Planning a family trip is fun and exciting. The whole family gets to go somewhere different and experience a new activity. This event could even be something you and your family look forward to for weeks.
But then something you weren’t expecting happens: someone wanders off and gets lost!
Over one Labor Day holiday when I visited my parents in California, we decided to all go to the zoo. This was four adults and two dependents (my toddler, and my Grandma). I list my Grandma as a dependent and not an adult because, well, she’s about as bad as the toddler.
There we were, enjoying a nice day at the zoo, checking out the elephants and the giraffes. Pointing at the funny monkeys. Then we were looking at the pretty hyenas and discussing whether they were more dogs or cats, we suddenly realized we were missing a person in our party. No, not my baby boy, but my Grandma had disappeared.
The next hour was stressful and chaotic, but we did eventually find Grandma, safe and sound, outside the park. Apparently, she thought we left without her and went out to wait for us in the parking lot. Honestly, it could have been worse. We were concerned she might have gotten on a bus to try to go home. Wouldn’t be the first time.
A stressful moment, but an important lesson to learn. Now I know how to prepare in advance to avoid losing someone in a public place.
How to Prepare for a Public Outing in case you get Separated
- Have a photo of everyone in the clothing they are wearing that day. My Dad is Paparazzi when it comes to family photos, so we had not just a recent but a picture of what my Grandma was wearing that day, hat and all. That helped the park security search for her.
- Plan a meeting spot for everyone to gather if someone gets separated. This is something we failed to do in advance. Even though the rest of the adults assumed we would find her at the entrance (and that is where I waited with my baby while the others ran up and down the park), my Grandma assumed the exit was where we would find her. But honestly, why would we leave the park if we got separated inside the park? Have a rendezvous point planned out in advance.
- Find a security officer or a police officer to help. That is something we both did. My family on the inside of the park contacted the zoo security, and they started a search. My Grandma, sitting outside in the parking lot, flagged down a police officer who was patrolling the parking lot. The police officer contacted zoo security, and our missing person was returned to us.
- Cell phones. Not everyone has them – case in point my Grandma is just too elderly to learn to use it, we tried. But the rest of us had our phones, and when we were split up inside the park doing a search, we were able to check in with each other, so we knew where everyone was and the status.
- Know phone numbers. This continues the point above if the people do not have a cell phone on them. If your child (or grandparent) is able, make sure they have important phone numbers memorized. My Grandma did not have my Mom’s number memorized and couldn’t ask someone to call her. If phone numbers are not known as second nature, maybe a business card or a slip of paper in the dependent’s pockets would be a good idea. Or an “if I am lost” bracelet perhaps.
- Know names. While my Grandma didn’t know our phone numbers by heart, she was able to tell the police officer my Mom’s name. This is an important fact for children to learn, since how often do kids use their parents’ names? The authorities need to know the names of the adults they are looking for.
Getting separated from a family member in a public place is certainly not fun. Stressful and unexpected situations serve to teach us quite a few lessons so we can be better prepared in the future. Have you gone through a similar situation?
I’m considering getting a Buddy Tag for my toddler so he can’t run off and disappear in a crowd. And I might need one for my Grandma as well.
Share your tips for getting lost in public with us!