A few years ago, if you had advised me to scan my family’s hotel room for safety hazards, I would have smiled politely and labeled you a Neurotic Parent.
That was before my husband and I took our two kids to South America. We were staying in a beautiful new hotel. While I was unpacking, our preschooler got curious about what was in our room’s massive dresser. So he opened one drawer, then another. And that was enough to bring the whole thing — plus the T.V. perched on top — crashing down on him.
Jack could have been seriously hurt, or even killed. Thankfully, he escaped with a couple of scratches — and my husband and I learned a scary lesson.
“Things are much safer than they used to be,” says Karl Neumann, pediatrician and editor of the website Kids Travel Doc. Hotels and cruise companies have put a lot of effort into making guest rooms safer, but there are still risks — of falls, burns, choking, and more. That’s especially true if you’re traveling outside of the U.S. “The laws may be lax,” Neumann says, “or there may be no laws.”
He even advises that parents survey hotel rooms on all fours, to get a kid’s-eye view of the place. Use this checklist the next time you check in, to prevent problems big and small.
1. Inspect the bathroom
The most accident-prone part of the home is the bathroom — and the same holds true for hotels, Neumann says. When you arrive, check the door; if it can be locked from the inside, make sure it’s always left open a crack. “Kids tend to be better at locking than opening,” Neumann points out. Remove razors and hairdryers that can be tugged off counters. Supervise children closely, even if they’re used to washing up by themselves at home. Towel racks may be enticing to grab, taps may not be clearly marked, and the water may scald. Several years ago, a survey found that most hotel bathrooms delivered water that was too hot to be safe. Also, watch out for slippery floors and bathtubs.
2. Check the floors
Get down to child level and scan the whole room for choking hazards and other potential problems. Did a previous guest drop a pill on the floor? Are there paint chips in the corner? Was pest poison left under a heater? Is there a lamp cord a kid might pull?
3. Test the furniture
More than 17,000 children ended up in U.S. emergency rooms because of falling furniture, televisions and appliances between 2013 and 2015, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission . Make sure that bureaus, bedside tables, and other pieces are stable and/or anchored to walls—pull out the drawers as an additional test. See that televisions are secured, too. Ask the hotel to remove any potentially dangerous items.
4. Examine the outlets
Look for accessible outlets and exposed wires. Move furniture to cover problem areas, or ask the hotel to make repairs.
5. Check the crib
If you’re borrowing a baby bed, ensure that it meets modern safety standards. It should have a firm, snug-fitting mattress. Drop-down sides are a no-no, as are slats with gaps large enough to fit a soda can through, hardware that sticks out, and decorative cutouts. And be sure to put the crib far away from window cords, outlets, and furniture that could help a kid climb out
6. Look at the windows
Lock any windows that can open more than a few inches, and move dangling cords out of reach. Make sure kids don’t have access to the balcony if there is any chance of climbing or slipping through railings.
7. Peek in the drawers
Remove pens with small caps, bottle openers, or any other items curious fingers might find.