The Essential Guide To Hotel Check In and Check Out (2024)

a bell on a table

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Seasoned travelers agree that missing these key hotel check in and check out points could turn your visit into a disaster.  This article will clue you in on several things to look for when checking into a hotel. It can make the difference between a small room by the elevatory or a suite upgrade.

Paying attention to details, being polite, and having the courage to ask can make all the difference in the world. Here is what you need to look out for.


Hotel Check In

Person checking into hotel

Before You Arrive At The Hotel

Downloading and getting familiar with the hotel’s mobile app, mobile check-in or a check-in kiosk will save you time and confusion during the excitement of a trip. You may still need to check in at the front desk but knowing you have alternate ways to communicate with the hotel will put your mind at ease.

There are some hotels that allow you to check in on the mobile app and then just pick up your room key, avoiding potentially long lines. However, if you have specific room requirements or want to double-check on things before starting the check-in process, go to the front desk.

Hotel check in tablet

Understand the layout of the hotel and surrounding area, asking to be away from the rail station will let the front desk know you have done your homework. The front desk has a lot of power in deciding where your room is so it never hurts to ask politely.

How To Get An Early Check In At A Hotel

This is it, the number one requested service at the hotel front desk, “early check in please!”. Unfortunately, it’s usually a demand and the please is left out. But knowing what the front desk person has to deal with can help you approach the matter in the best way.

First off, ask nicely, it really should not have to be said but it seems it does. The hospitality industry as a whole is trained on customer service and how to do things in the most pleasant way. They will appreciate a please, a smile, and a thank you, even if rooms are not available.

Make sure the person you are speaking to can make the decision. Many hotel brands empower their front desk employees to make the call but some don’t. If you feel like the front desk person is being put in a bind politely ask if the manager might be able to grant your request. If they handle your request well be sure to compliment them when the manager is present, even if you do not get the early check-in. When the front desk person is getting ready to give you room A near the elevator or room B overlooking the garden…..chances are good you will be sleeping soundly that night.

Make a request at time of booking. There are hotels with early check-in options and 24/hr booking so be sure to inquire when booking the hotel.

If you are staying at a luxury hotel then you should be booking through a travel agent who is a member of Virtuoso or other elite booking partnerships. This will position you in the best way for not only an early check-in but also a late checkout and other VIP perks.

The best part is that booking luxury properties this way almost always comes out cheaper when you factor in free breakfast and room upgrades. I use Classic Travel for my luxury booking around the world.

Some locations are situated near major airport hubs and frequently get arrivals at odd times. When requesting an early check-in mention your flight number and arrival time. Giving detailed information about your 2 am arrival will not go unnoticed by the front desk.

Hotel check in traveler laying in suitcases
Getting that early check in…the most common front desk request.

While not an option for many, frequent the same hotel and introduce yourself to management. If you know you are going to be flying in and out over the next 3 months and staying there it will only be to your benefit. Being polite and getting to know the staff will make all the difference in getting that one empty room at 3 am. I have seen many regular travelers, on several occasions, bring snacks unique to where they are from for the front desk agents. I would gladly carry a box of chocolates for an early check-in.

It goes without saying that there is a pecking order for guests, it all starts with being a loyalty member. Platinum-Titanium-World-Lifetime-Elite wont get you a room if they are full, but you will probably be at the top of a very long list. Early check-in is also a perk for many loyalty program tiers so be sure to read about Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, and Hyatt Rewards below.

So you need an early check-in guaranteed? Make a reservation for the day before you arrive and make sure arrival date/time information is noted. I have personally done this because I was traveling with young kids and arrived at 1 am. I highly recommend you make sure the reservation has notes about your arrival time as desk agents can get confused and may fill your room.

Utilizing The Bell Desk

So you didn’t get that early check-in? Fret not, you can meander, gamble, eat at a restaurant, or just sight see, all without your luggage. Most hotels will hold your luggage at the bell desk if you have a reservation, at no cost to you. Even if you are staying at a budget hotel without a bell desk most front desk operations will double as one. Kindly ask and that wall space behind the desk will magically open up.

I did this at the Marriott Waikiki Beach Hotel and Sheraton Waikiki for both of my stays. It worked out perfect because I had time to enjoy a late lunch before being notified my room was ready. 

Hotel Bellhop

Ask About The Room Location

Your room is your sanctuary for a couple of days and taking a moment to ask “Where is my room located and what is it near?” is a smart choice.

If they have you near an elevator ask to be put further away, “please”, a few keystrokes and it can be taken care of. Think about the height of the floor, busy roads nearby, railways, airport location, and anything else that might make your stay less than perfect.

The age old saying of you never know until you ask definitely applies here and you just might get a free upgrade in the process.

Ask For A Room Upgrade

You just don’t know what the room situation is at the hotel most of the time. Unexpected cancellations from inclement weather could leave the hotel empty for the next couple of days. So it never hurts to ask politely.

A benefit of asking that many people forget is that the hotel may counter-offer your free upgrade request. What? Yeah, let’s bargain! That $800 a night suite might be offered for $30 more a night on your existing room rate, you do the math. Hotels want to increase daily revenue if they can book you for $30 more per night and have the inventory….win win.

St. Regis Macao Bedroom
St. Regis Macau Suite

Hotel Check Out


Checking Out Of Your Hotel Without Going To The Front Desk

You don’t really need to check out of your hotel, the bill will come one way or another; still, be aware of check-out times. But before you just dismiss the notion of checking out ever again think back to when you checked in. Yep, checking out is smart for a number of reasons including being courteous to your fellow travelers.

But if you are in a rush and dash past the front desk line on your way out there are options to stay in the good graces of the travel saints.

Many hotels have apps that you can use to check out via a mobile device. Right from the back seat of your Uber, tap tap done, nice.

The other option is to call the front desk directly and let them know you just left. They send housekeeping to clean the room and that tired family with 4 kids gets to check in a little early, karma baby.

Check out the Marriott Mobile App and if you aren’t a Bonvoy member learn more about that program in this article.

Arrange Airport Transportation Early

It’s the night after the CES convention in Las Vegas and 180,000 people are getting ready to head out. You already know where this is going. If your hotel has a shuttle then book your spot when you check in as there is often limited space onboard and depending on how far you are from the airport, it could have a big impact on timing. Oh! your an Uber person and they always come within 10 minutes when you order one at home, not the same, 180k remember?

If you need to have the hotel call you a cab, most likely it won’t be the best price but that cab driver knows where his steady business comes from and will do their best to make it work.

Taxi Outside British Hotel

Getting A Late Check At Your Hotel

I know I know, who wants it to end right? A few extra hours working hard at the convention after parties (cough, cough) or just enjoying the quiet before getting back to the routine. Here are some tips on how to get a let checkout at your hotel.

Just like an early flexible check-in requests a smile, good manners, and elite loyalty membership will go a long way but check-out does have a few additional things to review.

If you didn’t get the early check-in on Friday when 50,000 other people were checking in you can easily do the math. Like algebraic equations (sorry!) what is done to one side must be done to the other. What I am trying to say is that when the event is over 50,000 people will also be leaving. This means housekeeping is busy and rooms are opening up fast, a quick, polite call to the front desk the morning of will work wonders.

Tipping Hotel Housekeeping

Just like at a restaurant, leave a tip for good service, it goes much further than you think. Want to take your tipping up a notch? Leave a thank you note, a kind word or compliment will absolutely make someone’s day. You never know what someone is going through and to have a random stranger thank you for the work you do goes a long way. No loose bills? Check with the front desk and you should be all set.

Of course, the other question is “How much should I tip?”. This will vary from country to country so be sure to check acceptable tipping amounts and customs, you are a guest remember. It is generally accepted though that tipping $1-2 per night/per guest in the room will keep you covered. Did you get amazing room service? adjust your tip as needed.

Hotel Housekeeper
Tip housekeeping staff.

Review Your Hotel Bill

Hidden fees, faulty mini-bar sensors (yes that’s a thing), and charges from the reservation before you, all have the potential to end up on your bill. If you see something off, the best time to dispute it is then and there, at the front desk. The hotel dinner charge from last night when you were out and about? Get it fixed right away.

In the event you are already on your way, take some time to review the cab ride or airport wait. You can then begin the process via email and get things addressed quickly, even better call the hotel front desk and talk to someone live.

Man reviewing hotel bill
If you don’t remember the charge, it might not be yours.

Don’t Forget To Double Check – Your Hotel Room

Did you use the safe? Maybe someone else did so double-check it anyway. We all forget, if you could get the manager to show you the lost and found, you would realize it’s quite common.

The most common items left behind in hotel rooms used to be jewelry, but times have changed. Phone chargers and other new technology are by far the most common items left behind. After that it’s clothing, toiletries, eyeglasses, keys, and books.

Phone, charger and cord

Take a moment, peek in the shower for those swim trunks and double-check, it will save you a headache.


What has been your hotel check-in and check-out experience? Any tips for fellow travelers? Leave a comment below.


  1. I found it interesting when you said that there are hotels that offer early check-in options. My sister and I are planning to book an oceanfront hotel room for our parents so they can relax while they celebrate their 32nd wedding anniversary next month. We want them to easily check in once they get to the hotel, so we will consider your tips.

    • I find using mobile or early check-in apps is a great place to request early check-in. There are also several programs like the AMEX Fine Hotels and Resorts that offer early check-in when available for most hotels. Early check-in and late check-out are the top requests at hotels along with upgrades.

  2. You got my attention when you said that you could save time and confusion when you get familiar with the hotel’s mobile app. I will share this with my sister who shared with me this afternoon that she is planning to stay in bed and bed breakfast accommodation where she can relax and unwind for a week after going through a gruesome divorce process. She surely wants to find a room to book that has everything that she needs to ensure a good stay, so I will ask her to do your tips.

    • Hi Ava, I hope your sister has a relaxing week! I am also glad the tips in this article have helped.

  3. Oh, great! It feels quite reassuring when you told us that a free hotel room upgrade is always possible if we’re brave enough to ask. To celebrate my uncle’s birthday next month, my relatives and I have decided to organize a special holiday trip for him to New York. Since I’m in-charge of the accommodation, I should probably get in touch with a hotel to reserve a room right away.

  4. Understanding about how like at a restaurant, tip generously for excellent service; it goes far further than you may imagine is so important. I feel like booking a hotel and lodging this weekend to get away from the city and my stress at work. It’s been a while since I treated myself to a nice getaway just outside of the city so I might actually do it.

  5. I’m going on vacation to Alaska next month, so I’m currently looking for accommodation I can consider booking in advance for my trip. I found it helpful when you advised us to ask nicely when requesting early check-ins and to ensure we are speaking to personnel with authority. I’ll be sure to remember this once I find lodging to consider for my trip.

  6. what can I say, when I want a room with a view, and not the air conditioner units.

    • While no guarantee I would ask/do a couple of things. Request or better yet reserve a high floor room and in your communication with the hotel I would specify that you want a room with a view. Many hotels and resorts will classify room by room so pick the one that best fits your requirements. Be careful of “partial” views as many times this may only be a sliver visible from the balcony and not a true view as expected.


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