While traveling is a recreational, fun, and exciting activity, there are still safety and security considerations that we must observe. Here are 8 tips for stay hotel safety and security you should know.
Look before you book
Some hotels are not located in great neighborhoods. Always be sure to check the hotel reviews and surrounding neighborhoods. Hotel pictures can be deceiving (you know, the ones that the hotel shows on its site). Things can be made to look better than they are.
Be a little careful with hotels near airports; all too often (although not always) the neighborhoods near airports are not that swell.
Use Google Maps Satellite view to get a visual of the surrounding area. If your hotel is across the street from a strip club, pawnshop, and liquor store it may be time to find a different hotel.
Cheaper hotels are often distinguished by the presence of exterior doors while “nicer” hotels usually have interior room entry doors. Avoid a hotel with exterior room access. No need to give non-hotel guests easier access to your room.
Do not book a room on the ground floor
Rooms on the ground floor are the easiest target for robberies, so requesting a higher floor makes you less likely to have your belongings stolen.
Many safety experts recommend rooms on the fourth – sixth floors, as these are high enough to be difficult to break into, but not so high that a fire truck ladder can’t reach them.
If fire safety is a concern, you can also request rooms that are close to the stairwell. But try to avoid rooms near vending or ice machines, as these offer criminals a great place to loiter.
If you’re staying in a motel where your room opens directly to the outside (as opposed to a hallway), try to aim for a room that overlooks an interior courtyard instead of a car park. If you’re staying at an Airbnb, try and find one with adequate security.
Keep an eye 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 in-room safe
Protect your valuables by using the hotel safe. Travelers are divided on whether you should leave your passport in the hotel room, or always carry it on your person, but if you decide to leave it behind, make sure it’s secure, along with electronics, important travel documents, and anything else of value, in the in-room safe.
That being said, hotel safes are usually hidden inside the closet and out of sight when you’re packing up at the end of a stay, so make sure you don’t forget to retrieve your things.
Traveling with a lock for your suitcase is a good alternative if you have valuables that are too big for the safe (like a laptop or camera lens), and from personal experience, make sure you don’t forget your self-created passcode.
You should also check that the safe is actually safe before you use it; some hotels don’t change the default unlock code, which is there as an override if you forget the code. For most hotel safes this is 000000 or 123456 – not exactly an original passcode! Some hotels will also have safety deposit boxes where you can hold your valuables.
Keep your door locked at all times
It’s important to keep your door locked at all times, even when you’re inside the room. This includes any deadbolts, security chains or swinging metal security locks that make it impossible for someone to break into your room.
You should never prop your door open, no matter how briefly, and if someone comes to your door claiming to be hotel staff when you’re not expecting it, quickly call the front desk to make sure the visit is legitimate. The peephole is a great way to confirm someone’s identity before opening the door.
A great way to deter break-ins when you’re out is by leaving the TV or radio on, and hanging the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door; both of these tricks deter thieves by giving the impression that you’re still there.
Hotels that have modern electronic guest room locks are generally safer than those which operate off a traditional key. The key cards for these locks are automatically wiped at the end of each stay, so there’s very little chance of someone having a duplicate key. If you lose or misplace your key, ask the front desk for a new one straight away.
Use a VPN if you connect to the hotel’s wifi
Just like at the airport or coffee shop or any other publicly accessed WiFi network, the hotel WiFi connection is also public.
Free WiFi is something we’ve come to expect from hotels, but that doesn’t mean that it’s safe to connect.
You’re ultimately still connecting to a public hotspot, which means anyone on the same network (which could be thousands of people inside the hotel) can easily see your data: usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, and your addiction to adult content!
In some cases, criminals have been known to target hotels and set up open WiFi networks specifically to trick people into connecting. So it’s incredibly important when you’re traveling that you don’t connect to the internet without a VPN.
A high-quality VPN is one of the most useful tools you can have to keep your information secure when connecting to hotel WiFi. It encrypts your traffic so that cybercriminals using the same network won’t be able to access your information or even detect your presence.
Do not give out 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.