Visions of a clean, soft bed and a hot shower run through your head as you stand bedraggled at the hotel check-in counter. When you've just gotten off a red-eye flight or arrived at your destination earlier than expected, waiting a few hours to get into your room feels like torture. Arranging an early check-in is often possible, but advance planning helps. A bright smile and the word "please" might help, too.
The average hotel requires guests to check out by a certain time -- often around noon -- and begins check-in around 3 p.m. or 4 p.m., though there are always exceptions.
Each chain has its own guidelines relating to early check-ins and late check-outs, but most hotels are eager to keep visitors happy and will let you into a room as soon as it's been vacated and cleaned.
Don't expect to arrive at 7 a.m. and receive a room key, however; some hotels won't let anyone check in before a certain time.
Getting Early Check-in
The careful planner snags the first open room. Don't wait until you arrive at the hotel to look into your options. Call the front desk the day before your scheduled arrival date and ask about checking in early. If some rooms are empty that night, they'll still be empty the next morning when you arrive. The hotel might also tell you whether all rooms are booked, which might extend your wait for a clean room. When waiting to check in until 3 p.m. won't work for your schedule, knowing in advance that getting in early is unlikely might also help you decide to call around to other hotels.
The front desk clerk might be happy to hand over your room key a few hours early, but he might also charge you for it. Some hotels charge as much as 50 percent of the room's nightly rate for an early arrival. Verify your hotel's policies before checking in early. If you habitually arrive early, look into hotels that offer 24-hour check-in and check-out. While few places offer this service, those that do -- like the Four Points by Sheraton located at Los Angeles International Airport-- allow eligible guests to choose their own check-in times. With this service, if you arrive at 8:30 a.m., you'll get your room right away but will have to check out by 8:30 a.m. the next day.
You made a polite request to check in early, hoping the clerk would take pity on your tired, unwashed self, but all the rooms are still occupied. Your best bet is to ask the staff if they can stow your luggage until a room is available. Only leave your luggage in a locked room.
You might also ask the staff if you can sit by the pool or use other guest-only amenities while you wait, or ask for the hotel's Wi-Fi password and park yourself and your laptop in a chair in the lobby. If you're sitting right there, the desk clerk will probably let you know the second your room is ready, if only so you'll stop expectantly staring at him.