Never forget anything in a hotel room – tips from travel experts

by Aug 12, 2019Packing

Frequent travelers use various tricks for not forgetting things in hotel rooms. Here are our favorite tips and hacks so you never forget anything in a hotel room again.

When I was about five, I forget my beloved, pink musical Felix the Cat purse in a restaurant on a road trip with my parents. Yes, we retrieved it – much to my relief — but that experience helped teach me how to never forget anything in a hotel room or restaurant again.

Compared to a child’s purse, forgetting your suit, shoes, laptop, cellphone charger, passport or even a favorite toiletry item can make you grumpy or send you into a spiraling state of panic. You aren’t alone: A 2015 study by Kelton Global found that nearly a third of American travelers have left behind something in a hotel room, with clothing, toiletries and electronic chargers at the top of the list.

Frequent travelers do have a few tricks for not forgetting things in hotel rooms, some of which you can find in our story, “Expert travel tips for packing and unpacking on tours.” Having to change hotels daily on a business trip or vacation makes it more challenging to not leave valuables in hotel rooms along the way.

Here are a few of our top tips, ones we use on every trip, so you never forget anything in a hotel room again:

Be a creature of habit. OK, that may be boring, but when you know your watch is always on a bedside table or your shoes are beside the bed, you learn where to look. If you travel less frequently, then find your habitual place at the start of your trip and stick to it diligently.

Put your little things, like watches, smartphone or chargers, in one place for double indemnity, either on a nightstand or corner of a desk or cabinet, and do NOT ever cover them up carelessly with a magazine or newspaper.

Speaking of magazines and printed materials such as travel guides, if there is something you intend to keep, separate it from the other generic hotel books, guides and magazines, perhaps next to where you have your little things (see above).

Avoid in particular those enticing cabinet drawers. Out of sight, out of mind is probably the No. 1 way travelers forget things in hotel rooms. A former friend of mine once forgot ALL of his clothes folded neatly in a drawer! (Why he didn’t wonder why his suitcase had so much room or was so light is another question, of course.)

Do not unpack in hotels unless you are moving in for at least week or maybe two. Just hang up a few clothes that need to lose a few packing wrinkles, but basically live out of the suitcase using the packing cubes we so love. You can pack items by category in different colored cubes (underwear in one, workout clothes in another, for example) and leave the cubes flapped open in your suitcase sitting on a luggage rack. The cubes then substitute for the organization of drawers.

Never forget stuff in hotel room by using packing cubes in your suitcase.

To remember items hanging in a closet, leave a sliding closet door open so they are not out of sight. If it is a hinged door, try hanging something on the doorknob or over the top of the door as a reminder. If a hinged door swings wide without being in the way, leave it open.

Never forget anything in your hotel room closet

Put ONE shoe in the safe with your valuables. You won’t go far without it! (If your shoe won’t fit, then try something else you can’t leave or do without like a car key, eyeglasses, or toothbrush.)

Hotel Safe Not Forgetting Things

Put a note on the doorknob OR on the floor next to the door with an item name on it, like “cellphone charger next to bed” or “food in fridge.” You won’t be forgetting things in hotel rooms when you have to touch or nearly trip over a note on your way out.

Using a note by the hotel room door so you don't forget anything

Put something silly or bright or big on your suitcase zipper pull. You simply cannot zip up your suitcase without handling it and, if you are that creature of habit, it should represent a certain item to you. I have long hot pink and neon yellow twist ties that I keep around the case of an inflatable travel pillow. When I use the pillow in a hotel room, the twist tie goes onto my suitcase zipper pull. Once, I did not have the twist tie so I tied the little case to the zipper pull itself!

A hotel balcony is another key spot for forgetting things in hotel rooms. If you put something out to dry or air out, use the note trick named above. OR put one shoe out there with the stuff so you cannot leave without it – and you will see the other things when you retrieve it.

Avoid “hiding” things, like under a mattress or beneath a pile of magazines, and do not place bags in odd places like behind an ironing board in a hotel closet. If you insist on hiding an item, then bury it in your suitcase. If you insist on trying to keep a bag hidden away, simply put it farther from the door and someplace not as visible from the door. Thieves are more likely opportunists who will snatch and run.

About those toiletries that are so often forgotten in hotel rooms: Do rely on a kit with compartments – I prefer ones that you unzip or unfurl and hang – so all you have to do upon departure is grab it and close it up.

If you are not traveling alone, rely on all-powerful teamwork. BOTH of you should do what we call a “room sweep” prior to leaving exiting the room. Better to take an extra 30 seconds looking under beds, in closets or in bathrooms than to forget stuff in a hotel rooms. (Do this last sweep even if you are solo.)

Anything out of the ordinary should prompt you to look around: Does your bag feel particularly light? Was it really easy to get stuff into the suitcase when it was a battle before? If your head says, hmmm, something feels weird, listen to that feeling.

Stop for a nano-second and think before you leave so you are not forgetting stuff in hotel rooms. Pat your pocket where your cell phone should be, check for your passport and wallet, make sure tickets are where they should be, and quickly run through a mental checklist of those important items you definitely do not want to forget in a hotel room – like the electronic chargers and toiletries the study found are most commonly forgotten.

In the end, something like a toothbrush or lotion can be so easily replaced anywhere you go (even by many hotels). Sure, it’s annoying to have to go find a store with travel items or to track down a new adapter if you are in a different country, but if you follow our tips and focus on essential personal items, such as a necklace or watch, or valuables, such as a camera, computer or tablet, you’ll never forget anything in a hotel room again. And that will help to keep you from getting grumpy on your travels.


Other hotel health and safety tips

Leaving things behind in a hotel is not fun. But while you are staying in a hotel, you need to think about your safety as well. Be sure to read Top hotel safety tips: Your hotel room safety is important. Health is also a concern when you travel and certainly when staying in a hotel. You will want to read Is it safe to stay in a hotel? What you need to know to stay healthy. Be sure your hotel stay is as comfortable as possible too with this story, 10 top tips to help you sleep better in hotels.

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  1. Cat Lin

    These are great tips… That leaving a shoe with an item is clever. I usually do a mental checklist and a quick scan of the room when leaving a hotel but I admit there are things that I forgot. It’s frustrating indeed but the good thing is I haven’t forgotten things that are too valuable. Well, now I know some tricks…

  2. Julie Traveller

    Great advice! I especially like the ideas of being a creature of habit, and not unpacking everything. I rarely use the hotel drawers because I really do forget about the things I put in there. Out of sight, out of mind. One thing I do is to put everything I take off at night (contacts, jewelry, glasses, etc.) in the same spot so my personal items aren’t strewn about. I worked in hotels for many years and know that people leave behind a lot of valuables that they never seem to bother with. My advice to anyone who does leave stuff behind is to contact the hotel. In my experience, the housekeeping staff is usually pretty honest and all lost items are logged and put in a locked cabinet, so it’s probably still there just waiting for its owner to collect it.

  3. Andi Fisher

    What an original concept for a post – I love it! In decades of travel the only one thing I have ever forgotten was a trench coat in a closet and I still miss it today, I would say that is a pretty good track record! I am pretty systematic and go through and check everything before I leave!

  4. Jennifer Coleman

    We forgot things all the time. We really need this article. I think the toiletry bag that’s self contained is brilliant. We basically have to pack the night before or else all sorts of bad things happen.

  5. Sarah @ Endless Distances

    This is such a good idea for an article – especially helpful for me as I am notorious for forgetting and losing items! I used to be especially awful about this as a child… since losing some very important items (including those belonging to my parents, whoops!) I’ve since gotten much more conscientious as I grow older. But even just a few years ago completing my MSc dissertation I had about a two week time span where I left my wallet on a public bus like four times. Definitely times of stress (like traveling, or rushing from hotel to airport) make this unfortunate habit a lot more common. Love these tips and I’m certainly going to use them, particularly putting a shoe in a safe!

  6. Tex Hooper

    That makes sense that you don’t want to miss a quick room sweep before leaving. I keep forgetting my wallet each time I stay at a hotel. I’ll have to make sure that I check the entire room before I leave.

  7. Tex Hooper

    I thought the tip about putting a shoe in the safe was awesome. I frequently lose my wallet at hotels. I’ll have to try doing the shoe thing the next time I stay at a hotel.

  8. Afton Jackson

    The last thing I want to happen is that we forget something in a hotel room of all places, so I appreciate you giving these kinds of tips. We have a lot of valuables that we usually take with us even while on vacation, and forgetting them when we’re supposed to relax would make us really stressed out. Once I book us a hotel for our upcoming vacation, I’ll definitely keep this in mind so things can go well.

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