How to prepare for what hotels don’t tell you

Most of us don’t knowingly book haunted hotel rooms like the eponymous chamber of Stephen King’s story 1408, where paranormal forces can wreak havoc – and likely incur a few incidental charges. But how can we deal with the more common normal forces that can pose a risk?

It can be tough to know just how safe any hotel room will be for our next trip. We often have no idea what chances we are taking by staying away from home, where we can equip our own security measures and spoil our own guard dogs.

We also don’t like to think that just about any hotel staff member has the means to get into your room – and often the safe, should you opt to store any valuables in it.

Any canny traveller will not book a room at a hotel that they know to be on the wrong side of the tracks. And user reviews and ratings on popular travel websites can only tell us so much: while one previous guest may have had their room cleaned out rather than cleaned up, another may have reported an enjoyable stay.

Any establishment that has been the site of a crime spree would likely come under public scrutiny. But the reality is: we really can not know in advance if any hotel room will entertain any unwelcome guests unbeknownst to us.

A USA Today article dating back to 2009 shed some light on the not-so readily available stats and trends in hotel crimes. Police don’t keep records for them. A hotel is not always likely to report incidents of theft and leave their reputation and success on the line.

Unless a hotel is employing a kleptomaniac concierge that has gained notoriety on the web, we really can’t have the sort of insight we would like when it comes to protecting our belongings – and ourselves.

But we can be diligent in our research and preparations to compensate for not being able to see the future. After all, we are mostly concerned with the normal forces, right?

To put your mind at ease when booking a hotel, consider looking into its security measures by asking:

  • Will there be a camera to monitor the hallway?
  • Is there a security guard on duty? If so, at what times?
  • Do the doors to the outside require key access at night? All the time?
  • What sort of locks and security do the individual rooms have?
  • And if you’ll be driving, is the parking lot well lit? Is it monitored by cameras?

There are some other precautions you can take after you’ve arrived at your hotel.

For one, try not to be too showy in the lobby or other public areas with a wristwatch fit for a secret agent, or flash wads of cash – especially in foreign countries, or places that you’re unsure of. It’s too easy for an envious onlooker to obtain your room number by simply following you, or asking staff for it. Or, they skip a step and ask staff for entry by ‘misplacing’ their key to your room, which is not impossible.

As you leave your room, make it seem as though you are still there. Leaving the TV or radio (not both) on at a reasonable volume is a smart practice. Leaving a light on near the door also helps your room pretend to be occupied. And just like you would with your phone on vacation, set your room to ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode by using the sign provided.

Unless you are able to bring your own safe worthy of inspiring an Ocean’s Fourteen, consider leaving your priceless heirlooms, grandmother’s secret peanut brittle recipe, or Game of Thrones spoiler notes at home.


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