jumpers. We always stay within arms reach and would probably be fine without them, but they keep the kids safe and above water even if a sneaker wave comes and separates us. This style allows them to still play happily in the water or on the sand.

If we’re planning to be traveling frequently by boat, we often bring our own lifevests. Most tours will offer lifevests, but finding a good fit in an infant or toddler size can be tough. These definitely restrict their movement more than the puddle jumpers, but they are perfect for a child-overboard situation. They keep the kids floating with their head up and they have a convenient handle for grabbing.

Water safety in life vests
Selfie on the way to Koh Lorn in Thailand. Our boat stopped on this platform to allow everyone a turn parasailing. You can tell K wasn’t super comfortable in his vest, but safety first!
Life vest
We were regularly taking water taxis and ferries in Bangkok. When we weren’t on the water we secured the kid’s lifevests to the baby carriers with cheap carabiners.


Any other tips out there? Is this something that keeps anyone else awake at night?

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