March 28, 2008

Hotel Room Hasp and Padlock
Miami Beach, United States

This room's lack of security bothers me. I can't rest easy when it's empty, knowing how easily someone could get into our room. Growing tired of the feeling, I took a trip to an Ace Hardware store, which yielded a pair of simple hasp locks for about $4 each. These installed on the most secure enclosure I could find in the hotel room: the cabinet under the bathroom sink.

Double hasp and padlock setup

Because the cabinet door was installed backwards, I had to flip it to open in a more accommodating direction. I took off the handle to keep someone from using it as a grip to pull on the door with, and spent some laborious time installing the hardware with a lackluster screwdriver. The result is actually pretty darn sturdy.

Hiding something in an easily found location is a technique I'll sometimes employ in a hotel room as well—under a pile of clothes, for example. Coupling this with a distraction like a locked backpack or padlocked closet door can be advantageous, as it draws the attention to what is perceived as a high-value target—like a safe in a house, when the valuables are actually kept elsewhere.

So yes, on the one hand these locks would attract a lot of attention of someone were entering through the bathroom window (which also lacks a functional lock and is big enough to accommodate an adult), but the purpose of all this isn't to stop a determined thief, only slow them down.

I boil the theft of property down to two basic levels: opportunistic and premeditated. An opportunistic theft would be quick snatch-and-grab of anything valuable and visible in the room. This type of person might come in through one of the many lockless windows this room sports, or even catch us with the room's door unlocked. I wouldn't expect this person to carry much—a raw razorblade in the pocket, perhaps.

The other type of person I have to worry about is someone who has duplicated a key to the room. This could be a previous guest of the hotel who stayed in this room, left the hotel, and returned, or a shady staff member. This type of person might be able to sneak a review the room whilst we're away and know to bring in a screwdriver or small crowbar to open the padlocked bathroom cabinet.

There are security cameras here, but I don't even know if they're recording anything, or simply tossing a live feed to a television the manager's office. Frankly, I don't care either way—once something is stolen there's not going to be any recovery, and I have little doubt there'd be any prosecution.

So I thought hard about what would give me the most peace of mind, and what type of theft I was more likely to experience in this room, and opted to lock up many of my goodies (electronics, passports, etc) in the bathroom.

I took the hard drive out of Tatiana's dead laptop and left it (the laptop) on a shelf. Hopefully this will satisfy someone around the hotel who might have seen me with a laptop, and decided to take mine. That's about the most I can do, and just hope that locking things up instead of burying the items inside luggage is the right move.


The United States

Bob L

April 1st, 2008

Now you have me thinking. With a little more work, you could probably create something with hidden locks or at least less conspicuous, that would not atract any attention.

Maybe a more secure box put in the cabinet, bolted down, but put some sort of latch, like a childproof latch or a small key in the door kind of latch to make it hard to do a quick peak in that cabinet. Hmmm. I will have to think about this.

I have never stayed in a place that I did not feel at least reasonably secure about that had a decent cabinet to lock things in, but it could happen.

The Netherlands

Joost -

April 15th, 2009

An interesting setup, although I first thought this was a funny photo! I wonder how hotel staff reacted when they saw this. Didn't they ask you to pay for the damage?

In my many years on the road, I've come to the conclusion of never, ever leaving valuables in my hotel room. I've always carried money, passport and ticket home in an extra, custom-made pocket concealed withing my trousers, so only had my camera to worry about. But since I now also carry a laptop, your idea of a dummy looks appealing. Problem is having to travel with the weight (and volume) of 2 laptops. That does not seem appealing.

Israel and the Palestinian Territories

Craig |

April 15th, 2009

The hotel didn't notice anything, as I took all of the mechanism off, put the handle back on the door, and filled in the holes with a little white spackle. No problems!

The Netherlands

Joost -

April 15th, 2009

Good one! I'll keep that in mind for my future travels. I now realize this must be an older post because the first comment is over a year old. If you have a newer, better idea for laptop-safety -so to speak- I'd be interested to hear about it.

Israel and the Palestinian Territories

Craig |

April 16th, 2009

Joost — Make good use of your Kensington Security Slot with a combination dial (not the key, as they are easily disabled using the empty tube of a BIC pen), and make sure you encrypt your hard drive (and external drive if you're carrying one). Someone may ultimately take your hardware, but this way they'll certainly never get your data.

Full-disk encryption hasn't slowed down my machine at all, and is wonderful peace of mind. I suggest the open-source software called TrueCrypt (

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