Travelling with children Sun and water essentials
When it comes to sun and water protection, it's essential to be prepared.
Sun safety for babies
It's vital that you protect your baby’s skin from the sun. Small babies need to be kept out of the sun completely. It's harder to do this with toddlers and babies on the move, so you need to be vigilant. Make sure you are using the right protection and try to keep them in the shade as much as possible, especially during the strongest heat of the day (between 11am and 3pm).
Sun hats for children
With older babies or toddlers you'll probably have to wrestle with them to keep a hat on their head, so a hat with ties or an elasticated fit can help to resist determined little hands. ‘Legionnaire’ style sun hats with a flap at the back are very effective at protecting the whole head and neck.
Wide-brimmed hats are a good alternative but other styles - for example, a straightforward baseball cap design - won't provide the necessary protection.
At its most basic, this means long-sleeves and trousers, not shorts. However, for periods of long exposure, this often isn't enough to protect a child’s skin from burning as clothing can still let through some harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
If you want to be sure of maximum protection, you can buy special clothes that guarantee to let through only the tiniest amounts of UV rays. Look for clothes with the label ‘prevents sunburn’. Clothes with this claim will have reached British Standard EN 13758-2, which sets a strict sun protection standard for children’s clothes.
Sun cream for babies and children
Our top tips for choosing the best sun cream are:
- Choose a cream with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Many sun creams aimed at children will have an SPF higher than 30, but they won't actually give your child much more protection in real terms. A 20-point increase in the SPF doesn't give a corresponding increase in protection - so don't be lulled into thinking that your child is safe to be out in the sun for longer if you use a higher factor cream. However, Cancer Research UK's SunSmart campaign advises using sunscreens that are specially formulated for children and babies' skin as they are less likely to cause allergic reactions. It also advises buying a brand that protects against UVA rays which are measured with star ratings - the more stars the better. For more information about buying sunscreen you can visit the SunSmart website.
- Avoid very cheap, little-known brand creams: tests by Trading Standards officers and Which? have found some of these to have far lower levels of sun protection than is claimed on the label. Stick to well-known brands (or, for good value for money for the same level of protection, own-label chain-store products).
- Buy before you travel - sun creams purchased abroad may not meet these demanding UK requirements and may be mis-labelled.
Swim nappies are useful if you don’t want your child in normal nappies on the beach and don’t want to risk any ‘accidents’ in the water. Travel companies and hotels often insist that non-toilet-trained children wear swim nappies in swimming pools.
There are two types of swim nappies – reusable and disposable. Disposable nappies have an absorbent core like normal disposables, but it won't swell up in the water. They come in packs (available from most supermarkets) and each one is thrown away after use. However, they can work out expensive and are a fairly bulky item to take away with you.
Reusable swim nappies are made from soft swim suit material, which allows water to escape but catches solids. If you're using reusable swim nappies it's best to buy two so one can dry while the other is in use. Whichever type of nappy you choose, look for ones with ties or side-snap fastenings as these will be easier to change than pull-on-and-off styles.
These keep your baby warm and allow them to stay playing in the water for longer. They open at the bottom for easy changing.
Baby buoyancy floats and swim seats
Older children can use armbands but babies needn’t miss out on the joys of floating in the water. You can buy baby swim floats, which have an integral shaped baby seat with leg holes. Your baby sits in the seat with his or her back and chest supported and can splash about and kick safely (with, of course, an adult keeping the child within arms’ reach).
These buoyancy aids come in different sizes and are suitable for babies from about three-months old. They are widely available.
Sun-safe tents and play shades
These pop-up, pod-shaped, open-sided tents are ideal for keeping a young baby properly in the shade when on the beach, and offer high levels of UV protection. You can buy family-sized as well as child-sized tents so adults can sit in the shade, too. They are widely available from nursery and department stores.