Millions of people will be hitting the road this holiday season, often stopping for the night in hotels and motels out of necessity. These aren't the 4-star accommodations you plan vacations around, and yet you're still packing the room full of your electronics, cash, and all those presents for the family—tempting targets for criminals.
It’s a bummer, but it’s got to be said: Most of the places you’ll stay or visit when traveling offer just enough security to offer their patrons a modicum of privacy, keep their insurance rates low, and maintain their reputation. Pass card controlled elevators, the locks on the doors, and the safe in your room? They’ll slow down or deter criminals but they won’t stop them.
If you feel that your personal safety and your belongings are worth more than the bare minimum, these items can take your travel security to the next level. And just to be sure, we tried them all out before making these recommendations.
1. A door jammer that prevents unwanted visitors
Only you and the people you trust have the keys to your home. Not so, hotel rooms. While typically trustworthy, an entire fleet of cleaning personnel, front desk staff, maintenance, and security personnel can all gain access to the room you’re sleeping and showering in. And then there are the full-time bad guys: Copies of individual keys or master keys can be made. Locks can be picked. Even keycard locks are becoming easy prey to criminals with a little bit of technical know-how. As such, I recommend that when you’re packing for your next trip, you consider throwing a DoorJammer into your suitcase.
It’s an ingenious mini barricade that allows you to buttress any swinging door, making it almost impossible to open. To use it, slip the bottom of the DoorJammer underneath the door, screw the other end of the device down firmly against the floor and you’re done. It’s a compact, lightweight piece of hardware that provides a whole lot of peace of mind.
2. A strong portable flashlight in case the power goes out
Criminals and other interlopers aren’t the only risks you need to mitigate while you’re on the road. Hotels and resorts are just as prone to natural disasters, fire, and power outages as your home is. Should any of these calamities get all up in your face during your stay, you’ll be glad that you packed a reliable flashlight. The Streamlight 88062 ProTac 2L-X goes everywhere I do. As it weighs just over four ounces and is roughly five inches in length, it’s not going too weigh you down or take up a regrettable amount of space in your luggage or carry-on bag. But when you need it, man, is it bright! It’s 500 Lumen output is more than enough luminosity to allow you to view the evacuation route map on the back of your hotel room door and then see you through smokey halls and stairwells. It can also be used as a strobe light to help rescuers see you signaling.
The ProTac 2L-X’s rugged aluminum housing can take a lot of damage, making it an ideal light to include in your everyday carry. And the fact that it can run off of two CR123A Lithium batteries or a rechargeable battery pack (sold separately) for up to 30 hours at a time makes it a great investment that serve you well for years to come.
3. An inexpensive door alarm that will alert you and scare an intruder
A little piece of mind while you sleep in a hotel room doesn’t need to cost a lot. The Doberman portable door alarm is simple, clever, and highly portable. First, slip the cord over the door handle. Then extract what looks like a springy pair of tweezers—that’s the trigger—from the device and slide it between the door and doorframe. It’s that simple.
If that trigger is disturbed, a piercing 100dB alarm will wake you up and send your intruder running. Amazon sells these singly, or at a discount for bundles of two or three. That could be well worth it if you have to deal with that creepy interior door that adjoins to the room next door.
4. A portable safe that you can actually fold up and pack
Placing your valuables in a hotel room safe can deter a potential thief from stealing them… or at least slow them down for long enough that they risk getting caught. But not every room you’ll stay in comes equipped with one. Value-priced hotels, Airbnb accommodations, and hostels will likely leave you relying on the goodwill of others to not swipe your stuff. That is, unless you bring a safe with you.
While it doesn’t have the thick walls, sturdy door, and keypad you’d normally associate with a personal safe, the PacSafe Travelsafe X25 anti-theft portable safe is a reasonable alternative for individuals staying in accommodations that don’t provide anywhere to secure their valuables. The X25 is a 25-liter bag that’s large enough to hold laptops with displays up to 15” in size, with room left over to stash your camera, gold doubloons, and any number of other fancy tidbits in.
The exterior of the X25 is made of a slash-proof material. There's also a steel mesh cord to wrap around room fixtures (e.g. a toilet, leg of a desk, etc.) and then lock into place. It’s also possible to bring the X25’s safety with you. While it’s not comfortable to wear if you’re carrying anything heavy in it, the bag can also be toted around as a rucksack, thanks to a pair of integrated straps. Better still, you can stuff the X25 into your favorite backpack and use it as a slash-proof liner. It’s a versatile product that I’ve come to rely on.
5. A well-designed travel wallet
Your electronics aren’t the only things you should think about protecting when you’re travelling: Passports, cash, credit cards, and bank cards with embedded NFC chips are prized by criminals, too. When I’m in my room, I stash them in the safe along with the rest of my valuables. But as most hotel safes I’ve encountered are poorly lit and hidden away in a drawer or closet, fishing them out again can sometimes prove difficult. The best solution I’ve found to this problem is Bellroy’s Travel Wallet.
Made from vegetable-tanned leather, the Travel Wallet is designed to hold all of your travel documentation in one easy to grab package. With compartments sized to fit up to ten credit cards, a phone SIM, passport, paper currency from any number of countries and airline tickets, it’s a valuable travel companion that’ll keep you organized, everywhere you go. And for the extra paranoid (like me) it also comes in an RDIF-blocking variant to keep the criminal element from skimming data from your passport and credit cards as you go about your day. As an added bonus, it even comes with a compact ballpoint pen that’s perfect for filling in customs declaration forms on your return flight home.
6. A wallet you wear around your neck to prevent pickpocketing
I feel competent enough as a self-defense combatant that I don’t sweat pickpockets, but I know that the same can’t be said for everyone. If you’re uncomfortable with the notion of carrying your cash and important documents around in a traditional wallet like the Bellroy Travel Wallet, stashing them in a place that makes it difficult for crooks to grab could bring a little relief.
This Lewis N. Clark RFID-Blocking Neck Stash, as its name implies, is designed to be worn around your neck and stashed away underneath of your shirt. Made of rip-stop nylon, the Neck Stash comes with a number of built-in pockets that’ll allow you to hide away your folding money, coins, travel documents, or even a smartphone. Lewis N. Clark makes a waist-worn variant of the Stash for around $12, but it’s not as easy to access.
7. An sturdy travel purse that thieves can't grab
Being smart about the security of your belongings doesn’t mean sacrificing fashion or functionality. If you prefer to carry a purse when you travel, abroad or on your morning commute, the Citysafe CX anti-theft cross-body purse will provide you a balance of safety for your personal belongings and style.
Made by PacSafe, the same company that designed the portable safe we talked about earlier, the CX purse features an adjustable cross-body strap which contains steel cable inside of it, which prevents slash and grab thefts of your purse and all of the property inside of it. One end of the strap is equipped with a locking clasp. This allows you to loop the strap around a table leg or other fixture while you’re out and about, securing the purse in place and making it possible to enjoy a cup of coffee without fear of your valuables getting lifted. The CX’s three liters of storage are protected by PacSafe’s eXomesh slashguard technology and lockable zippers.
8. This gadget that turns a drawer into a safe
A hotel room safe is the default spot where most people would want to stash valuables. But there are any number of reasons why you might not be so inclined. First, you might wonder if anyone on staff has a master key code to bypass your own. Second, it might be too small to fit all your stuff. Third, you might not trust yourself to remember your key code. Finally (and maybe the most common), is the fear that the thing just won’t open when you need it to.
The BloXsafe aims to solve all these woes. In essence, it’s a spring-loaded clamp with a lock on it, tightly gripping the sides of the safe for an extra layer of protection. A bunch of features make it difficult to simply pry off. If the safe is recessed or built into a shelf, the BloXsafe extends all the way out to 22 inches. That means you can also secure a desk drawer or other piece of furniture if the room doesn’t have a safe.
We discovered just two minor drawbacks: ease of use and weight. There’s a bit of a trick to getting the BloXsafe to lock correctly, so make sure you pack the instructions if you're using it for the first time. Also, at over two pounds and 14 inches of long, it’s not exactly backpack-friendly. I lugged it across the country in a duffel bag and found myself wishing I'd packed a rolling suitcase instead.
9. A inexpensive alarm you can stick to a window
While the Doberman portable door alarm made our list of top picks for hotel safety, the company’s window alarm is more of a homebody than a good travel companion. The alarm is portable and plenty loud, but it attaches to windows with a sticky adhesive. That made it hard to remove. Also, once it gets dropped on a hotel carpet a few times its sticking days are over.
The Doberman window alarm is inexpensive, but only add this to your list if you’re sure that you’ll need some window protection.
David Kender contributed to this article.