Let me start by saying that this post isn’t intended to give hotels any ideas. Rather it’s meant to talk about a situation I recently faced, and how I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often.
We all know that there’s a lot of nickel-and-diming in the hotel industry. Just look at the resort, destination, and facility “fees” that we’ve seen added at so many hotels.
Along those lines, I’m surprised most hotels don’t try to better monetize early check-in.
Most Hotels Will Let You Check-In Early
All hotels have published check-in and check-out times. I find that a vast majority of hotels will let you check-in early at no extra cost, as long as a room is available.
How early can you check-in? It varies, but generally once the night audit is done (in the early hours of the morning) front desk agents are capable of checking you in, pending availability.
While hotels will typically let you check-in early, it’s incredibly rare that they’ll let you check-out significantly later than the published times. Your elite status might get you 2PM or 4PM late check-out, but it rarely happens that a hotel will let you check-out at no extra cost at 8PM, for example, even if the room would otherwise be empty.
I Was Recently Charged For Early Check-In
A couple of days ago we stayed at the InterContinental Johannesburg Airport (review coming shortly), and we arrived at around 10AM. The friendly front desk associate informed us “we have rooms ready, but there is a 500ZAR fee if you check-in before 2PM.” That’s about 33USD, by the way.
At first I was caught off guard, since I didn’t remember the last time I was asked to pay to check-in early. But then I also thought to myself that it wasn’t a completely unreasonable amount to spend for early check-in, and I can’t blame the hotel for charging it.
Why Isn’t This More Common?
As I said at the beginning of the post, I’m not writing this to encourage hotels to add these fees. Rather the post is intended to share my surprise at this being the first time I recall being charged such a fee.
It’s potentially an additional source of revenue for a hotel. Sure it costs the hotel nothing extra to provide early check-in for free, but shouldn’t the same be said for an 11PM check-out if the room would otherwise be empty?
Logically it could even potentially (sort of) benefit guests:
- Those who value early check-in most could pay the premium for it, rather than it being purely on a first come first served basis
- While some hotel loyalty programs offer early check-in subject to availability as an elite benefit, in reality it’s not much of a benefit since they generally offer that to everyone
Earlier this year Hyatt introduced confirmed early check-in and late check-out for a fee at many of their properties. That’s sort of along these lines, but not completely, since that’s confirmed in advance, rather than based on availability during your stay.
Anyone else surprised more hotels are so strict about check-out time, but aren’t at all strict about check-in time?