How to Get Early Check-In at Your Hotel (and What to Do If You Can’t)

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I try hard not to take the dreaded red-eye flight. Not only is it a miserable way to get a few hours of fitful sleep, but it also puts me at my destination well before I have access to a real bed. Hotels and short-term rentals usually have afternoon check-in times, so what to do with those hours of exhaustion in between?

Early arrivals are sometimes unavoidable, but you don’t necessarily have to wait until 3 p.m. or later to crash. This is also where hotels have a leg up on Airbnb and other short-term rentals—you’re more likely to be able to get into your room before check-in time. Here are a few ways to get an early hotel check-in, and some ideas for what to do if you can’t.

How to get an early check-in time at your hotel

There are no guarantees, but if you let your hotel know in advance that you’re arriving early—in as m any formats as possible—you stand a better chance of your room being ready.

Use your hotel’s app for check-in

According to The Points Guy, checking in a day early on your hotel’s mobile app offers pretty good odds. Many hotel chains allow mobile check-in 24–48 hours in advance with the option to note your arrival time. This worked for check-in times as early as 8 a.m., and the hotel sent a notification of the room being ready through the app.

Request an early check-in when you book

When reserving a room online, many hotels and third-party booking platforms allow special requests, such as extra pillows, floor numbers, and yes, early check-in. Even if this specific option isn’t available, you can often enter your arrival time and other notes to your reservation. If you’re a hotel loyalty program member, you may also have easier access to perks like an early check-in.

Call your hotel directly

Whether you’ve requested an early check-in already or not, call your hotel when you book and again a day ahead of time to let them know about your plans and preferences. Again, they probably won’t make any promises, but at least you can give them a heads up so they can speed up the process where possible. Hotel mobile apps may also have the option to chat with the staff.

Show up and ask

At the very least, you can go to your hotel and try to check in. You don’t necessarily need to explicitly ask for early check-in in this case, especially if there’s a fee to do so. Just let reception know you’re there—hanging out in the lobby with your luggage for a bit may be a helpful, consistent reminder of your request.

What to do if your hotel room isn’t ready

Despite your best efforts, there will probably be times when a hotel can’t accommodate an early check-in request. In those scenarios, you’ve got a handful of choices for killing time:

  • Stay at the airport and buy a lounge day pass. This will cost you a little bit, but least you can hang out in relative comfort with access to wifi, food, and drinks, and you may even be able to get a nap in while you wait. This probably works best if you have a carry-on bag.
  • Use the hotel facilities, like the business center, pool, or spa. Even if you can’t access your room, you should be allowed to access onsite amenities while you wait.
  • Stash your bags and go exploring. If you have the energy, leave your bags in storage at the hotel and head out to start your vacation.

A final reminder: you can also request late checkouts, and as long as the hotel isn’t full, this option is probably available. Of course, this may prevent the next person—you, at some point—from getting an early check-in.


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