There ought to be a word just to describe that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you go to pull something out of your suitcase…and then you know immediately it’s not there at all. It’s hundreds of miles away, forgotten in the hotel room and you flash back to where you left it in the closet or on the bathroom counter.
Whether you overlook an expensive toiletry item, an irreplaceable souvenir or something absolutely crucial (like your passport), trying to track your belongings down with hotel management is a major pain and sometimes impossible. For the forgetful among us, we asked frequent travelers to share their strategies on how to never leave anything behind in a hotel ever again.
Create a System That Jogs Your Memory
Donna Hull, travel writer/publisher at My Itchy Travel Feet, has a routine she always follows when she is getting ready to head out the door. “I use packing cubes for toiletries and other small items. They go in the same spot in my carryon or personal item bag every time,” she says. That way, an empty hole in the suitcase will immediately alert her that she’s forgotten a cube.
Hull also has a system for how she unpacks in her hotel room, putting items in the exact same place no matter where she is in the world. “If you always keep the cell phone at the bedside, or jewelry on the desk, you’ll remember to check those places before leaving,” she says.
Make a List and Set an Alarm
Travel journalist and photographer Erick Prince of Minority Nomad figured out a memory-jogging packing trick out of necessity. “I’m a serial stuff forgetter when it comes to hotels and hostels. After I left a $300 piece of equipment half a world away, I began using an alarm system,” he says.
Here’s how Prince uses his alarm: “I have a list of all electronics and important personal items that come out of my bag. I set an alarm to sound the night before checkout to ‘check the list,’ and another alarm set 30 minutes before I’m supposed to leave to ‘check the list.'” Has it worked? “Haven’t left anything behind since,” he says.
Alle Pierce, the founder of Gals Abroad Getaways, a travel content creator at Alle Abroad, and an Emmy Award-winning host, also swears by an alarm as a reminder to scour her hotel room for her belongings. “I like to set myself a little alarm on my phone on the morning of check-out that alerts me to do a once-over before I leave the room,” she says. “Sometimes I’m scrambling to get all of my things together and that automatic reminder I’ve set in advance can be a huge game-changer.”
Hotel Nightstand Drawers Are a Danger Zone
Proceed with caution when putting belongings in the hotel safe or nightstand. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a saying for a reason.
Pierce says: “After nearly leaving my travel journal that is home to many cherished memories and somewhat salacious stories that I’d prefer to keep between the pages of the journal in my hotel room in Rome, I have vowed to NEVER put any cherished items into the nightstand drawers. Instead, no matter how messy it might be, I now leave items on the top of the nightstand so that I don’t forget to snag them when it’s time to check out.”
Don’t Get Distracted During That Final, Thorough Room Sweep
Jennifer Liao writes about the ins-and-outs of traveling with kids at Family Trip Guides, and she’s figured out a game plan for checking out of hotel rooms. Namely, focus on the task at hand (and don’t let the kids distract you).
“Ever since I left my son’s beloved blankie in Seattle, I now have a ritual to bring our bags and kids to the hallway with my husband,” she says. “Then I do one last sweep of the hotel room, which involves checking under beds and outlets. If I try to do a last minute check with the kids in the room I usually get distracted and miss stuff.”
Liao also notes that a once-over of the hotel room should definitely include unmaking the bed. “I always pull up the sheets,”she says. “Not sure how many PJs, stuffed animals, and pacifiers I’ve found tangled in the sheets!”
Get Super Organized With Packing Cubes
Packing cubes can be extremely useful for fitting a lot of stuff in a carry-on suitcase before a flight. But they can also help you stay organized when you’re getting ready in your hotel room to make it back home.
NYC brand Bag-all is known for its stylish pouches, cases, and bags that are cheekily emblazoned with exactly what you’ll find inside, like “Lotions & Potions” or “My Hair Stuff.” A rep from the brand tells SmarterTravel: “I will suggest having a labeled or dedicated case/bag for every item so when you are packing you can’t leave anything behind as you have a home for every single item.”
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