Everything to know about early check-in at hotels

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If your flight gets in early in the morning, but your hotel check-in isn’t until the late afternoon, your trip might already be off to a rocky start. Checking into your hotel right when you arrive is nice so you can drop off your bags, freshen up a bit, or just take a breather after traveling. In fact, it’s often possible to score an early check-in with many major hotel brands — you just need to know how. 

Standard hotel check-in policies 

While some hotel brands differ slightly, expect a universal check-in time for your hotel around 3PM and a universal check-out time around 11 a.m. While you don’t always need to check out of a hotel, you do always need to check in and get your key to be granted access to your room, which means you could be stuck waiting around until the late afternoon to finally check in with these standard policies. 

These policies are in place mostly to allow the hotel enough time to clean the rooms and get them ready between guests, which is especially important when you’re staying in a hotel during coronavirus. Admittedly, these times are not always convenient for guests. While sometimes late checkout is available, that perk varies greatly between hotels and often isn’t guaranteed unless you’re an elite member. On the surface, standard hotel check-in policies mean you have to arrive late and leave early during your stay, but there are times when you can check in to a hotel early. 

How to get early check-in

Early check-in is based on availability of rooms, so your best bet to get it is to contact the hotel in advance and express your request. This can be done by simply calling the front desk to ask about the status of your room. Some hotels like Marriott, even have website features that allow you to request early check-in virtually. All hotels will do their best to accommodate your request, especially if you ask nicely!

At some hotel brands, being an elite member will help you get early check-in, and a great way you can rack-up those points to a high status is with a hotel credit card. Once you’ve earned your status, at Hyatt hotels Globalist and Explorist members can reserve early check-in at either 9 a.m. or 12 p.m. before their stay. Discoverist and Members of World of Hyatt also have the option to reserve early check-in, but must purchase it for an additional $10. Similarly, IHG gives a 10 a.m. early check-in to Spire Elite and Kimpton Inner Circle members, for no extra charge. While Marriott doesn’t guarantee early check-in, Platinum, Titanium and Ambassador elite members will get immediate access to the hotel lounge upon arrival, where you can camp out and wait for your room to be ready with complimentary snacks and beverages. At Hilton, all guests, regardless of status, only get early check-in if it’s available. 

Things to consider when checking in early

What else is there to know about early check-in?

Room types

While most hotels will try to accommodate your request to check-in early as best they can, in most cases it just comes down to availability. This means that if you’re requesting an early check-in, the hotel may offer you the option to either wait for your room, or enter a room that’s available now, but isn’t necessarily the room you booked. Finding the perfect room at a hotel can be challenging at times, so if you do find a room you love, you may want to sacrifice it for an earlier check-in. 

Additional charges

If you ask for an early check-in and there’s a room readily available, the hotel won’t charge you for your early arrival. However if early check-in is something you simply have to have, there are some cases, like at Hyatt hotels, where you can purchase it for an additional charge. Early check-in charges all depend on the hotel you’re staying at, your member status and the availability of the room. 

Luggage

If you’re granted early check-in, you’ll have no problems bringing your luggage upstairs and settling in to your room. But even if early check-in is unavailable, almost all hotels will store your luggage at the front desk free of charge. This is the next-best thing to early check-in because you’ll be able to explore the hotel or surrounding area without having to drag your bags along with you. 

Bottom line

Early check-in at hotels is a convenient perk after a long time spent traveling. Ultimately, your ability to check in to a hotel early is based on availability above anything else. If you want to check in early, contact your hotel in advance and explain the situation to them. While it isn’t always guaranteed (unless you’re an elite member at some hotels), most hotels will do their best to accommodate your request. At the very least, they’ll be able to store your luggage at the front desk, so there’s no harm in asking!  

Alexandra Maloney is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, she covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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