I travel a lot for Harlequin and I stay in a lot of hotels. I also go to a lot of conferences, and I see attendees doing some unsafe things, probably without even knowing, at every single one of these conferences. So as you prep for #rwa12, please keep these things in mind

1) After you get your room keys, do not, under any circumstances, keep them in the package that has your room number on it. Once you get to your room, throw that little envelope away in your hotel room bin (don’t toss it in a trash in the lobby, just to be on the safe side, either). It’s so easy to lose this envelope, or if you have your purse or bag stolen (god forbid) you don’t also want to give the thief free access to all of the possessions in your room. Memorize your room number and keep your room keys somewhere else in your purse or pocket. Not in the envelope.

2) As soon as you know you’re leaving the hotel, take off your name badge. There are a variety of reasons behind doing this, but all of them are meant to keep you safe and from being a target. Gently remind the people with you to take theirs off as well.

3) Know where the stairs are in case of a fire alarm. Yes, it’s a running joke that the fire alarm seems to always go off at RWA, but even so, there is always the very real possibility that it’s a genuine fire. Don’t get caught not knowing which direction to go. If you’re not sure, there’s a map on the back of your hotel room door, but scope it out ahead of time. It only takes a minute and it could literally save your life.

4) Keep your valuables in the safe in your hotel room. Jewelry, ereaders, cash, small laptops. Anything you’re leaving in the room while you’re not there. And even if you decline housekeeping, don’t assume no one will be coming into your room. You’d be shocked at how often hotel employees may have reason to enter your room (checking air conditioning filters, restocking the minibar, maintenance issues, etc.) there are also other people who might enter your room (see #5)

5) And on that note, when you ARE in your room, put the security bar (you know, the one you always forget to take off before you open the door. Or is that just me?) on. As I said, hotel employees often have reason to enter your room, and it’s my experience that they rarely actually give you enough time to get to the door after they knock. You don’t want them walking in on you at any time, though especially while in the bathroom, changing, napping or doing other, er, more intimate things. Not only that but hotels often mistakenly assign rooms more than once so it’s entirely possible they could give someone the key to your room–and your possessions. I have twice been given the wrong room and I know others have as well. Never assume your room is a totally safe haven, free from others entering, because it is not.

6) This is common sense but…if you’re leaving the conference hotel to go drinking, please have at least one person who’s staying relatively sober, who can make good decisions for getting everyone safely back to the hotel, keep an eye on everyone while they’re drinking, and basically make sure nothing tragic can happen. The same things that can happen to us at the bars at home can happen at the bars in the conference city.

7) and on that practical note, here’s another that every college-age girl knows: whether at the bar in the hotel, at the bar somewhere else, do not, under any circumstances, leave your drink or drinks unattended, or accept drinks from strangers. It should come direct from the bar staff, bartender or one of your friends. If a stranger hands you a drink, decline politely. If you all want to go dance, finish your drinks and get fresh ones when you get back, or leave someone to guard them. You guys know this, but I see people treat their time at conferences like it’s life in a bubble, not the real world. Don’t do that.

8 ) Last, be cautious about sharing your room number. Of course you can tell your conference buddies where to meet you. Just don’t shout it across the bar, okay?

I know I’m forgetting some important tips but I’ve covered some of the key things I’ve noticed at conferences. Please share your conference or travel safety tips in the comments.

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