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

by Packing

This post is sponsored by Best Western where we periodically contribute destination and traveling advice for the Best Western TravelZone and its Travel Inspiration section.

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.

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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.

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Therese Iknoian

Co-Conspirator at HI Travel Tales
Little did her parents know that a short trip to Europe in high school would launch a lifetime love of travel, languages and cultures. Trained as a news journalist, Therese Iknoian now focuses her writing and photography talents on travel. Fluent in German, Therese also runs a translation business (ThereseTranslates.com) working primarily with companies in the outdoor/sports/retail industry. She's a French speaker, and loves to learn a bit of the language wherever she goes -- gdje je kupaonica? Мне нужна помощь! -- often embarrassing herself in the quest for cross-cultural communication. Therese is an award-winning member of the North American Travel Journalists Association.
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