10+ Personal Security Tips For Hotel Stays
Here is a practical list of personal security tips for those who stay in hotels while traveling for business or pleasure…
1. Consider selecting a hotel room on the second floor which will generally keep you out of reach of criminal activity from the street but still within reach of fire truck ladders.
2. Familiarize yourself with escape routes in case of fire or evacuation. Simply know where the stairs are so you could visualize getting out in the dark if you had to. Most people will instinctively go to the elevators (don’t do that!).
An MSB visitor here once said:
As a firefighter one of the best things to do is to count the number of doors in each direction to the fire exit. NOT ELEVATOR! if there is a fire you will be crawling and not able to see the signs which are placed at eye level.
A good idea is to see where the fire trucks would be coming to and staging in case you cannot leave the floor and need to get their attention.
Any time you are anywhere you should be checking where the exits are and if traveling with family a good call is to arrange a meeting place if you evac the building. i.e. parking lot far west corner…etc. that way if it becomes necessary to get out you can find everyone and would have no reason to attempt to go back in to get wife, son, daughter, beer….etc.
And yet another MSB visitor emphasized a related consideration:
On check-in I always study the hotel layout, find exits, count doors to stairways, etc. I also ‘test drive’ the stairs as I’ve found many are unique in terms of layout.
Example 1: they go to the first floor, but continue on to a basement level from which it takes longer to get outside.
Example 2: they have no first floor exterior door in the stairwell and you have to go into the first floor hallway and then exit the building. There are other unique set-ups, but I’ve experienced both of these just this year.
[Ken adds]: I too have experienced this. Don’t assume that the stairs will lead you straight outside. Check them.
3. Always pack or carry a flashlight in case you lose power in an unfamiliar place (Important!). Keep it on your nightstand while sleeping.
[ Read: Best Pocket Carry Flashlight For Under 30 Dollars ]
4. Avoid discussing your business or travel plans and movements during your stay, especially in public areas where they may be overheard.
5. Do not discuss your room number while standing in the lobby (or anywhere).
6. Do not leave your room key on restaurant or bar tables. Keep the key in your pocket.
7. Never leave valuables in your hotel room exposed or unattended, even in a locked suitcase. Instead, place valuables such as money, jewelry, passport, etc., in a hotel safe deposit box or room safe. Most all hotels now have room safes.
8. Use the door chain and bolt lock whenever you are in your room.
9. Cover the peep hole because there is such a thing as “reverse peep hole viewers” (use a small piece of black electrical tape – partially fold one end for easy peeling on-off). However do use the door viewer (peephole) before opening the door to visitors.
10. Consider bringing along a door wedge, especially for while you are sleeping.
>> Door Stopper Rubber Security Wedge
(view on amzn)
11. Keep your room neat so you will notice disturbed or missing items quickly upon return.
12. Always bring a pocket knife which not only is helpful in many practical ways, but will serve as means of self defense. Where legal, a firearm is the ultimate self defense.
13. Most states allow for a gun to be possessed in a hotel room because it is considered an extension of your residence. An excellent resource in this area is as follows:
>> Traveler’s Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States
(view on amzn)
14. Consider bringing a night light to plug in the bathroom (in case they don’t have one).
15. I have heard that you should not turn in your plastic room card-key. Apparently all of your credit card information might be on that mag stripe. I’m not sure if this is typical. Maybe someone out there “in the know” will comment…
Bonus Tip: If you weren’t satisficed with the maid service, here’s a thought… Before you leave, wrap the pillows up in the blankets to make it look like someone “expired” in the bed. (Couldn’t resist that one…)
Comment below with your own tips for personal security while traveling or a hotel stay…
All good stuff. For outside the US travel, in former and current communist countries assume you are being monitored at all times, behave accordingly.
For business travel I never unpacked but rotated luggage items as needed; fast to zip up and boogie if needed.
don’t forget, read Ken’s article
How to Look for Bedbugs etc
How to look for Bedbugs in a Hotel
I think coming home bug free is part of personal security.
If there is a viewing hole in the door/to hallway, always cover it. Not too long ago, saw news article, some sharpie had figured out how to film from out in the hall, through the viewing hole.
When you get in to the hotel room, check the tub to see if it looks clean/has hair in it. Check the bed – whip the covers back and look, to see if the sheets have hair on them/look clean.(have checked in to pricey hotel with both…)
The front desk clerk will often try very hard to be chatty/get personal info…DON’T!
First, when you check in, write on the ‘agreement’ that NOBODY may enter your room without your permission, including the Maids cleaning your room. Remember when you sign an agreement, the room legally becomes an extension of your home, have the Manager initial the comment you wrote.
When you leave the room and are still checked in, take a photo of your luggage and the room on your cell phone, where it’s placed, what direction it’s turned, placed on the floor or table, etc. When you return first thing, check the luggage, check the window blinds, the bedding. If it’s been moved in the slightest, get the Manager there ASAP, and report a robbery AND raise all kinds of holy HELL about someone breaking and entering without your permission and you’re going to get a police report and forward it to their Corporate Office with a complaint.
Do NOT trust the Room Safes; the Management has the pass combos to all the safes, period.
Never turn your back to the Hall when approaching or unlocking your door when you enter, do NOT enter your room if there is someone within 25 feet of you. Make sure you look at the door across the Hall from you, is the door slightly opened or ‘cracked’? Can someone rush you from there as you unlock/open your door?
When checking in, don’t turn your back totally to the lobby, look around, keep your eyes looking for anything ‘out of place’. Do NOT trust the people that work Hotels.
Biggest thing to remember, 99% of the time when someone checks into a room/hotel in the evening, they are tired and less aware of their surroundings. Keep your Situational Awareness on MAX. Keep your eyes and ears open, look around, do NOT become a victim because you let your ‘guard’ down in the slightest.
Most of the time, yeah.
So far, aside from some robberies (car stolen, two cars broken into, one house robbery and one crazy person screaming sticking their head in my partially rolled down car window) I’m a little more awake all the time.
Only bring what you will need for the night and first thing in the morning. Everything else to remain locked in the trunk of your vehicle.
Please, never ever turn in room (card) room keys. They have on the magstrip, or embedded in the RFID chip ALL of you credit card information, as well as the billing address and other of your personal demographic information on/in them.
I investigated far too many liability claims against upscale major hotel chains, and yes, it is STILL pindustry practice today.
Wow, thanks for the tip –
Thanks for the inside-information. Wow…
Wow, I wonder if running a magnet over the card just before you turn it in will erase the memory?
ah well….am getting older, memory not what it used to be….
most likely I will “forget” to hand it in/or where I put it, if asked…
Some hotels now have an office room with computers available for the guests. My DS went on one and did some deep digging on it and, sure enough, every bit of information was being stored in a spyware program.
Though the “spyware program” was probably NOT of the hotel’s doing.
My tip is a Dollar Store item. I use those hard rubber door stop wedges that come two for a buck. They are small enough and cheap enough to be both convenient and effective, even if they only slow a perp down for a few seconds: it might make a difference. And if you forget to pick it up when you leave..oh well..
This is not an idea without merit, but do remember such a practice can keep emergency services personnel from gaining timely entry to your room in the event of a medical, fire, or other emergency.
As parts of the country are experiencing high temperatures for extended periods, I would avoid hotels and other large building complexes in favor of the smaller owner-run motels. Why? Economic pressures have squeezed many properties to cut maintenance, particularly to systems not visible to the public – remember Legionnaire’s Disease from stagnant water in cooling systems.
A fire does occur and you will be leaving all (or most most) of your belongings behind just to get out quickly and safely. So don’t park your vehicle in the spaces next to the building because they may get blocked in by fire equipment and you won’t have access to anything in the vehicle or be able to leave.
You should be happy with Ken’s new format, the more repartee, the skinnier you get. :) :)
As you have all commented, hotels have their own problems and things to watch out for, so I have a pull type RV trailer to avoid them situations. Walmart parking lots give me a good field of fire . ha ha.
And, reciprocally, do you have bulletproof armor in your RV? :O
I probably average about one night in a hotel per year. A few years will go by without any hotel stays, then I will spend 3 or 4 nights in one. Just saying it is a fairly unusual thing for me. These are all good things to think about. Thank you. I assume that hotel WiFi should never be used. Any thoughts about that?
If you have communications you wish to keep secure you would do well to avoid using hotel wi-fi. Rather, use some of your phone’s data plan. Any other use should be OK, just be sure you have proper security software on/in your device.
I sometimes take tours which consist mostly of over age 55 folks. Even if all the bookings go through the tour company and credit card info is not put on any room keys, the person’s name is registered. I always take my plastic swipe key home and shred it. I mix up the pieces into several garbage bags. I never let the maid into my room while I am not there and keep the Do Not Disturb sign on always and the TV on while I am out touring. I only use the hotel computer in the lobby for general tourist information and do not pay for anything online at the hotel.
Great article, but I cringed when seeing the door wedge link and prayed it wouldn’t be to…oh no… Amazon. Come on guys ! Plenty of options out there even if just to describe.. My two cents
There’s no CC info on the mag strip..
Take a gallon zip lock bag. Grab the tv remote with the bag and use it through the bag. Lot’s of germs on that remote.
I have a ‘sleep sack’ that I carry. Also I use a clean T-shirt over the pillow. I know the shirt is clean.
I stay in hotels 190+ nights a year.
Cocoon Cotton Bag Liner/Travel Sheet
Regarding item #15: We have been in the lodging business for 17 years and are STILL trying to dispel this urban legend about credit card & other personal information being on hotel room key cards. No electronic lock system in the lodging industry we are aware of has any such capability. By engaging in such a practice one is merely adding, however minor, additional cost to the hotel’s operations. All that is encoded onto or into the card is the room number it will grant access to and for how long. What we would add, though, is that if your key card is ever lost be sure to go IMMEDIATELY to the hotel Desk, provide verification of your identity, and ask that a new reprogrammed key or keys be made. Then use that new key card as soon as possible to open your room door – which will invalidate any prior Guest cards made for that room. On the other hand, if you have merely locked your key card in the room most electronic lock systems allow for the creation of a “one-shot” key that will allow access to the room one time; whereupon you may continue using the original key card(s) for the balance of you & your party’s stay.
Parenthetically, if a hotel’s Guest Services Agent willingly and readily makes a new key card for you without his or her first verifying your identity THAT might be a good reason to immediately check out and move to a lodging facility that exercises greater care for its Guests’ safety and security.
Regarding “8. Use the door chain and bolt lock whenever you are in your room.” We recently stayed at a name brand hotel and I noticed that when the swing bar was across the door there was a gap between door and jamb so that from the outside it would have been very easy to slide a blade through and push the bar open. I don’t know what you could do to secure that.
Many hotels will have an ironing board in the room. I will prop it against to door. It may not keep some one out but it will make enough noise and give me warning. If they don’t have and ironing board I will put a chair in front of the door.
Park your car over a big mud puddle to keep someone from stealing your catalitic converter.