Hiding valuables in your hotel room

Every hotel tells you not to leave valuables in your room. They suggest using the hotel safe, and for the most part that’s a good plan. But what if the hotel safe isn’t safe? What if the “safe” is merely an unlocked drawer at the reception desk? This is too often the case with hotels in the developing world.

One option is to always keep your valuables with you. This isn’t always convenient or wise, such as if you’re going out on a pub crawl where you might be bum-rolled or attending a religious service where it would be inappropriate to bring a camera. So if you must stash stuff in your room, here are some ideas.

Under the mattress: This old trick is surprisingly effective for small items if you take a few precautions. First, make sure to stash your passport/money in the middle of the mattress, where it can’t be found by simply pulling up one corner. Also, spread out some clothes or a book on top. The cleaning staff will be less tempted to disturb the bed. Finally, make sure to do this after the bed has already been made for the day.

Hiding in plain sight: In the Edgar Allan Poe story “The Purloined Letter”, a clever thief baffles police by hiding a stolen letter in plain sight by refolding it and adding a different address. People make assumptions about what they’re seeing, and thus are easily fooled. A pile of worthless papers can easily hide a passport. A few dollars left carelessly in plain view keeps the thief from looking further.These are two of my favorites, and in twenty years and 28 countries of travel I’ve never been robbed. (Well, I got my pocket picked the first hour I was in Pakistan, but that wasn’t in a hotel room). Looking for fresh ideas, I decided to ask a creative group of people–authors. Here’s what they came up with.

Lock your suitcase: Brenna Lyons says, “have a locked suitcase. Someone could steal the entire suitcase, but that’s extreme. Or they could get lock cutters and cut the lock off…also extreme.”

Hide stuff in other stuff: Brenna Lyons again, “One thing I’ve done before is get a dark-colored plastic bottle and place something small and valuable, wrapped in tissue and/or plastic, inside it. If it looks like shampoo or something, people don’t tend to look twice. If you have one of those little clear toiletry cases with a bunch inside, and one or two have valuables in them, they really don’t look. If you’re really inventive, you can put something like shampoo or lotion in the container over or around the valuables (either using a plastic bag or a smaller bottle).” Jean Hart Stewart has a hollowed out paperback she uses to hide stuff, and she puts it with a bunch of real paperbacks. She better not have destroyed one of my titles!

Taping an envelope in a hidden place: I do this too, but Bob Nailor describes it best.
“Bring a spare envelope and tape. 1) Tape to bottom of trashcan and DON’T USE IT! Housekeeping won’t move it.

2) Tape to bottom of desk, table, or inside of drawer.
3) Tape it to the inside of bi-fold doors, on a solid section, if available. As the doors are opened, the doors close on themselves, hiding the envelope.”

Where do you stash your stuff? Share your secrets in the comments section!