How to be Safe in a Hotel

by Jan 25, 2016Travel

Have you ever left something in a hotel, never to be found again?
Have you ever been awakened in the middle of the night by a stranger trying to get in your door?

Tips to take to protect yourself, be smart and stay safe in a hotel.

When checking in, ask the hotel staff not to state your room number out loud. Anyone nearby can overhear and know exactly where you will be sleeping.

Ask for two key cards at the hotel. First, it doesn't alert anyone around you that you are traveling by yourself. Second, you keep one card on your person in a pocket and another in your purse or bag. That way, if your purse or bag were to get stolen, you would still be able to get into your room.

Take a photo of the hotel door to remember the room number. Don’t count on your memory when getting in late or after a trip to the hotel bar. Once, when I was at my third hotel in a week, I was at a Hilton, checked in and went directly to the fitness center. After a sweat session on the treadmill, I went to what I thought was my room and the key wouldn’t work. I called down to the front desk from the elevator phone and they said it wasn’t my room. I went to the lobby where they proceeded to tell me that unless I had my license, which was in the room, they couldn’t let me in. I was a Diamond member and couldn’t believe that, even after staying at two Hiltons in one week, they wouldn’t escort me to my room, where I could show them ID. Instead, I walked up and down three floors checking every door until my key worked.

Be careful when going into your hotel room. If someone is in the hall with you, wait until they have passed by before opening your door. It’s easy for someone to push their way in and trap you inside. Once inside, shut the door but don't lock it with the deadbolt yet. Before you use the deadbolt and bar, check the shower, behind the drapes, the closet, and the sliding glass doors, to make sure that there isn't anyone waiting for you. Check to make sure the door is all the way latched when entering and exiting and use both the deadbolt and chain or bar. Once I got out of the shower to find housekeeping in my room when I didn't use the bar. Awkward.

Label your things, just like you did for summer camp. I have a label on the outside of my suitcase as well as a business card on the inside in case the outer label gets ripped off. As much as I don’t want to mar my beautiful MacAir, I have a label with my phone number on the bottom. When I had a less beautiful laptop, I just taped my business card directly on the bottom. I highly recommend this, as well as putting your IT number on the bottom. If you can’t get your computer to work, having your IT number saved in your Contacts isn’t going to help you.

Fire department ladders typically don’t go above seven floors. Consider staying on a lower floor, even though you may not get the best view. On the other hand, staying on a ground floor can open you up to theft easier. If you are staying at a hotel with rooms that open from the outside, try to stay near the office or some other semi-busy area. Try to avoid staying in a room that adjoins with another one unless you know the person in it. If you can’t avoid it, put your luggage rack or the office chair in front of the door so you will hear if someone tries to open it.

Do not prop your door open while you are getting ice or while you are waiting for room service, even if you are staying with other people in the room. Someone could enter your room and shut the door before your mate can get back.

Never open your door to anyone without making sure that they are indeed hotel staff. If I’m not expecting a visitor and receive a knock at the door, I ask their name and call down to the desk to see why they are there.

I use my Do Not Disturb sign the entire time I am in a hotel. I typically decline housekeeping unless I am in a room for more than three days. I don’t clean my house every day at home and don’t need service daily on the road. Plus, it keeps people from being in my stuff. If you hang out the sign that the room needs attending, it’s a sign to thieves that you are not in the room. Many people also leave the radio or TV on. I have a hard time with this because I try to be energy efficient, so sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. This is your call.

Always use the in-room hotel safe for your jewelry, valuables, phone, extra cash, passport, and laptop, even if only for a short time like a trip to breakfast or the fitness center. I test out the code and make sure it’s working before I put my things in it to ensure something doesn't get locked in that I can't get out. Use a code you will remember like your house number, part of your zip code or your PIN. Don't use easy-to-remember codes like 1234 or 0000. I wish they were big enough for laptops, but they can easily hold a tablet.

What do you do that I haven’t listed to make sure you stay safe when you travel?

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Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.
jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects