When you’re traveling, it’s just not possible to keep your stuff with you at all times. Because of this, I have often found myself wondering about leaving valuables in a hotel room and if it is safe.
Whether you travel with your laptop for business or pleasure, the last thing you want is for it to get stolen during your trip. We are all very aware of the risk to our devices while we are out and about, but it is also important to know how to keep a laptop safe in a hotel room.
I don’t know about you, but I use my laptop for everything these days, saved passwords, financial and personal information. It’s all there. Of course, it is password protected for the cloud, but if the computer falls into the wrong hands, it is such a pain to change all those passwords and check my accounts.
But it’s not just theft. Have you ever heard of the “Evil Maid attack“? Rather than stealing your laptop, someone installs malware onto your laptop while you are not looking and before you know it, you are just giving them everything next time you use it.
This is often an easier way for a hacker to get your details than just making off with your device. They don’t even need to turn your computer on. It is often done by opening your computer and adding a bit of hardware.
So, the best thing to do is to not get a laptop stolen or tinkered with in the first place.
So is a hotel safe really safe? Let me answer that with some tips for keeping valuables safe when staying in hotels.
8 tips on keeping valuables safe when staying in hotels
- Don’t leave your laptop in plain sight
- Keep your door locked
- Use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign
- Try to choose a room that isn’t on the hotels ground floor
- Don’t use the hotel room safe
- Invest in a cable lock
- Install location software on your laptop
- Have decent insurance
1. Don’t leave your laptop in plain sight
OK, let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Many thefts are opportunistic and not pre-planned, so do not leave anything visible.
A bad person sees something unattended, think they have a right to take it and just do. You remove the temptation by simply keeping your laptop hidden in your hotel room.
2. Keep your door locked
Another obvious one right? Well maybe not for everyone.
Of course, we all lock the door when we are leaving the hotel for the day, but what about when you are in the room, maybe sleeping.
A lot of people, myself included, until recently, just let the door close behind them and don’t give it another thought.
Be sure to double-check if your door lock has a deadbolt and needs to be locked from the inside as well. Also, if there is a secondary bolt lock or chain, it is also worth using to be sure.
This tip isn’t just for the safety of your valuables, but your personal safety too, especially if traveling through dodgy areas.
3. Use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign
Always use the do not disturb sign on your door if you need to leave your laptop in your room unattended. Or anything else valuable.
Now I’m not saying that the hotel staff cannot be trusted, but housekeeping will often clean three or four rooms at a time, leaving the doors open and the room unattended. It is certainly possible for someone to slip in and out unnoticed.
You might miss out on housekeeping that day, but it’s better to have fewer people in and out of your hotel rooms.
The more people that have access to your room, the more likely it is that something valuable will go missing. You can always have housekeeping come in the next day if needed when you are in the room working on your laptop.
Of course, it’s certainly not a fail-safe option, but it is an easy thing to do and a nice deterrent.
4. Try to choose a room that isn’t on the hotels ground floor
OK, so admittedly you don’t have much control over this, but rooms on the ground floor with windows that open onto the street are at more risk of break-ins from the outside.
As thieves could potentially enter through a window, it negates the door lock and makes these rooms the easiest targets for thefts, and any visible valuables are a temptation.
If you plan on traveling with expensive equipment that may need to be left in your room occasionally, you should try to opt-out of a ground floor hotel room.
When you are checking in, if you have a low room number, just ask the receptionist if it is on the ground floor. If they say yes, just politely ask if they have one available higher up. The answer may be no, but no harm in asking right?
As a bonus, a room on a higher level usually means a better view!
If this is not possible then make sure you pay attention to point one and always leave your stuff hidden, either in a suitcase, under the bed, or even better, if the room has a big enough safe in there.
Which brings me nicely onto point five.
5. Don’t rely on the hotel room safe
OK, so the room safes are better than under the pillow, but first of all, check a few things.
Many of the hotel safes are portable safes and not actually bolted down or secured. In the event that an opportunistic thief makes it into your room, the can grab it and go.
Always check if you can move it about a bit before you trust your stuff alone in there.
Most hotel safes work with a combination that you create yourself. Be sure to test this first as if you don’t you may end up locking your valuables in it. But, only stupid people would do that though . . . right?
Well . . . it was when I had locked my passport in the hotel safe and had to make an embarrassing call to reception to explain my stupidity that I realised there are either master codes or skeleton keys to get access to the safe should this happen.
While in my case, it was greatly appreciated, it does mean that there are staff members that can access the safe. I’m sure 99% of the time this will not be an issue, just bear it in mind, especially when traveling through countries where the value of your laptop may be the same as about three months wages.
So, a hotel room safe is certainly more of a theft deterrent and will most likely prevent opportunists, it isn’t the safest option.
If you have something super valuable, I would recommend asking if the hotel has a lobby or reception safe you can place it in. You can sign something to say it is in there and if it goes missing, there will be a full record of who had access to the hotel safes during the time it was there.
6. Invest in a cable lock
A cable lock is probably the best way to secure your laptop when you aren’t in your hotel room. They can be cut if someone has the necessary tools, but they are an excellent deterrent to keep your laptop safe.
Most criminals aren’t going to want to spend the time or have tools with them needed to cut a cable lock. They will most likely move on to easier targets.
Ideally, you can still hide the laptop while securing the other end of the cable lock to some unmovable furniture.
If you have a lockable laptop bag as well, even better.
Cable locks are available on Amazon or through many travel accessory websites.
7. Install location software on your laptop
OK, so this isn’t a preventative measure, but if you travel a lot with your laptop, it is a very smart idea.
If your laptop is stolen from a hotel room, having the software installed that can track your laptop’s location can help you in getting it back. These types of services require you to sign up in advance so if you do much traveling with your laptop, make sure to sign up before your next trip.
If your laptop does disappear and the software can locate it, go to the local authorities for help.
You don’t want to try to recover the laptop yourself if you believe it has been stolen. Depending on your location or country you are traveling in, that could put you into a horrible situation that could escalate quickly.
8. Have decent insurance
If the worst does happen, be sure your travel insurance covers your loss. Many policies charge an excess for gadgets, so be sure to check, do not assume that it is covered. This is also useful in case any physical damage may happen to your laptop while traveling.
A few more questions
Can a laptop fit in a hotel safe?
It depends on two things, the size of your laptop and the size of the safe! But seriously, If you have a 13″ laptop you may have about a 50/50 chance that it will fit in. If you travel with a micro-laptop (under 9 inches) it shouldn’t be a problem. Your best bet is to drop the hotel an email or give them a call before traveling to find out.
How does a laptop lock work?
Most laptops have Kensington lock holes, it looks kind of like a very small USB port. A cable lock will have one end that fits and secures into that and a cable that you can then loop around a solid object. It is then locked using either a combination or a key.
How do I hide a laptop in my room?
If you don’t have a safe then consider places such as in a wardrobe, hidden under clothes in your back. Under heavy furniture is always a pretty good one as well, although you may need a second person to help you lift it up and make sure there is a gap or space underneath so it won’t crush your goods. A determined thief will most likely find anything in a hotel room, so you are hiding it to remove the threat of opportunistic thieves.
How to keep a laptop safe in a hotel room — final thoughts
Traveling to different cities, states, and countries is a fantastic experience. Whether your trip is for work or leisure, keeping your laptop safe is important.
There are many tips and tricks you can use to keep it safe in your hotel room.
Nothing is a guarantee, of course, and anything can happen, but hopefully, these tips have given you a few ideas to help you travel safe and decrease the possibility of your laptop going missing from your hotel room.