Once parents have planned and booked a family trip to a new destination, the next thing they should do is ensure every step will be childproof.
That starts with using an approved child restraint system in airplanes and rental cars and continues with safety checks of your lodgings.
Here’s what to consider when childproofing your vacation.
Bring your own car seat.
It’s wise to bring your own child restraint system—a car seat—on an airplane and for use in rental cars. That’s the only way to be sure that the seat fits your child, meets your standards of cleanliness, and is in good shape.
A problem: Car seats weigh 20–30 pounds and are a nightmare to carry. By the time you get it to your airline gate, you can feel like you lugged the car, not just the car seat.
One solution: Pico, an eight-pound portable seat produced by WAYB (rhymes with “baby”). The foldable seat constructed of strong, lightweight aluminum is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for use in airplanes, and by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for use in cars (including ride shares).
If renting in Europe or other international destinations, request a vehicle with a tether and lower anchors that you can use to secure a seat.
Restrict access to the pool and hot tub.
Even though you warn non-swimming youngsters not to go in the water without you, little kids can sometimes wriggle out of sight. Avoid a tragedy by blocking access to your rental’s pool and hot tub.
Ask the vacation rental company or the unit owner to construct a removable barrier around the pool and hot tub. Some landlords gladly consent, realizing that a fence allays parents’ fears and makes the property stand out as exceptionally family-friendly, especially in user reviews and social media. After I requested this of one owner in the Caribbean, he constructed a fabric barrier with removable poles for my family. Because he could use it with future renters, he wouldn’t allow us to pay for it even though we offered.
When owners don’t help, study the online photos to determine how to create a temporary barricade by surrounding the pool with patio furniture placed on its side or creating a makeshift fence of 3-foot tall, lightweight garden netting rigged with bungee cords or ropes. Items used to secure a fence are easy to toss in a suitcase, as is a portable pool alarm.
If you’re taking a road trip, baby gates are easy to bring to a rental that has treacherous stairs. You can also impede toddlers by placing extra beach loungers or other furniture at the top and bottom of staircases.
The same Caribbean owner who installed the pool fence billed us for three baby gates that he purchased. We gladly paid the fee. After our vacation, we donated the gates to a women’s shelter.
Pack safety items for young kids.
Although many hotels offer safety plugs and covers for electrical outlets, most rentals don’t. Small and inexpensive, the outlet covers are easy to pack. When traveling internationally, make sure what you buy matches the outlets’ configuration (Europe's is pictured above).
It can be difficult for adults to fall asleep in new places, and it can be even harder for kids. A battery-powered portable night light works wonders, and pre-schoolers can also carry the light down unfamiliar halls when they go in search of bathrooms and parents. Munchkin’s Light My Way Nightlight has a friendly owl face and an easy handle for toddlers to grasp.
Check how doors lock.
Find out how the doors lock. In one villa our family rented, locking the doors on the inside made it impossible for people to enter from the outside. However, we discovered that people—little kids—could still get out. The design of the door handles and locks allowed egress at all times, which can be a nightmare for parents.
We made sure to keep our eyes on the toddlers and the doors. If we had known, we would have brought ropes, bungee cords, and other makeshift fixes.
If necessary, ask if doors can be childproofed by adding a lock that anchors in the frame or the floor.
You can also bring safety locks that are easy to install and don’t require drilling holes. Monsin sells doorstop wedges with alarms that indicate movement. For round doorknobs, Heart of Tafiti’s inexpensive child safety covers click into place and can be removed with a flathead screwdriver.
Remove hazards from kids’ reach.
Sweep the rental for potential problems. Remove any sharp-edged or breakable knick-knacks as well as any table lamps or other things your toddler might topple.
Childproof door latches by 4our Kiddies attach to drawer or cabinet openings with adhesive strips that don’t leave marks when you remove them. When the latches are in place, grown-ups can open the drawer or cabinet by flipping a tab.