As we continue this third in a four-part series on summer safety issues, let's take a look at the end of your day, the conclusion of that long journey on the road or in the air - the hotel.
Here are some things you need to know about a hotel that will give you some peace of mind during your stay.
When you arrive and you're driving, you have a choice of either self-parking or valet parking. If you're self parking, make sure to park in an area that is well lit and as close to the hotel as you can get. If you are parking in a garage, use the same advice.
If you're valet parking, do not leave valuables in sight. If you're going to leave them in the car, lock them in the glove box or center console. Also, bring your vehicle registration and garage door opener inside with you. Why? Because if a person steals your vehicle registration, they know where you live, and if they have your garage door opener, they now have a key to your house. By virtue of checking into a hotel, you are giving the bad guy an average head start of 8 hours to get to your home before you do.
When I check in to a hotel, there are two things I ask at the front desk; Is there a 24-hour security staff? and Can I please have a room close to a stairwell? Knowing there are security personnel on duty means I can get assistance very quickly for safety, life or fire issues. If my room is close to a stairwell, I will have a rapid exit should a fire alarm activate.
Something interesting to know: in the majority of high-rise hotels, the initial fire alarm will only sound on the affected floor and the floor immediately above and below. Any additional alarms on the other floors not affected by the fire must be manually initiated by security or safety staff.
When you arrive on your floor and are walking to your room, make a mental note of the exits and locations of the fire extinguishers. At least know where the nearest fire extinguisher and emergency exit is to your room. As you already know, do not use elevators in the event of a reported fire situation.
Once in your room, my advice is to check all the drawers and closet space to ensure the person staying before you hasn't left anything behind. We like to think that housekeeping would have found it when they cleaned the room, but that isn't always the case. If you do find something, call the front desk and ask to have it removed from your room. The reason I suggest this is that it will save you some hassle of having hotel security come knocking at your door looking for the lost item when the owner discovers it missing.
Anytime you depart your room, make sure the door fully closes behind you (some doors stick due to a maintenance defect before they actually lock), and always place the Do Not Disturb sign on the door whenever you are not in the room. This gives the appearance that the room is occupied. You can notify housekeeping if you want your room cleaned, otherwise they will bypass your room that day if they see the Do Not Disturb sign on the door.
Another thing to point out, is that the Do Not Disturb sign on your door will only keep housekeeping out of your room for a specified number of days. If you are an extended stay guest, hotels have a policy that after a certain number of days (usually three), the hotel staff will make entry into your room and bypass the sign. They may or may not notify you first. This protects their liability if something is wrong in the room.
The door peephole and additional locking features are on the door for a reason, your safety. Please use them.
Do not open the door to anyone you do not know. If someone comes to your door unexpectedly, identifying themselves as hotel staff or the police, contact the front desk immediately and confirm their identity.
A few key points about a hotel. There is always a senior management representative on duty. They are called the MOD or Manager on Duty. The front desk will always be staffed (the exception to this in my experience are Bed & Breakfast locations in which case you will have a phone number to call). This is important, because if you have an issue, you want the convenience of getting in touch with someone quickly.
Final thought, if there is a safe in the room, use it to store your valuables. The liability of the hotel to reimburse you for stolen items is very limited (see the fine print on the bottom of the registration form you signed at check in). State innkeeper laws are very specific on this topic. If there is no safe in your room, check with the front desk. Many hotels offer high-security safety deposit boxes, located behind the front desk, for the convenience of their guests.
Being prepared can make your overnight vacation stay a little more relaxing and enjoyable.
Next week will be the final installment in our four-part series: Safety While Traveling Abroad.