Holidays are always a busy season for hotels. And all the hustle and bustle can leave you and your possessions vulnerable. “While the streets of a strange city may be dangerous, hotels can be even more so, perhaps because they feel like places of relative safety to a tired traveler,” explains personal security expert Robert Siciliano. “But there are many, many ways you can be robbed or assaulted while on a trip.”
Here are ways to protect yourself when away from home:
When you book
When booking your hotel room, keep in mind several important things, such as hotel location and room location.
• Crime Stats: “Choose a reputable hotel, preferably American, located in an area where crime is low,” says Siciliano.
• Location, location, location: “Reserve a room on the second floor or higher, preferably in the middle of the corridor, not too far from the elevator or staircase,” says Siciliano. “Take a room facing the street or overlooking a swimming pool or other activities area. The likelihood of being easily spotted may deter someone from climbing in through your window.”
When checking in
You may think this is a simple process, but some of the things that are said could affect your safety during your stay.
• Nothing Personal: “Upon arrival at the desk, ensure that you are not sharing your name and any personal details with individuals standing next to you,” says Tom Waithe, Director of Operations for Kimpton Hotels in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle & Portland). “If the desk announces your name and room number together, call them on it, ask them for another room that the hotel lobby isn't aware of.”
• Attention!: Keep an eye on your bags, and personal items. “Thieves thrive on the chaos of the arrival experience as a diversion to grab and run,” says Waithe.
When in the room
It is easy to think of your room as a safe haven, but even inside of the room you have to take precautions.
• Bellhop Tip: “Have a bellhop take your bags to the room. In this way you can ask the bellhop to inspect the room before you enter, check under the beds, in the closets, in the shower, behind curtains, and anywhere else someone might be hiding. Check immediately to be sure that all the locks are working properly,” advises Siciliano. “If there is no bellhop, ask the manager to accompany you to your room. If this isn’t possible, tell the desk to investigate immediately if you don’t call within five minutes.”
• Check the view: “When you enter your room, note the location. Actually look and see where the emergency exits are and what is around you,” says Waithe. “If you have a room with a connecting door, check the door immediately. Is it locked? Is the lock secure? Prop a chair in front of it for extra security.”
• Safe and secure: Always make sure to use all the locks on the door. And check the peephole. “If you do not throw on the deadbolt or security chain, you are 50% more likely to have someone walk in on you,” notes Waithe.
• Extra Security: If you don´t want to prop a chair in front of the door for extra security, there are various items on the market you can use. “Portable travel locks, motion alarms, door braces, door jammers, and rubber wedges are available. Buy them and use them. They cost less than $25, and they ensure your safety when you’re asleep,” notes Siciliano.
• Don´t announce your absence: “Never ever use the 'please make up room' sign. This lets people know you are not in the room,” warns Waithe.
When you have valuables
Even if you aren´t traveling with jewelry, these days most people take along a camera and laptop. There are ways to keep them from being stolen.
• Lock It Up: “If there is a room safe and you have jewelry or important documents, use it. Do not leave valuables sitting in plain sight when you are out of the room. There are 20 people in every hotel who have a key to that room,“ says Waithe. And before putting your valuables in the safe, take inventory. “Take photos of your valuables with your phone along with a copy of that morning's newspaper to prove that you had them in your possession that day,” says Suzanne Garber, the Chief Networking Officer for International SOS, an international medical and security assistance provider.
• Con Artist Alert: Besides possible theft from hotel staff, your possessions could be stolen easily by strangers entering your room. “Think how easy it is for a man in a three-piece suit to walk into your room while it is being cleaned, to say to the maid, ´Excuse me, I just have to get something,´ and to grab a suitcase with all your camera equipment. They call that man a Con Artist,” warns Siciliano.
• Take It Along: “Carry your items with you: If your items are of incredible value, then you'll want to know where they are at any given time…We recommend using a bag (like a backpack or another sort of bag with a cross-body vest), or a Scottevest-type vest, where you can carry your items in many different hidden pockets,” adds Joe Cortez, Marketing Specialist for travel insurance service company USI Affinity.
• Insure Your Goods: “Consider travel insurance: many different travel insurance products offer coverage in the event your items are stolen or lost while traveling. So if you regularly travel with items of value, you can purchase specific protection to replace them in case they are stolen - but we hope that never happens,” adds Cortez.
When someone calls or comes to your room
Oftentimes there will be calls from the front desk or room service coming to the door. But sometimes there are impersonations trying to get information or to get into your room.
• Crank Call: “Be suspicious of a call from the front desk just after checking in requesting verification of your credit card number 'because the imprint was unreadable.' A thief may have watched you enter the hotel room and called from the guest phone in the lobby to get access to your credit card number,” informs Siciliano.
• Check With The Front Desk: If someone randomly knocks on your door announcing room service you haven´t ordered, call the front desk and check before opening the door.
• Mums The Word: “Never divulge your room information to strangers. Never invite strangers into your room," notes Otilio Ramos-Director of Safety and Security, Conrad Condado Plaza.
When using the hotel facilities
Again it is easy to get too comfortable with your hotel surroundings. But just like being in public, you must remain diligent in your safety efforts.
• Workout Warnings: “When using the hotel gym, ensure there is a working phone in the gym that calls the front desk and a visible surveillance system so the front desk or hotel security can assist you should danger befall you,” says Garber.
• Take a Swim: When heading to the pool, drop off your room key at the front desk. If you leave it poolside someone could grab it and enter your room while you are swimming.
When you are a woman traveling alone
Women traveling alone need to be extra conscientious.
• Be Aware: “If someone is nearby when you are entering your hotel room, let them pass before you enter. A bad person could easily push you into your hotel and attack you in a private location,” warns Tracy Vega, Co-Founder, Simple Self Defense For Women.
• Too Close For Comfort: “Keep your distance (personal space) from anyone entering your room such as room service or housekeeping. Keep conversations to the situation at hand, don’t make it personal. It divulges unnecessary information about you,” says Vega.