How to Keep Track of Kids and Other Travel Advice For Anxious Moms

Summer is nearing its end but there’s still time for a last minute get-away. Although I’m looking forward to one last hurrah with the family, traveling always gives me some anxiety. When the kids were younger, the fear of losing track of them in a busy place use to be at the forefront of my mind. I tried to devise ways to keep everyone together which mainly consisted of never letting them out of my sight when we travel.

How to Keep Track of Kids and Other Travel Advice For Anxious MomsIt seems I’m not the only anxious parent out there because I’ve since learned that plenty of moms have their own tricks to keep track of kids when they’re out and about. It’s always a good idea to try and prepare your kids in case they find themselves in a bad situation. I’ve since tweaked some of my practices for travel now that I’m not as worried about my kids getting lost, but much of the safety advice I gave them when they were little still holds true.

When it comes to going out or traveling with young children, here are some “safety first” travel practices you might find useful as well.

Hold On Tight

You can hold kid’s hands and tell them to stay close, but if you have a runner, you know that’s not always going to work. It’s nerve-wracking to try and spend your whole travel time clutching the hand of a child who likes to wander off, especially when you’re at a busy airport, an amusement park, or anywhere with large crowds.

Some moms swore they would never use those little backpacks-with-a-leash products, but once they realized they had a wanderer on their hands, this cute little device came in real handy. Not only can kids carry a few of their own treasures in them, but the strap that runs from the backpack to your hands and wrists let’s kids stray just a bit, but also gives a parent peace of mind knowing that their child can’t disappear into a crowd. Another similar product connects parent and child together with wrist straps and a cord. 

Make Them Easy to Spot

How to Keep Track of Kids and Other Travel Advice For Anxious MomsI have a friend that puts her three kids in matching outfits when she takes them out. It’s not just because she wants them to look completely adorable, but it helps her to spot them when they’re out and about. This way, when she’s out somewhere and scanning the crowd for her children, she’s only looking for one color or pattern. Also, if she puts them all in matching colored swimsuits, for example, then there’s a better chance other people will know they belong together too. If one of the kids starts to wander off or get lost, someone might actually bring them back to the right family.

Picking bright colors is another trick if you’re worried about being able to spot your kids in a sea of people. Many parents like to pick bright colors, especially for swimsuits. According to one test, neon colors are the most visible beneath 18 inches of open water. The fluorescent colors also make it easier to spot when the kids are running around a water park or playing in a splashpad.

How to Keep Track of Kids and Other Travel Advice For Anxious MomsLabel the Children

Parents of young kids often label their children’s clothing, but just their own name on the tag of a shirt is not going to help someone locate you if your child ends up at the Lost & Found booth. My friend uses a sharpie and writes her cell number on masking tape, then tapes it to the underside of the hem on her kids’ shirts. When they go out, she reminds them that it’s there and to show it to someone if they ever get separated. Some parents skip the label and just use a sharpie to write their cell phone number on their children’s arm!

Have the Safety Talk

Talk to kids about what to do if they get lost. You don’t want to scare them, but you do want to equip them. If they find themselves alone with no one around to ask for help, they should stay in one place. Once they start walking all around to look for you, you increase the chances of missing each other during the search.

If they’re someplace where it’s easy to tell who the authority figures are, they can approach those kinds of people and ask them to call you. For example, if we get separated at the airport, I tell my kids to go to any of the check-in desks and ask the person working behind the counter for help. If you’re somewhere like a museum, look for someone with a name tag. And if children can’t tell who they should ask for help, the safest bet in that case is to look for a mom with kids and approach her for help.

Talking about abduction can be tricky with sensitive kids, but if your kids are able to handle it, then it can be a good idea to bring up the subject. In the unlikely situation that someone tries to abduct them, their reaction can make a difference. If someone grabs one of your kids, or even if someone approaches them and makes them feel unsafe somehow with their actions or words, they should repeat loudly enough for others to hear, “I don’t know you! Where’s my mom? Where’s my dad? Someone help me!” People around will be alerted that what’s transpiring is not just a parent trying to drag their kids away from the candy aisle.

Kids should yell, scream, kick, bite, punch, pull hair and do everything they can to get away and/or bring attention to themselves so that others know they need help. My kids giggled when I told them this. I felt like they were actually looking forward to trouble afterwards. Good! I want them all riled up and ready for a brawl rather than slip quietly away with a stranger because I forgot to give them permission to fight.

If They Do Get Lost…

We do everything we can from losing our kid in a crowd, but if it happens, there’s some good advice out there about how we as parents can respond. The first thing you’ll need will have required some forethought and planning. Take a photo of your child on your cell phone after they’re dressed for the day. This way, if you do lose track of your kids, you have a picture of exactly what they were wearing to show to others.

If your child actually does get separated from you, don’t panic. Involve others in the search by asking people around you whether they have seen your child. “Have you seen a 6-year-old boy in a blue shirt and red shorts? My son is lost.” Show people a photo of your child, specifically one from earlier in the day that shows what they’re wearing. Making a fuss will encourage others to look along with you. The additional attention from a larger group of people means that in the (unlikely) event someone with ill intentions has your child, they’ll have a harder time sneaking away unnoticed.

Bring the Lotions and Potions

Losing kids is not the only concern when it comes to traveling. Kids are never too old to get hurt or get sick. When we pack our clothes for a trip, we also pack a little pharmacy juuuuust in case. You never know when you’ll need Neosporin, bandages, children’s Tylenol, Dramamine, Benadryl, Tums, Liquid Bandage, Airborne, or cough drops.

I don’t want to be the family trying to find a 24-hour pharmacy at night in an unfamiliar place. I even bring along a small essential oil diffuser with a small bottle of peppermint essential oil in case someone catches a cold and needs a little extra night time relief from congestion. A vial of lavender oil never hurt anyone either. Put a dab on a tissue under a pillow and help over-tired kids calm down after an exciting day.

Traveling is not always a vacation when you’re doing it with kids, but it doesn’t have to make you overly anxious. Equip yourself and your kids as best as you can, and then enjoy making fun new memories together!


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Vicky grew up in Miami, graduated from Boston University, and moved to New York City to work in advertising. She and her husband then had a marvelous adventure abroad, which included the birth of their older son. After almost four years in Beijing, they headed to her husband's hometown of Houston. Their daughter made her debut a few months later and their younger son joined the ranks several years after that. Vicky loves family life and all the adventures, laughs, and lessons that come with it. Though busy raising three kids, she tries to sneak time to tend to her tiny urban garden and come up with ideas to continually make her home a haven. Vicky has been slightly obsessed with raising monarch butterflies in recent years. She’s a writer and communications consultant who dreams of days where she can simply sit by the pool reading a book and drinking lemonade.

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