Whenever I head out on a solo trip, I take extra time looking for the right accommodation. One where I can come back to my room at the end of the day, relax, and be myself without worrying about what could go wrong.
Given my overactive imagination, it doesn’t take much thinking to spiral down a worst-case-scenario playlist and start jumping at every noise! If you’re prone to anxiety like me, keeping reading for hotel safety tips for solo travelers.
Must Read Hotel Safety Tips for Women and Nonbinary Travelers
Yes, it’s a drag that we still have to consider things like hotel safety in 2023. But knowing the best hotel safety tips is important.
These tips don’t just keep us safe, they help us relax and unwind so we can enjoy our time off as much as possible.
I surveyed experienced solo female travelers on the tips they use for hotel safety and included my own LGBTQ travel safety protocol when it comes to safety tips for hotels and vacation rentals.
Because LGBTQ travelers don’t just have to worry about solo female safety, we have to consider extra harassment if we come out, or even if we’re just perceived as queer in some cases!
Keep reading for a big list of hotel safety tips for solo travelers, tailored to solo women and nonbinary folks.
Tips for Selecting a Safe Hotel
1. Research the neighborhood
Check out the neighborhood, including local transportation. Make sure the neighborhood meets your personal safety needs.
Once I’ve narrowed down the options, I’ll go to Google Maps and check out the street view of the neighborhood. Is the neighborhood well lit with plenty of activity? Or is there something that makes the hotel a no-go for you?
Taking extra time to check has saved me from booking a hotel room above a nightclub.
Don’t forget about public transit when you’re checking out a location. Is there nearby public transit? What are the hours? Is it safe? If not, how will you get back to the hotel at the end of the night?
2. Read all reviews
Skim hotel reviews on TripAdvisor, Google and other review sites. Focus on other solo travelers or women travelers, since a group of guys might have a totally different experience.
If there’s something that’s a particular deal breaker for you, search for that word within reviews. I always do this with cigarette smoke since I hate staying in places that smell like smoke or the scented products used to mask it.
I also search for words like LGBTQ or gay to get a sense of whether other queer travelers have stayed at the hotel. People don’t always self-identify in the review, but you never know when you might find helpful comments from other queer travelers.
3. Book a vacation rental with a separate entrance
Queer travelers often prefer the privacy of vacation rentals, where there aren’t other guests or staff watching us come and go.
When I’m traveling solo, I look for vacation rentals with separate entrances. Knowing someone else is nearby increases my comfort level and eases my overactive imagination. But having my own entrance to come and go means not having to pass through someone else’s space to reach my room.
4. Register a second guest
If the hotel charges a flat rate for the room, consider booking a room for two guests and pretending the second guest is arriving later.
Registering another name means that anyone checking the computer system won’t know you are traveling alone. Bonus points for choosing a male or gender neutral name for the second guest, as reception staff will assume you’re traveling with a man.
5. Leave a Copy of Your Itinerary With Friends or Family
Leave a copy of your itinerary with a trusted person back home. While plans often change, knowing that someone back home knows when you’re supposed to arrive in a new city provides peace of mind.
I’ll also check in via text, so my contact at home knows I arrived. And if they haven’t heard from me, they know where I’m supposed to be.
6. Request a quiet room on an upper floor
I always leave a couple requests when booking a room. One is a quiet room. Hotel walls are often thin and I want to be in a quiet corner room if I can.
I used to travel a lot for work, and I was always advised to call ahead to request a floor at the second level or higher to avoid being targeted by burglars.
Booking a room at the second level or higher helps you avoid being targeted by burglars. It’s also important to note that rooms above the fourth floor are not ideal either in the event of a fire.
I used this tip to stay safe when frequently spending the night in Toronto where the risk of crime is higher than in smaller towns or rural areas.
Contributed by Erie
7. Make Sure the Hotel Has Late-Night Check in
If I’m arriving late at night, I will always choose a hotel with a 24 hour reception desk. I don’t want to be fumbling with self check in instructions out on the street on my own.
Another easy option is to stay in an airport hotel for the first night. This way, you can relax and settle in as soon as you arrive without having to worry about late-night public transit or getting your bearings in a new city.
In-Room Hotel Safety Tips
1. Always Bring Your Locks For Your Bags
Whether you’re staying at an opulent hotel along the French Riviera or opting to stay in a budget-friendly hostel, always pack some locks for your bags. For instance, if you’re traveling with a suitcase, be sure to bring a lock that has a thin locking mechanism that can be strung through the zippers. Or, if you happen to traveling with a backpack, opt for a hardshell or slash-resistant bag, and keep your most valuable items in a single compartment of the bag that you can lock. This will help you avoid having to place your valuables in a safe and accidentally leaving something important, such as your passport, behind like I did once!
Contributed by Kristin of Global Travel Escapades
2. Keep “Do Not Disturb” On The Hotel Door Throughout The Stay
As soon as I arrive, I engage the door lock and hang the do not disturb sign.
The do not disturb sign stays on my door throughout my stay. My privacy is super important to me, and I feel safer knowing the sign is there, even when I’m out exploring the sights.
I would rather ask at the front desk for an extra towel if I need one than have hotel staff going in to clean and tidy.
3. Add A Lock To Your Door (Because You Never Know Who Else Has A Key)
When I’m staying in a hotel or Airbnb alone, I like to bring a small gadget called an add-a-lock. It acts as an additional door jam that makes the door harder to open, even if someone has a key. Although I’m sure it’s not perfect, it makes me feel better knowing that it’ll be harder for someone to break into my room while I’m sleeping.
An add-a-lock is a great gift for someone traveling abroad. The only drawback? It only works on doors with a handle, so it won’t do much for sliding glass or other unusual door styles.
Contributed by Amber from Amber Everywhere
4. Avoid Shared Bathrooms
I don’t book places with shared bathrooms if I can help it. I don’t want to be misgendered or make other guests feel uncomfortable. Booking a room with its own bathroom is well worth the extra price. But for those time who it can’t be avoided, there are a couple of inexpensive options to reduce bathroom trips – especially at night.
When staying somewhere with shared bathrooms, going to the toilet at night can be unnerving, especially if it means wandering through a dark campground.
Instead of avoiding drinking and potentially getting dehydrated, pack disposable urinal bags.
Another option is a portable female urinal, which has an added bonus of being super convenient for backpacking and hiking trips.
The reusable option is easier to manage than disposing of bags and is friendlier to the environment.
By Alison of In Scotterati Footsteps
When You Leave Your Hotel Room
1. Make Friends With Hotel Staff
One method I use to keep myself safe in hotels is making sure the hotel staff know who I am. I’m pretty friendly and out-going so chatting to strangers comes pretty naturally to me but I know it has a smart safety aspect to it too.
Earlier this year, I was in Athens on my own and it turned out that my brilliantly central hotel didn’t feel like it was in a super safe location after all.
I made sure that the staff on reception all knew who I was so that they would notice me coming and going on my own. It worked super well and when I returned to the hotel at the end of the trip, they still remembered me!
Contributed by Mexico Cassie
2. Pay Attention To Body Language
I always try to project an air of confidence and purpose walking around the hotel, and walk with a confident stride, with my head high and shoulders back – I feel like this body language makes me look like less of a mark. Additionally, be careful about how friendly or smiley you are with other guests or people in the hotel – unfortunately being chatty or smiling can sometimes invite unwanted attention during your hotel stay.
Contributed by Stephanie
3. Pretend You’re Not Traveling Solo
Don’t let strangers know that you’re staying alone! If people ask, tell them your friend is back at the room, working remotely, or feeling ill and resting. The trick is to make people think you aren’t alone, which adds a layer of protection.
Contributed by Eleanor of Elevate Your Escapes
4. Keep Your Room Number Private
For your safety in a hotel as a solo female traveler and for your privacy, it is important that you keep your room number a secret as much as possible. If you give out your room number to third parties – especially to strangers – you could inadvertently put yourself in danger. There are people who pretend to be hotel staff or guests in order to gain access to other people’s rooms once they know the room number. So if you don’t reveal your room number, you can ward off unwanted intruders. You should pay special attention in the hotel bar, hotel restaurant and other common areas. Do not show your key there and only mention your room number quietly and discreetly.
Contributed by Places of Juma
5. Know Your Hotel Address
Make sure you know the address of the hotel so you can get back there safely and give it to a taxi driver or ride share driver correctly. I’ll take a screenshot of the Google Maps address so I can show it to the driver.
6. Check the Taxi Or Ride Share Permit
I always check there is a license or permit number for a ride share or taxi driver before shutting the door. I’ve even taken a photo of the car number and made sure the driver sees me do it! I’ll follow along in Google Maps so I know I’m heading toward my destination.
These tips will help you settle into your accommodation, protect your gear and protect yourself from unpleasant and potentially dangerous situations, so you can truly relax and unwind into your trip. If you have a tip I haven’t covered in here, leave a comment below and I’ll update this list. Together, we can keep ourselves safe while changing travel culture to be more inclusive of ALL who want to wander!