Road Warrior’s Guide to Hotel Safety: How to be a Shadow Traveler for Fun – and Survival

by Sal Musco

Feeling a bit vulnerable while on the road? Modern travelers can take a tip from the ancient professionals who pioneered the killer business trip.

Great news: Hotel security is better than ever! Unfortunately, that’s also the bad news. Among criminals, capitalizing on complacency is virtually an art form. In fact, if there weren’t folks like me putting people at ease with safety tips, the bad guys would probably hire us to do it. (Note to self: See if police are rent mailing lists… ) So how do you beat criminals at their own game? Attitude – specifically, ninja attitude! While I’m not suggesting you scale the side of a Marriott clad in black pajamas, these 17th century Japanese spies possessed a healthy perspective born of a simple, ominous admonishment: Don’t dare get caught!

Today, travelers can expect as little quarter from criminals, but there’s good news, too. The Shadow Warrior attitude promotes something that stymies the bad guys – ingenuity. If you’re a practicing “Shadow Traveler”, you don’t rely on hackneyed travel tips broadcast by PBS to the entire world – and underworld! Instead what you yourself devise is unique, unexpected, and a great game for killing time at airports. I call it: HOW I WOULD STOP ME FROM GETTING ME IF I WERE ME?

First, some ground rules: Whether a professional hit or crime of opportunity, your opponent is a hunter. Like any predator they go where the prey goes, so there is no safe place. They look for victims; not trouble, so you must become more trouble than you’re worth. To get you started, here’s a few thoughts about hotel arrival:

Practice the art of invisibility and stealth. Criminals know that knocking on every door in a hotel tends to draw attention. Act as though someone is stalking the lobby. They do. You needn’t be paranoid about it. Just be the least obvious, available, or appealing target in sight.

  • Don’t attract unnecessary attention in your dress or behavior. Settle front desk affairs with low profile efficiency. Wear a “travel outfit” selected to blend in with the crowd; not impress them. When in South America, reconsider donning your Exxon windbreaker.
  • Don’t keep all your money in the same place, especially where you normally keep it – and will instinctually reach for it. In that pocket, keep one credit card and just enough singles and fives for tips, in-flight services, etc. (Singles on the outside!) We’ve all seen people dig through a wad of cash looking for a $2 tip. Aside from the obvious, doing that also screams “AMATEUR HERE!” to any nearby scam artist looking for an easy mark.

Practice the art of mastering your surroundings. On arrival – and immediately before you might be distracted – do what the pros do:

  • Check all connecting door and window locks.
  • Close the drapes so they overlap. (If you’ve seen one parking lot 🙂
  • Open the shower curtain for the fullest view of the tub area.
  • Follow the same idea for the closet.
  • Verify and maintain the integrity of building security. Lazy guests often save crooks the trouble of disabling service entry and stairwell locks.
  • Locate the nearest fire alarm. Aside from the obvious, you never know when creating a ruckus might come in handy.

Practice the art of mastering your enemy’s plans. Let the games begin! Gambits crooks use to gain access to your room are the envy of Hollywood screenwriters. Prepare accordingly.

  • Use all door locks and chains. Pack your own rubber doorstop just in case.
  • Admit no stranger unless you first call the desk. No matter what the story, dial “0” even if given a number to call. (It could be to the bad guy’s partner, and he already knows what’s going on.)

Of course, the list goes on, but it’s really about getting into the mindset; having some fun with serious purpose – war games, if you will. Yet, am I really suggesting you do a little fantasizing while on the road? You bet. Were you a high profile personage, your security people would have you doing the same super-spy stuff – and more. Yet, odds are you’re neither a celebrity nor a diplomat. Then again, aside from Secret Service protection, there’s one difference between you and the President that should matter most to you: You’re the more common target: on a mission: far from home: alone in a hostile land. Black PJ’s anyone?

Next time: Blow Darts: Sales Leverage or Deal Breaker?

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Sal Musco is a NJ based, National Speakers Association member whose audiences include corporate, association, and community groups. He addresses a wide variety of interests involving personal security, character and self-image, leadership, and strategy. Sal offers unique perspectives derived from his 30 year of expertise as a martial arts professional. He can be contacted at sal@salmusco.com or (973) 366-5904.