By: Claire McCarthy, MD, FAAP
Vacations should be about fun, not about trips to the emergency room.
Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for keeping your baby safe in and around your hotel room.
Don't relax safe sleep habits. Resist the temptation to put your baby in bed with you; use a portable crib or packable playard instead. Many hotels and vacation rentals have them available upon request; ask when you are booking. Just make sure they meet current safety standards and are in good repair, with no broken or missing parts, loose hardware, or padding other than the manufacturer's original mattress. Bedding should fit the mattress snugly. You may want to bring a familiar crib sheet or blanket, depending on your child's age, as a reminder of home―especially if your little one isn't used to falling asleep in new places. Position the crib away from cords, lamps and TVs or from any objects that could fall on the baby.
Pack carefully. Pack medications, sharp things (like razors), small items that could be a choking hazard and anything else that might cause trouble into a couple of smaller bags. As soon as you open your suitcase, grab those bags and get them up high.
Do the safety crawl when you arrive. Yes, hotel rooms are cleaned between guests. Still, it's a good idea to get down on the floor and check for pills, pens or other choking or poisoning hazards that may have dropped and rolled under beds or dressers. Anything that is new and exciting and at your child's level―hotel phone cords, TV cords, the cords from the big reading lamp, low dresser drawers. Pack masking tape and move as much of it as possible to a high table or inside a closet.
Know where the hotel pools are and watch out for water dangers in your room. At any age, children can slip away from the watchful eyes of adults in seconds. It happens every day. The AAP recommends parents create layers of protection to help keep children safe around bathtubs or toilets, swimming pools, and hot tubs―all year long―including when on vacation and during non-swim times. Drowning is quick and silent. Keep the bathroom door closed, and consider bringing a toilet lock with you. Use the deadbolt to keep your child from leaving the hotel room without you. If you go to the pool, remember to use touch supervision in the water at all times.
Beware of outlets, cords and edges. Consider keeping a few inexpensive plastic electrical outlet covers and twist ties for electrical and drapery cords in your suitcase to use while traveling. A roll of duct tape or painter's tape can also come in handy to cover outlets and tape up blind and window cords to prevent strangulation hazards. You can also tape a folded washcloth over the sharp table corners to help protect against bumps and bruises. Some hotels may offer childproofing services for guests who request it; be sure to call the hotel directly in advance to ask what is available.
Prevent furniture and TV tip-overs. Push televisions away from the edge of their stands to make them harder to reach and tip over or pull off. Consider taping lower drawers of dressers closed so they can't be opened and climbed on.
Ask for the mini bar to be cleared out so you can use it as a fridge. If you are storing breast milk or formula, this will be a huge help!
Here are some helpful guidelines for safe breast milk storage.
Prepared formula that has not been given to an infant may be stored in the refrigerator for 24 hours to prevent bacterial contamination. (See "How long can baby bottles sit out at room temperature?"
An open container of ready-to-feed formula, concentrated formula, or formula prepared from concentrated formula should be covered, refrigerated, and discarded after 48 hours if not used.
Lock balcony doors. The best thing to do with curious or climbing kids is to avoid rooms with balconies. Many hotels have childproof locks on sliding glass and swinging doors that lead to balconies.
Be prepared for wandering. It's perfectly normal for children to want to explore―especially in a new and interesting place like a hotel. Dress children in bright colors that make them easy to pick out in a crowd. Do some exploring of your own, so that you know the layout of the hotel and can identify places children might go if they wander.
Have a fire plan. Know where the exits and stairs are, just in case—and decide on a meeting place outside the hotel so that parents and family members can find each other easily in case of fire.
This sounds like a lot, but it's really not.
It's just a matter of some advanced planning and establishing rules and routines like you do at home—and it can help ensure that your family vacation brings nothing but good memories.
About Dr. McCarthy
Claire McCarthy, MD, FAAP is a primary care pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital, an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, a senior editor for Harvard Health Publications, and an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. She writes about health and parenting for the Harvard Health Blog, Huffington Post and many other online and print publications.