Running Late? A Hotel Reservation Isn’t Always Guaranteed – Do These Things So You Don’t Lose Your Room

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INSIDER SECRET: If you’re running late, check to see if your hotel has a mobile app that allows you to check in remotely so that your room won’t be given away. Some hotels even provide you with a digital room key so you can skip the front desk altogether once you arrive.  

Traveling can be unpredictable, and sometimes you find yourself running behind schedule. Traffic could cause you to miss your flight or public transportation might be running late, causing you to miss a connecting bus or train.

If you’re running late though, how does it affect your hotel reservation? Without a place to stay, you would be left in a pretty tough situation. Where would you sleep? Shower? Keep your luggage safe?

Here are a few things you can do to make sure you don’t lose your hotel room if you’re running late:

Maybe your ride to the airport was a no-show and now you’re running behind schedule. Here’s what you can do to keep your hotel room if you’re running late. (Photo by Vulp/Shutterstock)

Keep Your Hotel Room If You’re Running Late

You might be surprised to hear this, but just because you’ve reserved a room doesn’t mean it’s yours. In fact, some hotels intentionally overbook their rooms because they expect a certain percentage of no-shows.

It’s basic economics. The hotel’s goal is to make as much money as possible; having too many vacancies isn’t good for their bottom line.

But if there aren’t as many no-shows as they projected, they could end up filling all of their rooms before you show up. (From what I’ve gathered online, this is fairly rare but happens more frequently during peak travel season in popular tourist areas or during large events.)

To avoid this scenario, no matter where you are traveling:

1. Check In As Early As Possible in Person

Many hotels offer check-in starting at 3pm. If you arrive early at the hotel, you’re less likely to be turned away, even if the hotel is overbooked. That’s because many hotels operate on a first-come, first-served basis, filling up the rooms until there are none available.

Arriving later in the evening means that you run a higher risk that all the rooms have already been given away, and you might be one of the unlucky few to be turned away even with a confirmed reservation.

2. Or, Use the Hotel’s Mobile App to Check In

Thanks to technology, a mobile app check-in is often an option, especially if you’re staying at one of the large chain hotels like Hyatt, Marriott or Hilton.

If you’re running late, you can simply log in to your mobile app and check in from wherever you are. Depending on the hotel, you may even be able to get a copy of your digital key so you can skip any lines at the front desk and go straight to your room.

If the app doesn’t offer the ability to check in, you can try doing an online chat with the company (or go the old-fashioned way and try calling) to let them know that you are still coming and to please not give away your room. Hotels often don’t hear anything from no-shows and are more likely to hold your room if you reach out to them.

3. Request Amenities for Your Room Ahead of Time

If you request food, drinks, or other services be delivered to your room prior to your arrival, the hotel is less likely to give away your room to someone else. (This isn’t guaranteed to work, although there is some anecdotal evidence in many online forums that supports it.)

4. Earn Elite Status With the Hotel

Having elite status with a hotel is perhaps the easiest way to ensure your room won’t be given away. Hotels are less likely to give up the room of a loyal customer to someone else — especially if you use this in conjunction with the strategies listed above.

The best part is that elite status with a hotel isn’t just reserved for those who travel frequently or stay at a hotel every other night. With the right strategy, even infrequent travelers can easily earn elite status.

Bottom Line

Even with a confirmed reservation, it’s possible that some hotels could give away your room if you arrive late. The best thing you can do to make sure this doesn’t happen is to show up at the start of the check-in period. But if you are running late, be proactive and reach out to the hotel to let them know you’re still coming. 

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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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