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Hotel no-tell: 6 things travelers should watch for

Posted at 6:24 PM, Jun 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-12 18:24:33-04

(CNN) — As we head into summer vacation season, hotels are expecting big business. Americans are projected to spend $84 billion on hotel stays this summer — with the average traveler logging seven nights — according to a survey by Room Key, a hotel search engine.

Even though you may be trying to relax, hotels are definitely not places to let your guard down.

Here are six things to watch out for at your temporary home-away-from-home:

Carbon monoxide: News this week of three deadly instances of carbon monoxide poisoning in the same North Carolina hotel room should raise red flags for any traveler. While incidents like this are rare, they do happen. And, chances are there isn’t a carbon monoxide detector in your room. Very few state laws require it, and the hotel industry says it would be cost-prohibitive. What can you do? Bring your own! Battery-operated or plug-in carbon monoxide detectors can be had for as little as $20, and you should have one in every bedroom of your house, anyway.

Bedbugs: There’s nothing quite so disturbing as uninvited guests in your hotel room, especially if they bite. These tiny, blood-sucking creatures also can get into your luggage and follow you home. This is another case where you need to be your own advocate. When you get to your room, inspect the bed immediately. Then, check the bedside table and underneath objects, like phones and books. If you see any signs of bedbugs, demand to be moved to a different room. There also are online registries of bedbug activity at hotels.

• Fees: It’s not just bedbugs who are looking to take a bite out of you. Hotels collected a record amount in fees last year — nearly $2 billion, according to a trend analysis report by the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management at the New York University. From “resort fees” to charges for early departure, mini-bar restocking, using the hotel’s business center or the in-room safe, these “gotchas” can really add up. Don’t wait until checkout to be hit by bill shock. When you check in, ask for an itemized list of fees so there aren’t any surprises later.

• Bogus wi-fi: A free wireless connection to check your e-mail on vacation is nice, but there’s danger lurking. The FBI issued a warning last year about travelers being targeted by criminals installing malware through hotel Internet connections. Treat hotel wi-fi as you would any unsecured, public connection: Never do any banking or shopping, or perform any other activity involving transmission of sensitive personal information.

• Safes that aren’t: This one is especially important for overseas travel, when you’re carrying a passport. The typical in-room safe that locks and opens with a passcode may seem safe, but a YouTube video posted by a purported security consultant casts some doubt. If you don’t trust the in-room safe, ask if you can leave valuable items in the hotel’s safe. Be smart when you’re in your room — don’t leave valuables in plain view. And if your in-room safe locks with a key, be sure to secure it when you go out. The hotel may charge a substantial fee to replace it.

• Locks: This may go without saying, but check all the locks in your hotel room to make sure they work — especially if you’re in a connecting room. That unlocked door you thought was a closet could lead to an embarrassing moment, or even the loss of your belongings.