We don’t ask for much from hotels — a clean and comfortable environment, a decent night’s sleep, and a basic level of personal security. Sadly, standards for each vary wildly — even at upscale establishments. Though we can usually cope with a lumpy mattress and lousy water pressure, safety and security are nonnegotiable. So, the next time you’re traveling, focus on what’s most important. Here are eight things you need to check in your hotel room as soon as you get inside.
1. Are you alone?
Maybe I watch too much late night TV, but the first thing I check in every hotel room is occupancy. Is there someone hiding in the closet? In the shower? On the balcony? Hey, when it comes to staying safe, a little extra vigilance never hurt anyone.
2. Do all door and window locks work?
Though they’re sometimes pretty flimsy, locks are the primary barrier between you and an intruder. Check to make sure door and window locks are functional. If there’s an adjoining room, secure your side of the entryway with a deadbolt. For added security when traveling, invest in a portable door lock or door wedge — each is designed to prevent doors from opening inward. (See also: Vacation Safe: 11 Tips for Hotel Safety).
3. Is the smoke detector functional?
Don’t assume that smoke detector in your hotel room is in good working order. First, check to make sure the alarm contains batteries, and then give it a quick test. (Remember, hitting that “test” button can be a noisy affair, so reserve it for daylight hours.)
4. Does the landline phone work?
If there’s an issue in the middle of the night, picking up the landline and dialing “0” is a lot quicker than fumbling for your smartphone. Make sure the landline phone is plugged in and functional, as cords often get pulled from the jacks during vacuuming.
5. Is there a clear emergency exit route?
If your mom is anything like mine, you’ve been trained to mentally map out an emergency escape route no matter where you are. Make Mom proud. Familiarize yourself with the fire escape map on the back of your hotel room door, and then scan the room and the hallways to determine the quickest path to safety in case of emergency.
6. Is the bedding clean and bedbug free?
For its size, no creature strikes more fear in our hearts than the bedbug. And with good reason. Bedbugs are insidious and trying to get rid of them is a total nightmare.
Before settling into your room, store your luggage in the bathtub (creepy crawlies are less likely to thrive on solid, frequently cleaned surfaces), and then conduct a thorough, EPA-endorsed bedbug check. If you spot anything questionable, grab your bags and bug out.
7. What are the exterior spaces like?
Exterior access is the forgotten factor in hotel security. Think like a criminal. How easy would it be for someone to access your room via a deck or connected balcony? What barriers would a person encounter from above, from below, or from each side? Are there deterrents in place such as high railings, security lighting, cameras, or a well-traveled walkway? Make sure you scan for these barriers once you arrive.
8. Is there an in-room safe?
If you’re traveling with valuables, make sure your room has a safe. Though there’s sometimes a modest daily charge for their use, safes add an extra layer of protection to your belongings by keeping them locked away from prying eyes and sticky fingers. (See also: How to Avoid Theft While Traveling)