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  • Writer's pictureKimberly M.

The ONE Travel Item You Should NEVER Be Without

Updated: Mar 16, 2022

It happened again. Another sad story in the news about a death caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. We heard about earlier year when the family of four died in their vacation condo near Tulum, Mexico, and just several days ago it took the life of an older couple vacationing in Guanajuato, Mexico. If you do a search in your favorite search engine, there’s no doubt that several articles will pop up about both stories.

We often don’t think about these things when we travel. In the U.S., there are regulations requiring carbon monoxide detectors where necessary. However, in other countries this isn’t always the case. Therefore, it is up to us to protect ourselves when we travel.

Gas water heaters aren't always the big tanks full of water. Newer, more economical "tanks" are small, partially battery-powered boxes as pictured, many times placed on the INSIDE of the home.

I used to be one of those people who would see the stories, but would never think twice about it when I traveled. Even after hearing the story about the family in Tulum, I purchased three to use in our home after we moved to Mexico, but failed to even open the packages to install in our Airbnb the first 2.5 months that we were in the country.

It wasn’t until we moved into our permanent year-long rental that I finally decided to open up each of the packs and install them: One in the living room/dining room, one in my bedroom, and one in my son’s bedroom.

Without a monitor, I would have had no idea that the Co2 levels in our condo were rising.

I’m glad that I did, because within the same week we had a pretty serious scare. One of the alarms went off one evening, signaling that there was a leak that had resulted in dangerously high levels of Co2. After thinking back to what had recently changed since the detection (in my case, changing the temperature of the hot water heater located inside of the condo), I was lucky enough to have located the problem, air out the condo, and return the levels back a normal level long enough for the problem to get fixed by a technician. Turns out we had some faulty cables and needed a brand new heater; however, if I hadn't had a monitor, there would have been no way to know that there was a problem.

According to my detectors, the Co2 levels in our condo had reached up to 100ppm, which meant that those levels had been detected for more than 30 minutes-- in other words, grounds for evacuation. Prolonged exposure at that level could cause extreme illness, and could go so far as to cause death if it were to rise any higher. Our story could have ended much differently had I not purchased and installed these monitors.

Carbon Monoxide is a silent killer: It cannot be seen, has no smell, and has no taste.

To this day, I still have to keep my eye on the monitors, as I’ve found that even with the new hot water heater, if I do too many things that require its use at one time (i.e. using the clothes dryer while doing anything that requires the heating of a lot of water), that the Co2 levels will rise. On one day in particular, me doing all three activities resulted in the living room monitor shooting up to over 300ppm. Because I could see this on my monitor, I was again able to immediately fix the situation and air out the condo so that it could return to zero (which it did before the alarms started to sound). Again, if it weren’t for my monitors, I wouldn’t have known that there was dangerous levels of Co2 present. It could have easily been fatal.

There are many portable carbon monoxide detectors out there at many different price ranges. There are detectors that detect only Co2, and some that detect both Co2 and other toxic gases. There are detectors that operate by battery, and detectors that are hard wired. There are even detectors that you can monitor via your smartphone. No matter which you prefer, it doesn’t take much to purchase and pack just ONE along with your carry on. Considering its life saving abilities, cost or “convenience” shouldn’t even be a deciding factor when it comes to purchasing one.

My monitor of choice: The Kidde Plug-In CO Alarm with Digital Display.

In my apartment, I keep three of the Kidde Nighthawk AC Plug-In Operated Carbon Monoxide Alarms with Digital Display. This particular monitor has a digital display to show you exactly where your CO2 levels are, and uses both an AC plug AND battery.

So, as you sit there thinking of what you need to pack and what you absolutely shouldn’t forget, don’t forget to add a carbon monoxide detector or two (or maybe even three) to that list!


For more travel tips and information for the solo, single parent, and family traveler, be sure to "Like" the Travel Unapologetically Facebook page!

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