When you’re staying in a hotel for vacation or work, the last thing you want to think about is that someone may be spying on you. But it can happen. In 2018, a Chicago woman sued Hilton for $100 million, claiming that she was filmed in the shower at a hotel and later blackmailed, according to CNN.
It’s not hard to plant a camera in a hotel room and no organization specifically tracks these types of crimes, security experts say.
15 things you should never, ever do in a hotel room
15 things you should never, ever do in a hotel room
Steal the bathrobes
"Guests sometimes take home essential amenities that the hotel provides during their stay, like shampoo, lotion, and other vanity products," says Ryazan Tristram, photographer and travel blogger for everythingzany.com. "However, people sometimes take home the bathrobes as well, which is a no-no." You could be charged extra or fined for taking pricier items, including linens, artwork, and electronics. Find out what you can take from hotel rooms without getting in trouble.
Break something and lie about it
Accidents happen, but damaging something in your room and keeping it a secret can actually harm staff or future guests. Matthew, founder of thetravelblogs.com, says a guest once cut his foot on a shard of glass. "[Glass is] very hard to spot, even if you know it is there, so although the room was cleaned, there was one piece that the housekeeper missed," he says. "We ended up comping that man's night in the hotel all because the previous guest didn't make the team aware of broken glass in his room."
Cook anything without a proper kitchen area
"We always want to save money when we travel," says Tristram. "Some guests will bring their portable cooking appliances with them during their stay, and this can cause a few problems, primarily if the hotel room doesn't have any kitchenette area." These cooking appliances can set off a hotel's fire alarm system or cause an actual fire, so stick with no-cook meals if you want to save a few bucks on food. Find out 9 ways to travel cheap, according to travel agents.
Leave important jewelry in your suitcase or dresser
Hospitality businesses can't always stop thieves from putting their sticky fingers where they don't belong, so don't leave your precious jewels, wallets, or purses in your room, unless it's in a hotel-provided safe, says a Farmers Insurance Group representative. Your homeowners or renters policy may provide coverage for your belongings while you are traveling, so it's important to report any lost or stolen items as soon as possible. Don't miss these other tips for protecting your belongings in a hotel.
Keep your bathroom door ajar when taking a shower
There's nothing wrong with enjoying a steamy shower at a hotel, but beware what the vapor can do if released into your room. "A hotel's hot showers can cause a lot of steam, and as a result, can trigger the hotel's fire alarm system inside your bedroom if you leave the bathroom door open," says Tristram. Learn 22 tips for making your hotel stay as safe and healthy as possible.
Cover up smoke alarms
Certain hotels still allow smokers to smoke cigarettes inside their rooms. Despite this, some guests insist on smoking in non-smoking rooms. The biggest problem: Guests who do this cover the smoke alarm so they can smoke in bed, risking their safety and that of all other guests, says Bryony Summer, owner and editor of coastingaustralia.com.
Forget to inspect the bed
Even the finest hotels and housekeepers can't keep creepy critters from making their way into bedrooms. "I always advise travelers to put their luggage in the bathtub until they inspect the bed for bedbugs," says Mitch Krayton of Krayton Travel. Think hotel beds are dirty? Learn the 11 germiest spots in every hotel room.
Restock the minibar
There's no crime in enjoying a drink from the hotel fridge. After all, that's their purpose. "But if you plan on taking a bottle of whiskey out of there, just accept that you'll still be paying for it," says Sophia Borghese, a consultant for La Galerie Hotel in New Orleans. "Don't try to fake the hotel staff out by replacing the liquor with a half-sipped bottle of Diet Coke. This happens more often than you might think, and those who do it still get charged for taking that $30, two-ounce bottle of spirits."
Boil your undies in the kettle
Funny? Yes. Disturbing? Absolutely. Has it actually happened? You bet. After 12 years of managing, Summer says the worst thing she came across was having guests boil their underwear in kettles, pots, or steamers to "freshen them up." Check out the 13 craziest things people have seen in hotel rooms.
Use the throw pillows
"If you notice the throw pillows on the bed or the couch have no removable sleeves, you can be sure they are never thoroughly cleaned," says Kashlee Kucheran, seasoned traveler and co-owner of traveloffpath.com. "After they get so stained or smelly that they become offensive, the hotel will just replace them. In the meantime, you can bet there have been many faces, bottoms, and other things lounging on those pillows, so steer clear!"
"No one should ever, ever send any sensitive information or conduct any important business over hotel Wi-Fi—at least not without encryption," says Harold Li, vice president of ExpressVPN. "Given how easy it is to hack public Wi-Fi hotspots, you might as well be yelling your passwords and bank details down the hall." Travelers should use encryption to shield their Internet activity when sending important information.
Forget that you recently dyed your hair
As a courtesy to the hotel, you might want to wait until you get home before you change the hue of your 'do. "The ruined towels and bed linens are unrecoverable," says Leslie Mulcahy, co-owner of Rabbit Hill Inn in Vermont. If you have recently dyed your hair, avoid washing your hair—or bring your own towel or disposable sheets to wrap your hair until it dries. On that note, you might want to bring your own hairdryer after hearing the gross reason you should avoid hotel hair dryers.
Walk with heavy feet
Loud music and voices aren't the only things you should keep in check when you're in a hotel room. "In my experience, no matter how luxurious a hotel is, they are still built with materials that don't allow a lot of soundproofing, especially from upstairs guests," says Kucheran. Avoid walking around with weighty steps so you don't become "that annoying guest."
Sneak in your pets
It's tempting to bring your furry friends on trips with you, but don't do it without asking if the hotels you're staying in are pet-friendly. If the answer is "no," don't try to pull a fast one on the staff—animals leave trails of evidence, from hairs to prints to smells, and your cleaning fees will skyrocket if you've broken the rules. Check out these other 21 secrets hotel clerks won't tell you.
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“One of the reasons this is happening is because of the ready availability of low-cost camera technology,” says Jack Plaxe, founder and managing director of Security Consulting Alliance. Cameras with pinhole lenses that can be easily concealed are available through Amazon and other shopping sites for less than $100.”Anybody who has the intention of doing this can purchase something that will work.”
People who place hidden cameras in hotel rooms may be looking for anything from compromising photos of people to trade secrets, security experts say. That said, Plaxe and O’Rourke say they don’t think the use of hidden cameras is as much of a problem in hotels in the United States.
What to do before exiting a hotel room
What to do before exiting a hotel room
Check under the bed and dresser
“I always get down on my hands and knees and look under the bed and under the dresser,” says Suzanne Markham-Bagnera, a former general manager at hotels and clinical assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration. Young kids especially like to hide things, and then forget about them. “You get the frantic phone call that a child has left their Lovey, their stuffed animal, or their toy and they realized once they get in their car and start driving, but they’re not able to come right back to the hotel,” she adds.
Pull the bed linens back
Markham-Bagnera typically removes the bedding to both help out the housekeeper and make sure she hasn’t forgotten anything. “That’s my way of securing: I’ve done the clean sweep of the bed. I’m good,” she says. Guest aren’t expected to strip the bed, but should you decide to, make sure to leave the comforter on a chair or in the closet, not on the floor. And don’t ball the bed linens up with the blanket, keep them separate. Looking to book a trip? Find out the best value hotels in America.
Leave the used towels in the tub
Markham-Bagnera puts all the towels on the bathtub, especially if they’re still wet. That way they’re out of the way and all together in the pile. And the room attendant only has to pick up one pile of dirty linen. “It makes it a lot faster to pick up,” Markham-Bagnera says.
Take the food you want to keep
If you’ve spent some time at an Extended Stay Hotel and used the refrigerator, make sure that you take out the items that you want. “The ones that you don’t want, throw away,” she says. Some guests leave alcohol as a tip for the housekeeper, but policies vary from hotel to hotel on whether they can accept it or not.
Stack overflow takeout boxes next to a trash can
Hotel trash cans are pretty small, the remnants of last night’s dinner may not fit. If you’ve got overflow, pile the boxes next to the trash can instead of leaving them scattered all around the room. “The messier you leave the room, the harder it is for the room attendant to clean that room,” Markham-Bagnera says.
Check between the mattress and box spring
When a room doesn’t have a safe, hotel guests will sometimes hide items they don’t want to leave around the room between the mattress and the box spring. Housekeepers have recovered weapons and sex toys there, Markham-Bagnera says. Don’t miss these red flags you’re staying at a bad hotel.
Move the furniture back
If hotel guests are traveling with children, they sometimes move one of the beds against the wall so there’s less opportunity for a child to fall out of the bed. That’s fine, but the courtesy is to move the furniture back where you found it before you leave.
Take your medications and supplies with you
Forgetting your medication can be dangerous for you, but leaving supplies like needles in your room could also be hazardous to your housekeeper. Also, if you gashed yourself shaving and used a towel to stop the blood flow, separate the towel out from the rest and put it in the trash. “Hotels will have protocols for how to clean it or for how they have to bag it and have a company come and dispose of it. “Because they can’t just put that in the regular trash and be done with it in a hotel,” Markham-Bagnera says.
Make sure you have your charger!
“If I had a dollar for every charger that I found, I could take my whole family on vacation,” says Adam Sperling, general manager of the Hotel Commonwealth in Boston. These days, it’s bad news if your phone dies, so take that last look around. “It’s things that get left behind that can often cause you stress at the end of your journey,” he says. Want to stay in a mind-blowing place? Check out these spots with incredible hotel amenities.
Think about a tip
Room attendants are typically paid hourly, so their position is different from a bellhop or a server that might make less per hour with the expectation that they will make more in gratuities, Markham-Bagnera says. That said, room attendants work incredibly hard and tipping is appreciated. Things to consider? The quality of the hotel, whether you’re staying one night or multiple nights, and how messy you’re leaving the room. “If you’ve got a lot of people staying in the room and you’ve got a pullout sofa or a cot, and you’ve used a lot more towels, it certainly is nicer to leave a little extra,” Markham-Bagnera says.
Call down to the front desk for transportation
Mornings can be hectic at hotels, with out-of-town guests rushing to make meetings and flights in cities they don’t know. You can save yourself some of the hassle by doing a little prep before you leave the hotel room. “Call down and say, ‘hey, I’m leaving at 7:30 tomorrow, can my car be waiting for me?’” Sperling suggests. “That helps everybody. Your car’s waiting for you and we’re not scrambling to go get it at 7:25 when you need it at 7:30.”
Book your next stay
If you really liked your room and are planning to be back in the area, before you leave your hotel is a great time to rebook, Sperling says. He recommends you ask for the front desk manager for face-to-face treatment that can trump the savings online. “You’re likely to get a great rate, and you’re likely to get upgraded,” he says. Prefer to book online? Be sure to check out these tips for saving a ton of money on your hotel rooms.
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“Overall in America, there is little worry in the larger and more prominent chains,” says O’Rourke. “Concern increases the further off-brand and lower budget one goes. Internationally, the opposite is true, especially in countries known to target business travelers.”
So while it can be almost impossible for an untrained eye to spot a hidden camera, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk:
Survey the room
Look for pieces of furniture or appliances that are in unusual places, Plaxe says. For example, a lamp that’s been placed in an unusual location and appears to be specifically angled toward the bed. If you have any suspicions, report them to hotel management. Here are some other safety tips you should know when staying in a hotel.
Disconnect the alarm clock
If there is a bedside clock, O’Rourke unplugs it and places it in a drawer. When it’s anchored in place, he covers it with a towel. “If the clock is returned to its place or uncovered, I either have a problem or a detail-oriented housekeeping staff,” he says.
Cover the peephole on your door
People have used peephole reversers to film inside hotel rooms. “Sports reporter Erin Andrews was victimized in this manner a decade ago, and she won a multi-million-dollar settlement in court,” O’Rourke says.
Many people overlook placing security cameras in the garage. James Both, an engineer that tests and reviews smart home security cameras for the website onehoursmarthome.com, says that it’s a key place to have one. “Garages are often a target of burglaries because they are easily accessible and oftentimes get accidentally left open,” Both says. “On top of that, garages are full of items that burglars can quickly sell on the black market like bikes, tools, and sporting equipment.” You might want to put a security camera pointing at your garage door as well as out outwards, too. Putting a camera here is one of the 20 secrets a home security installer won’t tell you.
The front door
Security experts agree that the most important places for homeowners to install security cameras is at the front door. “Your average criminal is looking for a crime of opportunity, an unlocked door, or swiping a package off your front porch,” Both says. “A security camera at your front door is a great way to deter criminals because it’s visible and can help you know when your packages have arrived.” Opting for a security camera or even a smart doorbell security camera like this one allows you to see who’s there before answering the door, adding safety and security to your home. If you’re on the market for a new system, check out these 12 best-reviewed home security cameras.
Another ideal spot for a security camera is facing your driveway, according to Andrea Harvey, a research and communications specialist for asecurelife.com. It’s not uncommon for people to steal cars right out of owners’ driveways. In fact, Knight says the driveway and nearby street are the areas most people forget to cover with security cameras. “Most criminals won’t park too far away,” Knight says. “Having a high-resolution camera that can reliably see your driveway and at least a little bit of the street in front of your house is a game-changer in many suspect identification attempts.” Catching a license place in the video might be more helpful than an image of the burglar in a mask. These clips are nothing compared to the 11 strangest things caught on home security cameras
To the window, that’s where burglars go when they don’t see any security cameras covering that area. Harvey says this is why security cameras by windows should be a priority. It’s especially helpful since dark areas near side windows make it easier for burglars to break-in.
People mistakenly assume that security cameras are only good for preventing or catching a burglary in the act. They are also ideal for protecting your loved ones, according to Harvey. “We suggest putting security cameras near areas of your home that could potentially be harmful to children or pets, such as pools and gun safes,” Harvey says. Opt for a waterproof one like this model. Having more than your fair share of security cameras is one of the 10 secrets security guards won’t tell you.
Keeping cameras outside of the home only protect you one way. Will Greenwald, a reporter at PCMag.com covering home security products for a decade, points out that cameras can be nearly as capable when facing inward. A camera covering your entryway could be a great extra layer of protection. If your primary concern is people stealing packages, consider investing in a video doorbell instead, Greenwald says. It won’t hurt to add these 22 inexpensive ways to theft-proof your home, either.
Another spot inside the home to have a security camera is the staircase, according to Knight. This spot is good for a camera for two reasons. Many burglars are people like repairmen or service workers who have seen the inside of the home before, per Knight. Cameras by the staircase help you know who visits places in the house that they shouldn’t. As a bonus, cameras by the stairs are useful for personal safety, too. If you have an elderly relative or someone who might fall on the stairs, having a camera could help people remember what happened and potentially aid doctors, as well.
If you keep valuables in a safe or have expensive jewelry in your house, it’s smart to install security cameras to keep an eye on them, Greenwald says. If someone does make it into your home and tries to go for your valuables, at least you’ll have a security camera specifically dedicated to that area. You don’t have to go overboard with big, clunky cameras either. A mini hidden spy camera like this one could do the trick.
Residential house with hammock in garden
Anywhere there are blind spots
After you cover these spots with security cameras, the next step is to check for blind spots, according to Greenwald. “Check your camera’s field of view and make sure it covers everything you need,” he says. “Where a camera is pointing and how much it can see is just as important as where it’s physically placed.” Some people do such an excellent job installing security cameras that people don’t even know they exist. That’s what you probably don’t realize about these 8 places you didn’t know had hidden cameras.
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Don’t use your laptop in expected locations
You may want to take additional precautions if you’re traveling in countries where trade secrets are targeted, such as China or Russia. “Cameras may be pointed at desks to capture computer passwords and other sensitive information,” O’Rourke says. Avoid using your laptop where criminals think you will—including the hotel lobby. Now that you know how to potentially spot a hidden camera in your hotel room, find out more tips on how to stay safe on vacation.
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