My Travel Rules

Monday, April 2, 2012

As much of a stickler as I am for these rules, I'm kind of surprised I haven't blogged about them before.  I did mention in an earlier post to trust your gut instinct, but I haven't gone into the details of the rules I have for myself when traveling.

As you read through this list, maybe you'll laugh, maybe you'll roll your eyes; but I hope you take it seriously.  Some of it may sound silly or neurotic, but if the potential danger is death or worse?  I'm okay being neurotic. 

Picking the right hotel & room:
  • I only stay at hotels where you access your room after entering a lobby.  No hotels with outdoor stairs or direct access to rooms.  Hotels like the one pictured create opportunities for people who are not staying at the hotel to easily access rooms. I want every guest to have to walk through the lobby by the front desk.
  • Stay on the 2nd floor or higher, ground floor rooms usually have windows that aren't super-secure and open to the parking lot. 
  • Don't stay near the emergency exit.  How many times have you seen the side door propped open while a family loads their car?  Or a side door with a broken lock?  This could be easy access for an uninvited guest.
  • Choose a room near the elevators. Elevators are usually near the center of the hotel and away from the emergency exits. While you may have to deal with noise from everyone staying on your floor getting on and off the elevator, that also means there are more people keeping an eye on your door and people who could help you in an emergency.  

Checking in:  
  • I usually call a day before (or sometimes that same day as I travel) to confirm my room request.  Yes, there are some hotels where I know which room numbers meet my preferences.  At the hotel where I used to stay in Augusta, I asked for any room, 2nd floor or higher, ending in 13-16.  I also built rapport with the staff there and they noted my requests/requirements in their system, which was super handy.
  • Upon arrival, I confirm that the room they've assigned me meets my requirements.  No need to be rude, but I do need to make sure I can feel safe.
  • Almost always, they write my room number inside the key-card booklet.  If the front desk assistant says my room number out loud and there are people around, I politely request a new room.  No one needs to know my room number but me.
  • I always request one key card and confirm that any requests for additional keys will require a photo ID, for most hotels this is standard.  On every trip, I end up needing a new card because I locked myself out or my phone messed with the magnetic strip and I always ensure they ask for my ID.  On the rare occasion where I'm not asked for an ID, I escalate the issue to the manager on duty.  Saying "I'm locked out of my room, 513" should NOT be enough to get a room key.  
  • Try to take all of your luggage at once, but keep your guard up.  Your hands are full, you're trying to juggle a roller bag, a laptop bag, a carry-on and your key card.  Pay attention to who you see on your way to your room. 

Being smart during your stay:
  • Don't assume that because a room is expensive or in a nice part of town that it is safe.  While staying at a Sheraton for $149/night, someone opened my door while I was asleep.  Thank goodness the sliding bolt thing was in place.
  • Don't take the stairs.  Health-wise, it is smart to take the stairs, but taking the stairs by yourself can be dangerous.  Most stairways at hotels meet fire code requirements which means they are poured cement or cinder block; meaning fire, water and sound don't pass through.  Take the elevator. 
  • Park in smart places.  I try to park at the end of the row, away from other cars and I don't walk between cars.  I take the long way, every single time.  
  • Consider a hotel room alarm.  Okay, I'll admit this one is a bit extreme.  I have a travel hotel door alarm that I purchased at Lowes.  It looks and functions like a door stopper when in the "off" position, but when placed behind the door in the on position, it becomes a noisy alarm.  This would immediately alert you to someone trying to open your door, but you also latched the door guard, right?  I'll admit that I don't always use the alarm, but it provides peace of mind when I feel I need it.
  • Don't keep a routine.  Want to workout in the hotel gym, then grab breakfast and return to your room?  Shake it up each day by heading to the gym at a different time, or maybe workout after work.  Keeping a routine makes it easier for someone to know where you'll be.  A friend of mine found this out the hard way; it turns out someone was watching her and had learned her routine.  Luckily, she alerted the hotel when she thought someone might have been following her.
  • Don't open your door if you think someone is following you.  It happens all the time, I get on the elevator and press my floor number and then someone else gets on and is headed to the same floor.  (When getting on an elevator with others, I always let them pick their floor first) As I get off the elevator, I keep an eye on where the other person is going.  If I don't think they are moving fast enough (and still behind me) or I get any sort of weird feeling I stop before opening my door.  Once that door is open, an intruder can push me through the door and shut it behind them.  Sometimes I play stupid and fuss with my phone or dig through my bag.  Other times, I just stop and stand there and wait for them to go by.  I'm not out to hurt anyone's feelings, I'm just looking out for myself. 
  • Don't drop your guard.  Its nice when a hotel can feel like a home away from home, but remember its not.  I don't breath a sigh of relief until I am in my room with the door locked.  Please don't get me wrong, I don't walk around thinking that everyone is out to rape and/or murder me; but I refuse to create an opportunity to be a victim.  
So, now that you've read my list, what are some things I should add?

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