Top hotel safety tips: Your hotel room safety is important

by Nov 8, 2019Safety & Security

Know these key hotel room safety tips. You need to take personal responsibility to ensure your safety in any hotel: how to escape a fire, prevent potential theft, and what to do in the unlikely event of a terrorist attack. Read this because your safety in a hotel is very important.

You read a lot of advice and tips on how to stay safe while traveling. When it comes to hotel safety tips, information however is scarcer. Perhaps because when you check into a hotel or inn, you assume it will be safe. Plus, it just feels safe with lobbies, lights and staff. After all, once you are behind a locked hotel room door, there isn’t much to worry about, right? Wrong!

There is a lot you need to take personal responsibility for to ensure your safety: from knowing how to escape a fire and deal with potential theft, to what to do in the event of an unlikely terrorist attack. Your hotel room safety is very important, and you need to be prepared. That starts by following a few key safety tips.

Research where you are staying

We spend a fair amount of time researching where we will be staying when traveling to ensure our hotel room safety and comfort. It is important to know if the front desk is staffed 24 hours a day, and if not, what the security measures are. Also vital: If there are interior or exterior halls, security cameras, or key-required entry after certain hours, or if guest rooms and floors have limited or key access.

We also use Google Street View to look at where a hotel is, what its neighboring businesses and streets are, what the area of town is like, and what its location is when it comes to busy streets, rail lines, and potential noise (from neighboring bars for example).

Hotel Safety Tips Hotel Corridor

Do not book a room on the ground floor

No matter what a hotel tries to tell you, rooms on the ground floor are more easily broken into. Always request a room on a higher floor, but no higher than the sixth floor. Why? In case of a fire, and you can’t escape your room, a fire ladder can still reach a sixth-floor window.

Also, do not book a room near vending or ice machines. Because of noise you say? Well, yes, but also because the darker corners of a vending or ice machine room are places criminals are known to frequent. And best to avoid rooms on floors with meeting rooms where non-hotel guests may more easily come and go.

Exterior View Of Hotel Room Hallway Ground Floor in Hotel Safety Article

Keep one hand on your luggage

From the car, van or taxi to the front desk, know there are people who may be watching your luggage more closely than you, just waiting for an opportunity to swoop in and take it away. There are countless stories in newspapers, magazines and on television news shows about people losing valuables as they were checking in or checking out of their hotel.

Take your own luggage into a hotel, always! When you are standing at the front desk, keep your luggage directly beside you, or have one of your party stand with the luggage off to the side. Never turn your back on your luggage, even for a moment (unlike the couple in the photo below).

And if a bellhop insists on helping you, insist he or she stay with you, and then go with the handler and your luggage to your hotel room. At no point should you let your luggage out of your sight.

Hotel Safety Luggage In Hotel Lobby

Use the hotel safe or your own security system

Valuable documents (including your passport should you decide not to keep it on you), as well as electronics and jewelry, need to be kept locked up in the hotel room safe or in a hotel safety deposit box. (Look at hotel room description to see if hotel safes are described as “laptop-sized.”) Of course, this assumes you feel the hotel safe is, well, safe. One hotel we recently stayed in had a hotel safe, but it was not bolted down. Meaning a thief could carry it right out of the hotel! Also, default codes to open safes (in case you forget the code you set) are typically ridiculously easy to guess.

Additionally, with our array of electronics, there is no way they can all fit into a tiny hotel room safe. Solution? We travel with and use the Pacsafe Travelsafe X15 anti-theft portable safe.

Worried about forgetting things in hotel safes? Read our tips here about how not to forget things in hotel rooms!

Hotel Room Safe

Never prop your door open — ever!

I am stunned at the number of hotel room doors I see propped open with a shoe or the swinging security bar to make it easy for family members or friends in nearby rooms to come and go, or to make it easier for the guest to return with an ice bucket or snack. Talk about ignoring your hotel room safety!

Never prop your door open for any reason. If it is easy for you to get into your room, it is easy for a criminal to enter too. It only takes a few seconds for someone to slip into and then out of your room without you knowing.

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Pull the door shut behind you

Speaking of doors, some hotel doors don’t automatically click shut behind you, staying ajar and ready for anybody to just slip in when you are gone. So take a second and listen to it click and give it a little pull before dashing off.

Key Card For Hotel Room

Keep your door locked

Always secure the door when you are in the room with the deadbolt, security bar or any other additional locking device the hotel offers, or you may decide to carry with you (there is an abundance online). Never open your hotel room door to anyone without first confirming an identity — that’s just hotel room safety 101. Call the front desk to confirm the identity of a hotel employee if you have not requested anything.

Leave your room as if you are there

When you are out, place the “do not disturb” sign on your door and leave the television on (quietly so you are not disturbing your fellow hotel guests in adjoining rooms). Also leave on a light.

Room Occupied Sign On A Hotel Door

Hotel Wi-Fi is not secure

Just like at the airport or coffee shop or any other publicly accessed Wi-Fi network, the hotel Wi-Fi connection is also public. Always use a VPN (virtual private network) when you are using any public Wi-Fi – including in your hotel or other lodging. Also, be sure to use a USB data blocker when charging your phone or tablet as this will prevent anyone who might have a device hooked up to the USB port from skimming your data – yes, it happens. To learn more, read our story “Digital security when traveling: 10 must-do tips.”

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Never provide personal information over the phone

It is all too easy for criminals to use a hotel lobby phone or call into the hotel from an outside line and ask to be put through to a specific room number. When you answer the phone in your hotel room it appears as if the call is coming from the hotel as it was transferred through the hotel desk. The criminal then pretends he or she is at the front desk and will tell you that your credit card did not appear to be valid, or was declined, or they made a mistake entering something and would you please provide your number so they won’t have to bother you again.

This particular scam has seen news coverage and yet people keep falling for it. If anyone asks you for any personal information over the phone claiming to be from the front desk, hang up immediately. Then go down to the lobby in person. If the call was legitimate, you can best deal with the issue in person. If it was not, report it immediately.

Know your emergency exit plan

This is perhaps one of the most important hotel safety tips. Once you arrive at your room, take a few minutes to look at the emergency exit map, determine where your emergency exits area, and have in mind a plan to exit your room safely in the event of a fire or other emergency. Also, before you go to bed, be sure you leave your shoes easily accessible. Lay out clothing (or at least a sweater or coat) you can quickly put on if needed. And keep a flashlight handy (yes, we always travel with a flashlight and you should too). Consider keeping your valuables together in one bag so you can snag that as you run past too – just in case. And yes, we have lived through hotel evacuations.

Hotel room safety tips, know your exits

Are You Protected If An Emergency Happens?

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20 Comments

  1. Thanks for pointing out that it would be best to also review the emergency escape plan when staying in a hotel or inn. I’m thinking about finding a bed and breakfast inn soon because I will be visiting my friend’s hometown in order to attend her wedding. Since I was a bit late in acknowledging her invitation, I would rather find my own accommodations instead of complicating things for her.

    Reply
  2. My cousin has been thinking about taking some time for herself on a vacation. It was interesting to learn about how she should make sure that she is safer by getting key access, and look at where the hotel is located to busier streets, and noise.

    Reply
  3. I like what you said about using a VPN when staying in a hotel. My sister has been telling me about how she wants to do some traveling in the coming months. I’ll share this information with her so that she can look into her options for staying safe in hotels.

    Reply
  4. These are such good tips! I never thought about the safety reasons for avoiding a room on the first floor, I just know I hate being on the first floor and ALWAYS try to avoid it for noise/traffic/location reasons.

    Reply
  5. These are some amazing tips and recommendations. I am afraid I do not do any of these. I did not have any bad experience with any hotel yet. But why wait for it! I should remember to keep my hotel room doors locked or keep my luggage under an eye. Isn’t leaving the TV and lights on while going outside, travelling irresponsibly?

    Reply
  6. Some interesting points to consider. I personally am not a fan of hotel safes and always keep our passports on me having needed them a couple of times when unexpected things have happened whilst travelling. The I was in a ground floor room on my own in Bali last year and I must admit I think I slept with one eye open the whole night!

    Reply
  7. You buried the lede on your “Ground Floor” picture. I always heard that you should look for a “hotel” with interior hallways instead of a “motor lodge” with exterior halls. That looks like a motor lodge all the way there.

    Reply
    • Hah. Well since the lede was well above that section, perhaps you mean … well, not sure what you mean. 🤷‍♂🤣 Actually, that is an interior corridor of a hotel in Europe believe it or not. But it was ground floor. And yes, given the choice, always opt for a hotel with interior hallways.

      Reply
  8. great tips, so often we forget about this small tips, like i always would prefer ground floor but you are right – ground floor rooms are easier to break in.

    Reply
    • Yes, ground floors are easier to break into, and typically noisier. We avoid them at all costs.

      Reply
  9. What an excellent post, Michael. I have to admit that I haven’t thought about many of the things you mention. Staying away from the ice and vending machine room is a really good tip; I can see this being an issue especially in motels or hotels where the hallways open out directly to the outdoors (i.e. open to the public, technically). Keeping the ‘do not disturb’ sign on while gone is another really easy thing that could make all the difference. You’re absolutely right that hotel safety is not front and center when we think about general travel safety, but it’s clearly not something to be overlooked!

    Reply
    • So easy to get complacent when we arrive at a hotel or motel. Glad you found the post useful. 😉

      Reply
  10. These are some great tips! I think it’s easy to assume that a hotel room is safe, but you really don’t know your surroundings and who’s lurking in the corridor… I always lock myself in the room and I really don’t like it when the bellhop takes my luggage, I prefer to do it myself. That said, I’ve never had a problem, even in really cheap hotels. Great tip on not taking a ground floor room!

    Reply
    • Like you Delphine, we have never had a problem either, but that is, in large part, because we are always alert, aware, and following the tips we outlined here.

      Reply
  11. All great tips! I avoid using the “Don’t Disturb” and “Pls Clean My Room” signs for the same reason, and never leave my door unlocked. I prefer rooms near elevators as they tend to be better lit and visible too, but it never struck me to not ask for a floor higher than 6th. Thanks!

    Reply
    • The “Don’t Disturb” is fine and sends the msg you are in there. However NEVER put out the “Pls Clean My Room” as that just shouts “I am not here, come in…”

      Reply
  12. What great tips for hotel safety. I had never really thought about many of these and usually go into a hotel situation with blind trust ( which is foolish). It is nice to be reminded of all the ways to increase your safety as the last thing I want while traveling is having something physical or digital stolen from me.

    Reply
    • It is very easy to get complacent once you are at a hotel … often because one is tired, and a hotel feels, well, safe. Glad you found the tips useful. They have kept us safe and protected through decades of travel around the world.

      Reply
  13. Really great article on Hotel safety here. There are a few things that I hadn’t thought of before, such as booking floors 2-6 for fire ladders. I agree that the door should always be secured and not left ajar. I always feel so vulnerable when the room door is open.

    Reply
    • A friend of mine who was a fire fighter educated me about suitable hotel rooms and fire ladder access. Though sometimes we do find ourselves in rooms much higher than the 6th floor because that is where the premium rooms are.

      Reply

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