I read a thread in one of the Facebook groups where I am a member about worrying during travel. You can worry about lots of things in addition to the things you normally worry about with your kids, like them falling sick or falling down a cliff or falling prey to a predator. Or falling meteorites.
When you travel, the dangers are very different than you are used to from home. Where I come from, the two things you have to worry about is bears attacking in spring and running out of gas for your snowmobile in the middle of the forest. Neither is a problem in Tokyo.
Things are so different when you travel. There are exotic animals with stings and teeth, exotic flowers with thorns and poisonous berries, exotic people who will lure you with exotic dances into exotic bars and spike your drinks and take your money. Well, the last one may be less of a concern if you have three kids in tow.
Continous Travel Worries
They bring their own concerns, though. You continously have to worry about the kids falling off a cliff, or the bed. You have to worry about all the stinging insects and especially the diseases they may carry. They do not have to be lethal to put you off travel for a long time - dengue fever is one of the most unpleasant diseases you can have. You have to worry that your child does not run out into the road, or the pram trundles down the stairs, or that they put their fingers in an electric socket, eat a dangerous chemical, or run into a sharp corner and hurt themselves. And you have to worry about traffic.
Same Worries At Home
Luckily, most of the things you need to worry about when you travel are the same as those you worry about at home. And the remedies are the same. Childproofing an AirBnB is not very different from childproofing your home, although you want to be careful with the glue on the corner and edge protectors. You do not want it to remove paint or veneer, which may happen. Our furniture at home is a testimony to this, exposing spots and tearmarks that someone without triplets may think looks terrible (we are past caring). That means you can not use your regular childproofing gear. We used masking tape and wadded up newspapers before our kids got large enough to understand that a sharp corner hurts if you run into it. As you probably have guessed, it happened pretty fast.
Do The Descriptions Match?
That the place you have rented is not childproof and that your kids will break something so you have to pay is a big worry when you rent an apartment or condo. It is less of a worry in a hotel, as I have written about before, but we do not fit in a hotel. Unless we book several rooms, and then the money worry becomes too big.
The descriptions of the places leave a lot to desire. We had a lovely place in Hawaii but when our kids took the doors off the bookshelf and started chewing the books, I started to worry. For sure, the furniture was pretty crappy to begin with, so even if we had broken it I do not think we would have had to pay much. But it is still a worry. And the description, even the photos, showed nothing of the kind. So maybe I should have worried more about the mismatch between the description and the actual place.
Traffic Worries On Sidewalks
In most places, your children hurting themselves on the furniture is something to worry about indoors, but as soon as you go out, traffic is a worry. In southeast Asia, people drive like madmen, and adults have to watch out that they do not get run over by a motorcycle messenger running full steam in the different direction. In Japan, the streets are so narrow that you have to duck into a doorway so that you do not get squeezed by a passing car. In Seden, cars skid and swirl on the icy roads so you have to dive into the ditch not to get run over. The list goes on. There is no way a toddler can fathom what is going on.
Eating Bugs, Dirt, And Parasites
Most people maybe do not worry that their kids will eat the furnishings, but if there are bugs and dirt you should worry about your kids eating them, at least until they are a certain age. While children actually improve their immune system by ingesting various bacteria and other bugs, they can also get parasites and worms that you do not want in their bodies. So while they are the age when anything goes into their mouths, you should worry about them eating dirt. As they grow a little bit older you can stop worrying about that and go back to worrying about biting bugs. Ticks are really bad, and in Southeast Asia you have centipedes that can be up to 30 centimeters long, if not longer. Luckily, you do not see them all that often. Not as often as mosquitoes, which you will find everywhere in Thailand, and often indoors. We had big problems with that in Thailand - one day my wife took our daughter to the hospital, since she was covered in purple splotches. It was after that we started with double mosquito nets.
Unknown Window Screens
Window screens are almost completely unknown in Thailand, although mosquito nets (around your bed) is very common. In winter the temperature is low enough to sleep with your windows open, although in summer you want to keep the air conditioner going to keep the temperature comfortable even at night, although it dries out the air of the room which is not good for your kids either, especially if they are too small to drink water on their own. Drying out the membranes of the nose and throat means it becomes easier to catch infections. And you do not want that either.
Changing The Smell Of Your Kids
Luckily the mosquitoes are easy to keep away.
We actually used to have two mosquito nets around our kids beds, in layers. As mentioned before, mosquitoes can spread some really nasty diseases. But that only keeps them away when they are in their beds. Of course, infants spend most of their time there anyway.
Many insects track their prey by their chemical emissions, especially body odor. You can not get rid of it by washing, they smell your body. Including the carbon dioxide on your breath. I actually saw a report that the body odor of children infected with malaria changes so they become even more attractive and easier to find for the mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite.
Hiding Body Odor
So the best way of keeping mosquitoes away is to make sure they do not get your scent. And your body odor is actually easy to hide. There are chemicals like DEET and several organic versions using different herbs and plants which confuse the insects. You can not mask the plume of carbon dioxide from your mouth, but you can make your body smell differently. Spray your children before they go out. It makes sense to use a combined sun screen and insect repellent, especially in the tropics, because then you do not have to worry about sunburn on top of insect bite worries.
Hiding From The Sun
That is not even mentioning sunburn and sunstroke. Sunburn may be more painful to deal with (unless you like comforting crying toddlers), but sunstroke is a lot more dangerous. That is why you want your kids to drink plenty of water, and why you want them to wear a hat (even if they do not like it).
This is only the beginning of the list. I have not even mentioned worrying about money or missing the plane. But like all worries, there is a cure: To prepare.
For sure, you prepare very differently for an encounter with mosquitoes than for an encounter with a motorcycle messenger barreling down the sidewalk. You prepare differently for encounters with sharp corners than you prepare for countering sunburn. But the important thing is that you can prepare. And you should.
This was part of my ongoing series about traveling with toddlers. Did you like it? Why not sign up to my mailing list so I can tell you whenever there is a new installment? Just fill in the form below!
I am Wisterian Watertree, recently moved from Bangkok to Tokyo, with a brief visit to Honolulu on the way. I write about travel, especially with our three beautiful kids (two girls and one boy, soon turning four and a half - yes. they are triplets). Travel is education and fun rolled into one, and if you are like me, that is something you want to give to your kids. If you want more tips and want to find out when I will publish something, get it from my email list. If you want to be personal, drop me a note on firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you want general tips, follow me on Twitter @wisterianw.