Hotel Safes: An Amenity for the Wired Generation

As we all know, burglary and theft are an unfortunate part of life. So it just makes sense to take precautions, regardless of where you live, work, or vacation. That’s no doubt why many hotels have started providing their guests with in-room safes—a relatively inexpensive amenity that’s not yet all that common in vacation rentals, and one that can thus help to set your place apart from the competition.

Safes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some put the emphasis on security. Others, like fire safes, emphasize the amount of time that paper documents inside can remain undamaged when external temperatures rise to a certain level. A typical “hotel safe” combines a reasonable level of security with maximum user convenience.

A hotel safe is basically a strongbox bolted to a shelf and/or wall with a locking mechanism that allows guests to set their own combinations. It’s not designed to withstand an assault by a burglar with plenty of time and all the right tools. Nor is it designed to weather a high-temperature fire. Instead, it’s designed to raise the level of difficulty for a would-be burglar seeking targets of opportunity, like a laptop, Blackberry, Kindle, or iPad recharging on a table while its owner is on the slopes, down at the beach, or out shopping.

The more time a burglar spends in a home, the greater the chances of getting caught. Who knows when little Sally will come up from the beach for a bio-break? Who knows when Uncle Roy will appear to refill the soft drink and beer cooler? That’s why most burglars—if they even find a hotel safe—will quickly move on to other targets of opportunity. 

How to Choose a Hotel Safe for Your Vacation Rental

The main feature that distinguishes a hotel safe from most other types of safes is the ease with which guests can set their own combinations (usually 4 to 6 digits). But, not to worry, hotel safes typically offer a master code that you can use to open the safe at any time and reset the combination. Some models can be opened with a key as well.

You can buy a good-quality hotel safe for as little as $50. But to get the size you’ll need to accommodate a laptop computer and other electronic devices that many people travel with these days, you should expect to pay between $70 and $200, plus installation if you don’t want to do it yourself. (Look for a safe that can be bolted in from both the bottom and the back.)

We don’t recommend paying for a lot of extra features. Remember, the goal is to raise the level of difficulty high enough so that a would-be thief decides to go elsewhere. Thus, there are three main criteria to consider when choosing a hotel safe:

  • It should be large enough to accommodate one or two laptops, a digital camera, and a couple of iPods, plus assorted jewelry, watches, and wallets.
  • It should be very simple to operate.
  • It should offer an electronic keypad that allows users to set their own numerical combination code.

Stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot sell safes. As do local locksmith shops. But you should also check the ones offered by Global Safe & Security (www.hotelsafes.com) and AMSEC (www.amsecusa.com). Their safes have been selected by major hotel chains, each of which is surely concerned about simplicity of operation, so you might want to start with them.

For more information on these and other companies, do a Google search for the phrase “electronic hotel safe.” (Include quotation marks for best results.)

A Few Closing Thoughts

While some hotel safes can be plugged into a wall outlet, most operate on double-A batteries with an optional 9-volt battery backup. So once you’ve equipped your vacation rental with a hotel safe, you’ll need to add “install fresh batteries in safe” to your checklist of chores for preparing your property for rental at the start of each season.

You’ll also want to be sure to update your online property listings to include “hotel safe” in the list of amenities you provide in anticipation of your guests’ needs. In a highly competitive market, special touches like this can be just the thing to tip the balance in your favor.     

Happy Renting!

Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner



Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner are the authors of the book/CD package How to Make Your Vacation Property Work for You! and the founders of FullyBookedRentals (www.fullybookedrentals.com), a website focused on helping new and experienced VR owners advertise, market, manage, and make money from their second homes.