Don’t Forget These 6 Essential Safety Gadgets For Family Travel

by | Feb 27, 2024 | Family Adventures, Travel Tips

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As a teen, I once went on vacation with my family and almost lost my life. 

Our hotel room was on the fifth floor of a large hotel in a resort area when, in the wee hours of the morning, my slumber was interrupted by a piercing sound. The smoke alarms were going off all across the building. For a few moments, my sister and I stayed in our bed while my dad got up to see what was going on. He didn’t see anything out of the ordinary when he looked out the window, but when he opened the hotel door, we all smelled the smoke. The hallways were filling up with smoke and panicking hotel guests. “It’s time to go!” Dad said. 

In our pajamas, we stood around outside our car – we had left the keys in the hotel room – and watched the firefighters arrive to extinguish the fire. To pass the time, my sister and I snickered at the sleepwear – or lack of sleepwear – our fellow hotel guests were wearing. I now pack full, modest pajamas every time I stay in a hotel, just in case!

Thankfully, no one was injured in the hotel fire. Hours later – like noon the next morning – my dad was allowed back in our room to gather our belongings. The kind people at the restaurant across the street let us sit there all morning and even let my mom use their telephone – this story happened in the pre-cell phone dark ages – to find us another place to stay.

Surviving a hotel fire still stands as one of my most memorable travel experiences. I learned a few tips and tricks – like wearing pajamas! – from this incident that are now part of my travel routine. Additionally, I have found some travel gadgets that I always pack in my suitcase that help me feel safer when I am on vacation.




A Bug-Out Bag

You’ve heard of bug-out bags, or BOBs, before, but we typically associate them with our homes. Bug-out bags are small, pre-packed backpacks containing the essential items your family needs to have if they had to suddenly evacuate your home. Well, I have a hotel bug-out bag when I travel.

I have a small bag with my car keys (so I don’t repeat my dad’s mistake), ID, debit card, cash, necessary medicine, and a cell phone charger. When I check into my hotel room, I set the bug-out bag by the door. If something were to happen that forces me to quickly evacuate my room (and, thankfully, it hasn’t happened since I started using a bug-out bag), I can snatch it up on my way out the door.


Hotel Sign- Safety Gadgets for Families Who Travel

Checking in? Be ready to break out! © Unsplash


Portable Smoke Alarm

Ever since my hotel fire incident, I have always traveled with a portable smoke alarm. By law, every hotel and vacation rental must have working smoke detectors in place. I am thankful that the hotel I was staying in had them when the fire broke out … that’s how we were awakened that night. But to put my PTSD mind at ease, I toss a small, portable smoke alarm – with a fresh set of batteries – in my luggage when I travel.

I just set the alarm on the nightstand after I check into my room and forget about it until it is time to pack up. It has never gone off, although it did chirp at me once to replace the batteries. I sleep more soundly just knowing it is there.

portable smoke alarm - safety travel items

Be prepared for anything. © Amazon


Portable Travel Door Lock

Yes, all hotel room doors have locks – usually two! – but I also travel with my own portable door lock device, just for added peace of mind. You just never know how secure the door locks are … and who may have a key!

You can buy portable travel door locks on Amazon for between $10 and $25. They are slim enough to slide into your suitcase yet designed to keep your door firmly closed. They are super easy to use, and they won’t damage the hotel room door. All you need to do is place the metal part into the hole in the door jam before you close the door. Then, put the locking mechanism in place. No one will be able to open the door from the outside, yet you will be able to quickly remove it if you need to make a fast exit from the room.


extra hotel lock

For extra security, anywhere.  © Amazon


Personal Safety Alarm

Here’s another “don’t let this happen to you” travel story …  When my daughter left for college, I got her a keychain pepper spray. The idea of a young girl walking across campus alone at night worried me, so I wanted her to have some means of defense. Several months later, my daughter and her roommate decided to take a weekend trip across the border into Canada (she swears they took the trip so they could take advantage of the favorable exchange rates when buying Christmas gifts and that it had nothing to do with the fact that the drinking age in Canada is 19!).


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Did you know that it is illegal to bring pepper spray into Canada? It is a prohibited weapon in Canada, and anyone caught with pepper spray in their possession can be charged with a weapons offense. I certainly didn’t know this, but my daughter got a thorough overview of the prohibited weapons laws in Canada as she sat in a backroom at the border crossing for several hours while her car was searched and they ran a check of her identification. Thankfully, she wasn’t fined and didn’t cause an international incident … but they did confiscate her pepper spray.

I replaced it with a She’s Birdie personal safety alarm. It also hangs on her keychain (and it is pink!). If she feels threatened … by someone other than a border patrol agent … she can activate the alarm. It emits an ear-piercing 130-decibel siren and sets off a flashing strobe light. I liked it so much I got one for myself and a few other female family members.


pink sound alarm on keychain

The Birdie keeps solo travelers safe. © Amazon


Travel Carbon Monoxide Detector

Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas that is odorless and colorless. The gas is released when any carbon-based material is incompletely burned. Gasoline, propane, charcoal, wood, kerosene, and natural gas can all create carbon monoxide under the right conditions. Sadly, the gas can quickly sicken or kill people.

From time to time, we see news stories about vacationers who succumbed to carbon monoxide fumes in hotel rooms or vacation rentals, usually when there is some sort of furnace malfunction. The risk is even higher for families traveling in a recreational vehicle or camping in a cabin.

Travel-sized portable carbon monoxide detectors are small enough to fit in a purse or backpack. Most are battery-powered and can monitor the air quality in your travel accommodations. If the carbon monoxide levels reach a dangerous point, the alarm will sound, giving you and your family enough time to get out.


portable CO detector

A little device that is easy to bring into any hotel room. © Amazon


Bed Bug Spray

Before I traveled to Paris, I read several articles about the bedbug infestation in the city. I was totally creeped out! I mean, not enough to cancel my trip or anything, but enough to want to be proactive about the issue. I found an eco-friendly, travel-size, bottle of bedbug killer and repellent on Amazon. It comes in a 3 oz. bottle, so I was able to take it on the plane. It is also made with all-natural ingredients. I sprayed down my hotel bed and, once it dried, it was safe for me to sleep on.

bed bug spray bottle

No need to stay awake waiting for monsters. Spray them away. ©Amazon


Update … I did not wake up covered in bug bites, nor did I bring bed bugs back as an unwanted souvenir. I’m not sure if I can thank the bed bug spray for that or if the articles about Paris’s bedbug troubles were overblown. But it only cost me $8 for the bedbug spray, so in my book, it was worth every penny.




Safety Gadgets for Families Who Travel