Vacation Safe: 11 Tips for Hotel Safety
It seems like nearly everyone is on the road for a short trip or extended vacation this summer. If staying in a hotel will be part of your summer travel plans, it might be a good time to brush on some security basics. Business and leisure travelers can often become victims to theft and assault by intruders, other guests, and even unscrupulous hotel staff. Whether your stay is in a high-end, mid-range, or decidedly down-scale establishment, keep yourself and your family safe by following a few simple guidelines. (See also: The Best Credit Cards for Budget Hotels)
1. Use Reviews
Though they don’t offer the complete security picture, online hotel reviews from real customers are a great place to start. Look for previous guests’ comments about security, front desk coverage, staff availability, noise levels, etc.
2. Remove Your Room’s Keycard From Its Envelope
That little sleeve for your hotel room keycard typically has the room number written on it. Combined with the hotel logo on the keycard, it doesn’t take much for a lost or stolen card to be opening the right door for the wrong person. Memorize your room number (or enter it in your cell phone if you’re forgetful) and toss the envelope.
3. Get the Lay of the Land
We all see those little emergency exit maps on the inside of our hotel room doors, but few of us really study them. Take a moment to get a lay of the land of the hotel, your floor, and the nearest exit in case of fire or other emergency. Make a quick primary and secondary exit strategy for you and your family and choose a landmark outside as the collective rendezvous point once everyone’s safely out of the building. Remember, emergencies can happen anywhere at any time.
4. Check the Smoke Detector Batteries
Call me cynical, but I don’t assume that hotel cleaning staff or maintenance workers are detailed enough to check the battery in each smoke detector in every room. Do a quick check to make sure the battery status light is on and that there’s a functional battery in each detector.
5. Make Sure the Windows Are Locked
Maybe I stay in particularly sub-par establishments (highly likely), but modern hotels may be the flimsiest and most quickly built structures on the planet short of carnival tents. As a result of fast and low-cost construction, windows seldom close or lock properly, and when I’m on the ground floor, this lack of basic security worries me. Check to make sure the windows lock and lock them when you leave or turn in for the night.
6. Use Caution With Unsecured Wi-Fi Services
Use common sense when working online via the hotel’s unsecured Wi-Fi connection. Avoid any financial transactions or work that displays personal information like social security numbers, passwords, account balances, or secured business data.
7. Use the Hotel Safe
Even if you leave the diamonds at home, most of us are traveling with a small fortune in mobile electronics. Use the hotel safe to store your valuables when you leave the room. Oh, and an off-topic word to the wise — if you don’t use the safe, check your receipt for a “safe fee” anyway. Many establishments try to slip this charge into the room total each day without a word to their guests.
8. Leave the Light (and TV) On
Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Though not the greenest solution, it never hurts to leave a light and the TV on in your room when you go out. Establishing the appearance of an occupied room puts a bit of doubt in the mind of a would-be criminal. It’s Personal Security 101, and it works.
9. Go Public
If an unknown or unexpected person arrives at your door, ask them to meet you in the lobby or call you from the front desk — even if that person is in hotel uniform. It never hurts to err on the side of safety when someone unknown is asking you to open the door for any reason.
10. Don’t Be Obvious
I’ll be the first to admit that I might be hyper-cautious. But when I know I’ll be away from my hotel room all day, I really try to make it look (to whoever might be watching) like I’m simply stepping out for a quick cup of coffee. It’s never a good idea to spread out the maps and ask the receptionist the most efficient way to make the 150 mile trip to Timbuktu. Simply put, a bit of discretion about your daily schedule makes you a less-likely target.
11. Check Your Bill
A high-end resort in the Midwest was scandalized earlier this year when it uncovered an employee theft ring. Hotel clerks were stealing credit and debit card data from guests and using the information to make purchases once the guests had checked out. Closely review your credit card statements after a hotel stay, paying special attention to unauthorized charges that begin on or immediately after your checkout date.
In our era of discount options for everything, hotel security is often a casualty of low-price lodging. Being an active guest and an active observer of your surroundings can help you avoid situations where your personal safety is at risk.
What tips do you have for hotel security? What methods have you used to keep you and your family safe while on the road?