Child safeguarding while travelling

Why travelling away needs careful supervision

Trips away can be a great experience for a child or young person, whether they are going away for the day, overnight, or travelling overseas. But being away on a trip for sport or recreation means they can be away from their whānau and usual caregivers. They become the responsibility of the adults supervising the trip while they are in their care.

Research here in Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas examined the risks for tamariki and rangatahi attending sport and recreation events. This research found children and young people are at risk from deliberate harm when they are travelling or going away overnight.

This means this sort of travel needs careful planning and supervision to ensure:

  • the adults supervising during the trip feel adequately prepared and informed 

  • children and young people are kept safer while being transported and using facilities elsewhere

  • parents and caregivers are fully informed about their children’s whereabouts and wellbeing, and can feel confident that their children will be well looked after 

  • the trip goes smoothly and is enjoyable for everyone. 

Making checks and communicating effectively during the trip will ensure everything progresses as smoothly and safely as possible.

Tamariki (children) and rangatahi (young people) means anyone under 18 years old. Adults supervising the trip should be 18 years or over and with adequate maturity and capability to supervise the group.

Checking and training people working or volunteering with children and young people

Briefing the adults supervising before the trip

Make sure you plan and consider the child safeguarding risks before you travel. You cannot travel with a child or young person with consent from their parents or caregivers.

More about planning safer travel with tamariki and rangatahi

Brief all adults supervising the trip. Clarify roles and responsibilities and make sure people understand what they need to do. Identify who is responsible for the children and young people and when.

Make sure you:

  • cover the supervision needed for every location on the trip to make sure children and young people are safe, supervised, and accounted for at all times — refer to the risk assessment carried out during the trip planning for areas of risk, such as venues, car parks, roads, toilets, changing rooms, and accommodation  

  • cover how and when you’ll use things like checking-in points, headcounts and buddy systems

  • plan for safeguarding during toilet breaks, food stops and meals, and stretching legs on longer journeys

  • plan for how you’ll manage unexpected situations, such as delays to the travel or emergencies

  • agree on a positive way to manage any negative behaviour in the group

  • explain expectations for their behaviour in their supervising role.

More about supervising children and young people during overnight stays

Give the adults supervising the trip:

  • information about how to respond to unsafe or inappropriate behaviour, and who to contact about any concerns around child safety — include the process for reporting this to your club or organisation

  • guidance about recognising signs of abuse and harm and how to respond if a child shares that this has happened to them

  • guidance on what to do in an emergency, including who to contact, including the Police and the local New Zealand embassy or consulate, if overseas  

  • information about what to do if a child or young person becomes lost or is missing 

  • any medical, dietary, mobility or religious requirements that could impact a child or young person’s health and wellbeing while on the trip

  • allocated clothing or identification so you are always visible, if this applies.

  • guidance on being a great role model, including not drinking alcohol, smoking or vaping, or taking illegal or non-prescription drugs.

Find out the contact details for the nearest New Zealand embassy or consulate

Last checks before you depart

Carry out some last checks just before you leave.

  • Confirm again who is responsible as the lead person. You will have agreed this already when you planned the trip.

  • Check the weather and traffic conditions.

  • Agree on ways to keep the party together. Explain how you’ll have regular head counts and set up a buddy system before you leave.

  • If anyone has a medical condition, ensure they have enough medication for the whole trip, plus a little extra. If they need an EpiPen, make sure it was supplied and that the adults supervising the trip know where it is.

  • For younger children, caregivers may choose to leave the prescribed medication with a supervising adult. Make sure this is in a container and clearly labelled with the child’s name.

  • Give all children and young people a briefing on expected behaviour (in or out of the group) assure them that they are safe to raise any concerns during the trip.    

  • Remind everyone about who they can talk to (in person, or by text or phone) if they feel unsafe or uncomfortable while away or travelling.

Make sure children and young people can contact their caregivers whenever they want during the trip.

During the journey

Keep an eye on the group while you’re travelling.

  • Where there are seatbelts, ensure these are used.

  • On buses, trains and other public transport, sit adults in pairs and evenly spaced to ensure all children and young people are visible.

  • Check in regularly and make sure everyone is okay.

  • Keep track and make sure you don’t leave anyone behind. Use head counts after every stopover and use the buddy system that was agreed during the planning.

  • In cars or other forms of private transport, ensure children and young people are sitting in rear seats, where possible

  • Respect children and young persons’ privacy, for example during toilet stops.

  • Don’t detour to other venues or locations if they weren’t agreed to in the planning.

  • All drivers should have a fully charged mobile phone on them in case of emergencies.

Long journeys can be stressful for everyone. If there is tension or negative behaviour:

  • address any rough, bullying or sexually inappropriate games and language immediately

  • if you’re the driver, you can remove a child or young person from the vehicle for harmful behaviour that is repeated and unmanageable, but you mustn’t leave them unattended

  • if needed, contact their parent, caregivers or whanau, and/or the agreed contact in your club or organisation.

If the behaviour is dangerous or harmful to themselves or others, and you are unable to manage it, contact the police.

Child safeguarding on public transport

If you’re using public transport, such as a bus, plane, train or ferry:

  • plan in advance how you’ll supervise the children and young people

  • plan check in and check out points, and headcounts.

  • always make sure you have all the children and young people in the group assembled together before anyone boards the vehicle,

  • make sure one adult in charge boards first, and another stays at the back of the group to make sure everyone boards successfully.

  • someone should also be on hand where tickets are checked to help with queries and ensure everyone is able to board. 

Do another headcount as soon as the group is on board.

Dealing with unexpected delays or cancellations

If the arrangements change significantly while you are travelling — for example, delays or cancellations to public transport or flights — let the caregivers know and update them regularly. 

Make sure the adults supervising the trip will have access to funds to cover the trip, as well as additional money to cover emergencies and other unexpected events. This should include funds for: 

  • travel that hasn’t been paid for yet 

  • extra meals and refreshments, if needed during delays 

  • any other contingencies you’ve planned for. 

Briefing the group once you arrive

Once you arrive, remind the children and young people about:

  • their timetable: departure, times to meet, event or activity times, and their free time 

  • where any key facilities are, such as changing rooms and toilets

  • any off-limit areas and site risks you note once you arrive, for example, other activities, busy roads

  • requirements for moving around, such as the group always being with an adult, always being in sight, being in groups of two or three, being with their buddy

  • taking care of their personal belongings and valuables, including mobile phones 

  • what to do if they get lost or separated from the group

  • what to do if they have concerns about someone’s behaviour — this could be adult behaviour or other tamariki and rangatahi

  • who to talk with if they have any concerns.

If you are visiting a venue, such as a sport arena or playing fields, let the group know where your base is, or the designated area at the venue for your club or organisation. 

Policy templates

Having good policies in your club or organisation can help manage and address harmful behaviour.

We are developing new policy templates for sport and recreation clubs and organisations to use when they are developing their own policies. Keep a look out for the new policy templates when they are published here.

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In the meantime, you can still download and use the child safeguarding policy templates from the Sport NZ website.

Transporting children and young people policy Billeting and overnight accommodation policy Media policy - photographing, filming and using images Code of conduct for people working or volunteering with children and young people View all child safeguarding policies and procedures on the Sport NZ website