Sometimes, visiting a totally new place can be a bit intimidating, or even downright scary. I had a reader write to me asking how she can stop being fearful of traveling alone, since it’s a requirement for her job. She mentioned that she is always on edge when she has to travel by herself, and that she can’t even relax in her own hotel room because she is worried about the bad things that might happen to her, like human trafficking or assault. She said she has no idea how to make herself feel safer and that she has a very difficult time sleeping at night on her travels, because it’s all so overwhelming and it seems like there are just too many things to count that could go wrong, and doesn’t no where to begin when it comes to helping herself feel more secure. That’s why today, I’m sharing my hotel room safety tips.
Left: Conrad Indianapolis + Right: Four Seasons Seattle
This reader isn’t the only one who feels this way, it’s actually a very common fear, particularly amongst women who are sent to remote, isolated, or unsafe places alone for work. This feeling can especially be intensified if you are unable to choose the hotel you’re staying at (if you’re traveling for instance), or are forced to stay in a place that isn’t known for being safe.
Whether you travel for work, pleasure, or other reasons, feeling more confident, secure, and aware of your surroundings can make all the difference between being nervous for the duration of your stay and having a wonderful time in a new place. As the saying goes “knowledge is power”, so by being aware of extra steps we can take to feel safer when traveling, we can all travel in a more empowered and self-assured way. This article is in no way something you have to do every time you travel, nor do you have to do all of it. It’s merely a list of suggestions that you can use as you see fit to feel safer and more secure in your hotel room when traveling.
In no way is this series, or this article about hotel room safety tips, intended to victim blame, it’s merely a list of ideas and recommendations anyone can, or can choose not, to use to put their mind at ease. Unfortunately, there are bad people out there, and being prepared and aware is the best defense against unsavory characters.
I hope these hotel room safety tips help you feel safer no matter where you’re headed!
Above & Below: Casa de La Marquesa in Querétaro, Mexico
Who This Advice is For
Everyone can benefit from these hotel room safety tips, not just women, so pass this around to anyone who travels alone to help them be more aware of their surroundings. While the title specifically references hotel room safety tips and this article is primarily geared towards women, this applies to all accommodations like AirBNBs, vacation rentals, glamping, resorts, inns, and even hostels, and the advice herein can, and should, be used by everyone.
Of course, sometimes none of these things are necessary at all, but knowing that you have the ability to protect yourself while you’re traveling will help you rest easy when you do find yourself in an uncomfortable position, or end up in a place where things just don’t feel right.
Before You Travel
Look into common scams and safety concerns at your destination. Many places around the world are very safe, and have no real concerns, while other places have more issues with scams or particular crimes. Knowing what to expect, and at the very least being aware of potential dangers, will help put you at ease and be aware of what is happening around you.
Read hotel reviews on multiple sites to learn about the experiences of others, and leave honest reviews of your own whenever you can to help others feel more at ease when booking. If you’re headed to a destination I’ve visited, check out the hotels I’ve written about, all of which have gone above and beyond to make guests feel welcome, safe, and at ease.
Before you depart, let trusted friends and family know where you’ll be staying, when you will return, as well as at least two different ways to reach you. If you make any changes to your travel schedule, let them know, particularly if you switch hotels or extend your stay. This will help them notice if you’re late coming home safely.
Left: Lotte Hotel Seattle, Right: Goldfinch Tavern Seattle
Hotel Room Safety Tips
Trust Your Instincts
Remember that hotel employees should want you to feel safe and comfortable, so don’t be afraid to communicate your needs to them. If, for whatever reason, they are unwilling to help you feel safe during your stay, don’t be afraid to check out and switch hotels. Always trust your gut, and do whatever you need to do to sleep soundly. Don’t talk yourself out of it, don’t try to convince yourself you’re overreacting; these instinctual feelings happen for a reason and have helped people survive for thousands of years, so never doubt your instincts. Twice in all of my travels I’ve switched hotels because something I couldn’t quite put my finger on seemed really off, and I’ve never once regretted my decisions to leave.
If you’d feel more comfortable checking into your room with another woman nearby, ask that a female staff member accompany you up to your room to make sure there is no one else inside your room, and that your room is safe. Check inside of showers, closets, and under beds and couches to ensure that the room is secure. If there are any adjoining rooms, check that they are securely locked, and if those doors make you nervous, place your luggage in front of them to block it.
Left: Glengarry Castle Hotel near Isle of Skye, Scotland, Right: The Scotsman Hotel in Edinburgh
Check for Hidden Cameras in the Hotel Room
Check for hidden cameras in your room. This may sound paranoid, but places like South Korea and the United States have seen a surge of hidden cameras installed by others guests or others that are disguised to look like phone chargers, smoke detectors, clocks, and other mundane items in recent years. This video will tell you more about this issue and how to spot hidden cameras, and this device can help you detect even the most cleverly hidden cameras. In all of my days of traveling, I’ve never found a single one, but it’s certainly something to be aware of when adventuring, particularly when you’re alone. I’ll be creating a post about this subject in more detail soon.
Leaving the Hotel Room & Keeping an Eye On It While You’re Out
Whenever you leave your room, look out the peephole first to make sure no one is around, and after you shut your door, always double check that it is locked, even if the door is supposed to lock automatically.
I’ve heard of people setting up their own cameras, temporarily, in their hotel rooms while they are out and about (if they aren’t expecting housekeeping to come) that way they can be alerted to any suspicious activity in their room, like someone entering their hotel room without permission, going through their belongings, or attempting to steal anything. This camera is a great option that not only lets you look around (you can move it 360º), and it also alerts you when there’s motion in the room, plus it allows for 2 way communication (aka it picks up sounds, and you can speak through the camera). It even saves video in 1080p to the cloud for you, should you need proof of anything happening. You couldn’t ask for more!
Above & Below: Hacienda Vista Real in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Returning to Your Hotel Room
If you’re a woman, you’ve likely grown up looking over your shoulder, checking the back seat of your car before you get in, and locking your door as soon as you get back home. Keep an eye out as you make your way back to your hotel to make sure you aren’t being followed, and don’t tell anyone who doesn’t need to know where you’ll be staying.
If you’re not expecting any visitors, make it clear to hotel staff that no one else but you is allowed access to your hotel room, instruct them not to hand out extra keys to anyone, and ask that they not share which room you’re staying in. Good hotel staff will understand completely and do whatever they can to help you feel at peace.
Going to Sleep
Before heading to bed, make sure that all windows and doors are securely shut and locked. If there are adjacent balconies to yours, or you’re staying on the ground floor, don’t give in to temptation to sleep with the doors or windows open.
Use door wedges under doors to make sure that no one can open the door in the night. I’ve even heard of people traveling with a few bells that they attach to the handles of doors so if anyone opens the door in the middle of the night, they will definitely hear it.
Above: Kin Toh Restaurant at Azulik Hotel in Tulum, Mexico
More Safety Tips Coming Soon
In this series I’ll talk about all the ways you can keep yourself safe when ride sharing, while out exploring a new place, driving long distances alone, traveling late at night, and many other topics I’m asked about frequently. If you have a suggestion for this series, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or suggestions.
Sarah Lindner says
Haven’t traveled at all since the onset of covid. Looking forward to when I do, and these are some good tips to keep in mind! xoxo, Sarah
More than anything, it makes me sad that articles like this even need to exist, because we shouldn’t have to deal with these fears in the first place. But knowing that we already *do* deal with these fears, I sincerely appreciate the thoroughness of these suggestions for travel safety. Some of these things I’ve never even considered before, so thank you for sharing! It’s definitely a post that more people should read!
I have not travelled alone in a long time … but these are good reminders for what to be mindful about. I will be on a lookout of your future tips.
wow! I have to admit that I haven’t really considered a lot of these tips! I am usually traveling with my husband or best friend and usually book places that already look and feel safe, but these are great things to consider and great advice especially for women traveling alone!
xx rebecca // thecrystalpress.com
I’m looking forward to getting back to travel in 2021, safely of course! Thanks for the tips!
I’ve been very lucky to have never felt unsafe while traveling anywhere I’ve had to go, but these are really great tips for anyone who’s worried to travel alone!
Wow these are great tips and some of these I didn’t think of!! So helpful! Like I had no idea that you can request a female staff member but now that I think about it, it totally makes sense. Thanks Annie for sharing this!
Wow these are some amazing tips. I never thought about how important it is to check that the doors and windows are locked if you’re traveling somewhere new/different where someone could easily break in! Thanks for a great post!
These tips are so helpful and something I wouldn’t have considered. I’ve emailed you a couple of questions I’m hoping you can help with for this series, I trust your advice and hope you can answer them. Thx!
These are all great suggestions! I usually pack a small knife in my checked luggage so that if I’m by myself I have something to defend myself with. It makes me feel so much safer.
Love this!! I blog frequently and I really thank you for your content and all the time you put into it, it’s clear to see you love what you do, and that you love helping others travel beautifully!
THIS is so helpful!
Elizabeth Tran says
Thank you for sharing such an informative post! <3 ?
XO, Elizabeth T.
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Thank you so much for writing this post. I have been sent to some of the scariest, most dangerous cities in the world, by myself, for work and it’s always so frightening. Sometimes, I can’t even sleep because I’m so afraid of breakins or that the hotel staff can’t be trusted. When I tell you this post made me cry tears of relief, I mean it! The relief I feel knowing there are at least somethings I can do to not feel so helpless makes a huge difference to me and I’m already less worried about my next work assignment in a really bad part of NYC.
Thank you so much for the time and compassion you put into this article. I’ve ordered both the camera and the hidden camera detector, as well as a taser, just in case. It’s a scary world out there, and although I wish posts like this didn’t have to exist, I’m glad it’s here. It really is empowering. I’m sending this around to my coworkers too, thank you again!
Jamaria Johnson says
Such an informative post! It is important for us to always be alert while traveling because you seriously just never know what can happen.
I am bookmarking this! So important to remember these things when traveling – thanks so much for sharing!