But when the 27-year-old Irish newlywed opened the door to her luxury hotel room on the island of Mauritius, police say she interrupted a robbery by three hotel workers who panicked and strangled her.
The slaying of McAreavey -- a former beauty queen who was on her honeymoon with new husband John, a well-known Gaelic football player -- has shocked Ireland and the United Kingdom. And it has led safety experts to remind travelers to use extra caution in hotel rooms.
McAreavey's isn't the first high-profile hotel slaying. From the May killing of Stephany Flores, a 21-year-old Peruvian woman who was found dead in the Lima hotel room of Dutchman Joran van der Sloot, to the bludgeoning death this month of a Portuguese journalist in a New York hotel room, experts say there's good cause for travelers to be especially careful in hotels.
Siciliano has a few tips to keep your stay as safe as possible:
1. Don't walk into your hotel room alone. "Enlist someone from the hotel to walk you to your room to make sure everything checks out OK," Siciliano suggested. "You don't want to enter your room alone, especially for the first time. When I say that, people say, 'I don't want to be paranoid.' But that's not paranoid, that's taking care of your own security."
2. Look before you enter. "Put the lights on," he said. "And before you close the door behind you, look in the room. There very well could be someone in there already."
3. Think about carrying a ballpoint pen. Yes, really. Siciliano says the tip of a ballpoint pen can be turned into a useful weapon, if necessary. "It can be very effective for poking and gouging, if it comes to that," he said.
But Siciliano said the most important thing is for travelers to simply be aware of their surroundings, no matter where their journeys take them.
"You should be just as aware in Iowa as you are in Iraq," he said.