No matter how good your hotel safety, your security remains almost entirely in your hands.
I’ve written about hotel safety and security in the past. Each time I travel, I continue to be amazed by too many hotel guests not taking personal responsibility to ensure they’re safe while away from home.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has hurt hotel safety. For example, before the pandemic, hotels led by Hilton and Disney improved their “Do Not Disturb” policy. Every 24–36 hours, even when guests kept their “Do Not Disturb” signs perpetually on their doors, a hotel representative would enter every room and inspect them to ensure another Mandalay Bay hotel mass shooting wouldn’t occur. Since the pandemic started, that inspection ended almost universally and hasn’t been reinstituted for the most part. No hotel personnel has entered my room in the Hilton property I stayed at this past week.
Periodic room inspections make everyone safer and have little or no impact on hotel guest privacy.
Disney took Hilton another step forward. They replaced “Do Not Disturb” signs with “Room Occupied” signs. It’s a slight difference, but it helps set the right tone. At Disney, housekeepers may enter occupied rooms, even with the symbol displayed, but they must knock on the door and identify themselves.
Some guests have complained that the policy has cost them privacy. I disagree. Before the pandemic began, my wife and I stayed at two hotels using a Disney-type approach. At both locations, housekeeping knocked at the door late in the morning. We told them we weren’t ready and asked if they could come back in half an hour. They left us alone. We were soon out the door. While out, they inspected our room and cleaned it. When back at the hotel, we put the “Do Not Disturb” sign back on the door until the next day when we left the room. We never felt the policy reduced our privacy.
These days, while I’d want any hotel personnel entering my room to wear an N95 or KN95 face mask and be vaccinated and boosted, I’d like to see the room inspection brought back.
With or without the pre-pandemic “Do Not Disturb” policy, we as hotel guests must take a commonsense approach to enhance our safety while traveling. I’ve got 15 tips to help you stay safe during your hotel stays.
Lock your room securely whenever you’re inside.
• If you remember to do anything during your hotel stay, this is it. Lock the door in your room, including deadbolts, security chains, and swinging security locks for hotel safety.
• After you lock up, when you first get into your room, look at the peephole in your room door that enables you to see who’s at the door. If it doesn’t have a cover over it that you can slide away as needed, put some adhesive tape or a band-aid over the hole to block everyone from looking in at you. Many of the peepholes give a great view in both directions.
• Stay at hotels that utilize restricted access. I prefer hotels that require room keys to call elevators and restrict everyone to stopping only on their floor. I also like hotels that have one-way stairwells. They allow you to leave the hotel in an emergency but do not permit anyone to enter any floor from the stairs.
Before unpacking, do some room disinfecting.
I’ve been doing this long before the COVID pandemic. Light switches, telephone keypads, doorknobs, toilet handles, TV remotes, etc., are typically not well cleaned by housekeepers between guest stays. As a result, they’re generally germ-laden. So, after washing your hands, get out some 70 percent alcohol-based antibacterial wipes you’ve packed and clean what the housekeepers missed. Wash your hands whenever you return to your room
• Don’t accept a room on the ground floor. It may be convenient, but for safety’s sake, it’s not a good idea. These rooms are targets for thieves and others. If you’re staying at a motel with doors that open directly to the outside instead of a hallway, get a room that overlooks an interior courtyard, if there is one. I no longer stay at motels with doors that lead directly outside. They’re security nightmares for guests.
• Many safety experts suggest staying somewhere between the fourth and the sixth floors. Once you’re up to the fourth floor the rooms are high enough to be difficult to break into. Most fire department ladder trucks throughout the world can reach to the windows on the sixth floor, so from a fire safety standpoint, you can still be saved in case of a fire emergency.
If front desk hotel personnel announce your name and room number aloud, get another room as you don’t know who’s listening.
• If the personnel at the front desk announce my room number aloud when I’m picking up my key I immediately ask for a new room assignment and explain why. You don’t know who’s in the lobby.
• Likewise, don’t you announce your first name at check-in, if possible. Use your first name’s initial, or just use a title; Mr., Ms., Mrs., Dr. Reveal as little of your identity as possible in the hotel, to make it harder for a thief to impersonate you to gain access to your room. Speak quietly when discussing the room.
If you can check into your room online, do so. It eliminates potential front-desk hotel security gaffes.
• Some hotels are now letting guests check in online, choose a room, set up their credit card to pay their bill, and turn their smartphone into their room key, so guests never need to go to the front desk to check in. That’s a big security help as it eliminates problematical check-ins.
• Similarly, if your hotel supplies door hangers to put in food or cleaning requests, never put your name on the hangers.
• You don’t know if the inside of any drawers in your room were cleaned, so keep your belongings in your bags. Keep your bags off the floor for bedbug prevention. Bedbugs are attracted to the smell of dirty laundry, so store it in reusable plastic compression bags in your luggage.
• If your room windows open, check their locks when you get to your room after check-in. If they don’t work, get another room. If your room has a connecting door to the room next door, make sure it has a deadbolt lock that works. Better yet, get another room.
Don’t open your room door until you can verify the visitor’s identity.
• If someone comes to your door unexpectedly, claiming to be a hotel employee, call the front desk to confirm it.
• Use your room safe for your valuables; when not in your room, disinfect it before you use it.
• If any lights are out in your hotel’s hallways or parking lot, report it to hotel management and ask them to replace the lights immediately.
While travelers should be pleased that many hotels are making changes to improve guests’ security, we must recognize that the pandemic has resulted in some safety and security back-sliding. What hasn’t ever changed is that it’s always critical for travelers to take commonsense measures to keep themselves safe in their hotels.
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After many years working in corporate America as a chemical engineer, executive and eventually CFO of a multinational manufacturer, Ned founded a tech consulting company and later restarted NSL Photography, his photography business. Before entering the corporate world, Ned worked as a Public Health Engineer for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. As a well known corporate, travel and wildlife photographer, Ned travels the world writing about travel and photography, as well as running photography workshops, seminars and photowalks. Visit Ned’s Photography Blog and Galleries.