12.20.2012

Risky Business: How safe are you in a budget hotel room?

Safety is sometimes overlooked when we travel on a budget.  Lately, with the crappy economy, we can be more concerned with price than the value of our life or belongings.  But safety should be your most important consideration when traveling.  What does your budget hotel's safety scorecard look like?

TREKTIP #1: Only stay in a hotel or motel with electronic locks on all the rooms.

Give your hotel 10 points for having electronic locks. The beauty of the electronic keycard systems, is they automatically re-key the room every time it is rented, and the old keycards automatically expire at the programmed checkout time.  Even if the guest checks out early and takes the key with her, as soon as a new keycard is used to enter, the old keycard is automatically disabled.  In addition, a room lock can be "audited" giving a readout of every person who swiped a keycard.  The front desk should keep a record of keycards issued to staff, identifying each staff member, and keep its master keycards under control.

Any hotel with the old regular keys in doorknobs definitely does not have your safety in mind.  If you absolutely MUST stay at a hotel with what is sometimes affectionately referred to as "European" keys, ask about their "key control" system.  If a guest fails to return a key to the front desk, then the lock should be re-keyed, every time.  Seldom do hotels re-key as often as they should.  In fact, I have heard of people "selling" non-returned keys on the street, whereby the "fake guest" sneaks in and stays in an empty room without paying the hotelier.  What are the chances of that room having you in it when the fake guest enters?  If you are renting a room with the old doorknobs and keys, be sure to inspect your room for intruders each time you enter, check the bathroom, around furniture, etc., and then always deadbolt the door while you are in it.  If the doors have no deadbolts, fuggedaboudit.

Other safety considerations include video surveillance systems, secured perimeter, well-lighted parking and public areas, and a 24-hour front desk.  If there are no in-room safes, take your valuables with you, or leave it behind the front desk while you are gone.

Safe travels!

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