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Childproofing on Vacation.

Bad parenting confession: Despite the fact that I was then living in the kind of suburban DC neighborhood where you would occasionally see a van pulling up to a neighbor’s house with some catchy name like “If You Don’t Childproof with Us Your Baby Will Not Get into Harvard!” I was blissfully unaware of the business of childproofing until my oldest child started to crawl. I mean, why would you have to childproof a house for a baby? They’re so cute and . . . immobile. After he stopped being such a delightful little lump however, I discovered that my house was no longer a small, innocuous-looking little house but rather a seething pit of chemicals and cords and light sockets that attract little fingers, to say the least of the stairs, which were clearly put there to drive me insane.  Oh my. It was time to childproof.
Still, I approached childproofing quite sanely, if I don’t mind saying so myself, trying to stay one step ahead of this rambunctious little person. Besides, I was too cheap to hire a professional childproofing service. And I think we did quite well, my husband and I. That is, until we attempted to go on vacation. At the time our son had just turned two-years old. Old enough to understand the word “no” but not old enough to care. In a split-second he’d figured out how to open the hotel room door and run out of our room which, incidently, was on the 7th floor overlooking an atrium. It was at that point, cue ominous music, when I realized that childproofing doesn’t take a vacation. If anything, it’s actually more important to childproof away from home, when the kids are excited, the environment is unfamiliar and fun to explore, and the adults might be distracted.

I’m basically telling you all this so you don’t think I’m a crazy helicopter parent (shhh, I kind of am). 

If you’ve ever walked into a hotel room or rental house with a child or two, you know what a dangerous place it can be: Lightsockets, exposed! Lamps sitting on top of glass tabletops for goodness sakes! Cords hanging from the blinds! Even in the most kid-friendly hotels are designed with adults in mind or at least with children in mind who are well past the stage of putting everything in their mouths. Nothing is ever babyproofed in a rental, so you better think fast when you walk in the door. The good news is it won’t take but a few minutes to babyproof your room and you can probably carry everything you need to do it in a gallon-sized Zip-loc bag.

A couple of points, first. Most of this advice applies to rental houses; it’s not entirely realistic to babyproof a hotel room, but there are some steps you can take to make sure your room is safer, one of which is being aware of less obvious dangers, like how easily doors open to the outside hallways. Keep in mind that you want products that won’t harm the room, are portable, easy to install, and inexpensive. Everything I mention here fits that criteria. They’re also easy to find at Target or Babies-R-Us.

When you first go into your rental, you may want to remove any delicate knick-knacks within reach of small chldren. This is less for safety reasons than for financial reasons, as you don’t want to have to pay for it at the end of your stay if it gets broken. Put anything you don’t want broken into a closet if there’s room. Last vacation, I actually moved a glass topped coffee table into the next room after one of my two-year olds decided it made a nice platform from which to continuously spout her personal manifesto. Next, check to see what’s in the lower kitchen cabinets. We once rented a beach house with cabinets that couldn’t be secured. A glance in the lower cabinets revealed a couple of large pots. No worries there, but right next to the pots was a knife block with 8 very sharp knives. Put dangerous items in the upper cabinets. Don’t forget to look under the sink for cleaning products that might be harmful to kids. I like these locks for cabinets with knobs.

You’ll find this type of cabinet in most Disney Vacation Club (DVC) kichens, so they’re easy to lock.

If you want to block off access to a room altogether, these doorknob covers are great; the childfree adults in our group especially liked them, as they kept little ones from waking them up at 5:00 in the morning. They’re cheap, take about two seconds to pop on or off, and don’t harm the doorknob, which makes them perfect for childproofing someone else’s house.

Most hotel rooms and all DVC units have lever-style handles rather than knobs, particularly on the outside door.  Try this lock from One Step Ahead for those types of doors.  You can also purchase this lock at Babies R Us.

We used these locks last month on the bathroom doors at Kidani Village.  I really don’t enjoy spending my vacation time saying “Get out of the toilet, Junior” over and over so this saved us a lot of trouble. It sticks onto the door, but didn’t take off any paint.

Many rental houses in Orlando have screened-in pools, some just a few steps from the family room. If possible, check with the rental agent or owner prior to your trip to find out what kind of safety measures are in place. Ideally, the door leading out to the pool should not only have a deadbolt (preferably one that requires a key which can be put in a safe place) but it should also have a lock on the upper part of the door that children can’t reach. Make sure all the adults in your party are mindful about keeping the door locked. If there’s a alarm system on that door, make sure everyone knows to keep it armed.

One of the biggest dangers in hotels rooms is the balcony.   Obviously the biggest issue is a child falling off the balcony, but also be aware that some balconies, particularly those at Disney resorts, have low walls or partitions that aren’t completely closed, allowing children to squeeze through to your next door neighbor.  Ideally, a sliding glass door leading out to the balcony will have two locks, one of which is high enough so that your smaller children can’t reach it.  I found the sliding glass doors in Kidani Village to be difficult to open, even for an adult; they have two locks and although they are low, I didn’t feel the need for any more security.  If you want added security, you can buy a small lock that attaches with adhesive to the windows of sliding glass doors.  Keep in mind that some condos and most  DVC units have two balconies, so you’ll need two sets of these locks.

Childproofing your rental should take only a few minutes but it’s an excellent investment in your vacation:  It takes almost no effort to pack a small bag with a few outlet covers and even less effort to install them.  Think about it this way: You might spend hours debating advanced dining reservations or deciding which park to visit on a given day.  This takes almost no time and is probably most like how you live at home.  Obviously, childproofing your room doesn’t take the place of  keeping a watchful eye on your child, but it can make your vacation go a lot more smoothly and give you peace of mind.

4 Comments

  1. What does she do when she gets in there? Sleep or rearrange your shoes?

  2. Hi Chris! Loved the article in Redbook. Congratulations on having your blog announced in the magazine. You are famous!

    The door locks you mentioned are something we definitely need for our next trip, because our granddaughter, Evelyn, locked herself into the bedroom at Kidani Village, this past November, and got into my makeup and moisturizers. She was almost three, turned 3 this month, so she knows better!

    We couldn’t get into the room, and her daddy had to threaten her that we would not be going to Disneyworld that day, if she didn’t open the door.

    Cindy

  3. Hi Chris, thanks for the well thought out article. We are actually staying in Kidani with our dd who will be 19 months old then so it was super helpful to hear details on those villas.
    -Stacey

  4. Hi, AJ! You have a super cat!

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