Paying For Early Hotel Check-In

Filed Under: Hotels

Reader manojl17 asked the following question in the Ask Lucky forum:

Something is rubbing me the wrong way but I wanted to reach out to the community to get your perspectives to see if I am taking this too internally.

First trip to Europe. Was staying in Brussels for a day. Arrived at the Ibis Brussels Centre Gare Midi (only because it is right across the station and I had an early morning train to catch the next day.)

I booked a room here for one night in advance for a discounted rate of some $55 for the night. Normal check in time is at 2 pm. I arrived a little bit after 11 am and figured I might see if I can check in early and was willing to pay a fair price (I know, fair here is subjective.)

The receptionists had a sly and almost demeaning attitude. Lifeless yet spoke as little as possible. They told me that it would cost an additional Euro35 to check in early. The only option to leave the my bags were lockers downstairs that were coin operated most of which were already occupied leaving me with the option to either sit down till 2 with my bags and waste a few hours or pay the extra Euro35 and check in.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a cheapskate but yet felt paying nearly $40 or so to check in less than 3 hours before check in on a $55 booking was a little crazy. I willingly did pay the extra since this was our first trip to Europe and we had full intentions to spending the entire day touring and making the most of what we had.

A few days later, I wrote to the customer service department of IBIS and pointed out the above and requested if they would be willing to refund part of the Euro35 I was charged and charge a fair fee. I also politely acknowledged that if they don’t, I completely understand as it was a choice I was given and I took it.

No response ever.

I know IBIS is not a Marriott or Hyatt but is it too much to expect some basic courtesy? Is it alright to be upset or am I taking this too deep?

I think it’s becoming more common for hotels to try to monetize early check-in, especially at budget properties. On many ibis hotel websites, they actually list this as an amenity.

Some ibis properties advertise early check-in as a paid amenity.

In Europe especially, hotels know that Americans typically arrive in the morning, exhausted from their transatlantic flights and willing to pay good money for a nap.

Tired and/or hungry people don’t always think rationally, which explains why hotels can also get away with charging 30 bucks for a room service hamburger.

Here’s an ibis I stayed at in Dubai a couple years ago. They’re generally good for basic accommodations!

I have a few strategies to avoid paying for early check-in:

Leverage loyalty status, where possible 

I have IHG Platinum status thanks to my IHG Rewards Club Select card, and Hilton Gold thanks to my Hilton Surpass card by American Express.

Early check-in isn’t a published benefit for either of those status levels, and it’s actually rare to find early check-in as a published benefit for most levels of status in hotel loyalty programs.

But I do find that I tend to get early check-in more frequently at hotels where I have status.

Be really nice at check-in

I stayed at an independent hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland last year where I checked in around noon. I made a point to be extra pleasant to the check-in agent, and she was happy to assign me a room. The next day, when I checked out at noon, I saw the same agent calmly explaining to a less-friendly guest that the hotel charged for early check-ins.

On other occasions, I’ve had agents scold me for arriving early and basically tell me that they are letting me check in early purely out of the goodness of their hearts.

If all else fails, see the denial of early check-in as a blessing in disguise 

If I nap when I arrive in Europe, I’m missing out on valuable daylight hours I could be spending exploring. More importantly, it makes it that much harder to adjust to the time change.

Better to have a caffeinated beverage and power through until early evening that first night!

Bottom line

Early check-in typically isn’t guaranteed, and it’s not that unusual for hotels to only offer extra time in the room for a fee.

That all said, Accor Hotels at least owes you the courtesy of a reply to your complaint, even if they don’t refund the early check-in fee! I’d at least expect them to throw you some Le Club Accor points, “as a courtesy” (which is corporate speak for “we think you’re wrong but hopefully this will make you stop complaining”).

Has anyone else ever been charged a fee for early check-in?

  1. I honestly have no problem with this practice at all. They at least clearly state their check-in and check-out times when you reserve a room so you know the rate you are paying buys you that time in the room. And if you want additional time, sure it would be nice to get it for free because you are a loyal customer, or have status or because they like the cut of your jib. But, in the absence of those reasons for giving you something with value for free, I am fine with being presented with a price for me to decide if that price is worth it to me.

    What I don’t appreciate is selling me a room for $300 for the night, then telling me once I arrive that there is a $30 a night mandatory resort fee that wasn’t part of the price I agreed to and for things I am not given a choice to purchase.

  2. American hotels seem to be adopting it as well, although the rates don’t seem to be quite as egregious. I was checking in at the Doubletree Hotel Circle in San Diego a few weeks ago and the hotel staff informed me that it would be a $25 charge to check in before noon but then suggested I just wait about a half-hour until noon in order to check in without the fee.

    The rate I was paying was about $240/night including taxes and fees, so the fee would have been reasonable if I had arrived a lot earlier and just wanted to crash for a bit. In that case though $25 for 30 minutes wasn’t worth it so I just killed some time at the mall and then came back.

  3. Just book the room for the night before you arrive. Never not had a room waiting for me when I arrive.

  4. Once in Ibis Seoul Insadong it went flawlessly, i arrived 3 hours prior to the original checkin time. The agent Lucy was really understanding, we had a short chat about my situation ( early flight, exhausted as hell blabla). In Mercure Barcelona i had positive experience as well, the agent checked me in without any problem after i politely asked whether if its possible or not. In NH Timisoara went fine as well. However, in Wien K+K Maria Theresia, we arrived 1 hour before the check in time and the agent said i had to pay 30euros for the early check in, i refused and took a short walk in Museumquartier.

    i think it really depends on the agent and how full the hotel is.

  5. I always get let into my room super early. I always fly out of my hometown at like 6am so I get to wherever I cam going well before lunch for a typical weekend getaway. I always get let into my room early. I have status, but nothing crazy – just what you get from credit cards. That doesn’t even seem to matter. Once I had a Priceline hotel booking for a Marriott in Baltimore and they let me into the room for free at like 9am.

  6. @ Ryan – don’t you run the risk of the room being cancelled (or the whole reservation) if you book to arrive on the evening of Thursday but don’t arrive till like lunchtime Friday?

  7. If you’re a tourist, you’d be willing to explore. If you’re in search of productivity, you’d hop to the nearest Starbucks and get working. If you’re unwilling to do either… shucks.

  8. @Ben – you don’t run the risk if you alert the hotel to the fact you’ll be arriving late

    One loyalty program which guarantees early check-in is Global Hotel Alliance which includes Kempinski etc. as a GHA Black (their top elite status) you can check-in from 9 AM.

    Maybe I should write a post about GHA Discovery as its little known but quite common outside the US?

    Incidentally 50 bucks for night in central Brussels is a steal!

  9. EUR 35 for an early-check in at 11am seems reasonable to me. Look, just because you paid USD 55 for the room doesn’t mean squat. It’s an ibis in a super-central location. Their rates can vary a lot based on demand. It’s very well conceivable they anticipated low demand by the time you booked the room for USD 55, but they ended up close to fully booked by the time you arrived.

    They would be stupid not to charge EUR 35 to a non-status customer if they stand a chance of selling another room at EUR 100-150.

    ibis is a bread-and-butter chain, Europe’s market leader in economy segment (mostly 2* hotels). Competition among economy brands is fierce. If you had, say, Accor Plat or Accor Gold, it might be a different story. But, as it stands, I don’t think there’s anything to complain about.

  10. For instance, on Le Club Accorhotels both Golds and Plats should get early check-in – as a published benefit.

    Accor CS is infamous for its poor customer service and response times.

  11. The Conrad Hilton offered early check in as one of the NOR1 upgrade options. I checked the little box as I was going to arrive at 7 AM and would be thrilled to pay $70 to get into my room at 7AM instead of 2PM. At the desk the clerk acknowledged the upgrade request and then said that since I was Hilton Gold he would waive the fee and had a nice city view on the Executive Floor. I was really blown away by the upgrade and the fee waive. I think attitude helped and the fact that I had indicated that I was willing to pay for it. If I had not gotten the fee waived I would still have been happy (it was a 4 night award stay at the Conrad), but giving me an upgraded room and letting me check in early was definitely a rare appreciated unicorn.

    The opposite was the Orly Airport Hilton. I walked up to the desk at 10 AM and the clerk just looked at me and said “Check in is at 2, come back then” and walked away.

  12. I have to say as someone who worked in the hotel industry many people are unreasonable in their demands to check in early. On more than one occasion people would come on a Saturday morning, during 100% occupation and demand we give them a room as they were tired from flying. If this is such an issue more people should book a night before if it is such an important request.

    As you pointed out, if asked nicely would try our very best to find them a room but when working with different room categories it is not always possible and this is when people tended to turn vicious. I can’t speak for all hotels but we didn’t hold back a room to spite you we genuinely couldn’t meet their request. If anything the more people dealt with before check-in time the better!

  13. European hotels are notoriously rotten about allowing early check ins. I usually specify in advance that I require it, and establish the cost. In spring and summer, I’ll pay it, but if it’s January or February, I won’t. Low season travel should have its benefits. I also respectfully disagree that it’s best to “power through”. Sightseeing while exhausted isn’t fun or rewarding. Taking a 3-4 hour nap, getting up mildly refreshed and having a local coffee and a nice dinner, then going back to bed about 11pm local is far more civilized to me. This works for both tourism and business, but then I hate being sleepy when I’m trying to enjoy myself or be productive.

  14. Last year we had 2 rooms booked at the Brussels City Hilton using Airmiles (Canadian Program). We arrived at 10 AM and asked just out of curiosity if we could check in early. They said that one of the rooms was ready and that we could go right up, no charge, no fuss. It was fantastic.

  15. Plenty of times I’ve been refused early check-in and told to come back at the normal check-in time, but I’ve never been charged for early check-in. In those cases when I can’t check in early, I always just leave my bag at the hotel and go out to explore the city, get a meal, etc. In this case I definitely would not have paid €35 for a couple of hours – why not use the luggage lockers? And if those were truly full, ask the hotel to store your bags elsewhere or look for another left luggage facility nearby (you were near the train station, right?)

  16. Also, it’s worth considering that an early check-in fee is likely to be something that is standardized across the brand, whereas room rates will vary greatly depending on location, how nice the property is, time of year, events going on, etc. So while €35 seems outrageous when you’re paying $55 total for the room, it would seem a lot more reasonable if you were at a $300/night Sofitel resort.

  17. Status doesnt make you immune to early check in fees. I am a Hilton diamond member and the Hilton Portland, OR wouldnt let me check in early without paying a fee.

  18. We’ve been granted early check-in before 9:00 a.m. at properties where we have status. We always say something along the lines of “We’re staying with you tonight. We know we’re really early and would appreciate it if we could store our bags. If there’s any chance a room is ready early that would be wonderful too but we’re not expecting it.”

    Between that and looking sufficiently bedraggled after an overnight flight, we’ve found clerks to be very accommodating (pun intended).

    As to paying for an early arrival, a couple of years ago we were landing at SYD around 7:00 a.m. after a couple of long-haul flights from Asia and staying at the Rydges right across from International Arrivals rather than going to the city, since we were flying onward to Flyertalk Oz Fest the next morning.

    I emailed the hotel and they replied they would happily let us in early if a room was available but they couldn’t guarantee it, so I paid the reasonable fee they tacked on for early arrival and would do the same again in similar circumstances. Incidentally, that’s a very decent and convenient property IMHO. We stayed there again last year.

  19. When I read “Here’s an ibis I stayed at in Dubai a couple years ago” I thought surely Lucky’s not writing this and scrolled up to check – haha. (No slight on Lucky.)

  20. First: IBIS is a absolutely low cost chain – you get what you pay for. Second: did it cross your mind to inquire in advance what early check-in would cost?

  21. My experience after about 25 trips to Europe in the last ten years is that the practices seem to vary depending upon what city you are in rather than which hotel chain you use. I have stayed in six Paris hotels during that period, and none of them would permit check-in before 3pm, but in every case they graciously offered to store my suitcase so I could wander around the city and have breakfast and lunch. On the other end of the spectrum, hotels in Geneva, a city full of international business travelers, bend over backwards to free up rooms for travelers arriving from the airport in the morning hours, some even extending the offer of a free continental breakfast while you wait. One thing that is common to all European cities is that the locals don’t take kindly to Americans insisting on their rights or seeking to change local customs and practices. My advice is to go with the flow when you are a stranger in a strange land.

  22. Charging for an early check-in and a late checkout is more common that most people think. As Lucky says, leverage your hotel loyalty status when possible but most importantly be nice. Trying to be righteous and demand a service which is not in our reservation agreement/contract is going to get you nowhere.
    Simply be nice and you’ll be surprised at what you will be able to achieve.

  23. The problem is that in the past hotels never charged for checking in early, and rarely had check in times so late in the day. It was straight forward, if you arrived early and the hotel had a room class ready, they checked you in, if they didn’t you waited in the lobby until a room was ready. It was simply good customer service, that’s all.

    Nowadays hotels have taken a page from airlines and started charging for things they used to do as normal course of business.

  24. Meh.

    The hotel publishes an paid early check-in option. No particular reason to be surprised it exists.

    “The receptionists had a sly and almost demeaning attitude. Lifeless yet spoke as little as possible.” That’s reading an awful lot into someone’s simply enforcing the published rules of the hotel. The OP states it’s their first time in Europe; seems odd to be making rather detailed judgments about character in a culture in which the judge seems to have only a few hours experience.

    “The only option to leave the my bags were lockers downstairs that were coin operated most of which were already occupied” The fairly obvious solution here would be to use on of the lockers that was not already occupied.

    “Is it alright to be upset or am I taking this too deep?” It’s always “alright” to be upset — either you’re upset or not. But the expectation of receiving a published paid service for free when paying a hotel rate that is essentially equivalent to two hostel beds is probably, yes, taking it a bit far.

  25. What offends me even more is that when the Hotel is fully booked the night before I often have waited until 5:00PM (once as late as 6:00PM!) for my room to be ready. No compensation or anything is offered. Add to this that most have now moved their check-in time to 4:00PM from the historical 2:00PM of the past. I personally am of the spirit that if you pay for 24 hours you should be entitled to 24 hours. At least Hyatt is good with Globalist late check outs.

  26. @ben only if you don’t tell them what you’re doing. A quick phone call and they’ll note on your reservation when you plan on checking in.

    As for Ibis, they’re basically the lcc of hotels. For what you pay, you get a clean and functional room for the posted time period. Anything else requires a fee. Just know going in what that $55/nigh rate means.

    Also, the standard for customer service in France is rather more curt than what Americans are used to. (The most diplomatic way I could think of saying this)

  27. I agree with @ Emirates4ever. If a hotel had a room available, they used to accommodate early check-in as a courtesy. Now they’re monetizing it. That’s unacceptable, and we probably have those travelers who actually pay the fee to thank for it.

  28. I’m always friendly with hotel staff, offering an out stretched hand and a “good morning” or “good afternoon”. I figure it costs me nothing, it’s how I’d like to be treated, and I know that plenty of people they have to deal with are nasty to them. It always pays some kind of dividend like early check in, upgrade, or good sent to the room, all without asking.

  29. France is the absolute worst with some places featuring 4 pm check-in – that’s just wrong! I try really hard to coincide my arrival with the check-in time but it doesn’t always work out. I’ve waited for a room to be prepared but never been asked to pay an early fee. I’m sure there are plenty of us who have arrived after check-in time when no rooms were available and been asked to wait without any compensation. Many of the EU hotels feel that they can get away with poor customer service because tourists are typically a “one and done” stay with no return.

  30. What a hypoctite. Agree to pay extra, agree to pay 35 euros, then STILL write in for compensation?

    I rented a car yesterday. $30 for the day. Returned it 6 minutes after the already generous grace period ended. This was my 90th rental this YEAR from that chain. I was charged $22.50 ‘extra hour’ fee plus all taxes. Poor timing on my part, profitable on their part. I won’t be writing in to complain.

    It’s their car, hotel, etc. Their rules.

  31. @Donna you make a good point. Some posters here are all gung-ho about hotels charging early check in fees, on the basis “you are using the room longer than you paid for”, implying we all are just mooches looking for handouts lol.
    Yet, none of them suggest that if your arrival time is after check in time, particularly considerably after check in time, you should get a partial reimbursement, after all, you are using the room shorter than you paid for. Ah, those good old double standards lol.

  32. We arrived at a Four Seasons resort a couple of days ago at 10:30am hoping for an early check-in. We were told our room wasn’t ready yet. Not only did they offer to store our bags so that we can start enjoying the resort, they also offer to buy our entire group a round of drinks in the hotel bar while we wait. They also extended discounts for spa services for that same day. we eventually received a call (as promised) that our room was ready at 12 noon. Classy service all around

  33. If they cannot accommodate an early check-in, they should have a bag storage room (without a charge).

    I’ve rarely been denied a room early. I try to be pleasant whenever possible. Maybe that’s why.

  34. It is a little unclear from the post, but it sounds like the hotel had no way to store the guest’s bags until check in. To me that is completely unacceptable. It is fine if they deny early check in, but a three star hotel needs to have a way for guests to store bags, period.

  35. More than ten years ago I checked in very early at the Hilton in Burlington, VT because I arrived very early from Boston with a Greyhound bus. I think it arrived about 6 or 7 am (about 8 hours before the regular check in time) but they had no problem to let me to rest in my 1 night booked room. They were so nice and I don’t think it was because I had a Gold HHonors level.

  36. It’s rare that I’d pay for an early check-in. Usually I’ll just take my chances and ask nicely if I’m arriving before 3:00. I’d say roughly 70% of the time, I’m given my room with no fuss. If not, no big deal. I’ll just store my bags and go explore and have a nice lunch.

  37. This completely rubs me the wrong way and where it has happened I would never stay at that hotel again. Mostly I have been lucky and able to often check in as early as 6 and 7am unless there were not any rooms available in which case the hotel has always called me when one became available. If the room was not sold the previous night, its not costing them anything to make me happy and more importantly earn my loyalty. And if it is empty because somebody else checked out early, they are double dipping. Even worse is when a room isn’t ready until well after check in time…then were is the refund?

  38. We arrived at a Holiday Inn Old Sydney a three month ago at 7:30am hoping to leave ours bags. Not only did they offer to store our bags so that we can start enjoying the city. We were able to take a shower next to pool area (amenities and towels were provided). We also received a call, as promised, that our room was ready at 1pm.

  39. The solution is simplle and yet will never happen. If would be great if hotel rooms were like car rentals. Pay for 3 days and stay for 3 days (72 hours) etc.

    Too many times I have checked in at 2AM only to know that check out is at 11AM or Noon.

  40. If I am arriving early at a location (as is usually the case on international flights), I write ahead, telling the hotel about my airport arrival time and asking if it is possible to have an early check-in or if I can check my bags and have use of the pool. I sometimes ask about upgrading to the executive floor or to a nicer room (which sometimes helps with an early check-in). The only time I had to pay for an early check-in was when I hadn’t asked before arriving at the hotel.

  41. It’s a $55 hotel in the middle of a major European capital. What did you expect? The Ibis is a budget chain, and they don’t really do special favours, or customer service. (In fact, I tend to avoid Accor properties in general; I find them cheap (the wrong kind of cheap!) and soulless.) You would have a much better chance at an independent or, as has been said before, somewhere you have status.

    It’s well worth keeping an eye on check-in/out times when choosing a hotel. They can vary significantly.

    If I know I’m going to arrive several hours before the official check-in time, I will make arrangements in advance. I’ll either pay the fee, plan on leaving bags, or choose another hotel with an earlier check in. Sometimes I’ll put my best smile on and wing it.

    Finally, you say there were “lockers downstairs that were coin operated most of which were already occupied”, leaving you forced to pay the fee or sit with your bags. Most or all? Cos it sounds like you’re determined to be angry at something!

  42. I am completely dismayed by some attitudes on this blog – if I arrive prior to the listed check-in time, I do not expect to be admitted to my room and I am mystified by those who believe it is their right to expect an early ‘check-in’; either paid or unpaid My experience is primarily with five star hotels but ‘cloaking’ facilities have always been available and early check-in is generally offered if advance email notification is given.

  43. I’ve never been to a hotel that couldn’t store the bags for free. However, this hotel’s proximity to train station makes this sort of understandable. There is probably just an unmanageable volume of people needing to store their bags so close to the train station. Also, since it is so close to the train station.

  44. This is one reason I prefer red eyes to Europe because you arrive a bit before noon and by the time you clear the airport and get to your hotel it can be within an hour or so of check in time. That’s usually good enough to get your room right away. However when I do arrive in Europe early on occasion I ask nicely if the hotel would store my luggage until my room is ready, due to my early arrival. I consider that a passive and polite way of asking for early check in without really asking. They always respond with “oh, let me check to see when your room will be ready.” If the room is ready I get it, and if it’s not I don’t, then they suggest a time to return. A chance to explore earlier than planned is good too, and I use the restroom to clean up a bit before leaving. Either way it always works out and no one has ever asked me to pay extra for early check in. Why would they? Where is their cost in having me occupy the room 3 or 4 hours early if it’s ready anyway? The cost of my shower? No, because I’m going to have ONE shower whether it’s at 11AM or 3 PM. The cost of me turning on a light? I don’t think so. I do agree that if your early arrival is prearranged then you should pay because the hotel has to rearrange cleaning schedules and plan for your arrival which can increase labor costs in housekeeping and front desk functions.

  45. Ben,

    I think Ryan was just trying to brag that he has a lot of money.

    Or is trying a little too hard to get you to think that.

    Anyway, I’ve had hotels ask me extra for an early check-in. Others do not. If they do, I just tell them to look after my bags while I go somewhere.

    They should still check you in early, without a room yet, but not all will do that.

  46. When we travel and arrive in the morning we always book a night extra. That obviously isn’t very affordable so for some, if your staying at a nice hotel, sit down with all your bags right in the middle of the lobby. Also look rather miserable; you’ll find that they will make a few calls and then the room will be ready.

  47. I think it’s a steep price to pay 35 Euros to check in ~3 hrs early. Maybe they saw your reservation price was only 55 Euros and decided not to give you a break. Most hotels in the US (even 2 star ones) would allow you to leave your bags with either the consierge or behind their counter or some office for a few hours, but I dont know the practice in Europe as I haven’t done this in a long time. I’d probably pay the 35 Euros if I’m in desperate need of a shower to to catch some sleep from a redeye flight. Otherwise, I’ll just sit in the lobby for 3 hrs and wait till the room is ready (hopefully at 2pm punctually).

  48. Well, Ibis is clearly a budget chain/brand, so why would anyone expect full service? It’s basically the hotel equivalent of Ryanair or Easyjet.

    I’m more irritaded if full service chains/brands start charging for such service, which seems to be the case according to some posts.

  49. I manage a Marriott hotel and we always let our guests check in early. It costs the hotel nothing extra and it is very much appreciated by our guests.

  50. I know this article is a few months old, but thought I’d throw my 2c in, as it’s sort of relevant! My experience of checking in to an Ibis hotel in Europe (Romania) was completely different!

    This was back in c.2010, Ibis Bucharest, after an overnight train from Belgrade. They didn’t know about my horrible overnight journey, and I’d made the booking 15 mins prior via (so not even direct!) on my iPhone, but they let me check in at like 08:00am, for no extra charge! It was like a EUR40 stay too. I was eternally grateful for that, given that I was in desperate need of a shower and sleep.

    At the other end of the hotel quality scale (well, but pretty contrasting anyway!), Hilton Auckland also bent over backwards to accommodate me (c.2015) at 6am after an early flight in from Melbourne. Hotel was completely full, but they let me use the gym to shower and we were in a room by 8am. Ok, so HHonors Gold may have helped that one.

    I don’t think I’ve ever had an unjustified refusal – I appreciate that hotels are sometimes full, and no amount of cash or elite status will change that, so sometimes you have to suck it up. I personally mightn’t have paid 35 to check in early on a 55 stay, but even a total of EUR90 for Brussels is still pretty cheap in my experience of Belgium!

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