We once entered a thoroughly modern hotel room to find someone had indeed brought us a portacrib as requested, though he had set it up directly beneath an enormous light sconce protruding from the wall that would have served well on a whaling ship. If it didn’t brain our daughter as she stood up in the crib, it surely would have harpooned one of us after laying her down beneath it.
It was a good example of why you can’t take anything for granted on arrival at a new destination. While that particular safety snafu was obvious to us on arrival, there have been other close calls of things that were not: At a vacation rental, we found a pretty stained glass window in the sleeping loft that was within my daughter’s reach and appeared to be shut. Remarkably, it was not latched and opened outward at two stories above the ground. At a mountain resort, our tired wooden deck rail moved when pressed against, and my son quickly discovered a pair of balusters that were no longer secured to the deck. At a popular resort in Hawaii, my toddler daughter ran to the railing of the balcony to see how far up we were as I quickly saw she was small enough to fit through the metal railing (since replaced).
How you spend your first moments at your new accommodations can be critical to your child’s safety. If your child is mobile, I strongly recommend you inspect your lodgings before you let him loose to explore them himself. In some situations, you may be able to simply leave him buckled in the stroller or placed in the portacrib while you do a quick safety check. In others, and depending on the enthusiasm with which your child delights in exploring new surroundings…you might even prefer to let your partner keep him entertained outside or in the lobby until you’ve completed your Checking-in Safety Checklist. You might also like to browse these recommended products for childproofing during travel before you go.*
___ Door locks
Can you latch the main door to ensure your child won’t go sightseeing without you? Does the bathroom or any other room have locks within your child’s reach?
___ Low and/or Large Windows
Are the windows low enough for the child to run into, or climb out of, or access by climbing on other furniture in the room? Do they open wide enough that toys—or a child—might fall through (remember, screens will not stop children from falling)? Can they be locked shut so your child cannot open it? Is there a “protective” rail or grillwork outside the window that might tempt the child?
___ Patio Doors
Can your child unlatch or operate the door unassisted? Is the glass so wide it is a walk-through risk? Is the glass so thin or old it might break if bumped by a toy or gallivanting child?
___ Balconies or Decks
Are the railings close enough to keep curious children and babies from slipping under or through? Even more-modern hotel buildings may still have railings spaced too widely for small children and babies (remember they’re much narrower turned sideways), so be sure to inspect for yourself before your child comes exploring. Are there steps to the deck or down from the balcony? Any outdoor furniture that could give your child “a lift” too close to danger?
___ Curtains, Blinds, and Window Treatments
Give draperies a friendly tug before your child does to ensure they’re securely anchored. Get loose operating cords, delicate drapes, and unsafe window treatments up and out of the way, bundled with a rubber band if needed.
Is the heating or AC unit accessible to your child? Could it be dangerously hot or pose a risk from the operating fan? Are the controls within his reach?
___ Electrical appliances, outlets, and cords
Watch out for coffeemakers, alarm clocks, and hairdryers that may be pulled off of surfaces by curious toddlers, either by their cords or the objects themselves. Lamp, TV, and Internet cables and cords may also need attention. Outlets may appear where not expected, such as at the base of lamps on desks or bedside tables.
___ Kitchens or kitchenettes
Check cupboards and drawers for knives, coffee makers with glass carafes, and other hazards that may be within reach, including matches if the stove is gas. Dishwashing detergent and/or cleaning supplies may be kept in an accessible cupboard. Be aware that ovens, refrigerators, or dishwashers may be more easily opened than yours at home.
Soaps, shampoos, and lotions may need to be moved from within reach. In vacation rentals and personal homes, check for cleaning supplies, medicines, matches, and other hazardous products that may be stored in the bathroom. Be sure to store your own toiletries and travel kits out of reach of your child (those with built-in hooks or loops that can be hung from robe hooks or from shower or closet rods can be helpful).
Can your child open the minibar by herself? Are there items inside that could be of danger (glass bottles, peanuts or other allergens in snacks, etc.) or could set you back more than you had planned for this vacation? You may need to set a suitcase in front of it or rearrange furniture.
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*Adapted from Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide for Planning Travel with Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler by Shelly Rivoli, 2nd Ed., 2014.