Travel Hotel Preparedness

Some or many of you may travel once in a while (or more often) for work. Others will occasionally go on a trip, a visit, or a vacation where you will be staying in a hotel overnight.

So the issue of the day is, How do you apply preparedness for an overnight stay in a hotel?


 

I received an email from an MSB reader who relayed the following experience:

 

I was traveling for work a few weeks back and the fire alarm went off in the hotel in the middle of the night.

As I woke from my slumber, I took way to much time, at least in my estimation, fumbling around trying to find my pants, shoes, keys and jacket before I got out the door.

It turns out as I was getting ready to exit, the building the attendant told everyone it was Okay and we could go back to our rooms.

I may not have though much about it, but it was well below freezing outside and I would have been very cold should I not have been able to find any of my belongings quickly.

At home I run through what to do under various emergency situations, but on the road I was not prepared at all. Now I spend a few moments making mental notes and go through my hotel room escape plan as I am arriving into my room.

 
He is certainly correct regarding having one’s clothes and outerwear ready-to-go!

Some time ago I wrote an article titled:
“Suddenly Awakened To A Nighttime Emergency During The Cold Winter Season”

…where I emphasized the preparedness concept of keeping one’s clothes, shoes, etc.. at the foot of the bed at night so as to make it quick and easy to get dressed in the event of an emergency (e.g. what if the smoke alarm starts screeching in the middle of the night).

When you travel and stay at a hotel, you might simply hang your clothes over a nearby chair and leave your shoes there too. Ready to go.

 
I also wrote an article titled:
10 Personal Security Tips For Hotel Stays

…where I listed a handful of ideas regarding preparedness for one’s security during a travel hotel stay. A few thoughts included the importance of:

-Taking the time to familiarize the nearest fire escape route to stairs
-ALWAYS have a portable flashlight on your nightstand
-Consider a ‘door wedge’ for your security

 
I have lots of flashlights, but I love this one for its small size and reliability. It’s just enough to get the job done while at the ready on your hotel nightstand ;)
Streamlight Stylus Pro LED Pen Light

Related article:
Best Pocket Carry Flashlight For Under 30 Dollars

Rubber Door Wedge

 
During my previous career I used to travel A LOT. Seemingly countless air miles. Although I learned to travel ‘light’, I would bring along a number of preparedness supplies, just in case. If there were items that I wished to take which would be confiscated by TSA, I would have to ‘check’ a bag – unfortunately adding more time at baggage claim instead of getting out of there with only my ‘carry on’. Oh well…

You also might want to check this out:
How To Look For Bedbugs And Avoid Them In A Hotel

 
So lets get the thinking process going…
What are some preparedness ideas for a travel hotel overnight stay?

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52 Comments

  1. I like the idea of a door wedge or some other device to add to the security of the door. I noticed long ago that the hotel/motel doors are very flimsy. I never really felt secure even with the door locked.

    I always put my clothes on the chair next to the bed so I can stand up and grab my clothes at the same time in case we need to leave in a hurry. I am actually more vigil in this situation than I am at home.

    We also leave most stuff locked in the trunk of the car and only bring in what we will need for the night. In an emergency, we don’t need to be making multiple trips to the car as we shuttle bags and everything else to the car. We rarely stay more than one night anyway. It is usually just a place to sleep for the night before we continue our journey to our destination. I avoid flying, so its more likely that we need to stay overnight as we will be driving to our destination.

  2. We’ve used door wedges for years, just to give us extra time…..in case it was needed, and for additional privacy. We both use small high intensity flashlights we put on our “sides” night stands. Shoes go in the same place with sock in the shoes, and clothes on a chair just in case. Haven’t had a just in case, yet.
    Good article!

  3. The first thing I do is park in a lighted area near my room if possible. I note all the fire escapes and exits if a map of the facility is not available from the desk.

    I inquire about the time they lock side exits and asses the security of the motel. I take note of who is at the check in counter and any possible problems on my room floor before I even check into my room. I look for smoke detectors, fire escapes, extinguishers etc and see if they are available or functioning. I make a mental note of the distance to all of these.

    After entering my room I make sure to put my luggage on the luggage rack or table in case of bed bugs. I then check the locks and security latches for any malfunctions and quality. I then pull my sheets and check for any sign of bed bugs. I then turn my sink on to let the water clean itself out for a little while. I check my windows for a possible escape or entrance. I clean the remote and door handles etc with disinfectant.

    My pistol, flash light, etc. are in an easy accessible carry bag and is placed next to my bed with a pair of heavy slippers. My clothes and shoes are kept on a chair where I can dress quickly even in the dark. My phone is plugged into the nearest outlet if not next to me.

  4. From article; “Suddenly Awakened To A Nighttime Emergency During The Cold Winter Season”

    Only thing I change from Ken’s Preps, I DO NOT hang the previous days clothes on the bed-post, I have the next days out and ready, yesterday’s cloths “stink too much” not to have out in the laundry room or packed up in a Mylar bag with anti-stink tablets inside. HAHAHA Working Man ya know, we stink. Yes yes yes, I know, TMI.

    From article “10 Personal Security Tips For Hotel Stays”

    I disagree with Ken (what a surprise huh?) I always stay on the first floor, reason, I can get out and haul azz fast (even out the window if needed), This old fart is wayyyy to old to jump down a floor or two, and I’m sure as hell NOT going to wait on a fireman to show up and offer a ladder to get down.

    The truck/vehicle is always parked right outside (backed in), I pack everything up at night, ready to go, even if staying longer. I’m more worried with fire, and other “natural” disasters than a crook breaking when I’m in the room, remember, the hotel room IS your home/property as soon as you sign the rental agreement, and that Mossberg is perfectly legal to have in the room AND to protect yourself.

    FYI, I do NOT fly after working for an Airline for 5 years…… Airplanes should not fly according to physics. It’s a very HUGE rock with a LOT LOT LOT of parts that DO break.

    OK, to the article;

    I like to travel light as I can; I pack only one bag (usually), anything else I ship, besides the 400-500 pounds of home canned food I take me Mom and a bag of food for Blue HAHAHA

    Remember there IS a Wally World where you’re headed if you forgot something or need “more” shampoo/TP/underwear.

    Last trip I did, through the Land-O-Hell, I only took one firearm that was “mostly/sort-of/almost” legal in CA. I did ship some heaver firepower to a FFL and picked it up once there. And shipped it back. Driving through most states with Ammo is not as bad as getting nailed with a few “questionable” boom-booms, most LEO’s have NO sense of humor when it comes to finding an arsenal large enough to occupy France in the back of a rental car.

    Staying in a motel; In-Out and see ya later, keep yar mouth shut. The Hotel Clerk may ask a lot of question, don’t answer, just tell em you’re tired and need to get some “quiet” sleep.

    Remember Hotels/Motels are good for one thing, sleeping, if your spending much time “in” the hotel room, you need to find more to do with yar life… LOLOL

    NRP

  5. A word on Door Wedges.

    Have worked in the Construction Field for better than 45 years; less 5 years for an Airline, I will tell ya right now, if I wanted to get into a room, I would forget about the door. Doors are getting more and more access proof. I would hit the wall about 3-5 inches to the right/left of the door, it’s 95% chance going to be 1 maybe 2 layers of 5/8 drywall each side and a little sound insulation, inside a 3.5”-6” wall. Regardless of what people say, Drywall is easy pickings to get through. Will guarantee ya, I can get through one in less than one minute with a small crow bar. OR just pop a hole next to the lock and open the door, waltz right on in.

    OR go in through the window, again very VERY easy to get through.

    Disclaimer….. Oh course I would never do such a thing…..

    One last thing, 90% of the hotels with inside halls/corridors the doors swing out, not in, and a wedge can’t be used.

    NRP

    1. NRP,

      I have stayed in hundreds of hotels with indoor hallways/corridors and the doors always open into the room. Must be different over on your side of the country.

      Adapt and Overcome.

      1. @ 11HE9

        Very well could be, I just took a peak at a LaQuenta Hotel we’re are now bidding, the doors do indeed swing in….

        NRP

    2. NRP,

      While I’m not a frequent hotel/motel patron, I have stayed at numerous such facilities in my life. Mostly the mid-range Hilton, Hampton Inn type.

      Your statement about 90% of doors opening out into the hallways/corridors doesn’t fit with my experiences. If that is the norm, wouldn’t that practice cause them (the outward opening doors) to be a hazard to those using these passageways?

      The only time I’ve seen outward opening doors was once, when I requested a wheelchair accessible room.

      Is this a regional thing in your area, are my experiences just the norm in the mid-south/mid-west?

      1. I will regress, 90% of the hotels “I” have stayed at the entrance doors have a recess into the room and the door swings out… Including the 3 on my lovely trip through CA. Not encumbering the corridor. But I will admit, in the past many years I don’t do Hotels as much.

        I will admit there are a lot of hotels in this area, and of the ones I know of, most swing out, into the recess. Or swing out onto a covered entrance.

        1. NRP,

          That explains it, “…..my trip through California”. I’m surprised they don’t require all doors to swing both ways, or, otherwise be known to cause cancer by the state of California.

          1. Okay Dennis, as one of the unfortunate few Kalifornians on this site you got me laughing so much I almost couldn’t stop!

          2. Careful…..laughing can cause cancer. Per state of California ordinance

    3. When doors swing out it’s too much risk for someone running into one. Businesses are all about eliminating risk. I have never stayed in a hotel that had doors that swing out–east coast, west coast, all around the town. :) Motels, yes. Sometimes their doors swing out.

      1. @ Lauren

        Hence the door “wall” is recessed into the room area approx. 3.5 feet, to allow the door to swing out, yet not impeding into the corridor. Although the ADA codes are going nuts on the 18” free space on the handle/pull side and 12” min clear on the push side, which takes even more space in the rentable room. This ADA codes have been surpassed by making a XYZ amount of rooms ADA accessible.

        Also there is a fire code issue, ALL corridor exit doors and escape doors must swing out, this code was interpreted into the room codes for a period of time, hence again some motels/hotels doing such. This was mostly interpreted into some of the State Building Codes that was overturned in the new International Building Codes adapted in the early 2000s. Allowing the “room” doors to again swing in.

        Unfortunately the Out-Swinging doors also allowed for someone to “hide” in the niche, allowing the possibility of in-house robberies and such.

        NRP

  6. I used to travel every week for work, I’m glad I don’t have to anymore now that I’ve retired. Since I always traveled to the same places (I would be traveling to the same client for 1 to 2 years at a time) I got familiar with the hotel.

    I would stay on the second floor, near the stairs. I didn’t like to have to defend both the door and the window from intruders. I figure I could always climb down from the second level window if really, really necessary. I always had my hotel door key, a flashlight and my cell phone (plugged in) on the night stand next to me. My clothes were on the bathroom door hook, with shoes and a pair of blue jeans near by or on the TV console. There were a few times when the fire alarms when off and I was up and on the ground with in a few minutes.

    In the winter time my coat would be at the end of my bed to keep my feet warm so it was always near by. One good thing that I was able to do the last few years was check in on-line 24 hours before. This allowed me to pick my room so I could almost always get the one I wanted.

    One other thing to note that in some of the hotels the room door and bathroom door open in such a way that the bathroom door would block and prevent the main door from opening. Between the lock on the door, the door bar/chain and with bathroom door open it was going to be very hard to get into the room.

  7. I learned a lesson last summer. I was spending two nights at a hotel. When returning to my room, the check in guy said something he could not have said unless he had been snooping through my room. He must have found my tire thumper under my pillow. I will never leave it in my room again. Where I go, it goes.

  8. Ken

    Think you also did a post on checking for bedbugs in hotels? Might be a good link to add up above.

  9. Just wondering what you’all think…

    Myself I have leaned away from first floor rooms, in favor of second floor rooms. I have always had the idea there are more robberies/break ins/less security in first floor rooms?

    1. It is common for property to be stolen by maids on any level, especially small items. This is why I mentioned below to check valuables you don’t take with you into a safety box at the hotel.

      And yes, you are right about first floors…first floors are easier to break into, scout, and escape from if they are homes or apartments.

    2. I don’t know about robberies on first floor but I had a colleague say she was woken up in the middle of the night by someone trying to open the slider door on the ground floor room that she was in.

      1. Valley Forge

        yes, I have always loved those first floor rooms with slider doors…Park car right outside, easy load/unload, etc.. But that aspect (easy access for burglar too) has me looking up a floor …

        I know one can block the back of a slider, for increased safety, but still unnerves me.

  10. All good tips and points by folks posting here. For 25+ years I traveled in my work at least twice a month flying somewhere nationally and internationally, with overnight or three day road trips in between. I have stayed the range of hotels from many stars in mainland China to the single floor “No Tell Motel” and places in between. Stayed in places where the desk tells you don’t go out the back because that area is “sketchy”.

    I had a whole multi-floor building to myself separate from the main building; totally creeped me out, 3rd floor, long semi-dark hallways; felt like The Shining. I’ve had my luggage and work documents “gone though” when I left my room in a former communist country; “they” didn’t zip up everything correctly, and had one bag out of place; but that’s how it is in some places.

    Been on the ground floor, 21st floor and in between. Been evacuated while checking in by the fire department carrying IR gear, sitting outside on the curb at midnight. Been without power overnight due to a storm.

    You can carry the basic protections (tire iron/thumper/knife) and help items (flashlight, charged phone) and it all helps. If you travel enough at some point something strange will occur to you in a hotel; every person who travels “too much” has some scary stories. I avoid hotels as much as possible now; stayed in too many.

  11. Boy this brings a few flashbacks when I did security at hotels for Sci-Fi conventions, the largest crowd was 10,000 people. I memorized emergency exits and routes. I advised that anyone, including the stars to check valuables in a safety box with the hotel. I know even maids will steal while cleaning your room. Sometimes those crowds infatuated with the stars I escorted, broke through guarded doors and hallways and I had to move them away.

    While staying at a room, I followed procedures to have shoes out and all my clothes in a bag, but I slept in jogging shirt and pants so I needed not to dress. Even when things go bump in the night at home, that’s why I sleep in them in cold months and T-shirt/shorts joggers in summer.

    I also had fire training twice, once for a group home with a fire extinguisher and with a fire truck hose when a volunteer fireperson extinguishing 3 types of fire. If a fire would prevent you from exiting a room or hallway, it is good to know and check where the extinguishers are with the emergency exits when checking in to the hotel.

    I took a seminar with the deputies of a neighboring county about “Active Shooter” and they offered ways to escape buildings with many rooms in them like schools and motels to save your life. If you are interested, many sheriff departments offer this and can get them on DVD’s.

  12. I haven’t traveled since I retired, but I always put out tomorrow’s clothes where I could easily reach them. My pants pockets for tomorrow already had money, keys, and small flashlight in the pockets. The previous day’s dirty clothes were in a plastic bag and already in the trunk of my car. I always had extra clean clothes, extra shoes & socks, some extra money and an extra credit card in the trunk of my car, as well. I have never believed in keeping all my eggs in the same basket.

  13. Before going to sleep, if armed, do several dry run drills (gun unloaded/empty chamber) on how you will respond if awakened by someone trying to break-in in the middle of the night. Ken, excellent choice of penlight.

  14. I learned years ago, request a low floor. This came to light while getting ready for a meeting and staying on the 9th floor of the hotel when the kitchen set off the fire alarm. Elevators are shut down so the sprint down the stairs left me soaked.

    I realized if I was cut off from proceeding down I was not able to jump 9 stories and survive. I now stay in floor 4 or lower. I can recover from a broken leg ?

    1. Smoke from fires always rises to upper floors, and so does the fire. Smoke kills more than the fires themselves. I always had a ground floor room.

  15. Wow either I can’t spell or typing with old hands on a small keyboard while running through the airport is a bad idea.

  16. Many, many years ago I went on scuba diving trip to Central America. The airline overnighted us ‘somewhere’ close to the ocean and airport and gave us vouchers for free meals. I don’t remember if it was a scheduled stop or not but it was late, the next airport was gravel on an island so maybe.

    Anyway – my roommate and I were woken up in the middle of the night be somewhat noisy people and heard a key in the door. We both sat up but figured some drunk had the wrong door and no problem. Hmm, probably was some drunk, but the key really did work in our door! cr*p!

    This was some little town in Honduras. Go figure. Never felt the same about motels after that.

  17. Good article and comments!

    Like many here, I used to do a LOT of business travel. Went through numerous fire alarms and a variety of (attempted) uninvited “guests.” Learned to always block the door and have clothing+ available close by if a hasty exit became necessary.

    My usual preference for a room is the second floor, but recently, when I was in the process of using my truck to move, I’d ask for a room with parking right outside so I could better hear if anyone decided to help themselves to my stuff.

    NRP – I’ve also seen doors that open into the hallway, usually ADA, and also usually set back inside a little entryway. Don’t like to walk by those alcoves, and your line of sight is compromised from the little peephole in the room.

    I’ve also heard that in-room safes all have a universal backup access code that management (and probably housekeeping) can use to open them if the guest forgets the code they input.

  18. I just want to say thanks for this blog. We don’t travel and stay in motels a lot but do usually a couple of times a year and I had just never really thought about safety other than thieves or break ins. Now I will definitely be more prepared.

  19. I stay in hotels a couple dozen times a year and basically do the same thing that many have posted here. I don’t really focus on what floor my room is on just my escape routes.

    I don’t have a rubber door wedge but when I travel I always have a pair of flip flops. I use those to walk around in instead of my bare feet. No telling what has been spilled on that carpet. Before I go to bed I wedge 1 or both of my flops under the door and it works pretty darn good from letting that door open. Try it at home they work pretty good.

    If I have to stay at a hotel for more than 1 day I always like to fold the TP into a point (like it is when you first get to your room) every morning before I leave. That way when housekeeping sees me after day 2, 3 or 5 they say that’s the guy that never poops. Makes me laugh.

    Adapt and Overcome.

  20. Other than toothbrush and toothpaste/bathroom articles I usually live out of my suitcase while staying in a hotel. One of the weird habits I got into while on a search and rescue boat crew was being ready to leave at a moments notice, thus I keep things ready to leave immediately when staying away from home.

    Like NRP, I’m always armed unless overseas and even then, I’ll at least carry a knife. Another thing I’ve learned is cash is king. I’ll always travel and keep in reserve enough cash to get home no matter where I am. I’m sure there could be a time when I don’t have enough cash to get all the way home, but it’s amazing what some people will do for a few greenbacks.

    1. To add to my comment, I prefer the first or second floors for safety and whenever possible I avoid common hallways. On the first or second floor evacuating a fire is easy. Common hallways are death traps in the event of a panic evacuation or fire and a killing field in a mass shooting scenario. When I open my door, I want to be outside.

  21. I stay in hotels/motels frequently for my work. I also spend a lot of time with hotel owners, managers, builders, etc. Most of them tell me the best bet is second floor 1 or 2 rooms from the stairs/ emergency exit. This keeps you away from the elevators and apparently you don’t want to be the first room by the stairs. I only stay in ground level rooms while on motorcycle trips. On one such trip, in Calgary, Canada, we actually put the motorcycles in the room it was that sketchy. Every night, the next days clothes are laid out on top of my bag sitting packed and ready in a chair near the foot of the bed. That way in the event to quickly dress and egress the room it’s all ready to go.

    Also remember to check the peephole and temperature of the door with the back of your hand before charging into the hallway. If there is visible smoke or fire consider your secondary egress. That is why everything gets put on the chair. If I can’t go through the door then the chair is handy to “open” the window.

    I also don’t like to park right in front of my room or in a single vehicle deep parking spot. It’s too easy to get blocked in especially by emergency vehicles.

    Other things that I am OCD about is to never leave the room without my vehicle keys. Even for ice or working out. I always leave a coat in the vehicle, and I always gas up before returning to the hotel for the night.

  22. How nice and timely. I’m spending my week in Lehigh Valley, PA, about 100 miles west of NYC. The airline is already sending multiple messages about weather delays and change fee waivers for this Friday.

    That’s the part that sucks, never really being sure what’s going on until it’s time to turn the car in. After that if something happens, I’m hoofing it through the snow across B’lyn and Queens.

    Tell ya one thing though… the cops here seems to be a different kind. On my last trip I was way out on Long Island and by the time I got to Brooklyn, wow that coffee had run through me. So I stopped at McDonald’s to use the facility. About the same time a van full of tactical cops were piling out of an NYPD van. Last one out held the door open for me, tipped his hat and said: “G’Mornin Sir!” … startling.

    Monday I got stuck at the EZ-pass booth on the Verrazano. Apparently the toll tags are kept in a box with a shutter that must be swung open for them to work. Nobody told me. By the time I figured it out, I was passed the sensor and traffic was piling up behind me. I called out to anyone in a booth. A Port Authority cop hollers out: “Hold Ya Horses eh?” He came around reached in the car and pulled the module out of the holder, slapped the RFID face up to the toll gate and it swung open. He hands back the module and says: “Dare ya go.”

    I cannot imagine either of those two scenarios playing the same on the west coast.

    Anyway, should I get stuck here; there is no prep. There is no viable plan. There are no scenarios for escape of bicycle back up plan. I’m just simply stuck with only the hope that I’ll continue to be blessed by encounters with decent people.

  23. Fortunately a majority of my travel days are over, but when I did travel, I had a gun, and a dog, both of which were well trained :) That little sign on the door that said “Caution police k-9 in room” did wonders. I never worried about anyone breaking in the room while I was there. Getting pizza delivered was a bit of a challenge though :/ I always slept in a sweatsuit, and traveled the easiest exits a couple times before turning in for the night. I had a very small “go bag” that if I had to grab and run I could have. Several stays I was well into the interior of the hotel and worried about getting out easily.
    Locally I have had a couple handlers from other areas come in, it was maybe a year apart, their vehicles were broken into, at the same hotel. Fortunately the last one parked under a security camera and they had caught the guy before noon. We keep a LOT of gear in our vehicles so from now on I always tell people to park up front, ask where the cameras are, etc.

  24. Haven’t traveled much lately and probably won’t for awhile.
    Did have crazy stuff happen especially out of the country!Slept in the bath tub with wet towels stuffed under the door to keep out the scorpions. HaD desk clerk send female company up to the room even though I didnt ask for any companionship. LOL!!
    This is kinda old school but I would stick a small folded up paper in the hinge side door frame so I would know if the door had been opened.
    I would always put it the same distance. I would put my forefinger tip to the floor and put the paper at the top of my out stretched thumb. So I would know if someone tried to put it back in after it fell..
    Aw, the good OL days when I would enter my room with my Browning HiPower in my hand…good times!

  25. I always put my room key in my shoes when I go to bed. I’ve heard of people leaving their rooms in a hurry because of a fire, and then they can’t get back in afterwards. Or, worse, they leave because of a fire, find the stairs are not safe, and try to go back to their rooms, but they are now stuck in the hallway. Someone else mentioned car keys–I think I might start putting those in my shoes, too.

  26. I often take organized tours with a middle aged to elderly crowd. I put my real name on my luggage but put the tour company name and phone number with a c/o xxx tours, tel xxx-xxx-xxxx. I never put my home address on my luggage. If a flight is required I get through security a sap, then relax, get a snack and coffee, etc. in the airport I try to stay with some people on the tour or with the tour guide from the company – not too many people will try anything with a group of 20 to 40 people. I never leave my luggage unattended and if I need to leave it while I get a snack or use the washroom I ask the tour guide if I can keep it with him or her as they are bonded. For hotels I request a low floor. I use all locks on my hotel room door, leave the tv on while I am out as well as keep a do not disturb sign on the door. Use the safe and try to keep the cleaning staff out while I am not in the room. If I see them in the hall I just say I don’t need room service but would like clean towels which I have gathered in a bundle to give to them in exchange for clean ones. I often go without house keeping services because I don’t trust them – they can make I my room when I have departed. I throw my Torah out each day and will bag garbage and put it outside my room for pickup again to keep out the staff. Often they are overworked so a person politely telling them they don’t need room service is often welcomed. I keep the room neat as they d look inside.

  27. A few typos – I throw out my trash each day. Remove the ‘d’ from the last sentence.

    1. Haha I was wondering if throwing out your Torah each day meant that you set it prominently on a table so that whomever went into your room would know they face holy wrath if they mess with your stuff…

  28. When traveling beware of your surroundings where ever you go. Hotels are mostly safe but beware any way when sleeping at night at a strange place. I always put a chair up against the locked door and balance my shoes on it, so if the door is opened or jiggled in the night you will be alerted by the sound of your shoes falling. This trick saved me one time when at about two in the morning someone with a key eased open my door and got a big surprise. They escaped but didn’t get to rob me. Little prevention measures can sometimes save your bacon says the old swamp rat.

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