10 Tips to Childproof Your Home Away from Home

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Spending the holidays with loved ones is an unbreakable tradition for millions of American families. Often, decking the halls together requires overnight stays in a hotel room or with a relative. If you have young children, it’s important to make sure that your home away from home is a safe place to sleep and celebrate.

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“Hotel rooms aren’t childproofed to the same degree as your own home—and Grandma’s house can be even worse!” says home safety expert Louie Delaware, author of The Home Safety Guru’s Definitive Guide on How to Childproof Your Home: Making Your Home Safe and Secure for Little Ones. “From electrical outlets to windows, unstable furniture, small objects, hot water, and more, there are a hundred and one things that can be dangerous in little hands.”

Fortunately, says Delaware, being aware of potential hazards and how they can be circumvented before you pack your bags is the best defense.

“Most accidents happen not because parents aren’t responsible or attentive to their children, but simply because they haven’t considered the accidents that can happen in unfamiliar places,” he comments.

Here, Delaware shares 10 things you can do to ensure that the “happy” isn’t taken out of your holidays by an unforeseen mishap:

Ask for help. Don’t approach home-away-from-home childproofing on your own if you don’t have to! Inquire ahead of time to see if you can get help. According to Delaware, some hotels offer permanently childproofed rooms, and others will perform this service ahead of time if requested.

“Grandma or Aunt Sue might also be able to perform a few key tasks ahead of time if you send a list of concerns,” he points out. “Your loved ones care about your child’s well-being too, and odds are, they’d be happy to install a few child-resistant outlet covers, for instance, or make sure breakables, medications, vitamins, and the like are stored out of reach.”

Don’t leave things to chance—BYOCG. Bring Your Own Childproofing Goods, that is. “Even if you’re traveling to an environment that you expect to be relatively safe, it’s always a good idea to bring items like outlet plug inserts, safe non-incandescent night lights, Velcro® cord wraps, bathtub mats, and the like to help make your room safer,” Delaware says.

…And don’t forget your duct tape! Duct tape isn’t useful only for quick home-improvement fixes around the house—it can also be a childproofing magic bullet.

“Duct tape can be used to create barriers that are difficult for a young child to get past,” Delaware points out. “And if you employ a little creativity, items like windows, unstable televisions, toilet seat covers, drawers, cabinets, shower doors, etc. can be easily ‘locked.’ You can even use duct tape with a rolled up towel to pad the corners of tables.”

Figure out a safe floor plan. As long as it’s not bolted into the floor, move any furniture that you feel might pose a risk. Hotel employees and/or relatives will probably be happy to lend a hand.

“Specifically, move furniture away from windows and the edges of balconies,” Delaware instructs. “Move chairs that children could use to climb onto something higher. And check for any furniture that may be a tipping hazard. Often, simply turning a piece around so that the drawers are facing a wall can reduce its chances of falling over and can deny little climbers a handhold.”

Get down on your child’s level. While childproofing your own home, you probably toured each room on hands and knees, inspecting each nook and cranny for hazards at your child’s eye-and-hand level. Do the same in hotel rooms and in relatives’ guest rooms.

“Look for small items left on the floor or in drawers, sharp metal objects protruding down from the bottoms of tables and beds, plastic bags left by previous guests, drawer or cabinet knobs that can come off, and rubber door stop caps,” Delaware recommends. “All of these can be hazardous. And remember, if you’re unsure about something, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you can imagine it, your child can probably accomplish it.”

Don’t let the bedbugs bite. If you’ll be requesting or borrowing a crib or portable playpen during your holiday travels, inspect it thoroughly prior to use.

“Of course you’ll want to make sure that the crib or playpen is clean, and that it’s sturdy and safe,” Delaware comments. “If it’s not, ask for a different one. Also make certain that cribs meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s safety standards (e.g., slats no more than 2 3/8 inches apart, no drop-down panels, etc.). And don’t use any pillows in the crib or playpen.”

Babyproof the bathroom. In general, it’s a good idea to keep bathroom doors securely closed when this room is not in use. “But just to be on the safe side, put all hazardous items on a high shelf and disconnect blow dryers and coffee makers,” Delaware suggests. “If you’re at a relative’s home, ask if there’s a way to remove hazardous cleaning agents and/or lock cabinets and drawers. That duct tape you packed (right?) can really come in handy here!”

Don’t get into hot water. Many hotels (and some private homes as well) have their water set much higher than 120° F because of the number of people taking showers or baths at the same time. However, higher water temperatures can scald or burn small children.

“The best thing to do is closely monitor the water while the tub is being filled,” Delaware says. “You can even bring your own thermometer with you to check the water if you’d like. Once the tub is fully filled, swirled to even out any hot spots, and at a safe temperature, then put your baby in the tub. And don’t ever leave your child unattended in the bathroom—even when washing hands or brushing teeth.”

Enjoy the view—safely! Hotel rooms often feature balconies. And especially if they’re older, these balconies might be unsafe for children to explore. “Watch out for widely spaced bars or horizontal rungs that could be used as a ladder,” Delaware warns. “You may be able to work with your hotel to put up a barrier of some sort. But if in doubt, don’t allow your child to have access to the area. Keep the balcony’s door locked at all times.

“Even if you don’t have a balcony in your room, pay special attention to windows,” Delaware continues. “It’s a good idea to loop and tie up any longer window blind cords.”

Bring your own entertainment. It’s when kids are left to their own devices that they’re most likely to get into trouble. That’s why Delaware suggests bringing plenty of toys, books, videos, etc. to keep your youngsters entertained. “New toys are especially fascinating for little hands—so you may want to consider handing out a few holiday gifts early,” he says.

“Your trip to spend the holidays with loved ones should be a fun event, not spoiled by an unforeseen incident,” concludes Delaware. “To make sure this time of year stays joyful, do a little bit of proactive work—it can go a long way toward keeping your child safe and your holiday stay less stressful!”