Top hotel safety tips: Your hotel room safety is 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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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