Travel with a baby or toddler can be a lot of fun, but it can bring a lot of challenges that you never had to consider when you traveled pre-baby.
You are staying in a new place – or possibly, several new places over the course of your trip! Are you supposed to babyproof your new digs each time? Think about the amount of time and mental energy you’ve put into babyproofing your home!
Don’t be. I’ve gathered together advice from some of my favorite travel and family bloggers, combined with everything that I’ve learned about temporary baby proofing over several years of traveling with a baby and toddler.
Babyproofing your Airbnb or hotel doesn’t have to take hours – but there are a few quick things that you will need to do upon arrival. With a bit of preparation, the right travel products, and some clever baby proofing hacks, you can ensure that your temporary home is a safe place for everyone to be.
What exactly does babyproofing entail?
There are two kinds of babyproofing, and both are covered extensively in the tips below.
First there is babyproofing to keep your baby safe. Whether you are traveling with a baby or a toddler, there are many potential hazards in any hotel room that you need to be aware of so that you can mitigate those risks.
Then there is babyproofing to keep the room safe. Trust me, you don’t want to be responsible for breaking valuables, pee-soaking the bed, or any number of other realistic baby and toddler issues. A little preparation will go a long way for saving your security deposit!
Protecting Your Kid
Test for any heavy furniture or objects that could fall.
When baby proofing on vacation, take a close look around at any tall furniture and other objects that could fall or tip. A curious toddler may want to climb up to explore the upper shelves of a bookshelf, open the fold-down bar cabinet and lean on it, pull the big TV just a little closer, step into a dresser drawer… and before you know it, they may be buried under that piece of heavy furniture, one of 40 kids a day injured by a tip-over incident, according to U.S. government data. At worst, they could be one of the 2 to 3 kids who tragically die each month from such accidents.
While it may be difficult to attach furniture to the walls while traveling, you can move some heavy objects down to the floor, close doors to some rooms, place objects in front of the tippy furniture to keep little explorers away, and keep a very close eye on your kids.
by Olivia of Happy in the Hollow
Check the locks and windows.
Make sure you check that all the locks work. Consider bringing along 1 or 2 door knob covers, just in case there are doors that don’t lock but lead to rooms that are quite unsafe. These are also great for keeping a toddler who is awake early stuck in his or her room before you’re up and ready to supervise, and they don’t take up much room in your suitcase.
Windows are another thing you absolutely need to check. Any windows that can be opened need to be locked. If there is no lock, be sure to move any climbable furniture out from under the window, or close off and lock that room so that your child cannot get to the window and potentially fall. Remember that window screens do nothing to protect against a fall.
Bring painters tape for a temporary (but effective) multipurpose babyproofing tool.
One of the most cost-efficient and effective resources for babyproofing your hotel or Airbnb from an active baby or curious toddler is painters tape/masking tape. Trust us, these are two of the cheapest and easiest things you can use to keep your toddler away from electrical outlets, cords, or hanging items.
Painters tape is essential when traveling with a toddler because they are unpredictable little people. Painters tape is better than duct tape because the adhesive isn’t too strong, so there is no damage or adhesive left behind when you leave. Honestly, you can get creative and use painters tape for just about anything.
by Corritta of It’s a Family Thing
Check low cupboards for knives and sharp objects.
A curious child in a new surroundings is likely to start exploring as soon as they get the chance. Unfamiliar cupboards can be a source of hazardous surprises, with the kitchen area being the obvious hot spot.
In a hotel this is easy as the kitchen is usually very limited, if there is one at all. An Airbnb, however, will usually have most of the typical knives and utensils and they will frequently be placed without kids in mind.
Doing a quick sweep of the place as soon as you arrive to move anything dangerous to somewhere higher up will take care of this easily. You can not fully baby proof the kitchen, but you can remove the obvious risks and then just try and keep your kids away from the area unless supervised.
Many Airbnbs are not dedicated to short stay properties and are only rented when the occupants are away on holidays. If the usual occupants do not have young children then they will not have the same keen eye for hazards that you will. Keeping room doors closed will mostly solve the problem, but any accessible cabinets in hallways and living rooms should also be checked.
by James of Katherine Rosman
In case there are low cabinets with way too much stuff to clear out, consider bringing along a handful of non-adhesive cabinet locks. Alternately, if you’re not planning to access those cabinets much and want to travel really light, zip ties will do the trick!
Bring hair ties for lower-priority cabinets.
If you find some cabinets that have stuff in them that you would prefer your child not disturb (but it is not dangerous or particularly valuable), a hair tie or rubberband makes a great deterrent.
Think about cabinets full of board games, excess plates and bowls, or even clean linens. These things aren’t really a danger that would warrant moving them to a higher space, but you still probably don’t want your child getting into them.
The hair ties will not keep a determined toddler out, but for many kids, just the reminder that they are supposed to stay out of that cabinet is enough. It will keep most younger babies out, and at the very least will buy you a little time to see that your cherub is trying to break into the cabinet again.
This is not a true babyproofing solution, and would not be appropriate for cabinets that hold cleaning chemicals or other hazardous materials. It also will not work for all styles of cabinets.
Create a softer surface with a play mat.
When travelling with your baby, there is one thing you should consider to bring along – a play mat. A play mat that is foldable and portable is what you need. Get a padded mat, if possible, to help safeguard the baby during falls or bumps, especially during the stage where your baby is learning to sit or crawl. The child may topple over while practicing sitting up or do some small frog hops while learning to crawl.
Many hotels and apartments actually have hard floors like tile or marble. Upon reaching the hotel or Airbnb, find a safe spot that you can lay down the play mat for your baby. Clear or move things around temporarily for it if you have to. This will be a safe area for your baby to play with baby toys and practice his or her newfound skills confidently.
Moreover, having the same playmat to play on helps your baby to adjust to a new environment quicker. This is useful when you are travelling for a longer period and will be staying in a couple of hotels/apartments.
by Rachel of KinderSensation
Contain your baby at night in a secure toddler travel bed.
Unless you’re willing to bet that you’ve babyproofed your place 100%, chances are you don’t want your older baby or toddler to wake up in the night and start exploring. Rather than bringing an inflatable mattress, bring a toddler travel bed that will contain them.
Many families choose a pack-n-play style travel bed like the well-loved Guava Lotus. My personal preference is for the tent-style beds, which will not only keep your child contained, but will create a familiar sleep setting no matter where you are – once they are trained to sleep in a travel bed. I have and absolutely love the Joovy Gloo (find my review here).
Whatever you do, don’t let a baby or young toddler sleep alone in a regular bed. They can roll out, especially if they wake in the middle of the night and realize they are in an unfamiliar place. If you’re not worried about your baby wandering, you could move the mattress to the floor.
Bring corner guards to protect early walkers.
If you have an early walker (or a fast crawler), there is not much you can do to keep them protected from sharp corners on the road. You might be able to move some furniture around, but for the most part, you need the same solution that you use at home: corner guards.
These are small and portable, and worthwhile to bring along just in case if you have a fall-prone child. Corner guards always come with adhesive, but for a temporary fix, just stick them on with some painters tape to avoid leaving adhesive residue or damaging surfaces.
Walk around the property to check for outdoor hazards.
One of the benefits of staying in an Airbnb is that you might end up with an awesome outdoor space. If that is the case, do not forget to check the entire property for hazards.
Is there a pool or hot tub? If so, does it have a child-proof gate? How about a pond? Any steep drops? Keep in mind if traveling internationally that not all places have the same construction standards that you may be used to, so you might find balconies and stairs without railings.
If the outdoor area does have significant hazards, there might be nothing you can do to make it safe. But you can ensure that you keep doors deadbolted while inside so that your little one does not slip out unbeknownst to you, and then supervise closely during outside play time.
Help your child sleep with a travel blind.
Any parent travelling with children, especially with a young baby or toddler, will know the importance of making your hotel room or Airbnb sleeping area a dark environment. A dark room helps children get to sleep quicker and easier and helps them to sleep for longer. This is particularly challenging when visiting countries with long hours of summer sun.
A portable travel blind is an essential travel item and will avoid frustrating hours of trying to cover windows with towels or sarongs using fiddly clothes pegs or masking tape! A portable travel blind has suction cups to enable it to be erected and removed easily and as needs allow. The thick, durable black fabric can be adjusted to fit by utilizing extra sticky pads or, for long term use, the blind can also be cut to size.
For people who like to travel light or hand luggage only, the blind is lightweight and takes up no more room in your bag than a travel towel.
by Sinead of Map Made Memories
Ask if the host provides a baby gate for a property with stairs.
If the property where you are staying has stairs inside the living space, ask the host if they can provide a baby gate – and do this before you book, if possible!
Baby gates are pretty impossible to travel with, but absolutely necessary if your child is in that sweet spot of being curious about stairs, but unable to safely navigate them. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a truly portable travel baby gate. If you are willing to dedicate the suitcase space, you could try something like the NaviGate, but while it is trying to fill that niche, it gets meh reviews and doesn’t seem like a great choice.
Chances are, you are not the first person to stay in this space with a young child. Many Airbnbs – especially any that cater to families or large groups – do have some baby safety equipment available. They don’t want your baby to get hurt any more than you do. There is no harm in asking, and even if they say no, it might help encourage them to provide that for families in the future.
Make bath time safe with an inflatable baby bathtub.
You don’t always know exactly what you’re going to get with the bathtub when you travel. Will there be enough space for you to kneel next to it? Will it be clean? (Eek!)
Often when we travel, I just bring the baby into the bath or shower with me. It’s usually less of a hassle, although it would be a lot more challenging without my partner there to hand her off for drying off.
Depending on the set up, sometimes this is not the safest option. Especially in cases where the shower floor is slippery or the heat changes suddenly and dramatically, this presents a challenge.
It is worth considering if you would like to bring a travel baby bath. They are inflatable, so they take up almost no space in your bag. They are more comfortable for your baby than using the whole bathtub, and they will protect against slips and water spout bumps.
And if you find that the bath is icky (or there is no bathtub at all), this is a great solution to maintain a clean and happy bath time.
Protecting the Space
Choose Airbnbs from your toddler’s perspective.
Are there lots of knick knacks and fragile items? Guitars hanging off the wall? Glass tables simply asking to be shattered? Expensive potted trees in the living room? These items might add to the atmosphere and experience if you don’t have kids- but let’s face it, they create a lot of anxiety and expensive mistakes if you DO!
Look for minimalistic or kid-friendly places. Some Airbnbs specifically cater to families; a helpful hint to find them is to search for places with cribs or high chairs (this is also helpful if you’re flying with baby and can’t bring such big items!).
Once you arrive, take a photo of the rooms, then remove all unsafe or fragile items. Use your photo as a guide to reset the room before you leave.
by Clarissa of Modern Hipster Mama
Contain the mess with a portable high chair.
Feeding babies and toddlers can be messy! Using a high chair is the best way to contain the mess and keep your child in one place for eating. Check the listing of your Airbnb to see if a high chair can be provided. Contact your host if they don’t have one listed as they may have left it off the listing or can source one.
Pack a portable travel high chair if you can’t get access to a high chair through your Airbnb host. For hotels a fabric high chair is an easy way to do meals in the room, with a towel or sheet protecting the surrounding area.
by Celine of Baby Can Travel
Eliminate bathroom battles by bringing a travel potty.
Traveling at the exact same time your little one is toilet training can feel a bit daunting but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Don’t feel like you have to choose between staying at home or giving up on toilet training.
A travel potty is a great alternative to trying to force a full size potty into a small suitcase! They are fully collapsible and, better yet, even convert into a toilet training seat when your little one is ready to transition to using the toilet.
Not having to worry about whether your toddler will be able to use the toilet or whether you will have constant arm ache from holding them up means your Airbnb or hotel stays will be much more enjoyable. You should definitely give it a go and give yourself one less thing to worry about!
by Sophie Marie of Baby Toddler & Kids
Protect the bed with a waterproof cover.
One of the greatest inventions for parents and potty-trained toddlers is a waterproof cover. Some of the hotels may offer you a waterproof cover free of charge, but mostly there isn’t one. The travel cots offered by a property usually have a special layer that is waterproof, but let’s be honest, it is not. The smell, stains, and wet mattress remain.
This is why taking a waterproof cover on your journey is a fantastic idea that will save you time, stress, and make your trip more pleasant in case of any accidents. You and your baby will sleep better. Plus, nobody needs to get involved in extra washing during a well-deserved vacation.
It is highly recommended to choose organic waterproof covers or fitted mattress protectors. Just check you have got the right measurements, and that the cover is machine washable and dryer friendly. It is better if you have two to four crib mattress protectors (they are usually sold in sets of two), so you always have a fresh, dry pad on-hand while the others are in the wash.
by Ana of Parenthood4ever
Bring a plastic tablecloth.
Whether it is to protect the dainty dining table from your not-so-dainty toddler, or to protect the flooring from your child’s attempts to color on the page that go a little awry, or to lay out under your makeshift swimsuit drying area… there are a ton of good uses for a plastic tablecloth when traveling.
This is one of those items that travels very light, but has several uses for your hotel stay with baby. Grab one at the dollar store and shove it in the bottom of your suitcase.
You can also just rent baby supplies.
Even though there are a lot of great, portable products here to consider, it might still seem like a lot of hassle to babyproof hotel. If you’re more comfortable knowing that the high chair and travel bed are waiting at your hotel for you, consider renting them!
There are companies all around the globe, but especially around the States, that specialize in short-term rentals of baby supplies for vacationing families. BabyQuip is the most well-known and respected of these companies, and they can be found in over 500 locations. You can also try googling [your destination] baby gear rental and see what comes up.
Okay, I know that seems like a lot to think about – especially if you’re moving from place to place throughout your trip, like we usually do. But once you get used to doing a quick check and fixing a few things when you arrive at your destination, it becomes second nature.
Do you have any baby proofing tips that we missed? Any questions? Let me know in the comments!
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Originally published November 2020. Updated April 2022.