As I plan for an upcoming family vacation, I have developed a short list of items to consider when planning. These items are in random order and some may apply to your situation and some may not. You can and should consider which items would you add to this list that would be applicable to your vacation plans.

The vacation that is being planned includes grandparents, parents, and young children ages one year to eight years old. I am one of the grandparents. One of my biggest concerns is our vacation includes bodies of water and the potential for drowning. To keep this from happening, there are many things that the adults can do. The best advice I am giving myself and others is to “Pay Attention” to the kids when around the water. It is easy to get caught up in a book or magazine or a conversation and lose track of one of the kids. It may be that the parents and grandparents take turns being designated to specifically watch the kids while the others relax. Then switch-off so everyone gets a chance to relax. Another part of this is having the kids close enough to touch or “within arms-length” so that they can be easily corralled in one area. I read an interesting point on drowning victims in that they do not usually thrash and yell for too long of a time. They more so will become tired and just try to survive by laying their head back with their mouth and nose up toward the sky gasping for air. One other recommendation is that of a life jacket or floaties whether in the ocean or pool or lake or on a boat for kids that cannot swim or that are more adventurous than the other kids.

Regardless of where you go on vacation, there may be wildlife from bears to alligators to sharks to raccoons to skunks and insects and many others. For the land animals, it is recommended to not feed the animals or harass the animals or leave food or garbage out and inviting to the wildlife. As far as insects, have the appropriate safe repellant used per the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Always check for ticks on your body when finishing activities in the woods. Know what snakes to stay away from (my recommendation is all of them) as some are venomous and some are not. If a member of the vacation party is allergic to insect bites, others should know this and know what to do in case of an emergency. For sharks, stay away from where they may feed such as a fishing pier or where there are fish schooling or jumping out of the water. Pay attention to the flags and signs posted as a warning for sharks or jellyfish or other marine life. Know the colors of the flags that may be posted as different colors mean different warnings.

We never want to have a medical emergency on a vacation however they do happen so we must plan for them. It is important to know if your personal health insurance covers medical expenses outside of a certain geographic area or if you can purchase additional medical insurance while on vacation. Once you get to your destination, learn where the urgent care and/or emergency care is available, learn and post the emergency numbers on the fridge, post the address of where you are by the emergency number.

It is important to plan the traveling trips or manage the journey. My advice is to not trust your GPS and phone apps completely as they could lead you to roads that no longer exist or not take you the best or most efficient route as many people have the devices set for the “shortest” route based on time or miles. As old-fashioned as it sounds, write down the directions, turn-by-turn, as a back-up plan or have paper maps. It is not a bad ide to have some “extra” snacks and water available just in case the trip takes longer than planned. Include in the travel time, additional time for food, fuel, and bathroom breaks. Other things that may cause delays include construction projects, unplanned or unknown detours, or unplanned closing of a road, or inclement weather. Planning the journey or trip is very important. Provide someone not going on the trip with the information so they can contact you if needed. Another part of the planning is the packing of a vehicle with all of the “stuff” that will be needed. Many times we overpack. Know the limits of your vehicle. If you are packing the back of an SUV, do not pack anything that will obstruct your view out the windows, back, window, or when using rearview mirrors. If you are using the top of your car, know the weight limit that can be placed on the roof with or without a rack. It is important to know the capacity of the rooftop carrier, hard or soft type, it is not “unlimited”. Know how to correctly tie-down and secure the carrier and other items to the roof of the vehicle or even securing items in the back of an open-bed pick-up truck. Do not climb onto the roof of your vehicle to force closed the carrier, if necessary, properly use a step-ladder. Always remember that anything that is loaded on top of the vehicle changes the center of gravity of that vehicle and may change the stability of the vehicle for example, the vehicle may sway more than expected when a tractor-trailer passes. The driver needs to be aware that this may happen and to not overcorrect when a swaying side to side is felt.

One last item that I am going to address as it is personally concerning to me as I have not had to worry about kids in my vehicle for a long, long time (I am one of the grandparents on our trip), is that of leaving a kid in the vehicle as I “forgot” they were there. I can say that that will never happen to me, however, just to plan for it, one suggestion is called the teddy-bear system where a teddy bear is placed in the child’s safety seat when not used by a child. When the child’s buckled in, move the teddy bear to the front seat as a reminder that the back seat is occupied. I liked this tip from an article titled “10 Surprising Summer Vacation Safety Tips” by Muriel Barrett, at

While there are many other recommendations that can be made, I think this is enough to get you started. Enjoy your vacation regardless of how long it is or where it is because you earned and deserve this vacation!

For more information and/or assistance, contact:
Wayne Vanderhoof CSP, CIT
Sr. Consultant/President
RJR Safety Inc.

Categories: Blog