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The ultimate hotel babyproofing trick

On our recent road trip through southern California, I had a good chance to review hotel babyproofing basics as Theo, just on the verge of walking, familiarized himself with three different hotel rooms in less than a week. Yes, you can and should read all about Childproofing on the Go in Chapter 10 of Travels with Baby, and by all means use the “Checking-in Safety Checklist,” but there are still times when you may find garden training wire, rubber bands, hair clips, strategically parking suitcases, and rearranging furniture are not enough to keep your curious kidlet from seeing your hotel room as a Disneyland of Dangers, and himself the holder of pass for unlimited rides.

Enter Theodore. At the first hotel, in Paso Robles, we got off pretty easily as we were only there one night and his sisters helped convince him the hotel crib was a special, fun place they wanted to be, too (which it was), as we hurried to lift all the lamp cords and data wires we could up above the desk and tables where he wouldn’t reach them, and moved some furniture to block access to a floor lamp and it’s electrical outlet. The only real problem we encountered here was one we’re already familiar with, and we were happy to disconnect the room phone for the night (just don’t forget to reconnect it before you check out!). Here he is making call #437 to the front desk (a safe and manageable distraction).

When we got to our next hotel at San Diego, Theo upped the ante by adding this table lamp to the operator routine (the phone is in his other hand). Who set the suitcase next to the table on arrival—while ironically performing the initial hotel babyproofing sweep?

Not to worry, we had the ultimate weapon ready to go. This time, we had more than a double B.O.B. jogging stroller waiting for us at the hotel; we also had a “Big Bag of Toys” waiting for us provided by Toddler’s Travels baby gear rentals in San Diego. (You may recall us using them in the past in Tips for Renting Baby Gear–in San Diego and Beyond). You should note that Toddler’s Travels “big bag” is big enough that we could have fit all 3 of our young kids in it, though we happily didn’t have to resort to that. Instead, the mix of toys they hand-picked for our kids based on their ages and my request of nothing that could be a choking hazard to the baby, proved the perfect and safe distraction any and every time we came back to the room during our stay.

I knew the third and final hotel of the trip would present a real safety issue beyond the usual hotel curly hair dryer cords and minibar concerns. There would be a stair case right in the main room. Imagine the thrill to the children of checking in to your hotel room to find your own personal flight of stairs. Wow! When the hotel explained they did not have safety gates to provide guests in these specialty suites, I wasted no time in contacting L.A. Baby Gear Rentals to line up an adjustable safety gate. Though we didn’t know the specifics of the stairs or railings, I knew we would at least be able to use the wide-expanding gate to block access at the bottom of the stairs.

Silly Mommy.

Before we could get settled and bring the gate up from the front desk, I immediately set Theo in the hotel portacrib and rolled it to block the bottom of the stairs, explaining to his sisters they shouldn’t get him too excited about going up the stairs, please. Although the crib had low clearance, it was no match for the shimmy of a skinny 6-year-old and her 4-year-old accomplice who were in no time surfacing on the other side of the crib and running up the stairs—much to Theo’s delight.

The room had other babyproofing issues as well, including a wonderful plant that was taller than me in a large pot of rich, enticing soil. Tim eventually returned with the safety gate and we discovered that because of the odd railing type and steps, we couldn’t secure it in place. The extended gate did prove very useful in creating a corner blockade for the plant and electrical outlet we needed to use for the laptop. Whew.

And that’s when my daughters showed Theo a magic trick on par with those we’d watched in Balboa Park just the day before: passing body parts—then entire small people— through the backs of the open stair steps.

This is what Oprah would call an “Oh, duh, moment.”

As the rain clouds gathered outside our Venice Beach hotel, I realized we might be spending more time playing on the stairs than expected and less time on the beach. And that’s when Theo showed us his own magic trick—or tried. I held my breath knowing we needed to see if it would really be an issue or not. Yes, his entire body passed with ease through the side railings, thankfully at the bottom of the stairs. His head did not.

While leaning the sofa cushions of or hide-a-bed onto the bottom steps seemed to hold him off, the best babyproofing maneuver proved to be opening the box of toys also provided by L.A. Baby Gear Rentals, which we should have opened much sooner. (This particular trip seemed riddled with “Oh, duh,” moments.) Out marched action figures, cars, an Elmo, dinosaurs, a magic glow wand, and a dozen other toys we’d never seen before, plus some children’s books and a couple of DVDs. The safety gate was definitely helpful. The box of toys—indispensable!

I know many parents, including myself, have set out in a frantic effort pre-trip to buy some great new toys and “safe distractions” to keep the kids entertained on vacation, but I think it’s hard to beat the value of having rented toys (along with baby gear) delivered for you and waiting at the hotel. The super jumbo Big Bag of Toys from Toddler’s Travels San Diego (which we used their double jogger to transport back to the front desk!) is $7 per day or $35 for a week.(Prices are subject to change, of course.)

But of course, who can put a price on child safety?

If you’re thinking of renting toys, car seats, strollers, or safety gear for your next trip with baby, remember you can find baby gear rental agencies from Las Vegas to Latvia in the Worldwide Directory of Baby Gear Rentals. More related posts below.

Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks

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PSSST! If you’re kids are getting too old for this, check out Family Travel 411.

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