Vacation Safety for Babies and Toddlers

by Alina Bradford

It is important for parents to be even more vigilant about baby safety when on vacation. "Just because you are on vacation, do not take a vacation from your common sense and safety planning," says Samantha Wilson, former police officer, internationally recognized expert in child and family safety, and author of Safe Kids Safe Families, who recently worked on the high profile Madeline McCann Kidnaping. Many parents don't think about baby and toddler safety while on vacation, but vacation time is known by emergency rooms as "Trauma Season." Close to half of all injury-related childhood deaths occur between the months of May and August. Here are some ways to make sure your child stays safe during the fun.

Before You Leave

Safety for your child starts before you leave home. Packing smart is a key to preventing injuries.

Travel Kit

When traveling with a baby or toddler, take the time to put together a safety travel kit that will help you childproof your accommodations. Wilson suggests that parents make this simple safety kit before leaving the house. Be sure to include:

  • A proper crib sheet (if you are borrowing an approved crib)
  • Duct tape to tape up wires/cords in hotel rooms
  • Door knob covers. This will help you prevent the child from getting into rooms that are off limits, i.e., bathrooms.
  • Electrical plugs (8 is good)
  • A current picture of your child in your wallet

Many of these items can easily fit in a diaper bag; however, Wilson suggests that parents create their kit in its own bag so that parents can easily toss it into a suitcase. It is also important to take along items that will protect baby outside, such as:

  • Baby or toddler approved sun block
  • A hat and light colored clothing to reflect the sun
  • An age appropriate float device to be used with supervision in the pool
  • Size appropriate helmets for bike rides with parents
  • First-aid kit

Baby-proofing Your Stay

When you arrive at your destination, remember to take some safety precautions before relaxing.

  • Get down on your hands and knees and look around from the eye level of your child.
  • Remove any sharp or loose objects that the child may pick up and put in their mouth.
  • Remove all plastic bags from garbage cans.
  • Move all furniture away from windows.
  • Apply safety products from your travel kit.
  • Ask for a ground floor room to prevent falls from balconies.

"Also," says Wilson, "if you are going to stay at a relative's house that does not have children, request them to put away any breakables or valuables that may either injure the child or become damaged." Ask the host to create one room that is "off limits." In this room the host can keep all potentially dangerous locked up while you are visiting. Ensure that this room is securely locked at all times.

Most parents don't give it much thought, but Dr. Michael Rabinoff, author of Ending The Tobacco Holocaust: How Big Tobacco affects Our Health, says that there is a sneaky health hazard parents should especially worry about: tobacco smoke. "The developing lungs of young children are severely affected by exposure to secondhand smoke," says Rabinoff.

According to the 2006 U.S. Surgeon General's Report, each year secondhand tobacco smoke is associated with an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 new cases of bronchitis and pneumonia in children less than eighteen months old, and increases the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Rabinoff notes that while a small amount of exposure on a trip may not be a problem for most babies, some sensitive babies might be strongly affected. In addition, sleeping in a room that contains strong tobacco smoke residue may affect any infant or child.

How do you avoid exposing your child to tobacco smoke?
Ask to take a look at your hotel room before reserving it, even if it is non-smoking. "I think most travelers have gotten a 'non-smoking' room at one time or another that reeked of tobacco smoke," says Rabinoff. "Ask yourself: Is there a yellow tinge to the walls? Does it smell of cigarette smoke? If so, ask the management for a room change."