You check into your hotel. Drop your things off in your room and head to the pool or into town to explore. When you come back your laptop is gone. Your notebook is missing. Your watch and rings aren’t where you left them. Ever worry this might happen to you? Unfortunately hotel thefts is a real risk and even the best hotels have reported them. There is no need to work yourself up over preventing hotel thefts though. Here are 10 ways to help avoid hotel thefts.
Before You Book
Before you ever book your hotel you need to determine the area of town you’d like to stay in. You don’t need to have all of the activities planned and your itinerary mapped out. Although, that could save you a lot of time and money in regards to transportation costs. To make sure you’re staying in a safe hotel check online to see where it is located. Is it in a busy business district? Near tourist locations? Close to a police station? Is it in a seedy area of town? Google Maps, MapQuest and especially Google Earth are good tools to use to get a “feel” for the area of town and what is nearby. While these are good tools, online reviews at Hotels.com and TripAdvisor.com also hold value in determining if a hotel is deemed safe. If you’re traveling internationally, make sure to check with the U.S. State Department as it offers country-specific safety information on its Web site; see Travel Warnings and Advisories to see hot spots and areas to avoid.
Selecting the Hotel Room
You may not have a choice of rooms when you’re checking into a hotel, if you do try to avoid staying in a hotel room located on the ground floor, especially those located off the parking lot with windows and doors that open to the exterior of the hotel. Ground floor hotel rooms that open to an interior hallway or courtyard tend to be safer options but those above the first floor are ideal.
Lock It Up
Have a luggage lock? You should. Not just for when you’re in transit but for your hotel room. Locking your luggage in your hotel room is an easy way to avoid hotel thefts. Either pack everything you’re traveling with in the mornings before you head out and lock your suitcase or simply put any valuable items – laptops, notebooks, cameras, phones – in your bag. Taking this one step further, consider investing $20-$50 in security cables that physically lock your suitcase or equipment down. Using a security cable, you can easily secure your bag to a pipe in the bathroom or a stationery piece of furniture. Note, make sure you’re using a slash proof bag. On a side note, most computers can be individually locked down with a laptop cable lock.
If your room keys are electronic and one is lost ask the hotel for a new room key – not a duplicate. This will reprogram the lock on the door in case the key was stolen.
It’s important to note there have been a few security flaws reported in common keycard locks, resulting many hotel room break-ins. Essentially the electronic locks were hacked, allowing thieves to enter hotel rooms undetected. All the more reason to follow the previous tip.
Safes Aren’t Always The Safest
Most hotels have in-room safes and most of them charge you for that added security. Yet this added hotel security does not mean your belongings are insured by the hotel if there is a robbery. Most hotels are protected by individual states’ innkeeper’s laws, which state the hotel is not responsible for theft from your room – including the in-room safe. The exception is if you use the safe the hotel has behind its front desk. If you choose to use the front desk’s safe, make sure the items are insured.
Using the safe in your hotel room doesn’t even mean your things are locked up. Most hotels have a back-way into their in-room safes, be it a master key or a master code. Management has access to these in case they need to assist guests if they loose their keys/code to the safe. This poses a security risk since there are people who can access your belongings. I came across Milockie and it seems to be a good option for travelers wishing to add another layer of security to their in-room safes. Essentially, Milockie locks the lock of the safe so only you can access it. Nice if you’re traveling with a lot important travel documents or other valuables. With or without the Milockie if the hotel safe has an electronic key code, it’s recommended that you change the code daily. Don’t write it down. Memorize it.
If you’re not staying in a hotel that has a safe or simply don’t want to deal with a safe, check out a few diversion safes. These are items that appear to be everyday objects but they’re so much more. A simple hairspray bottle that’s been emptied out to hold cash or jewelry. Shaving cream cans and soda cans where the tops screw off or a book that has a hidden compartment, all create perfect containers to store valuables and travel documents. (You may have to reveal your diversion safes to airport security since most of the bottles appear to be larger than 3oz.)
There are so many little things that seem to be common sense, but are often overlooked by travelers especially people who have become “comfortable” traveling. Here’s a quick reminder.
• Don’t travel with your valuable jewelry.
• Don’t leave items just laying around your room – jewelry, technology, computers, notebooks, cameras, even receipts (think identity theft).
• When you leave make sure your door is locked. Sounds silly but take a moment and turn around to make sure the door has closed and the lock has engaged.
• Don’t share your room number with others.
When You’re in Your Room
Hotel room thefts typically take place when you’re not in the room. But, we’ve all stayed in those questionable places where a bit of added security would make for a better night sleep or for a longer shower. Besides moving a dresser in front of the door, there are a few small and inexpensive alarms you can travel with to protect yourself and your belongings when you’re in your room. Items such as the Swege Door Stop & Alarm and Portable Door Lock keep the door secure when you’re in the room and the GE SmartHome Portable Security Kit provides security for the door and windows. I also really like the Traveller Defense Alarm given it’s super small size.
Be Present Even When You’re Out
Making your room always look occupied deters thefts. Simply leaving the TV or radio on a low volume can make it appear that someone is in the room. And, if you don’t need your room cleaned, hang the Do Not Disturb sign on the door to keep cleaning staff out of the room. This doesn’t just eliminate possible thefts from hotel staff but from someone pretending they are staying in your room and coming back to grab a few things while the room is being cleaned. This does happen, and according to recent reports it’s fairly common. The Do Not Disturb sign isn’t a sure fire way to keep cleaning crews out of your room though. To help ensure cleaning staff do not enter your room, call down to the front desk ask them to not clean your room.
Read the Small Print
Who reads the small print on the room registration documents you get when you either book a hotel online or check into a hotel? Be honest. Probably not. Well, you should. These documents detail what the hotel will and will not cover in terms of theft. Typically hotels do not insure their guest’s belongings.
Insurance is a necessary evil. Before you purchase travel insurance though, check with your existing homeowners or renters insurance to see if your policy covers things like thefts when you’re traveling.
What you should do if you are robbed?
If your room is broken into immediately report it to security and the management at the hotel. You will be asked to file a detailed report and the police may be called. If they are, expect to fill out more paperwork.
If your hotel room has a electronic door lock you can ask for a “reading” of the door lock to see when the room has been accessed and by whom. The “whom” part may not help if your hotel room was robbed by someone who stole your key or walked in when the room was being cleaned.
Don’t expect the hotel to reimburse you for your belongings. By law, they are not required to. However, they should do everything they can to help you find the thief and your belongings.
Has your hotel room been robbed before? Are there other safety precautions you take to avoid hotel thefts?