Hotel Lost & Found: How Travelers Can Recover Lost Items

Jacket, sunglasses, and keys next to a post-it note that says "Lost and Found"

Leaving something behind at a hotel can be devastating, especially when you have already flown back home and can’t physically revisit the hotel.

Items get left behind all the time, though, which is why hotels have lost and found procedures in place to help you recover your things.

With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about hotel lost and found policies, including the best strategies for recovering your personal belongings.

Table of Contents

1. How Long Do Hotels Keep Lost Property?
2. What Do Hotels Do With Lost Items?
3. Will Hotels Send Me My Lost Items?
4. Are Hotels Responsible If I Left My Stuff?
5. Do Hotels Offer Insurance For Lost Items?
6. What Steps Should I Take When I Realize I Left My Stuff?
7. What Are the Most Common Items Left at Hotels?


 

How Long Do Hotels Keep Lost Property?

Each hotel has unique policies regarding how long they hold lost property, but most hold lost items for one to six months. After the holding period, the hotel may disperse the items left behind to the staff member who found them.

There are exceptions to that timeframe. For example, hotels may toss perishable items like food and alcohol after 24 hours and may keep clothing items for three months. Some things, like electronics, may wait for their owner in a bin for up to six months.

Based on the hotel manager’s discretion, valuable items like engagement rings may be stored indefinitely.

If you left your stuff at a hotel, start by contacting the staff and asking how long the hotel keeps the lost property. Generally, hotels do their best to maintain a fair lost and found policy.

Although hotels don’t have the space to store stuff indefinitely, they also don’t want to disappoint customers by throwing away items before they’ve had a chance to retrieve them.

If a hotel has a poor track record of recovering lost items, it’ll receive less business in the future due to poor reviews and low customer satisfaction.


 

What Do Hotels Do With Lost Items?

Most hotels have a policy where they bag, tag and turn items into the lost and found department. Anything left in a room gets stored, usually in a transparent bag, so that items can be identified at a quick glance.

The bag is then labeled with the date, location found and name of the staff member who found the items. Next, a staff member will transfer the bag to the housekeeping manager or appropriate general manager, where they’ll write the information into a log.

The log contains info about all of the items in the bag, as well as the registered guest’s name who stayed in the room. The bag is then typically stored in a locked area where it is organized by month found.

Don’t Wait for Them to Contact You

Even if the hotel knows which guest the item belongs to, they won’t likely call to notify the guest about the lost items.

Why wouldn’t they call?

They want to maintain their guest’s privacy.

There’s a possibility of somebody else answering the call or overhearing a message from the hotel instead of the intended party.

Privacy is of the utmost importance at hotels, which is why you may need to call the hotel first to get your items back. Even the most seemingly mundane left-behind items may be sensitive to certain guests.

If the holding period passes and nobody reaches out to claim the items, it’s up to the hotel to decide what to do with them.

Some hotels throw away the items, while others allow staff members to keep them if they wish. Additionally, the hotel may donate the items to a local charity.

For example, the Skirvin Hilton in downtown Oklahoma City donates items held for over 90 days to a local Goodwill or similar nonprofit organization. These donated items frequently include clothing, pillows and other usable belongings.

The original owners of these items can at least be reassured that their lost property went to good use!

Related: Business Essentials: How to Plan and What to Pack


 

Will Hotels Send Me My Lost Items?

Cardboard box prepared for shipping

It’s often not feasible to return to the hotel where you left an item, as you were likely far from home.

Understanding this, most hotels are happy to send an item back to you. While some large hotels offer free shipping, most require you to pay for postage.

Shipping can be expensive, particularly for large or heavy items, and more gets left behind than you might think. If hotels were to pay shipping costs for each lost item, the annual bill would be significant.

Shipping time is another reason you should call the hotel as soon as you realize that you left something behind.

Depending on the item and where they find it, you may need to verify that the item is indeed yours. Once you provide that information, you’ll need to give the hotel a shipping address where they can safely send the item.


 

Are Hotels Responsible If I Left My Stuff?

Hotels are not responsible for your belongings if you leave your stuff behind. Some hotels have safes in each room specifically because their policies stipulate that they are not responsible for valuables.

As a guest, it’s your duty to take responsibility for all of your items. Because of this, it’s essential to perform a last-second room inspection before you leave for check-out.

You should check each drawer and look under the blankets for items that may be hidden from plain sight.

If you leave a valuable item at a hotel and they can’t locate it, you shouldn’t expect the hotel to compensate you. Even in cases of theft, the hotel usually isn’t responsible for reimbursing you for the stolen item.


 

Do Hotels Offer Insurance For Lost Items?

Hotels do not offer insurance for lost items because it is your responsibility to keep track of your belongings when you leave the hotel room.

If someone stole your items while you were still at the hotel, you might be able to receive compensation if you can prove negligence from the hotel.

This includes proof of a housekeeper stealing your valuables, lack of security at the hotel or inadequate door locks and keys. Theft at hotels is rare, and most items go missing simply because the owner forgot or misplaced them.

Related: These Toiletry Bags Can Stand Up to Frequent Travel


 

What Steps Should I Take When I Realize I Left My Stuff?

Suitcase on hotel room floor next to bed

As soon as you realize you left your items at a hotel, call them to notify them. The hotel may have already found your personal property and placed them in a secure lost and found area.

If you left an item in a public area, like by the pool or in the fitness center, make sure to call right away. The hotel will send someone to retrieve it as soon as they hear from you, but they can’t stop someone from pocketing an item before they’re aware of it.

If you believe you left an item in your room, the hotel will send a staff member to search for the lost items.

Find the hotel’s customer service line and give them a call (note that this may be a different number than you’d call for a reservation).

If you can’t find this contact information, just call the main line and explain to the staff member that you were a recent guest and left your belongings behind. The staff member will either transfer you to the appropriate department or collect your information themselves.

The hotel will likely ask you for information:

  • Your name
  • The dates you stayed
  • Your hotel room number
  • A description of the lost items
  • A phone number and email

Once the hotel locates your item, the front desk will contact you for shipping information. You’ll need to provide a shipping address and possibly credit card information to pay for the shipping costs.

If you need the items urgently, you can ask the hotel to expedite the shipping process with next-day shipping. It’s important to indicate urgency because they will typically pick the standard shipping option if you don’t.

Keep in mind that next-day shipping can be pricey, but for some items (like a cell phone or company laptop), it’s a necessity.

ileftmystuff.com

Some hotels utilize innovative solutions to reunite lost belongings with their rightful owners, which can save you the hassle of a phone call and sitting on hold. One of these service providers is called ILeftMyStuff.

Once the hotel registers for ILeftMyStuff, they can seamlessly return the lost belongings to the owner.

Here’s how it works:

Hotels can add the lost item, guest’s name, email, and phone number to the ILeftMyStuff system. Then, the guest is sent an email to process and pay for the return.

Once you pay for the shipping as a guest, the hotel prints the shipping label. Then, ILeftMyStuff will page a courier to pick up the package at the hotel.

In four quick and easy steps, your item will be in transit on its way back to you.

It’s worth checking to see if your hotel is on ILeftMyStuff, or asking when you check in if they use it or a similar platform — especially if you tend to be forgetful with your belongings.

Protocols for Replacing Lost Items

Unfortunately, your lost items won’t always be found.

What happens then?

Dealing with a hotel’s lost and found policies can be frustrating and time-consuming when the hotel can’t locate your belongings.

Let’s discuss your best plan of action outside of the standard lost and found process.

1. Check Your Suitcase

In many cases, your items may simply be buried in your suitcase somewhere. There are many instances when guests complain about a hotel not being able to find their belongings, only to locate them in their luggage a week later.

Although it may seem redundant, it’s vital to double-check your suitcase and luggage for your lost item. If you find your items after asking the hotel to check for them, you should call the hotel to tell them so they can stop looking.

2. Buying Replacements at a Discount

Depending on what you lost, you might be able to replace the items at a discounted price from a baggage claim store. Unclaimed Baggage is a discount store that sells items from, you guessed it, unclaimed luggage.

This company has purchasing agreements with domestic airlines and various travel and transportation companies. You can find item replacements at steep discounts from Unclaimed Baggage’s online or in-person store.

Although only 0.03% of bags go unclaimed, the sheer volume of bags that airlines handle still adds up to a vast number of bags. For this reason, Unclaimed Baggage has an impressive catalog of items for sale.

If you lost a common travel item, like a neck pillow or an e-reader, you can likely find a similar replacement on Unclaimed Baggage for much less than you’d spend buying the item brand new.

3. Hotel’s Extended Lost and Found

Some items, like phone chargers, get left behind at hotels all the time. In cases like this, you might be able to get a replacement from the hotel’s extended lost and found. The extended lost and found holds everyday items that have surpassed the standard holding duration.

Even if the hotel can’t find the charger from your room, they may be able to give you another one from the stash in the extended lost and found.

Of course, don’t count on this to work all the time — it really only makes sense with inexpensive, everyday items.


 

What Are the Most Common Items Left at Hotels?

According to a survey conducted by Motel 6, around 54% of travelers admit to leaving items behind at a hotel.

The survey indicates that clothing, toiletries and electronics are the most common items travelers leave behind. Other frequently forgotten items include jewelry, underwear and hair styling tools.


Conclusion

There’s a high chance of getting your belongings back when you leave them behind at a hotel. Most hotels have excellent lost and found policies to maintain positive customer reviews and experience.

They also have zero-tolerance policies regarding employee theft, so you can rest assured that it’s very unlikely for any of your items to be taken by staff.

If you frequently find yourself rushing to check out of a hotel and leaving things behind in the chaos, it would be best to wake up earlier and give yourself enough time to double-check your room for belongings. The most effective way to keep your items is to avoid losing them in the first place!

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