Personal Safety

10 Hotel Habits to Keep You Safe | Self Defense



Last week I talked about  cultural faux pas that could land you in hot water while traveling abroad.

If you missed it click here to read the original article

In response to that, guest contributor Lucy brought up some very important personal security tips that you need to make a habit when you find yourself staying in a hotel room.

Lucy Writes:

Whether traveling for business or pleasure, a hotel can be your temporary home away from home.

While staying, you want to feel at least as safe and relaxed as you do in your own home. Adopting a few basic habits as part of your regular routine while traveling will ensure personal safety while staying at hotels.

1. Always lock your doors. This is the easiest habit to incorporate in your routine. Every time you enter

your room lock the door behind you, making sure to use all deadbolts and other locks available.

2. Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to who and what is around you at all times. Stick with

crowds of people and well lit areas and avoid solitary and dark places.

3. Find your closest exit when you arrive. Always know where your closet emergency exits are in case of fire or other emergencies. Know where multiple exits are, so that you do not have to face troubles in case access to one is blocked.

4. Don't answer your door unless you are expecting room service or housekeeping, and always check the peep hole before answering.

5. Park under lights and close to the hotel entrance. Also, lock your car doors and check the back seat before getting inside.

6. Make sure all sliding glass doors and windows in the room are secure and locked. Sliding glass doors should be equipped with a safety bar in addition to a regular lock.

7. Wherever possible, select hotels that have interior corridors rather than motels. Also look for hotels that have a front that is staffed 24 hours a day.

8. If your room has a safe, you can use it. Lock up your valuables and any personal identification when using hotel facilities such as the gym or pool.

9. Test the front desk staff. Ensure that they provide convincing answers to all your security concerns. This may not be possible to check before you travel, but you can make note of which hotels ensure your safety for future travel. Report issues to the management.

10. Test the housekeeping staff. Tell them you are locked out or your key isn't working. Do they let you in? Let them do the cleaning or any other housekeeping jobs when you are present in the room. This ensures safety to your belongings.

** A note from Joe**

Lucy Did a great job getting these 10 tips together but I had a few more that I wanted to add:

Ask for a room that’s not on the ground floor and if possible request a room somewhere between the 3rd and 6th floors. Thieves are more often than not, looking for an easy buck so they will usually stick to the ground levels. Having a slightly elevated room will make you less  of a target for a break in, but low enough to the ground to be reached by a fire truck should a fire occur.

Stay with your luggage. In all the hustle and bustle of a busy lobby, enterprising thieves can take advantage of the distraction and make off with your bags in a flash.

When you leave the room, leave the TV or radio on, or put your “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door; both of these tricks will give potential thieves the impression that you're still there.

At night, leave a pair of shoes next to the bed in case you need to leave in a hurry. Keep your room key, wallet and a flashlight close to hand as well.

It is also VERY important to check with your insurance company and find out if your home owners insurance or renters insurance covers loss while traveling.  This can give you a little peace of mind, knowing that should anything happen( hopefully it won't), you will be covered and reimbursed.  Most hotels are not liable for items left in a room safe.

What safety precautions do you take when traveling? Check out these related articles to learn more:

Traveling for the Holidays? Make Sure You’re Prepared

Simple But Effective Self Defense: Lesson 1- Throat Strike

4 Self Defense Tools That You Can Carry All The Time

Continue Reading


  1. NightHawk

    March 18, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    I always put my toothbrush and things in my suitcase and lock it while out of the room to keep the housekeeping staff from messing with it. The same goes for any open containers of liquids such as alcohol or juices.
    I don’t need anyone scrubbing toilets with my toothbrush!

  2. Dave B

    March 18, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    As a seasoned international traveller, I agree with all the tips except the one about the room safe. These are notoriously easy to “crack” by staff, insiders, or the more “professional” local hotel thieves. As inconvenient as it may be, deposit your valuables in the safe at the front desk.

    Room safes are not usually insured by the hotel but use of the hotel safe at the front desk often is. Check with your hotel on these policies.

    • Holger

      March 21, 2013 at 8:26 PM

      You are right. I’m a road warrior and I agree with you.


    • Andrew

      September 26, 2018 at 3:12 PM

      Agreed. They are very easy to open with a good strong magnet in the right place as they work on solenoids. Generally they can be opened in sub 4 seconds.

  3. Betsy

    March 18, 2013 at 10:02 AM

    An inexpensive and extra safety addition is a door wedge. They can be found at any hardware store. Jam the wedge under the door at night or when in the room for any extended period.

    • Donald Conner

      March 18, 2013 at 3:52 PM

      Great thinking, Betsy. And Farb also. Nobody wants to wake up with an intruder who has been provided entry by a rotten desk clerk, and absolutely no one wants bedbugs. There are also deny-entry bars that jam against the door handle – anybody have any experience with these?


      • Maxilyn

        March 19, 2013 at 3:59 AM

        We use a Door Cop at home. Left the garage door opener one time and managed to push the front door open just enough to set off the security alarm. I don’t intend to travel without one. Also, a Club on the steering wheel is a good deterrent.

    • JoeB

      March 18, 2013 at 8:01 PM

      You now can buy door wedges that have built in alarms. They are very effective. No thief will have time to sweep it out of the way with a coat hanger before the blast awakens everyone! Check the NRA’s website. They are one place that has them.

      • Donald Conner

        March 18, 2013 at 9:17 PM

        Great Day In The Morning! excellent IDEA, Joe!!! I must trundle on over there and see what is certainly a good idea.

      • Holger

        March 21, 2013 at 8:33 PM

        It sound like you’re staying in places that are $35.00 per night and they smell like a care that has been cleaned after someone smoked in it.

        Well maybe $20 to $30 bucks a night more would eliminate the problem. If it’s cheap and I don’t like the location I just drop the place. I don’t need the gadgets I rather pay a dollar or two more to have safety and I do follow my gut feeling. If my gut say’s no I’m not staying there.

  4. Farb

    March 18, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    Not necessarily a safety issue but check for a bed bug infestation as soon as you enter the room. Either leave your luggage outside the door with someone in your group or place them in the bath tub before checking. Pull back sheets, look behind pictures, etc. You are looking for blood spots (fecal matter) that the bugs have left behind. The last thing you want to do is bring them home. If you suspect an infestation, contact the front desk and ask to be moved to another room FAR AWAY from the one you currently have. If that proves to be inadequate, ask for a refund (Good luck with that one!).

    • Holger

      March 21, 2013 at 8:35 PM

      You are paying how much per night? $10.00???

    • Lucy Mauterer

      May 1, 2013 at 3:59 PM

      @Farb, you are so right! Even the finest hotels have had problems with bedbugs. Leaving the luggage in the hall is a great strategy because you do not want any contamination. Its worth it not to have to go through the bother of having an infestation in your own home dealt with.

  5. Jeff

    March 18, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    When you check out, before you hand that key-card in, “wipe” the magnetic strip on the back with a magnet. This removes your personal information from it. The clerk is supposed to do this when a card is turned back in, but an unscrupulous clerk, or a lazy one, could do with it as he wished after you’ve left. Identity theft is a very real possibility in this situation. And it occurs without a SHTF event.

    • Stephanie

      March 18, 2013 at 8:17 PM

      The whole “personal info on the magnetic strip” has long been disproven. The only thing encoded on the mag strip is the room it is supposed to open, and possibly the dates it is good. There is no personal info, no However, one thing enterprising thieves often do, is pick up discarded card keys, they often will open the room up, so while you may keep your card safe, the previous occupant may not have been so careful.

    • Holger

      March 21, 2013 at 8:38 PM

      Good point. I never thought it and I have never had a problem in the past 30 years with not doing it.

  6. Ken Massey

    March 18, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    Another quick tip for hiding money/small valuables: We always take a drawstring plastic trash bag for dirty clothes. It is easy to take a small jewelry item or fold a few bills and slip them into the pocket of a pair of pants that is about to go in the “dirty clothes” bag. Thieves are extremely unlikely to rifle a bag of dirty clothes to look for valuables. I’ve been known to use this method for “hiding” a few bills and a copy of my passport placed in a zip lock sandwich bag, and then in a “dirty clothes” pants pocket. The same method could be used for small/light jewelry items.

    • Holger

      March 21, 2013 at 8:43 PM

      That is the first place they go because you think they are afraid of the filth. Just think of it when you pass customs they go through your dirty clothes and underwear because they think you have hidden something in there. I suggest that you hide it in your freshly pressed dress shirt. They will never think of that because that is too clean, unless it’s a really expensive dress shirt and then they steal the shirt and get a bonus.

  7. Ed L.

    March 18, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    Take a small roll of duct tape with you. Not only can it help with repairs on the road, but if you get trapped in your room during a fire and are awaiting rescue, you can use the tape to help seal the door and any vents that could let in toxic smoke.

    • Holger

      March 21, 2013 at 8:49 PM

      I assume that you have towels in the place you’re staying and according to public information such as Red Cross and the Fire Department you can wet up the towels in your bathroom to seal the gaps at the floor. That is really the only gap that you have to worry about because everything else is sealed nicely at most modern hotels. I think the fire marshal inspects it frequently.

  8. Donald Conner

    March 18, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    Keep a .45 Automatic under your pillow. And 2 full extra magazines in their carriers. The pistol should have a cartridge in the chamber BUT DO NOT have the hammer cocked. It only takes an instant to pull the hammer back, and this avoids the misery of perhaps shooting your sleeping partner. Too dangerous? Not nearly as dangerous as perhaps suffering a rape and murder of yourself, or another.

    When thugs break and enter, you will probably be coming out of a deep sleep, and there will be no time to find a magazine, put it in the gun, and cock the hammer. Another thought is to buy a smoke hood to get you and yours out of the building in a fire. The shoes and flashlight by the bed are the same excellent advice my Grandmother and stepfather taught me, along with a shirt and pants. If you must pass a fire to get out, first get in the shower and soak yourself and wrap a wet towel around your face and head.

    There is a distinct possibility that these small expenditures and investment of time may be useful. Take only your jewelry, wallet, and extremely important documents, and gun, if you have one, and get out. Everything else can be replaced, and a pillow case will hold what you need.


    • Holger

      March 21, 2013 at 8:54 PM

      You are absolutely right. Wet hair a wet towel and a wet pillowcase will take longer to catch fire and if you have wet clothes on it’s good. But remember smoke is your enemy number one, fire is number 2. Smoke will make you suffocate and then the fire will burn you up.

    • Lucy Mauterer

      May 1, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      Might also remind folks to practice cocking and firing your gun quickly. Too, you should be able to do this in total darkness if necessary. Power may be off. Its hard to hold a flashlight, cock, and fire a pistol at the same time.

  9. Chuck

    March 18, 2013 at 10:34 PM

    If Donald Conner is talking about a 1911A1 model .45 acp, cocked and locked is safer than hammer down on a loaded chamber. The 1911 was designed to be carried cocked and locked. Unless the grip safety is defective, the gun will not fire under your pillow unless somehow in your sleep you manage to click the safety off, depress the grip safety and pull the trigger. While it is seemingly easy to lower the hammer on a loaded chamber, there are many, many unintended discharges that happen while doing that little chore. Cocked and locked is better.

    • Donald Conner

      March 18, 2013 at 10:48 PM

      Chuck, you are quite correct in every word. I forgot to add, assuming (wrongly)that everybody knows that when you lower the hammer on any loaded gun that you put one thumb or the other against the face of the hammer so that it is impossible for the hammer to strike the firing pin. That will prevent accidental discharges. Now, as for those folks who are sleepwalkers, or go driving while not awake (yeah, it does happen), they should not have loaded gun that is too easily reached, especially a revolver. There have been those types of accidents too, though not, I’m sure, of the kind Chuck refers to. Glad you brought this to my attention-must have been having a brain excursion when I left that out.


  10. Chuck

    March 18, 2013 at 10:42 PM

    Of course, we all remember the rules for fleeing a burning building: Feel the door. If it is hot, don’t go that way. Get out on the balcony or open the window and start making a rope from the sheet, blankets, towels, whatever. Be sure to test the knots thoroughly before attempting to go down. You don’t want to find out that knot isn’t going to hold between the third floor and the second floor. Wet towel around the nose and mouth will help guard against smoke inhalation. If you have to, throw a chair or whatever through the window to open it. If you have to move down the inside corridor, crawl on the floor and stay next to a wall. Remember which side the emergency exit was on. Think about the layout of the hall which, of course, you memorized before nodding off to sleep. Aside from a sneak thief in the room while you are gone, fire is probably the most common hazard we have to face in a hotel or motel. If you keep the mechanical locks in place while you are in the room, you really don’t have to worry about a room invasion. As someone else suggested, don’t open the door. If you think it is room service, call the front desk and see if they have sent someone up. If not ask the front desk to call law enforcement or hotel security if they have any.

  11. Randy

    March 19, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    I travel every week for work. 99% of the time I drive and spend 2-3 nights in hotels. Luckily, my work takes me to the same area, so I am familiar with the hotels, staff and surroundings.
    Because I travel over the Cascades my car ALWAYS has my 10-day pack in the back. Basically, everything I will need to go on foot over the Cascades in any season and get home to central Washington.
    I also carry my 3-day pack with me.
    When I check in the 3-day pack comes in with me. I immediately refill my Nalgene bottles that I have in the car. My Surefire and Sig 225 go on the night stand. My phone goes in the night stand and my sturdy shoes go next to the bed.
    I always back into my parking space under the biggest light closest to my exit.
    I always fill the tank if I am at the half full mark before I check in at night.
    In addition I keep paper maps of the local area as well as my exfil routes over the mountains in the car and an excellent compass with me at all times. If the grid goes down or your cell phone quits or your GPS fails you have got to be able to navigate home or to safety.
    Just a few more ideas for the road warriors out there.

    • Holger

      March 21, 2013 at 9:01 PM

      I respect your comments. I don’t have all that stuff as ready as you unless I’m in a war situation. But I do know how to act in a second and I know where to get needed supplies before anyone wakes up and whoops it’s to late for them.

      It’s called my GUT FEELING and it has not failed me so far.

      I guess someone is watching over me. lol.

  12. Great Grey

    March 22, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    I prefer to keep my tank full anytime I’m not driving as there is no guarantee that there will be power to fill-up when you wake up, so I fill up even if it’s only a couple of gallons. That way if trapped in the car by weather or need maximum range to get out of an area, I don’t have to refuel as soon and maybe get to a station that is working. Also, would make anything below 3/4 tank as time to fill up even when home, that extra 100 miles of fuel could save your life or get you away from trouble makers.

    • Great Grey

      March 22, 2013 at 9:12 AM

      That 3/4 tank level is for when you quit driving for the day.

  13. Brian

    April 8, 2013 at 7:50 AM

    Another great security measure is to carry a MAG light flashlight.

  14. Lucy Mauterer

    July 19, 2013 at 9:33 AM

    I went through an 18 month period where I needed a wheelchair accessible shower and most of those rooms for obvious reasons are on the ground floor. I found that Marriott Courtyard was the best for secure rooms and some kind of staff being on hand round the clock. They were very protective of me and incredibly helpful. I had called many hotels before I traveled and talked to front desk personnel at each one. Calling ahead is the best idea. Don’t make your reservations through these cheapo exchanges, call the hotel direct and talk to the folks who work at that particular hotel. They can best answer any questions you have and often have unadvertised deals on rooms.

    • Richard

      February 5, 2019 at 2:32 PM

      Marriott is a very good hotel chain, but, whatever you do, DON’T GIVE THEM YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS, or you will be getting enough junk e-mail to swamp the entire internet!

  15. Laura

    December 17, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    I take pictures of the hotel room as well as my stuff in it & email it to myself – in case I have to make a claim later on. I will have proof of what I brought with me.

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  20. Emily

    January 26, 2016 at 1:30 PM

    The tip you gave about testing the staff and seeing if they will let you into your room without a key is a great one!
    I’ve never thought to do that before. Luckily if I’ve ever lost my key, the staff was strict and made me go downstairs to the front desk. Have you ever had belongings stolen from your hotel room before? If so, how did you handle it?

    • Richard1941

      February 5, 2019 at 2:39 PM

      Usually you do not need to test the staff. It will be immediately obvious what kind of people they are, even if you speak no Urdu or Hindi. Merely observe their tattoos and nose rings.

  21. Byron G.

    September 26, 2018 at 10:43 AM

    Also- if there is a door between your room and the adjoining room, check to make sure it’s locked from your side. I remember at least three times in my travels when it was not. I’ve also heard it’s good idea to knock on the door when you first get there- just in case they accidentally gave that room to somebody else and they’re ready to shoot anybody who walks through the door.

  22. John Wayne Henson

    November 29, 2018 at 4:30 PM

    Always lock youre door as soon as you enter the room. Go back into the hallway, find you closest exit, whatever floor it is on. Walk to the exit counting the doors as you pass them until youve gotten to the exit, or exit stairwell. Follow the stairs all the way down and find the door that exits outside. Now, go back to your room, and repeat the same process as if there is a fire. The leader closes his/her eyes while the other person follows and watches so the other leader doesnt get hurt. Do this until you can find your way to the exit, down the stairs and out the door. My wife and I do this at every hotel we stay in. Better to be safe than sorry, and Im not waiting for anybody to rescue me! Retired Firefighter

  23. Paul

    February 6, 2019 at 11:23 AM

    I worked security at hotels/motels and condos. This is one piece of advise that will help. Call the hotel as suggested earlier and ask to speak to security if they have it. They will tell you the trouble with hotel and surrounding area. I will add this also to check reviews. I got reprimanded for telling a guest that the room they were in had bedbugs. The hotel review said the same thing.

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