Curious about the standard rules of check-in and check-out processes at hotels? Then you’re in the right place because this guide covers everything you need to know about the procedure!
What are the standard check-in and check-out time, what to do if you arrive early or want to leave late, and how you can avoid waiting in line at the front desk are just some of the topics covered in this guide. Keep reading for a full breakdown of tips and tricks to know about checking in and out of hotels!
Hotels independently decide their check-in and check-out times, but very often you can check in after 2 PM and check out until 12 PM. These are the most common times for hotel check-in and check-out, but you should always read through the rules of the hotel you’re staying at and see the exact times they have listed.
The rules for check-in at hotels have been the same for decades, so if you’ve ever previously checked in at a hotel, you already know what to do. And if not, it’s super simple and nothing to worry about!
In most hotels around the world, whether big or small, you are required to check in at the front desk. The front desk is usually located in the lobby and is visible to guests as soon as they enter the hotel.
At the front desk, you will be asked for your name so the staff can check your reservation, and you will need to present them with your travel documents. Many hotels will require a credit card during check-in, so they can charge you a deposit for any damage you might incur during your stay.
Don’t worry – you’ll get the deposit back during check-out, provided you don’t do any damage to the hotel room. The hotels also need to keep a credit card on file for you so they can charge you for any services you make use of while you’re staying, such as the items you take out of the mini bar, room service, etc.
When the hotel has all your necessary information and they’ve established that your room is ready, you will be given your room key and you are free to head to your room. Your luggage will be delivered by the hotel staff, so you don’t have to lug around your suitcases at this time.
Some hotels allow their guests to check in online prior to their arrival. You can select which room you want, fill out all the necessary details, and even get a room key on your smartphone, so you can head straight to your room the moment you arrive at the hotel.
There’s no need to head to the front desk, wait in line, or wait around in the lobby. The downside of this method is that you’re limited by your Internet service. You need to be online to be able to access your room, so if your battery dies or the Wi-Fi connection is poor, you won’t be able to get inside your room seamlessly.
Also, in case of any issues, such as a wrong room number or the inability to unlock your room with your phone, you’ll need to head to the front desk to settle the issue.
When booking a hotel room, make sure to double-check everything about it and read the fine print. Check when the check-in and check-out times are, whether the hotel has any flexibility regarding this, whether you booked a smoking or non-smoking room, whether there is room service, etc.
After you’ve completed the booking, look for the confirmation email, or anything really that states that the hotel has received your reservation. If you don’t get a confirmation email or anything of the kind, call the hotel and ask them about it. It’s much better to spend two minutes doing this than to arrive at the hotel and realize at the front desk that they never got your reservation.
If you have any special requests, make them during or immediately after booking. If you’re a light sleeper and you don’t want a room close to the elevator, request one of the hotel rooms that are as far away from the elevator as possible. If you’re a smoker, make sure to request a smoking room.
This also goes for early check-in and late check-out. If you estimate that you will arrive prior to the hotel’s check-in time, let them know your schedule in advance and ask if early check-in is possible.
You might get it for free, they might charge you a small fee, or they might decline the request entirely, depending on room availability. In any case, it’s better to know this in advance so you can plan and prepare, than to arrive at the hotel early and have to sit in the lobby for hours.
When you complete the check-in process and you arrive at your room, don’t unpack right away. First, check that everything is to your liking – check that the room has the view you wanted, that the bedding is indeed clean, that the toiletries are provided, etc. If you have any complaints, you can settle the issue immediately, and it’s much better to deal with this as soon as you arrive than after you’ve already unpacked and made a mess.
Fridays are notoriously busy for hotels because it’s when most people travel for leisure. On the other hand, Mondays and Tuesdays can also be quite busy with business travelers. So, if you are arriving at the hotel on one of these days, it doesn’t hurt to ask for an early check-in to avoid waiting in line at the front desk.
When it’s time to check out, head to the front desk if you haven’t requested a late check-out. Make sure you’ve packed everything and bring your room key with you. Go to the front desk and tell the staff that you want to check out. They will ask you for your room key, and usually, they will send a housekeeper to do a quick check of your room, to make sure that everything is in order.
You’ll then be asked to settle outstanding bills if there are any – so if you consumed anything from the mini bar, or ordered anything extra. You should have the option of paying cash, charging it on your card, or the hotel can simply deduct it from your deposit. If the housekeeper decides that everything is in order with your room, you will get your deposit back.
You will then be provided with a guest folio that includes an invoice and details of your stay. Some hotels will also include an itemized bill for your stay, while others might provide it only upon request. If you suspect that your bill is higher than it should be, it’s best to immediately request an itemized bill and review it at the front desk.
Some hotels allow for online check-out, and this is great for guests who don’t want to wait in line at the front desk. You can leave the key card in your room and simply walk out the front door when it’s time to leave the hotel.
To be eligible for this, you need to give the hotel your contact upon check-in. Give them your email address, and let them know that you want them to send your guest folio. You’ll also need to give them your credit card info, so they can charge you the deposit and any other services.
It’s best to ask the staff upon check-in whether this is an option. Not all hotels allow this, so sometimes just walking out of the hotel than properly checking out can be more trouble than it’s worth.
Also, keep in mind that if you check out without going to the front desk, the hotel will charge anything they feel you owe them to your credit card. While most hotels will send you an itemized bill to your email address upon request, it takes a lot longer to dispute any charges and get refunds when you’re doing it over email and phone.
If I had a $1 for every item I left at a hotel, I’d have approximately $10. It’s not a lot of money, but it is too many things to randomly forget in your hotel room. I’ve lost so many phone chargers, toothbrushes, loofas, and other things, simply because I was overly confident that I had packed everything.
So, before you head to the front desk to check out, do a final walk-through around the room. Check all the outlets, look inside the drawers and closets, and double-check the bathroom and the room safe. Also, make sure that all your most important items are on your person before you exit the room – phone, passport, and wallet.
While most people prefer to check out of the hotel at the last minute possible just to get their money’s worth, you could save a lot of time if you check out an hour earlier on a particularly busy day.
Sundays and Fridays are often busy for check-outs, and there is a pretty good chance you’ll have to wait in line at the front desk if you check out at the last minute. Isn’t it better to check out an hour earlier, than to have to spend an extra hour at the hotel standing in line?
If you suspect that your hotel room bill is higher than it should be and you’re not provided with an itemized bill of all your expenses, you can request one at the front desk. Go through it and make sure that there aren’t any bogus charges – sometimes it can happen by mistake, but it can also be done intentionally and many guests never realize it because they never think to ask for an itemized bill.
Most hotels allow guests to check out late at no extra charge, but this is generally dependent on their booking capacity. If the hotel isn’t completely booked during your stay and there are no new guests arriving who are supposed to take your room, they will most likely allow you to check out late.
Many hotels allow their guests to check out as late as 2 PM, and some will even let you stay until 6 PM. It all depends on the property, room availability, and the overall flexibility of the hotel with their check-in and check-out times.
If you have a late flight and you would like to stay at the hotel as long as possible, it’s best to contact them in advance and ask them what’s the latest they would let you check out.
It’s also worth noting that some hotels allow their guests to check out as late as they want for an extra fee. This might just be worth it if you want to stay at the hotel for several hours past your check-out time.
Also, it never hurts to be polite with the front desk staff and ask them very nicely. They will be more inclined to help you if you are kind to them and treat them with respect, and they can easily decline your request for late check-out if you are rude and act entitled.
It’s better to check out at the front desk because you can get an itemized bill of all your expenses. If you sign up for online check-out and leave them with your card number, the hotel will just charge you what they think you owe them and you won’t be able to do anything about this until you get the email with the bill.
You can usually go over the itemized bill and dispute any charges you have issues with, but this process takes time. Some people prefer doing this at their own convenience and just being able to walk out of their room whenever they like.
But if you want to be absolutely certain that the hotel won’t overcharge you for anything, or you have any doubts that they will send an itemized bill to your email address, it is in your best interest to check out at the front desk.
Many hotels will allow guests to check in early, depending on the room availability. If the hotel is not at full capacity and your room is clean and ready for your arrival, they will usually let you check in a few hours ahead of time. Also, you’ll have a better chance of getting early check-in if you’re not staying at an airport hotel or one that charges by the hour.
But they won’t let you check in at 12:01 AM on the day of your reservation. If the check-in at your hotel starts at 2 PM, they might let you check in at 9 AM if you let them know in advance when you will be arriving.
They might even let you check in at 6 AM, but in most cases, you cannot check in earlier than that because of how the property management system functions. Most will close off the night at around 5 AM, and it’s generally not possible to check in sooner.
That being said, sometimes it is not at all possible for guests to check in early because of limited availability. If the hotel is booked to capacity or they’re expecting a lot of walk-in guests, they simply can’t let you in before the scheduled check-in time because they don’t have a room ready for you.
If that happens, you can always ask them if they can store your luggage while you wait, and go relax at the spa or get something to eat.
The best thing to do to get early check-in at the hotel is to contact them before your arrival. Call them or email them, and explain your situation and when you expect you will arrive. Many hotels will allow their guests to check in early for free, provided they’re not booked to capacity and they have a room available at the time you want to check-in.
Letting the hotel know your schedule in advance can help you get an early check-in, but it’s still not guaranteed. In any case, you’ll have a better chance of being able to check in early if you call ahead, than if you just show up at the front desk hours before the scheduled check-in time.
You can always ask the hotel for a room upgrade, and it’s best to do it at the front desk during check-in. It’s best to decide how much money you are willing to spend on a room upgrade and ask them if they have anything in your budget. Some hotels may even offer an upgrade free of charge, but that doesn’t happen very often so don’t expect it.
It generally depends on the capacity of the hotel, and whether they’re expecting any important guests. In any case, it doesn’t hurt to ask if it would be possible for you to get a free upgrade – if they cannot offer you a free upgrade, ask them how much you would need to pay for one.
If you find the stated amount acceptable (and it will usually be a cheaper room rate than if you were to book the better room immediately), then great. If not, you’ll still get your room and you won’t have to pay anything extra, so it’s pretty much a win-win situation.
RELATED POST: HOW OLD DO YOU HAVE TO BE TO GET A HOTEL ROOM
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.