You finally get the door to your hotel open. You've got a sleeping six month old balanced on your hip, a diaper bag slung across your body and your suitcase sized purse dangles heavily from your arm. Your partner trails behind, pulling your three year old who is dangling over the over sized rolling bag, a carry on bag and a computer bag crossed in either direction across his chest.
Entering the room, your heart flutters with anxiety. Sliding glass doors reveal a balcony with wide bars, a floor lamp rests elegantly in an open corner, cords stretch here and there, the boxy edges of the end tables, a desk and dressers jut out in reckless points. Your three year old has knocked the garbage can over and is riffling through the drawer with the room service menus. Into the center of the room, they fly. It has begun...
Traveling with children and introducing them to a new space can be nerve wrecking. Suddenly you're at an away game and there's no such thing as home court advantage.
Here are some tips for creating a safe hotel environment for your little one while on vacation:
1) Pack your baby proofing essentials! Before you leave the house, pop a handful of plastic electrical outlet plugs (this really only applies if you’ve got a baby or a toddler on the go) into your suitcase. It is amazing what toddlers can find when they set off to explore, don’t let them find the electrical outlet. Luckily, most hotels usually only have two outlet sources in the main room (one low to the ground and one attached to a desk), I like to slide a dresser or a side stand in front of easy to access outlets. Table bumpers and guards or (if you're creative) bubble wrap and tape can be used to soften sharp edges. Most hotel rooms are not designed for little ones. Low sharp corners are everywhere.
2) Call ahead and request a crib or play yard. Most hotels offer play yards and cribs. Even if you co-sleep, or your two year old is sleeping in a bed on their own, a play yard can offer a safe play space for the downtime spent in the hotel room.
3) Scan the room for the little hazards and hide them. Most hotel rooms are not designed with little ones in mind. You know your child. Scan the room for annoying little triggers like garbage cans (I don’t know why toddlers love these so much?) Take garbage cans and place them in the bathroom and close the door to avoid a garbage spill every five minutes. Anchor wobbly floor lamps behind desks or chests of drawers to avoid the inevitable crash to the ground.
4) Don’t be afraid to re-arrange your hotel room when you travel to accommodate your baby or toddler. You know what is best for your child, re-arrange the room to create space and block hazards. Will your two year old share the bed with you? There’s nothing wrong with sliding the bed up against a wall and out of the center of the room to protect your little guy from a fall in the middle of the night (most beds can be moved). Going for an extended stay? Place items you want your toddler to have access to in a drawer that is low to the ground, put everything else up high, in a closet or closed behind the bathroom door.
5) Pack your stroller. You may need it to give your child (depending on their age) a safe time out as you shower, in the event a crib or play yard is not available to you.
At the end of the day, a vacation is meant to be fun and relaxing. When traveling with a baby or a tot, there will most likely be bumps and situations will arise that you can't possibly anticipate. Know this is part of the course and remember that the benefits of family travel far outweigh the stress. Enjoy the adventure of exposing your little one to the world!