Being cautious and aware of your surroundings is always a good idea. However, the excitement (or fatigue) of the trip can cause travelers to lose focus of their environment. Unfortunately, criminals are aware of that and may take advantage, especially during a busy travel season or when they know that a major conference is happening.
Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to help you stay safe. I've used these tips after hearing horror stories from colleagues about people posing as staff and taking items from their room. Use these tips to help you stay safe and focus on your work.
1. Choose trusted accommodations.
Whether you stay at a hotel or another accommodation like an Airbnb, be sure that their business is accredited. I also recommend staying at places that have at least a few verified reviews. Be cautious if booking a place without any reviews or a review that looks suspicious.
Name brand hotels can be a better option, especially if you are traveling to an unfamiliar area. They usually have security and access to a 24/7 helpline. I also recommend hotels over motels, mainly because they have a lobby that is usually staffed.
When in your room, be sure to inspect your room and ensure that the locks work. I also recommend putting the 'do not disturb' sign out and bringing two doorstops that you can use to wedge doors closed. I use it while I am in my room, especially when I am sleeping or showering. I use the other one to keep any adjoining room doors closed.
2. Avoid staying on certain floors.
Oftentimes it is easier for thieves to access the ground and first floors of a building. Therefore, staying in an upper level can put you at an advantage. However, staying on an upper level floor may yield difficulty in the event of a fire.
The best floors to stay on are usually floors 3 to 6. This way, you'll be high enough that it would be difficult to break into your room but also low enough that a fire ladder could be accessible. Additionally, take a few minutes after checking in to locate the fire escapes and hotel layout.
3. Keep your information safe and selective.
When checking in, use your passport as your form of identification and use a business address instead of your home address. Use a business credit card to keep your personal information private (and possibly provide extra travel insurance, depending on your credit card).
Ask the staff to not say your room number aloud but instead write it down. I also recommend checking in with just your first initial and last name. Additionally, try to grab a business card in case you take a cab and need to provide direction to where you are staying.
Also, if you wear a badge, name tag, work I.D., etc., use it only when necessary. Otherwise, someone may be able to access your information by knowing your name and the company you are working for.
4. Be wary of strangers.
This goes without saying but if someone knocks on your door that you weren't expecting, call down to the front desk to verify the identity of the person before opening the door. Also be careful with calls that come from inside the hotel. Do not reveal personal information if you do not know who is on the other side.
One of my colleagues who has had problems "tests" the hotel by calling down to the reception and pretends to be a friend who is looking to get in touch with her and needs her room number. If the staff gives it to her, she notes that the hotel can't be trusted.
Additionally, if you don't need a room cleaning everyday, put on the 'Do Not Disturb' sign and go about your day. This way you can avoid people knowing whether or not you are in as well as save a bit of the environment. I recommend keeping your room tidy though. The last thing you want to do is come back from work to a messy hotel room.
5. Exercise caution with technology.
Many hotels and accommodations have smart tvs or devices that come with the ability to sign into your streaming service account. If you use these, be sure to log out. Also, be aware that smart features are actively listening to you. If that is unnerving, turn them off.
There's also been news about hidden cameras found in rooms. In order to be safe, look for anything that seems suspicious. Put an empty toilet paper tube over one eye while you hold a flashlight over the other. Look around the room with the lights off. If you catch a glimmer, inspect the object further.