Traveling to the Big Apple with your tadpoles (aka children) can be a lot of fun, but being dropped into a new environment brings potential safety concerns. This is not to freak you out, but to help you be aware that dangers lurk when you’re “not in Kansas anymore." There are different types of traffic and transportation, different regional norms and a much higher population than you may be used to. While New York City is one of the largest cities in the world, it is by and large one of the friendliest cities in the world. That said, it's always smart to use caution when visiting a new destination! Consider our tips for family safety in New York City to help guide your way and help you prevent dangerous situations so you can have an emergency-free vacation.
Tips for Family Safety in New York City
Follow these 10 tips for family safety in New York City to keep you and your tadpoles safe and prevent any problems. With a little prep and vigilance, you can have an amazing trip sightseeing in a new place.
In any big city like New York, you always want to be conscious of your environment. Thieves can prey on tourists and busy parents. If you are distractedly watching a street performer, that is a perfect time for pickpockets to strike. Thieves can also watch you purchase food on the street and see where your wallet is kept. Keeping money, ID and credit cards inaccessible to thieves is a deterrent to becoming their next victim.
Share tips for family safety in New York City with your children
Have conversations about NYC before your trip. Be sure to mention these tips for family safety in New York City. Talk about the importance of sticking together and create a plan in case you somehow become separated. If your children lose sight of you, they should stand still and not start running all over to look for you. There are a lot of police in NYC, so teach your children to talk to them if they need help. If they do not have cellphones, consider giving them walkie-talkies they can clip to themselves or have in a small bag. The goal is to prevent any type of separation by holding hands and staying focused. However, it is good to have a “just in case” plan should anything not go as planned, like getting separated on a subway. Hopefully talking about the dangers prevents anything bad from actually happening.
When it comes to tips for family safety in New York City, the subway is an important topic. Make sure children stay behind the line so they don't fall into the track where they could get hurt, electrocuted or hit by an oncoming train. Hold hands to keep children by your side. Walk away from stairs towards the ends of the platforms, where there may be fewer people or less-crowded cars. Enter the train together to prevent one of you from getting separated when the doors close. Avoid very packed cars if you can.
If you somehow do get separated, have a plan can help you all remain calm and know what to do. Whoever is on the train should hop off at the next stop and wait for the group to arrive on the next train. Whoever is left on the platform should take the next train and also get off at the next stop to meet up. Cell phones do not work well in the subway. Before boarding tell everyone what line you are taking and where you are heading.
Chances are that you may get some unexpected entertainment on the train, so just ignore any performers or beggars. Do not engage with strangers. If you are very worried about anyone in your car, get off at the next stop and board another car or take the next train.
For general tips for family safety in New York City, you should lock all doors and windows when in the room. This is part of our tips for family safety in New York City, but could be applied to any city or trip. When leaving the room, lock up valuables and supervise your children at all times. Try not to yell out your room number to family members across a lobby or pool. When you check in, collect a couple of the hotel business cards. It will have the address on it and can help you easily get back to your hotel incase there is more than one hotel by that name.
Put emergency contact information on your children
Whether you put a hotel business card in each kid’s pocket with your name and number written on the back or use a temporary tattoo or bracelet, taking this extra step can help you get quickly reunited. On the other hand, do not dress children in clothes with their name on it. A child may trust an adult who uses his or her name. Tell them that you would never send a stranger to collect them. Our family has a silly secret code word a person outside of the family or close friends group must know in order to pick up our children. No code word, no go.
Take daily photos
This is one of our tips for family safety in New York City that you might not usually think of. Each morning take a photo of your children and what they are wearing. We do this whether we are visiting cities or theme parks. It may come in handy if you need to give someone a description of your child. You can play “What am I wearing?” memory games in the morning to teach your children to note your outfit for the day so they can easily spot you or describe you.
Protect your Identity and belongings
Avoid carrying a big backpack with important items. Carry money and ID in a money pouch under your clothes or purses across your body. Carry only what you need for the day. Lock other forms of ID or jewelry in a hotel safe.
Taxi cab and car service safety
Our tips for family safety in New York City also include car safety! In some states, children are exempt from needing a car seat when riding in taxi cabs or private hire vehicles. Check the laws before visiting in advance. You can order an Uber X with a car seat if that makes you more comfortable. If you do have to ride in a cab without a car seat, what should you do? The child should be in the backseat. Do not put the child on your lap and buckle yourselves in with the same seatbelt. That is worse than the child not being buckled. If you can, you should put them on the seat next to you and buckle them in. If you have an infant with a car seat that fits on your stroller, you might take that with you. You can detach the car seat from the stroller and use the seat in the car, storing the stroller in the trunk. They also make strollers that convert to car seats for travel, and they also make travel vest restraints for children 3 and up.
Before exiting the vehicle, make sure you have everything — bags cameras, cellphones, etc. —and then double check again after exiting. Remember to retrieve any items from the trunk. I like to count any loose items before entering a car and do an item count when exiting (along with a head count) to make sure we have it all.
Take an extra step of precaution when crossing the street.
Another one of our most important tips for family safety in New York City ... traffic safety! Only cross at crosswalks with a crossing signal and look both ways. If you are at a One Way street or even in a country where they drive on the left, you might be hit by oncoming traffic if you look right, but the cars are coming from the left. In places like New York, the drivers may keep coming even if you as a pedestrian have the signal and right of way. Look drivers in the eye and make sure they see you. When giving our tips for family safety in New York City, we can't stress this one enough. Don’t stop and take a selfie or photo in the middle of an intersection. Cross quickly and wait until you are in a safe place before taking photos. When waiting for a light, keep your children away from the curb edge.
Create a buddy system
The buddy system is great to use in any and all travel, but is extra crucial when it comes to tips for family safety in New York City. Make sure everyone is in charge of specific people, especially when walking around NYC. Siblings can buddy up, but parents can also be the key person to watch out for specific children, especially if you have a child who somehow always tries to wander off or gets distracted easily.
Stay in charge ... of your phone, that is
One of our top tips for family safety in New York City is to carry an external charger or add a phone case that can act as an external battery. Can you imagine the nightmare of getting separated from a child and having a dead phone battery? Keep the power flowing by planning ahead and keeping an eye on your battery life.
Stay in the light
It probably goes without saying, but we are saying it anyway. Stay in brightly lit busy areas of the city at night. Avoid alleys and empty streets. If you will be walking around at night, let your children wear some glow stick jewelry, which is inexpensive. It’s fun for them and also keeps them easy to spot.
Chances are you are in for a safe trip to the city. By planning ahead and simply staying aware of your surroundings you can keep your family safe. Besides these tips for family safety in New York City, have you used any other tools or tips to keep your kids safe? If so, please share your advice in the comment section below.