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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Your child’s health and safety when travelling abroad

Thousands of teenagers go on holiday without their parents every year. You can help them avoid potential problems by making sure their insurance, travel documents and vaccinations are in order before they leave. You should also make sure they know the dangers of alcohol, drugs and unsafe sex.

Planning, insurance and travel documents for your child’s holiday

You can never be sure that your child’s holiday will go without a hitch. Checking they’ve planned their trip well and are properly insured will mean they’ll be prepared if something goes wrong.

Planning ahead

Once your child has decided where they are going to go, you should make sure they:

  • book an appointment with their GP at least six weeks before going to check what vaccinations are needed
  • buy a good guidebook so they have information about their destination and know about local laws and customs
  • make a note of the address of the nearest British embassy or consulate in case of an emergency


In case your child has a problem with travel, illness or loss of possessions - or has an accident abroad - you should:

  • get travel insurance and check that the cover is appropriate for their trip (for example, some activities may require an additional premium)
  • make sure the travel agent being used is a member of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA)
  • make sure the holiday package is ATOL protected if they are flying (ATOL stands for Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing)

Travel documents

To make sure your child has a smooth trip, and to ensure you know their whereabouts in case of an emergency, remind them to:

  • check their passport is valid and ensure they’ve organised any necessary visas
  • make copies of their passport, insurance policy (including the 24-hour emergency number) and tickets and leave them with family and friends 
  • ask them to leave a copy of their itinerary and a way of contacting them with family and friends
  • ask their bank if they’ll be able to use the cash machines in the places they’re going to
  • exchange enough money for the trip and some back-up funds like travellers’ cheques, sterling or US dollars

Drinking alcohol in other countries

Make sure your child is aware of the legal drinking age in the places they’re going to. They should also know that being under the influence of alcohol can mean that their insurance is not valid.

If your child is likely to drink alcohol while abroad, they should:

  • be aware of and respect local attitudes to alcohol
  • keep an eye on their drinks (drugs can be put into ignored drinks)
  • avoid activities like swimming or skiing
  • never take alcohol into countries where it is prohibited
  • understand that being drunk in public is frowned upon wherever you are

The dangers of using or smuggling drugs abroad

As with alcohol, if your child is involved in an incident while under the influence of drugs they might not be covered by insurance.

Before going abroad you should make sure your child understands that penalties for breaking drug laws are often severe. They might include heavy fines and long prison sentences in grim conditions. Some countries still have the death penalty.

Tell your child that they should never:

  • carry packages through customs for other people
  • sit in someone else's vehicle when going through customs or crossing a border – they should always get out and walk
  • let anyone else pack their luggage or leave it unattended
  • lend a vehicle they’re driving to anyone else
  • give medicines prescribed for them by a doctor to anyone else

The importance of safe sex on holiday

You should ensure that your child knows about the dangers of having unprotected sex while they’re on holiday. This can reduce the chance of unwanted pregnancy or contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like HIV/Aids, chlamydia or gonorrhea.

They should also understand that cultural attitudes towards relationships differ in other countries. Acceptable behaviour in the UK can, in some societies, cause deep offence or misunderstanding.

Getting more information about your child’s destination

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) website has travel advice by country. This includes information about entry requirements, local customs, healthcare and general public safety. You can also call them on 020 7008 1500.                  

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