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Hotel Room Safety: Don't Use the Hotel Safe - Do This Instead!

Updated 6 August 2017 — Do you ever leave things in your room? You do, right? We all do.

So hotel room safety is an issue for you - and if not, it should be, whether you go carryon only or tote along a steamer trunk.

Most of us don't drag our paraphernalia around all day: we stash our laptops and passports and tickets in a safe place, just like we've been told to.

We put things in a...

...hotel room safe

How many times have we been told this? Even I've recommended you use the safe in your hotel room.

But are hotel safes safe?

Actually - no!

  • Safes can be carried away if they're not bolted to the ground.
  • Someone in management or staff either has a key or the hotel safe master code.
  • An in-room safe can be broken into much more easily than you think.

At best, hotel room safes are dissuasive. Since most thefts are opportunistic, thieves often won't take the time, however brief, to break into a locked safe, so there's that.

Still... this video will show you just how easy it is for a determined robber to lift your (supposedly well-guarded) belongings: Who Can Get Into Your Hotel Safe?

So how DO you keep your things safe in your hotel room?

First, these clever hotel room safety devices will allow you to worry less about what you left in your room and enjoy your surroundings a little more.

Name

Item

How this item helps keep your things safe

This portable safe is by far the most popular item travelers use to keep their things secure in their rooms. Just slip your important papers into the bag, fasten it to something solid, and lock it (get a sturdier lock than the one that comes with the safe, however). It won't deter a highly determined thief armed with a wire cutter - but most thieves are the grab-and-run variety, usually staff or another hotel guest. If your papers are locked away, they'll quickly move on to another room for fear of getting caught.

This is a heavyweight - not in weight but in security (and price). You can fasten this lock on most room safes and even if someone has a key or master code, this lock will prevent the door from swinging open. If you plan on using a hotel room safe, you can't get much more secure than this.

If you decide to take something with you, consider this wire or cable lock, basically a length of wire with a lock at the end. For example, you may be able to lock your laptop to a table or other solid piece of furniture; there are plenty of more expensive ones but this simple laptop lock does the trick for me.

This longer lock is useful to lock a bag or pack to a radiator or water pipe or other fixture. It will definitely slow a thief down and help make a commotion. 

What if your stuff is in your room - and you are too, asleep? One of my favorite hotel door safety latches is the door stop alarm - wedge it under the door just inside your room. If someone opens the door from the outside, it lets off a shrill siren. 

The door knob alarm works on a similar principle. It's armed with motion sensors - if someone tries to get into your room, the alarm will ring, usually loudly.

Or keep people out of your room the simple, effective and low-tech way - with a plain rubber doorstop (or four). Yes, it works!

Item

How this item helps keep your things safe

This portable safe is by far the most popular item travelers use to keep their things secure in their rooms. Just slip your important papers into the bag, fasten it to something solid, and lock it (get a sturdier lock than the one that comes with the safe, however). It won't deter a highly determined thief armed with a wire cutter - but most thieves are the grab-and-run variety, usually staff or another hotel guest. If your papers are locked away, they'll quickly move on to another room for fear of getting caught.

Item

How this item helps keep your things safe

This is a heavyweight - not in weight but in security (and price). You can fasten this lock on most room safes and even if someone has a key or master code, this lock will prevent the door from swinging open. If you plan on using a hotel room safe, you can't get much more secure than this.

Item

How this item helps keep your things safe

If you decide to take something with you, consider this wire or cable lock, basically a length of wire with a lock at the end. For example, you may be able to lock your laptop to a table or other solid piece of furniture; there are plenty of more expensive ones but this simple laptop lock does the trick for me.

Item

How this item helps keep your things safe

This longer lock is useful to lock a bag or pack to a radiator or water pipe or other fixture. It will definitely slow a thief down and help make a commotion. 

Item

How this item helps keep your things safe

What if your stuff is in your room - and you are too, asleep? One of my favorites is the door stop alarm - wedge it under the door just inside your room. If someone opens the door from the outside, it lets off a shrill siren. 

Item

How this item helps keep your things safe

The door knob alarm works on a similar principle. It's armed with motion sensors - if someone tries to get into your room, the alarm will ring, usually loudly.

Item

How this item helps keep your things safe

Or keep people out of your room the simple, effective and low-tech way - with a plain rubber doorstop (or four). Yes, it works!

In addition to these safety and security items, there are several other possibilities.

You can carry your important things with you in a theft-proof bag (I have two of these), and your money and papers in a money belt or travel pouch or scarf.

And you can ask the front desk to keep things in their main hotel safety deposit box, which is usually much more secure than the one in your room: it is undoubtedly larger, and thieves won't make it past the front desk as easily as into your empty room.

An important point is that while most hotels aren't liable for things stolen from hotel room safes, they usually are liable for anything that disappears from the front desk safe. Ask the desk if you're in doubt.

A few more hotel safety precautions

Hotel room safety is particularly important to women who travel solo: being on your own means you have to be extra careful - no one else will do it for you.

When you check into a hotel, you may get the feeling that all is safe behind your locked door. And mostly, it is safe but there are exceptions, and you don't want to be one of them.

Here are some things you should know about keeping your possessions safe.

  • Avoid ground floor rooms: they're so much easier to break into. 

  • Lock your luggage. It's no guarantee but anything that slows down a thief helps. Thieves want to get in and out quickly, not fumble around with locks and cables. The Pacsafe cable will help keep nimble fingers out of your luggage.

  • Use a portable safe. It's not foolproof but a thief has to be equipped to break into it so it'll discourage casual theft. Travelers who have used this recommend it highly (I'm considering buying one because I'm tired of lugging everything around with me all day.)

  • Don't leave anything in full view - temptation is temptation. Anyone can walk off with your laptop while your room door is open during cleaning. And your everyday belongings may be worth someone else's life savings.

  • If you're in a hostel or group accommodation, you may have a locker. Use it. If there isn't one, stash your papers in a money belt or scarf or pouch. And if you go for a shower, take your papers with you.

  • Make sure your windows are locked before you leave. It's easy to slip in and steal.

  • Leave a light or radio on when you leave the room. Anyone who listens at the door will think you're either in the room or coming back soon.

  • If you do have expensive gadgets, don't flash them around where other guests or hotel staff can see them.

  • And don't leave expensive clothes out to dry or air. A fellow traveler left her high-tech Nike Air-Max trainers on the doorstep in South Africa - irresistible in a poor country. She spent the next few days trekking in her flip-flops.

  • Don't bring valuables with you when you travel. Period. If you have a laptop, cellphone and the like, bite the bullet, get a daypack and carry them around with you.

The first rule of the road is if you can't afford to lose it, don't take it with you.

But if you must take it with you, try to keep it safe.

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