A Hotel Room Almost Killed My Kid

Photo by Eric Gevaert/Hemera / Getty Images

A couple of years ago, I had the most frightening travel experience of my life.

Our had just family checked into a very fancy hotel in South America. We had a beautiful suite, and were unpacking and enjoying a fruit plate when my 3-year-old son narrowly missed being seriously injured—even killed. 

Much of the hotel's furniture was sourced from local antiques markets, and I'm guessing the dresser was no exception. My son, who was 3 at the time, isn't a rowdy kid, but he was curious to see what was in the bureau. He opened a top drawer, then another. That was enough to send the hulking, heavy dresser—and the large flatscreen that was perched on top of it—toppling over. 

My husband and I heard the crash and turned to see our son lying on the floor. I screamed. Our 1-year-old baby, only a few feet away, started to scream, too.

We think of ourselves as smart travelers; this time we were just lucky. Jack managed to scoot out of the way just in time, and escaped with just a couple of scratches. He was also very, very scared. When I think of what could have happened had he not been so quick, or had he been standing a few inches in the wrong direction, or had the baby been next to him, it still sucks my breath away. Once in a while, in bed, my mind will catch on that moment; I have to force myself not to think about it, because I know it will send me into a spiral of worry about all the terrible things that could befall my children. I could have lost both of them because somebody was too concerned about how the dresser looked to consider whether it could tip onto someone's foot—or child.

Before that accident, I would have called a parent paranoid for inspecting a hotel room for hazards. Now I know better. Parents, when you check in with children, immediately look around for potential problems—unstable furniture, lamps that can be pulled off tables, a small object a baby might choke on. It doesn't matter how expensive or well-kept the hotel is. 

And do as I do now: travel with a medical plan, including contact information for a local pediatrician. Had Jack been injured, I wouldn't have known where to take him, and would have been at the mercy of hotel staff. 

Our experience inspired me to write a short article for Travel + Leisure about smart practices for keeping children safe on the road. You can read it online here.