With the recent hot weather, I’m sure I’m not the only one looking forward to some time away in the not-here-soon-enough school holidays. And, as in every year since we had kids, we’re self-catering.
It suits us. Whether here or abroad, self-catering is an understandably popular choice for families with small children. It can be economical, frees you from the constraints of hotel mealtimes and the unlikelihood your child will eat any of the food, gives parents somewhere other than their bedroom to hang out at night and you don’t have to dress for dinner. Or any meal if you don’t feel like it!
But there can be serious risks to your children’s safety which could ruin any holiday. I’ve faced a few over the years, Your own home is set up for safety and the precise needs/Houdini-like escape abilities of your children but even so-called child-friendly properties can have some issues you may not have thought of. After a few near misses, here are some of my top tips for staying safe and relaxed on your hols.
So, here’s the typical scenario. You’ve driven for six hours, both kids have been sick in the back of the car, you’re dying for a cuppa and desperate for a pee. The last thing you need though is for one of your nearest and dearest to get hurt in the first few minutes.
1. Use the web well – before you even book
If you book on-line, it’s likely you will be able to view the interior of your holiday home/flat. Check it out for safety issues. One friend arrived on holiday to find an open-tread, bannister-less flight of stairs opening onto the living-room. Having an active 3 and a 1 year old, It seriously impaired their much-needed week of relaxation! If things aren’t clear, politely ring the proprietor and ask.
2. Pack for basic medical issues
Don’t forget plasters, Savlon or equivalent and Calpol. Anything else you can probably get locally fairly quickly but these bare necessities are best to have to hand.
3. Pack stair gates if you can or see if you can book them.
Because, well, you may need them or at least find them helpful. Often kids CAN be kept safe in your temporary home – it just takes a lot more effort and time on your feet than at home. Gates and such can help you relax.
Once you get there…
4. Do a quick reccy
Once you’ve arrived at your place, check for the following:
Is there a back door? Is it locked? Are the keys accessible to an all too nifty child? These are things that are thought through at home but they’re easy to miss on holiday. Ask me how I know!
5. Kitchens and bathrooms
Go straight to the kitchen. Your kids are curious about this new environment too and you need to explore first! In every holiday rental I’ve been in, the knives were kept in a drawer. Get them into a top cupboard immediately.
Next, check under the sink and put the cleaning products and plastic bags which will inevitably be under there in the same top cupboard as the knives.
Now realise that your toddler, new to the novelty of a kitchen without child-locks, will empty every single cupboard about once an hour. Move any obvious breakables to top cupboards, such as glass. Accept that something probably needs to go in the lower cupboards but try not to make it breakable or messy. Ketchup on the holiday cottage sofa, anyone?
One family I know takes strong, wide masking tape on holiday with them, just to slow the kids down getting into cupboards. Smart thinking!
The cleaning products are liable to be in a cupboard under the sink. Get them somewhere safer, ideally the medicine cabinet or similar. You may need to move a loo brush if it is different enough to yours to arouse curiosity. Toddler + loo brush = eewwww!!!
7. Get an overview
Now you can relax a bit, grab a cuppa and just have a quick think about what else may cause issues, especially with slightly hyper kids who’ve been trapped in the car all day.
If they’re old enough, they may need some ground rules. “Only go on the balcony with a grown-up”, “No-one in or near the pool without a grown-up”, “Bounce on the floor, not the sofa – AND I MEAN IT!!!”. If you’re away with another family, make sure you communicate about this, especially if you have kids at different stages.
Open-plan living may make it harder to cook without a child round your ankles etc. Spot your issues ahead of time. Our oven at home is at waist height so I always have to remind our two that the oven is HOT.
Also, if you’re on a busy road, or even one with big farm machinery thundering past, kids need warning of potentially unaccustomed dangers.
8. Know where to get help if you need it.
It’s worth just checking to see if your holiday home has a folder with local information which often includes local medical facilities. You don’t need to memorise it, just know where the folder is. Maybe put it in the top cupboard with the knives ?!?
9. Have a great holiday.
You have earned it! It’s time to kick back and have a great time with your kids now hopefully all in one piece!