The official last weekend for summer getaways is here, and whether your plans are set or you're playing things by ear, there's a lot of travel to be had this Labor Day weekend. According to AAA, 33 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this weekend (a 2.9 percent increase from last year) – that's a lot of people on the road and in the sky, and safety is always the number one priority.
If you're traveling alone this Labor Day weekend (or any other time, for that matter), or gathering with friends and family for a getaway, consider these important hotel safety tips:
When it comes to travel, we're all looking to save a dime. Thanks to travel websites like Expedia, Hotel Tonight, Hotels.com, Travelocity, and others, you can find a great deal on a hotel room at the last minute and head out of town for a much-needed getaway. But before you book that "last-minute" fare, consider your safety. A great deal on hotel room can certainly cushion you budget and allow you to spend more on meals, shopping or indulgences, but it won't matter if you're afraid to leave the hotel.
Before you book, make sure the hotel is hotel is a good neighborhood and close to tourist attractions. Download travel apps like "Around Me" and "Map My Run", both of which offer points of interest based on your location or address, and will give you a sense of how far your hotel is from populated areas.
Additionally, double-check with the hotel to ensure the following:
- Security and surveillance cameras.
- Electronic door locks. Antique keys are cute, but electronic doors track the comings-and-goings of all who enter the room.
- Check photos of the hotel before you book. Sure, many photos have been doctored, but you can look for specifics like well-lit hallways, parking garages and open lobby areas.
- 24-hour concierge/security.
- Check to see if the hotel has a house car on property. The house cars can come in very handy if you're stranded somewhere without access to a taxi or public transportation.
At the hotel
Accidents happen, even at the most luxurious hotels. Lost luggage, faulty guest room safes, and bad lighting are just a few of the very common things that can compromise your safety when you're at a hotel. Here are some safety tips to consider when you arrive your hotel:
- Stay with your luggage at all times. If you hand your luggage to the Bellman or front-desk staff (in the event your room isn't ready), be sure to get the name of the people who helped you, and always keep the bag with your laptop, wallet, jewelry and other valuables in it.
- Take a few business cards from the hotel when you check in and keep them in your wallet or passport book. If you get lost, you have the address and phone number ready to give to a cab driver.
- When you get to your hotel room, do a quick walk-through and check the in-room safe, the door locks (including connecting doors to other rooms) and window locks, to ensure everything is working properly.
- Check the phone to make sure you can get an outside line.
- Locate the nearest fire exit and count how many doors along the way until you reach the exit. In the event of a fire and heavy smoke, you can crawl on the floor and count the doors to safety.
Choosing the best – and safest – hotel room
Nothing says 'extraordinary' like a great view, and when you're on vacation, what better way to relax than in your grand king-sized hotel bed, cuddled up with your down duvets and pillows, and overlooking spectacular views of the city or beach destination. However, views aren't always the first thing to consider when choosing a hotel room.
While the higher floors have the best views, the lower floors have quicker access to the ground, which comes in handy in the event of an emergency. Remember: if there's a fire or natural disaster, the elevators are off limits. Ask for a room somewhere in the middle so you can enjoy the views, but also ensure you can get out fast if necessary. If you're staying at a hotel, motel or bed and breakfast with ground-floor guest rooms, ask to be placed on the second level. Rooms that are directly off parking lots or gardens offer easy access to thieves.
Hotels rooms near the elevators are generally the safest, but can also be the noisiest because of foot traffic. However, rooms that are in alcoves or at the corner might be quieter, but are also hidden, making it easier for thieves to gain access.
When you leave your hotel room, make sure you do the following to ensure your belongings are safe:
- Leave the television or radio on – it gives the impression someone is in the room.
- Don't use to "room service" signs – they are code for "I'm not here." Room service will come by once a day, regardless, to make up your room. If you don't need your room serviced, place the "do not disturb" sign on your door when you leave – this gives the impression you're inside.
- If you have an in-room safe, use it! Make a copy of your passport and keep that with you, but lock up your original. If there isn't an in-room safe, ask to keep your valuables in the hotel safe or security vault.
My best advice to travelers: use your best instincts. I once had a reservation at a New York hotel that had decent ratings and user reviews, and was centrally located to everything. As soon as I checked in, though, I had a bad feeling about this place. The guest room doors didn't shut all the way, the blinds didn't close and the hallway lighting was dim and dark, giving off more of a "Welcome to The Shining" theme and less of an "Enjoy your stay!" message. I asked to be moved and when the hotel refused, I quickly found another room in the city and demanded my money back from the hotel. The other hotel was more expensive, but I felt safer and was able to enjoy my visit.
Readers: What are your best tips for hotel safety?
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