Ever been locked out of your hotel room, poked your head into the room next door where housekeeping was cleaning and asked them to let you into your room? I have and guess what, they let me into my room. I was beyond happy to not have to spend 10 minutes going back down to the front desk to get another key. But what happens when someone who isn’t you does this?
Your laptop and wallet go missing. Your diamond earrings aren’t where you left them. That happened to me at the same hotel where housekeeping let me back into my room. Luckily, I had my laptop locked and my wallet was with me so it was only the diamond earrings that were taken. Still. I’m out a pair of expensive, sentimental diamond earrings.
I suppose Karma made a visit and I should have just gone to the front desk…
Most hotels do have a policy that forbids housekeeping from letting someone into their room, but a little pleading, such as I did, can go along way.
Unfortunately, as I learned hotel thefts are all too common and happen even in the best hotels. After my experience I did a little digging into statistics on hotel theft…they are hard to find. Police don’t keep stats on hotel thefts and hotels don’t always report them. USA Today did an investigation way back in 2009 and found nearly half the crimes against guests were thefts…
So how do you prevent hotel room theft? First, don’t freak out about having your hotel room robbed. There are some easy things you can do to help avoid hotel room thefts. For one, not traveling with your diamond earrings.
13 Tips to Help Prevent Hotel Room Thefts
1. Before You Book
When you’re booking your hotel check online to determine its location. 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, TripAdvisor.com and StayFaster 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 website; see Travel Warnings and Advisories to see hot spots and areas to avoid.
2. What is the hotel security?
Finding out the type of hotel security your hotel offers may be difficult. However, it’s not difficult to call and ask about the types of locks on the doors, if the hallways have security cameras. (The cameras can identify the thief if their is a theft.) Most hotel rooms already have a dead bolt lock on the door that limits someone from gaining access to the room when it’s locked from the inside. (If you get someone on the phone go ahead and ask them about parking. Is there valet? Garage parking? How far is the walk into the lobby from the parking and is the area well-light at night?)
3. Selecting the Hotel Room
You may not have a choice of rooms when you’re checking into a hotel, if you do ask to stay in a room on the third-floor or above. 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. If you are in a ground floor room, make sure the windows are locked before you leave the room (and go to sleep).
4. 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.
5. Lock Your Luggage
When you’re flying, you can’t typically place a lock on your luggage, at least not in the United States but packing one so you can lock your luggage in your hotel room is an easy way to avoid hotel room thefts. (There are TSA approved luggage locks.) It might be a pain to pack everything you’re traveling with in the mornings before you head out, instead simply put any valuable items – laptops, notebooks, cameras, phones – in your bag and lock it.
Taking this one step further, consider investing $10-$50 in security luggage 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.
6. Lock Your Electronics
Most computers can be individually locked down with a laptop cable lock. I’ve used these in the past and they’re very helpful. You can leave your laptop at the desk with it locked to something that can’t be moved.
7. Be Present Even When You’re Out
Making your room always look occupied deters thefts. Simply leaving a light on and the TV or radio on a low volume can make it appear that someone is in the room.
8. Ask for New Keys – Not Duplicates
If your hotel 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 in many hotel room break-ins. Essentially the electronic locks were hacked, allowing thieves to enter hotel rooms undetected. This can make it difficult in reporting a hotel room theft. All the more reason to follow the previous two tips.
9. Safes Aren’t Always Safe
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 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 know you’re not going to be able to remember it, text it to yourself – in the form of a phone number so it’s not obvious.)
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.)
10. Give Them a Sign – Do Not Disturb and Make This Room
Avoid hanging the door sign – Make This Room – unless you really need your room cleaned and you have your valuables with your or locked up. It’s the easiest way to identify target rooms.
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. (If someone is in the room, they’re going to avoid that room altogether.)
The Do Not Disturb sign isn’t a sure fire way to keep cleaning crews out of your room though. You will need to call down to the front desk ask them to not clean your room.
11. When You’re in Your Hotel Room
Hotel 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. 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 Door Jammer, 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.
12. Travel Insurance
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. To help with your search for the right travel insurance to meet your specific needs, make sure to read what you need to know about travel insurance.
13. Don’t Forget – Or Overlook – The Obvious
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 to prevent hotel thefts.
- Don’t travel with your valuable jewelry, aka expensive, sentimental diamond earrings.
- 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.
If you are a victim of hotel room theft… 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.
Have you been a victim of a hotel room theft? What safety precautions do you take to avoid hotel room thefts?
Portions of this article were originally posted in a guest post I did on Suitecase Stories.
Elaine N. Schoch
Elaine Schoch (pronounced the German way – Shock) is the editor and founder of Carpe Travel as well as an award-winning travel writer, wine judge, certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 and certified American Wine Expert. She is married to The Husband and has two kids, Princess One and Two – who’s interest and knowledge in wine is quite extensive. Not to mention the stamps in their passports.
Best advice I ever saw! I would never have thought of many of these preventative measures!
Thanks! I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to read them. I’m glad you found them to be useful.
Great advice. I came back to my room once while cleaning was in it and they made me not only show but use my key in the lock before they would let me enter my own room. I felt that was a good thing. Now, getting locked out of your room without your ID is a little more problematic … they didn’t just believe that I was me 🙂
That’s great that they did that! I bet you didn’t have your diamond earrings stolen. 😉
When I go to a hotel, I always try to figure out number two as soon as possible. My big thing though is security cameras, and if a hotel doesn’t have them, I won’t be staying there even one night. It’s important to me to know that there is a recording of who all went in and out of the room.
These are fantastic tips! I hadn’t thought of several of these preventive measures. Luckily, I haven’t been a victim of hotel theft yet (knock on wood) so I will definitely be using these tips to keep that streak going! I like to stay in rented studio apartments when I travel because there is less of a chance of being robbed with fewer people going in and out of our living space. Thanks for sharing these great tips! And I’m sorry about your diamond earrings 🙁 that is the worst!
Thanks! I’m hoping Santa feels generous this year with some new earrings. 😉
Definitely going to look into a lock for my computer. I never think about it, but that would make a huge difference in feeling secure. I definitely agree that we commonly overlook things and that’s when things go wrong, so don’t travel with expensive things and use the safe in the room for valuables!
Next do one on flying and TSA. Here is a tip: when going through TSA security, anything you put in your carry-on bag to prevent baggage handlers from stealing? It is fair game for the scanners looking at your belongings as they go through the X-ray machine!!!!! Take EVERYTHING valuable OUT of your purse or carry-on and place it in a bin for ALL TO SEE!!! This way TSA cannot take your bag to inspect, then say they have to RESCAN the bag they just looked in (as you protest), then they disappear for ten minutes, pretend to run your bag back through the scanner (while the machine operator has run the film backwards to put up the FIRST SCAN of your bag) so you can see your valuable on the X-ray – while in fact it has been stolen!!!!!!
Had a bag of change – over $300 – in my carry-on at BWI. They are ALL in it together!!!!!!
It’s funny, ok not really, but this actually happened to a friend of mine last week. She put her laptop through the scanner, went through the metal dector and her laptop never came out the other side. Someone snagged it and then an hour later it was “found” by TSA. There’s a $300 shipping fee for her to get the laptop back. She’s convenienced it’s a scam. I need to look into this more. Thanks for the tip. 😉
I agree that it is important to look into the type of hotel security being offered. I think that unless there are secure systems in place then a hotel is not immune from theft. I would guess that there have even been instances where people have gotten help from a locksmith who thought it was the room\’s guest when really it was a theft.
One more point to be consider is
The Hotel Front Desk Credit Card Scam
The hotel front desk calls your room late at night and they say your credit card information did not go through after you checked in, and that they need your information again. The problem is that it is not the front desk calling, it is a scam artist who has called the hotel and has asked for your room number.
Thanks for these useful tips.
Thanks, yes, this is a good tip to include!
I like your tip to ask for a new key, not a duplicate, if you lose your room key. If someone else got a hold of your room key, you don’t want to give that person access to your room. Having the card key reprogrammed can help prevent unwanted guests from entering your room. If you lose your keys, replacing them on your own or with the help of a locksmith can help regardless of what the keys go to. Thanks for the tips.
I once had a hotel room door that didn’t lock but it’s hard to tell if you never try it. You really only try to open it with your key so you wouldn’t know if it actually locked or not. Good advice.
Many travellers see their hotel room as a safe haven where they can keep all of their possessions protected from theft. However, the unfortunate truth is that hotel rooms are not always as secure as you might think. One must take a few safety measures to avoid being a victim of hotel room thefts.And I’m sure these tips will help. Thanks for sharing!!
Thanks, yes it’s unfortunate they’re not as safe as we feel they are (or should be).
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I must say that there are a lot of places to visit to explore and enjoy. The main thing to remember to avoid theft is to be alert and smart simply.
Most of the travelers who are victims of theft lose their money, passports, and other identification cards.
Firstly always book a good A class hotel while travelling .Before choosing always read the reviews about the hotel.
Additionally, I advice that don’t leave your card receipts or statements lying around your hotel room, home, office, or car.
Also when you go out when you travel, keep a low profile and as much as possible, try not to wear too flashy clothes and too much jewelries.
By using too much jewelers, you draw thieves’ attention to you.
Thank you so much for sharing your fantastic ideas..
Thumbs Up buddy !!!
Keep doing good work ..
God Bless U!!
I’ll keep these tips in mind, You make a great point. It is always good to be careful
I feel like with the advent of hotel deal sites online have the opposite effect on safety. Lower quality people might stay at these cheaper hotels they find online, and that leads to more thefts. Thanks for writing!
If you are traveling to high theft destinations or backpacking. I would highly recommend buying an anti-theft bag/luggage.
Great point! Thanks for the tip.
That’s a good ideas. Thanks for sharing these to us. Now I can feel more safer on hotels.
I never thought of any of this until my $12k+ engagement ring was stolen by the housekeeper at the Sofitel in Philadelphia. Hotel star quality clearly doesnt matter as this was a 4.5 star hotel. Im a victim to the hotel claiming theres no proof she stole the ring/no cameras to prove it. Although my fiance was the last one in the room and the housekeeper was the next to enter. Housekeeping can steal what they want and there are no ramifications for their actions. Instead you the guest are treated like a liar. Additionally, the hotels insurance company wont pay for the loss either because there is no proof of theft. Needless to say, I will never travel the same after this experience.
Ugh. I’m so sorry to hear that this happened to you. I also had house cleaning steal a pair of diamond earrings. Again, no proof. Now, I just don’t travel with good jewelry.
Great tips. As a someone who has been victim of hotel theft I really appreciate this post.
I like that you suggested hanging signs on the door to prevent other people from getting in since it can be an easy target. I will definitely keep this in mind since it is my first to be staying in a resort when my husband and I book one. This will keep us safe while we enjoy our three-day vacation while we celebrate our sixth anniversary. Thanks!
It makes sense that you would want to avoid hotel room thefts. I think the best way to go about avoiding them is to choose a secure hotel! Looking for one that has the proper security will ensure that you will be safe.
I like that you suggested hanging a do not disturb sign on your doorknob to keep people from targeting your room. I think that is a great way to be safe because they will think that there is someone in the room. This tip will be useful when we book a room in a hotel next month for the celebration of our anniversary. We will bring expensive pieces of jewelry and watches which we will leave there for the day when we explore outside and wear them in the evening for our date night. Thanks for the tips!
Very nice post,enjoyed it a lot.This is my first time in your blog! you have a beautiful site! really! thanks a lot and keep writing such a great articles!
I like how you suggested putting up a do not disturb sign. That makes sense since it can indicate to others that you are in there. I’ll have to consider your tips the next time I’m in a hotel.
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