It’s time to pack your bags! You’re headed out on family vacay. Maybe you’ve made plans to drive to grandma’s house or maybe you’re flying to a new destination.
Pre-children, you might have winged it when it came to where you stayed, but with children there is so much more to consider.
Traveling with kids and staying in hotels, vacation rentals or someone’s home can be a new adventure for little ones, but it can also be a bit overwhelming for parents. There’s so much for your children to investigate, but it might not be exactly safe for them to explore everything in arm’s reach.
The good news for you? There are some simple steps you can take to make your family vacation safe and fun for everyone—no matter their age.
We’ve put together some tips to keep your family safe when traveling away from home.
Before you go
Keep medications and vitamins in their original childproof packaging. While it may be easier and save some space in your luggage, tossing your meds into Ziplock baggies can make it easier for kids to access them.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year nearly 60,000 children under 5 years old go to the emergency department because they ate or drank medication when they were unsupervised. Of those visits, almost 70% of them were children under 2 years old.
The CDC has these recommendations to keep children safe from accidentally swallowing medications:
- Keep medications somewhere safe and out of their reach or sight.
- After taking medication, safely store it away.
- Never leave children alone with medicine.
- If you’ll be staying at someone’s home, ask that they keep any medicine out of reach and sight from your children—this includes purses, coats and low cabinets.
[Also read “5 Medication Safety Tips All Parents Should Know.”]
Make sure vaccinations are up to date. Vaccinations for both you and your children are important. Check in with your doctor and your child’s doctor to make sure you’re up to date on all your shots. If you’ll be traveling overseas, ask what additional vaccines may be required.
Prepare your kids if they get lost or separated. No parent imagines losing sight of their children until it happens. Kids can get lost in an instant, from behind clothing racks to inside theme parks. Here are some ways you can prepare your child:
- Practice your phone number together.
- If your child is too young, find a way to attach contact information to them, whether that’s a bracelet or temporary tattoo.
- Designate a meeting spot in each location you visit.
- Explain why it’s important to stay in one spot until you find them.
- Remind them not to leave with someone they don’t know, even if that person offers to help.
- Practice shouting your full name and not “Mommy” or “Daddy.”
Pack child locks, outlet protectors … even duct tape. While your house may be Fort Knox when it comes to safety, someone else’s home—and for sure your rental or hotel—may not be.
If you want to avoid physically shadowing your child’s every move while on vacation, it’s a good idea to bring some safety tools to ensure your place is babyproof and childproof. You can either pack child locks and outlet protectors or you can go a little lighter and pack rubber bands and duct tape—yes, duct tape! Rubber bands can quickly go on to hold cabinet doors closed and duct tape can be used to childproof outlets, light switches, cords and even sharp corners.
Ask about car seats and booster seats. Depending on your child’s age and weight, they’ll need to be buckled in a car seat while in a moving vehicle. If you’re unable to bring these with you on a flight, check with your rental car company or the people you’re staying with to ensure your child is covered.
[Also read “Important Car Seat Guidelines to Protect Your Child.”]
Consider packing your own supplies. Think about things that make your child happy at home or away and bring these with you, such as a favorite baby blanket or book, baby carrier, nursing pillow, snacks and toys. If you’re prepared, then your child will be more content.
Staying at someone’s home
Whether your host has kids or not, here’s a quick checklist for ensuring your family members are safe in someone else’s home.
Do a sweep of the home. When you arrive, assess the area and ask about chemicals, medications and fragile items that can be put securely away during your visit.
Bring a portable crib or portable bed rail if your host doesn’t have one. This is a must if you have a baby or little one who moves around a lot at night.
Keep safe around stairs. If your host has a two- or three-story home, consider ways to prevent your child from accidentally falling down the stairs. You can bring a lightweight travel barrier or consider a large, unscalable piece of furniture to block the entrance.
Remember to say, “Thank you.” It’s not easy staying at someone else’s home, nor is it easy for the host – especially if they don’t have children of their own. Remember to thank them for their hospitality and for making certain accommodations for your children. If possible, help remove any child safety measures you put in place during your visit.
Staying in a vacation rental
Book a child-friendly accommodation. When travelling with little ones, make sure you book a place that is listed as family- or kid-friendly. This can help ensure there aren’t dangers lurking in every corner.
Other things to ask yourself: Are there lots of stairs, lots of glass or sharp edges that could cause injuries? Do they have a portable crib, highchair and other baby items? Is there on-site laundry for baby accidents? What do other guests say about their stays?
Look to see if they have carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. While most vacation rental companies encourage hosts to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in their space, to test them regularly and make sure they’re listed in the description, they aren’t required. You can, however, filter out listings without them.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, an average of 1,450 fire deaths occur every year in homes with missing or non-functioning smoke detectors. And every year, more than 20,000 Americans visit emergency departments, 4,000 are hospitalized and 400 die from CO exposure. While injury and death are rare, these are two simple items that can help ensure a safe stay.
Do a baby-proofing sweep. On arrival, do take your time to sweep the home to de-risk each area. Even if the home is kid-friendly, there could be some areas that need kid-proofing. This is the time to pull out that duct tape and rubber bands, put away any breakables and unplug any electronics when not in use.
Ask the host. If you’re unsure about your accommodations or have questions, don’t hesitate to message the host.
Staying in a hotel
Check the hotel room before unpacking. Like with any visit, it’s important to do a check to make sure the room is child-proof. Make sure windows and doors are securely locked, no electric wires are exposed and cover any outlets, cabinets or doors.
Use the privacy door latch. If your child is old enough to pull on handles, they could easily open the door to unwanted guests or make a break for the hallway of the hotel. Use the privacy door latch to ensure the safety of everyone in the room.
Review the escape plan for the hotel. When you enter the room, review the escape plan posted in your room. Take the time to look and see where you’ll need to go in case of a fire.
Got questions or concerns? Don’t hesitate to ask the hotel’s front desk for help.
Being prepared and knowing what to expect are two of the biggest things you can do to make your family travel smooth and fun. Not everything may go as planned, but your family will love seeing new places and meeting new people.
Happy family travels!
For other travel tips, check out:
- The Best Ways to Prepare for a Medical Emergency Before You Travel
- How to Avoid Diarrhea When Traveling Overseas
- Tips and Tricks to Travel with a Broken Bone
- How to Maintain Your Diet While Traveling
- Flying While Pregnant: What You Should Know