We Asked 4 Experts for Their Best Early Hotel Check-in Tips, and Here’s the Inside Scoop

published Jul 11, 2024
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Hotel Lobby with Employees and Guests
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As much as I love traveling, scheduling is unpredictable, thanks to delayed flights and other unforeseen circumstances. Even if everything goes flawlessly, I often arrive at a destination early (due to a red-eye flight), wanting nothing more than to freshen up before exploring, which is difficult if you can’t get an early check-in at your hotel. 

Even if you have a great reason — say, you’re getting married that evening or just came off of a long-haul flight — asking for an early check-in can seem intimidating, especially when there’s no guarantee (my success rate is about 50%). However, there are a few tips and tricks for getting a yes. Here’s all you need to know about increasing your chances of checking in early to a hotel.

Can you get a hotel early check-in?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer, so the truth is that you may be able to get into your room early. Ultimately, our hotel experts say it depends on several factors. Of course, it never hurts to ask. 

What is the best way to ask for a hotel early check-in?

According to Tracy Uphold, the director of sales at Quirk Richmond, a boutique hotel in Virginia, the best way to request a room before check-in time is to call the hotel. “Ask if an early check-in is possible, understanding that it is usually subject to availability,” she says. At Quirk, once a guest requests an early check-in, they note it on the reservation, and confirm within 24 hours of the stay. 

Dan Ludin, the hotel manager at Radisson Blu Mall of America in Minnesota, confirms this approach and adds that you can also request a room once you arrive. He says, “Just ask! If a room is available to check in, the front desk will be happy to accommodate.” If there’s no space ready, Ludin suggests getting a head-start on exploring your destination while the hotel stores your luggage.

As for international travel, you can contact the hotel beforehand or ask once you arrive, but electronic methods are often best. “If a guest would like to request an early check-in, we kindly ask to contact our concierge team one day prior to the arrival either via email, phone call, or WhatsApp message,” says Allegra Becerril, who is the guest experience manager at Lula Tulum in Mexico.

Becerril also notes that asking ahead of time is the best way to add your name to the queue of rooms available for early entry. “It is important to provide the approximate arrival time so we can note it in the reservation comments and prioritize the room ahead of other check-ins,” she adds. Although your official check-in time will remain, as with other hotels, they’ll do their best to accommodate your request.

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What does an early hotel check-in depend on?

The key word when checking in before the stated time is availability. You may gain early access if you’re traveling in the off or shoulder seasons. However, if you booked a room during the high season, the hotel may be at capacity, making quick turnovers difficult. “I always recommend calling the night before your arrival to gauge the likelihood of being able to get in early,” says Ludin. “If you’re told they are sold out that night, be prepared to check a bag at the desk and wait.”

Uphold also says there are other factors, such as how many guests are arriving and departing simultaneously and your reason for wanting to check in early. In these cases, the decision is often in the hands of front desk employees, but there’s another secret: Brand loyalty will stand out. “Guest loyalty, or the number of times the guest has stayed with the hotel, is also a consideration,” says Uphold. 

Because hotels have to adhere to strict rules, the location of your assigned room may also be a factor, especially if the room has a pending service order or inspection. Becerril adds, “The status of the room’s inspection checklist and any scheduled maintenance or service orders will also determine if we can accommodate an early check-in request.”

How early can you check into a hotel?

Again, the time depends on the hotel itself, but a few iffy times are outside the realm of possibility. Hotels typically have a scheduled check-in of 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. — anything before that is considered an early check-in. However, if you’re looking to arrive extremely early — say, 8 a.m. — the rooms may be full of sleeping guests who haven’t reached their check-out time yet. 

When in doubt, secure the prior night to ensure your room is ready. “Arriving extremely early, such as before 9 a.m., is typically too early, and in such cases, it is advisable to book the night before,” says Gerardo Ku, the marketing manager for Ana y José Hotel & Spa in Tulum, Mexico. If booking the night before isn’t feasible, you may be able to get a room about an hour after check-out time, depending on occupancy.

Credit: Anel Alijagic/Shutterstock.com

4 Tips for Getting a Hotel Early Check-in

The pros also weighed in on what you can do to increase your chances of a positive answer. Here’s what they had to say. 

Be kind to the hotel staff.

A smile and a nice attitude go a long way. “Being polite and friendly to the staff can significantly improve your chances of securing an early check-in,” says Ku. Front desk staff have to field all sorts of issues throughout the day, and a genuinely pleasant attitude can help sway their decision.

Pay an early check-in fee.

Due to the demand for early check-ins, some hotels prioritize guests willing to pay for premature access. Uphold advises, “Many hotels are offering guaranteed early check-in with a small fee.” When you book your room, ask if you can pay the fee.

Have brand loyalty. 

Memberships and frequent stays have perks, so ask if a hotel has a reward system. “Hotels offer loyalty programs that allow their elite members to have early check-in without any fees when the room is available,” says Ludin.

Explain your reasoning for wanting an early check-in.

A hotel may prioritize guests with a good reason for getting into a room early, so don’t be afraid to reveal the reason behind your ask. “Explaining your situation clearly, such as having an early flight or an urgent meeting, can also be helpful,” adds Ku.