My daughter lived in a hotel between the ages of 5 days old and 2 years old and we still travel frequently. Hotel safety when it comes to elevators, big lobbies, rooms and pool decks has been on the forefront of my mind for a long time.
I’ve observed a lot over the years so have listed simple thing parents can do to create a safe hotel room for babies, toddlers and even older kids as well as tips for hotel safety in common areas. There are also affiliate links to products that may be helpful in certain situations. Without further ado, let’s get started.
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1. Get Familiar Before Checking In
Thanks to the internet, it’s a bit easier to see what a hotel room is like before checking in. Photos might showcase the type of furniture inside the room as well as the pool and other common areas around the hotel. This information is valuable because it can help people who like to bring their own babyproofing and gear decide how much and what to bring.
If this information is not available online, give the hotel a call to find out what furniture may be inside of your room. If opening and closing drawers and cupboards is of concern, ask what kind of handles the room has. Ask about locks on balcony doors (see below) and other aspects of the room that may need to be addressed.
2. Find Babyproofing for the Hotel Room
Most luxury hotels like Four Seasons offer the ability to babyproof rooms before guest check-in. In fact, one day when staff at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong noticed my daughter was getting bigger, they thoughtfully added plastic corners on to all of our tables and covered electrical sockets where exposed.
I have heard of people carrying painter’s tape or duct tape to temporarily cover outlets, seal windows and secure mini bar fridges shut. Duct tape can leave residue so a good painter’s tape is a much better option if your kids can’t penetrate it.
It’s actually pretty easy to pack small, basic babyproofing items if the hotel doesn’t offer any such as:
- Painter’s tape or duct tape
- Plastic plug covers (note that socket size varies based on country)
- Drawer and cabinet locks
- Plastic corner covers (be sure to secure with an adhesive that will not damage furniture)
- A reusable plastic cup so unsteady drinkers aren’t using glassware prematurely
- A roll-up bathmat or shower grip stickers to prevent slipping while bathing
3. Check Hotel Room Floors
A myriad of things from paperclips to old food can be hiding under beds or behind curtains in hotel rooms. Upon entering for the first time (and perhaps also periodically throughout your stay), give the room a good scan to make sure that toddlers and crawling babies won’t pick up anything bizarre and put it in their mouth. Go as far as to actually crawl the room like a small child would to note hazardous things within their reach.
4. Put Items Out of Reach
Here are items that can be found in hotel rooms that you’ll want to identify and place where curious kids can’t get to them:
- Trash cans as they contain debris and a myriad of germs
- Curtain cords or rods, if long enough for kids to grab
- Freestanding lamps that could be knocked over
- Coffee table books
- Loose decor within reach (vases, bowls, etc.)
- Bathroom toiletries
- Table covers (table cloths or glass coverings on top of tables that is easy to move)
5. Bring or Source Baby Gear
Digging around hotel websites and perhaps placing a few calls may reveal baby gear such as bathtubs, cribs and high chairs that are available for guest use, especially if it’s a luxury brand like Four Seasons or Mandarin Oriental. Bathing a baby without a bathtub is quite tricky and not the safest thing to do even in a bathroom sink (been there).
Depending on length of your stay, baby gear rental services may make sense. Look into companies that service your destination or ask the hotel for a reference.
If there is one thing you should bring, many believe it should be a travel crib. To be honest, I’ve never had trouble with hotel-provided cribs—in fact the one provided by Shangri-la Hotel Bangkok (just to name one example) was nicer than my daughter’s real crib. However, many parents have found hotel-provided Pack N Plays and cribs to be dirty, flimsy and/or unsafe. I personally loved our Baby Bjorn travel crib if you’re in the market for one that can be neatly folded into a case and checked as luggage or slid into the trunk of a car. You can also read my list of the best travel cribs.
6. Lock Balcony Doors
best thing to do with curious or climbing kids in tow is to avoid rooms with balconies. Many hotels these days have childproof locks on sliding glass and swinging doors that lead to balconies. If your hotel lacks sufficient locks, other measures should be taken. I’ve heard of parents even duct-taping balcony doors shut if kids are able to undo locks on their own. A small door alarm may also come in handy in this instance.
Note that balcony safety regulations vary by country and that metal slats can be wide enough for small children to fall through.
The same strategy applies to ground-level rooms near beaches, pools or anywhere you don’t want kids to roam.
7. Latch Front Doors
In addition to a traditional door lock, many hotels have latches higher up on the door that prevents people with room access from walking in (housekeeping or anyone with a key) or prevents kids from walking out. There is something about hotel doors that kids find curious so let the latch become your friend. Older kids should know how to release the latch in the event of an emergency.
In the event there is no latch, consider a door stop alarm that will both prevent the door from opening and alert parents that an attempt to open it has been made.
8. Attach Travel Identification
A brightly-colored wristband that clearly outlines a child’s emergency contact information can become very useful in the event that you are separated. I like Travel ID bands because they’re waterproof and come in packs so that you can change the information as you travel through various destinations.
Write-on tattoos are also popular but it seems like they might be harder to see if a child is too young to show people the information. It could be easier for someone to spot a wristband, depending on the situation.
9. Point Out Hotel Staff
In large hotels, hotel staff are usually uniformed. In the event of separation from your child or any other emergency, I believe it’s important for my daughter to be able to know who the staff members are and where to find them (lobbies, Executive Clubs, pool staff, etc.).
10. Discuss Hotel Safety Dos and Don’ts
Knowledge is power and the first thing parents need to do is explain to kids what they are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do in the hotel room and around the property’s common areas. This could range from opening doors to devouring that granola bar in the mini bar to running in the lobby area (I have seen many distracted kids run accidentally into people and bell carts as well as slip on shiny stone floors).
Devise a plan for what to do if you become separated, which also becomes important in regard to elevator safety below.
11. Focus on Elevator Safety
If your child is of walking age, assess the hotel and think about what would happen if you become separated while getting into an elevator. It nearly happened to me once and I have seen it happen to others where either the door open button doesn’t work as planned, crowds separate a child from a parent or a parent thinks the child is walking in behind them when he or she is not.
What you do depends on how you are separated, your hotel, the age/abilities of your child and personal preferences. If I was the one left in the elevator, I told my toddler to always stay put on whatever floor she was left on and that I would come back to get her. It gets trickier if the situation is reversed and, truth be told, I don’t have a perfect answer for this. In our hotel residence, which spanned over 40 floors, I would have used a nearby phone to alert the front desk (Four Seasons has phones near the elevators in many hotels, for example) as to which elevator she was in so that they could put hotel security in action because there was no guarantee the elevator doors would open again on my floor if she remained inside the elevator. In a two-story hotel, the odds are more in your favor. This is a situation where travel identification wristbands can really come in handy.
Now that my daughter is 9, we have an agreement to meet in the lobby at the front desk if we get separated. Part of the reason for this is that if it’s a hotel that requires a key to access room floors, the lobby is always accessible from the elevator even without a room key. Lobbies can vary based on hotels (we recently stayed in a hotel where the lobby was on the 3rd floor) so make sure kids know where it is.
Explain how to avoid elevator injuries by keeping extremities away from closing doors. Kids under the age of 5 typically do not have the strength to stop doors from closing. Kids should be instructed to stay close to you and enter at the same time you do.
12. Show Older Kids How to Dial the Phone
Older kids should absolutely know how to dial the hotel phone, especially when traveling with only one parent. Hotel phone systems can be a bit complicated these days so I point out where the front desk button is just in case I ever need medical attention and am unable to dial myself. I remind her that “0” leads to the hotel operator.
You could go as far as to teach them how to dial emergency services which vary by country. In the United States, it’s 9-1-1 but in Hong Kong, for example, it’s 9-9-9. My theory though is that the hotel should be notified if there is an emergency so that would be the first place to call in most circumstances.
13. Practice Swimming Pool Safety
Make sure that kids understand the depth of the swimming pool. This is crazy important on a number of levels and may take you getting in or asking staff as the depth is often not marked these days for aesthetic purposes.
Kids need to know where they can stand, if necessary, and where they can’t. They also need to know if it’s deep enough to jump in. I’m not a fan of diving into hotel pools—it’s disruptive and often not safe—so I don’t allow it under any circumstances.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen kids slip while running around the edges of a pool. Tell them not to run or stand on the poolside furniture.
14. Pack a Small First Aid Kit
A small first aid kit with Neosporin (or an equivalent), a variety of bandages, sterile bandages, blister bandages, tweezers, etc. can come in handy for small injuries like cuts and splinters. Of course, many hotels will stock these supplies but it’s always much more convenient to have these things immediately accessible to quell distress. I find that nail clippers and nail files are also good things to pack as hang nails or broken nails can be so annoying for my daughter.
15. Store the Hotel’s Phone Number
Keep the hotel number easily accessible on your mobile phone. If you are not near a hotel phone, your mobile might be the easiest way to get in touch with the hotel in case of an emergency. This also prevents wasting time searching the internet for the phone number.
Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).
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