When Demi Moore and Bruce Willis spent three months at Washington's Four Seasons hotel, while she was filming "A Few Good Men," they requested a child-proofed suite.
An inflatable elephant was installed over the bathtub spout to protect against accidental bumps, plastic covers were inserted into the electric outlets, and all cords were bundled or tucked away.
Had it been necessary or requested, all the furniture, including beds and dressers, would have been removed from a room to provide an open play area.
But you don't have to be a movie star, or stay some place for months on end to receive these benefits at your next hotel stay. Child-proof hotel rooms are available for anyone traveling with youngsters, just not in every hotel.
Hotels that cater to families and upscale properties are more likely to have child-proofing capabilities than those that cater to business travel.
According to a recent survey by the Travel Industry Association of America, however, more than 32 million business trips in 1998 included children, an increase of 32 percent over 1997. One-fourth of pleasure trips included children, up 11 percent from 1997. No wonder hotels are eager to provide whatever assistance possible for traveling families. And although hotel officials are quick to say that the child's safety is still the parent's responsibility, they realize there are some things the hotel can do to make that function easier to handle. Here's a checklist to consider:
When you reserve a hotel room, be sure to mention that you will be traveling with a child, and ask that your room be child-proofed. Ask housekeeping to remove such low, heavy objects as ashtrays, vases, and other decorative items.
Ask that all pull-cord loops on blinds and drapes be eliminated (cut so there are two ends, not a continuous loop) or secured to the floor, in compliance with the Window Covering Safety Council and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommendations.
Hotels generally use portable or fold-up cribs, because full-size cribs usually will not fit through guest room doors (other than a patio door), and because they don't fold, they take up a lot of storage room when not in use.
Portable cribs should meet the safety requirement that the slats not be more than 2 3/8 inches apart (most cribs manufactured after 1976 should comply with Consumer Product Safety Commission standards).
The mattress should be firm and the right size, and appropriate bumpers should be installed.
Do not accept a crib with a fold-down side. Hotels should inspect cribs regularly to make sure they are sturdy, properly assembled, and in good condition.
They should also make sure the support slats, screws, bolts and welds are secure. The same should be done for playpens and cots. Double-check the sturdiness and integrity of the crib and playpen.
Ask if the hotel has an anti-scald device to assure the water temperature does not exceed 120 degrees.
Cribs in particular, but all low furniture (tables, sofas, chairs) in general, should be away from a window that opens. Make sure all doors and windows can be securely locked.
If a bunk bed is provided, make sure that children under 6 sleep on the bottom bunk.
Always keep the patio door closed. And, although it might be convenient, don't accept a room that faces onto the pool.
Arrange for an appropriate time to service your room so nap time won't be disturbed and so your child won't be around cleaning supplies.
In a restaurant, do not use a cantilevered highchair that hangs on a table. With a child in it, the table can become unbalanced and topple, or the child can push the hanging chair away and off the table.
As alluring as it may be, don't accept balloons that can pop and be swallowed by a child. Just in case your server hasn't been trained in child safety, make sure coffee cups, knives and other potentially dangerous items are not within a child's reach. Have the food served to you and you serve your child.
Judy Colbert's book, "Fun Places to Go With Your Children in Washington, D.C." (Chronicle, $11.95), and Beth Rubin's book, "Frommer's Washington, D.C. With Kids" ($15.95), list child-friendly or family-friendly hotels and restaurants in the D.C. area.