hand opening hotel room door

8 Hacks for Childproofing Your Hotel Room or Vacation Rental

It’s bad enough to have to lug around diapers, stroller, and bottles when you’re traveling with a baby or toddler. Who wants to lug around a bunch of safety stuff? Exactly no one.

But it’s still crucial to keep the smallest travelers safe, not just from Covid-19, but more everyday hazards. These are our top tips for childproofing your next hotel room, Airbnb or other vacation rental—many based on my own family’s close calls.

1. Start with a scan

If possible, take a quick walk through the space before you bring your little one into it. Fix whatever sticks out at you (literally). You know your baby best—is she a chewer, a crawler, an intrepid explorer? Does he like to put things in drawers or pull himself up? Being in a new place is exciting, but taking a few moments to assess the room can help you spot and eliminate any dangers.

2. Bar the door

Hotel room doors are designed to be easy-in, easy-out. That’s convenient in case of emergency or when you’re lugging in tons of luggage, but less ideal when your child wanders over, opens the door, and takes off. Get in the habit of locking the top security lock (not just the dead bolt) every time you enter your room.

3. Beware the bathroom

Move lotions, soaps, shampoo, sewing kits, toothpaste, and pretty much every other amenity out of reach. You might also consider sticking the hair dryer on a high shelf, just to avoid any potential calamities. Ditto with the bathrobe’s sash. Finally, it doesn’t hurt to remember that a flimsy piece of cotton on a slick floor can add up to a disaster. Keep an eye (and a hand!) on your kid when getting in and out of the tub.

4. Secure drawers with painter’s tape

Here’s the thing about childproofing a hotel room or Airbnb: whatever you do has to be undone when you leave. Enter painter’s tape, which helps prevent paint from bleeding or otherwise going where it’s not supposed to—and is easy to remove. A couple pieces can “lock” drawers or keep the toilet closed, and the eye-popping color means you won’t forget to clean it up at the end of your stay.

Forgot to pack the painter’s tape? Stick a Band-Aid over the outlet (perpendicular to the electrical slits) for super-easy protection.

5. Transform pool noodles into safety guards

At home, of course, you’re probably intimately familiar with all the hard corners of your house, having no doubt whacked into them many times on your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. With a little painter’s tape, a pair of scissors, and a pool noodle, you can round off nightstands, tables, and any other pointy edges in your accommodations. You might also use a noodle wedge to cover the bathtub spout or as a door stopper.

And, in the event that you’re not using a crib or kid-sized cot, pool noodles can serve as makeshift guardrails to prevent your toddler from rolling off the big bed.

6. Use rubber bands as anti-locks

During one memorable hotel stay, our child pushed in the turn-button lock on the bathroom then closed it. Thankfully he locked himself out, rather than in, but I still had to MacGyver the lock open using the inside of a ballpoint pen. How much simpler our life would have been had we simply hooked and twisted a rubber band from one knob to the other—the X across the latch prevents the latch from popping out, which means the door can’t be locked.

Other bonus uses for rubber bands: you can wrap it around a roll of toilet paper, preventing little hands from playing a fun game of unspooling, and use it to tie up long curtain cords.

7. Secure the safe

OK, it’s less a safety issue than a hassle one. Our toddler was seconds away from permanently losing his #1 lovey by closing the door of the fun, shiny box he just put it in. The travel gods were with us that day—my husband managed to stop him from inadvertently locking his prized possession in the safe. Now, if the safe is anywhere within his reach, we lock it as soon as we enter the room.

8. Hide the remote

The Covid-19 pandemic has everyone thinking about bad bacteria and viruses. An oft-cited study by the American Society for Microbiology found colonies of bacteria lurking on light switches and remote controls. Your baby can’t reach the former, but the latter has all kinds of fun buttons that would be oh-so-fun to play with or gum. In addition to keeping the remote out of your child’s reach, you might also consider either wiping it down or inserting it into the clear plastic liner that comes with the ice bucket before use.

Jessica Allen writes about food, culture, travel, and New York City.