Are Hotel Check-In Times Guaranteed?

Are Hotel Check-In Times Guaranteed?

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An OMAAT reader asked me a question about hotel check-in times, which I figured I’d address more broadly here. As we all know, hotels publish both check-in and check-out times. While many hotels will be flexible with letting you check-in early, people reasonably expect that at the latest, a room will be ready at the published time.

I wanted to talk about that in a bit more detail in this post. Are rooms sometimes not ready by the published check-in time, and if so, what happens?

Why hotel rooms may not be ready at check-in time

Usually hotels have a three to five hour “turnaround time” for rooms, between the published check-out time and published check-in time. In reality, hotels have a bit more time on average, since some guests check-out early, and some guests check-in late.

However, there are situations where you might find that despite this, your room isn’t ready at your published check-in time. What could cause this?

  • Sometimes hotels may be short staffed on housekeepers, so on a day with a lot of departures and arrivals, they may struggle to get all rooms cleaned in time; it can be hard for hotels to prioritize rooms when they’re not sure of anticipated arrival times of guests, and when guests don’t stop by the front desk to check-out
  • Some guests have guaranteed 4PM late check-out, which poses a major issue, because if someone uses that, you can’t have the room be ready by check-in time; this includes Marriott Bonvoy Platinum members, World of Hyatt Globalist members, and those booking through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts
  • Some hotels accommodate unconventional check-in and check-out times; this includes hotels that have a contract for airline crews, and it even includes Peninsula, which has the most flexible stay policy of any luxury hotel group
Sometimes rooms won’t be ready by check-in time

What to expect from a hotel when this happens

It’s by no means common, but it definitely happens once in a while that a hotel can’t have a room ready by the published check-in time. In those situations, what should you expect?

First, I try to be understanding of hotels, and the tough situation they’re in. For hotels with a high percentage of elite guests, it’s challenging to honor 4PM late check-out while still ensuring that arriving guests can access their room at the published time. This is especially tricky if a guest has a specific room type blocked, since it’s really outside the hotel’s control.

With that in mind, a couple of thoughts:

  • Most major hotel groups don’t really guarantee check-in times, at least in the sense that they have no published guidelines as to what guests are entitled to if they can’t access their room on-time; generally the terms we agree to when booking a hotel are pretty one-sided
  • So it’s up to the front desk agent (or front office supervisor) to decide how to handle this situation, on a case-by-case basis

My take is that I try to be reasonable with hotels, since I’ve also benefited from late check-out many times. If my room is only a little late (let’s say up to an hour late), and it doesn’t materially impact my ability to enjoy a stay, then I’m not going to make a big deal of it.

Now, I think it reflects positively on the hotel if they offer to comp you a drink or snack at the hotel bar, or something, while you wait. However, I’m not going to say “please buy me a coffee,” because that would just feel weird.

Now, if a delayed check-in materially impacts a stay, then I think it’s fair to request something more substantial. For example, if the check-in time is 3PM and your room is only ready at 6PM, that could be a problem. What’s reasonable for hotels to offer? Admittedly it depends on the circumstances and caliber of hotel, but generally:

  • If available, a temporary room should be offered, until your specific room is ready; alternatively, if available, a further upgrade should be provided to allow for an on-time check-in
  • Alternatively, I think some form of compensation is reasonable, whether it’s a meal in the hotel restaurant, some bonus points, or a rate reduction

Like I said, it very much depends on the situation. I’d be a lot more peeved about my room not being ready at the check-in time if I’m staying for only one night and am leaving early in the morning, rather than if I’m at a resort for a week, and want to head to the pool upon check-in anyway.

It’s reasonable to expect something for a significant delay

Bottom line

While it doesn’t happen a lot, if you travel often enough, you’ll eventually find that a room isn’t ready at check-in time. In some situations this is unavoidable for hotels, as they have to honor late check-out for some guests, and in many cases that can even be after the published check-in time, not even factoring in that the room needs time to be cleaned.

While hotels publish check-in times, don’t totally view it as a guarantee. Hotels will do everything they can to make sure rooms are ready on-time. In the event your room isn’t ready, it’s not unreasonable to expect that the hotel will do something to make up for it (assuming we’re not talking about a 10-minute delay).

What’s your take on hotels not having rooms ready by check-in time? What do you think is reasonable in these situations?

Conversations (10)
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  1. The Road Goes On Forever Guest

    "Sometimes hotels may be short staffed on housekeepers"

    Not likely at this point in time. Most brands have not, nor will they ever, return housekeeping service standards to pre-pandemic times. The industry as a whole over the past four years has riffed a lot of jobs and housekeeping is where most of them are from. Usually if a property claims to be short staffed, they're full of crap. You can't find what you're not reasonably...

    "Sometimes hotels may be short staffed on housekeepers"

    Not likely at this point in time. Most brands have not, nor will they ever, return housekeeping service standards to pre-pandemic times. The industry as a whole over the past four years has riffed a lot of jobs and housekeeping is where most of them are from. Usually if a property claims to be short staffed, they're full of crap. You can't find what you're not reasonably looking for. It's a self-inflicted wound.

    That has a lot to do with why rooms are not ready at the advertised check in time. Fewer housekeepers cleaning more rooms per day which takes them longer since five years ago they would have had a mix of stayovers and checkouts and now basically all of their rooms are checkouts.

    Tangentially, as someone that has been in the industry a very long time, no, check in time is never guaranteed. While it's nice to receive some form of compensation if there is an egregious delay, it's not owed nor is there a standard requiring it.

  2. Charlie Guest

    Last trip I took, two hotels weren't ready which peeved me for sure since they didn't offer anything other than come back later. One was a Hilton. Took them over one hour then they guaranteed late check out but I started getting knocks on the door and phone calls after 12pm when they guaranteed me until 3 or 4pm check out.

    The other one was a smaller hotel which they asked when I'd be...

    Last trip I took, two hotels weren't ready which peeved me for sure since they didn't offer anything other than come back later. One was a Hilton. Took them over one hour then they guaranteed late check out but I started getting knocks on the door and phone calls after 12pm when they guaranteed me until 3 or 4pm check out.

    The other one was a smaller hotel which they asked when I'd be there - around 5 to 6pm. Then the owner of the hotel proceeded to go to a wedding or something and leave said hotel lobby dark when I arrive and then say room would be ready by 9pm after they return. Ugh.

    I'm glad the article states this does happen but man really losing faith in hotels providing service then. When it's good, it's good but when you pay for a room with said check in time. I mean they could upgrade your room or something especially something like the Hilton...

  3. Jay Guest

    Las Vegas seems to be the worst defender in my experience. First, they throw you out of the room by 11:00 a.m. which is not unreasonable. Check-in is 3:00 p.m. but on the numerous times I've gone I frequently had to wait 2-3 hours to get a room. That is unacceptable. They should stop this nonsense of late checkout for elite members.

  4. Miami305 Gold

    @Lucky - It would be interesting to hear a lawyer's take on this.

    Using your example...
    I agree to pay X.
    I get the room from Y (check-in time) to Z (check-out time). Let's say 4pm to 12 noon. That is 18 hours.

    If my room is not available until 6pm, that is ~17% of the time I am paying for. Am I entitled to to a discount of 17%?

    If I...

    @Lucky - It would be interesting to hear a lawyer's take on this.

    Using your example...
    I agree to pay X.
    I get the room from Y (check-in time) to Z (check-out time). Let's say 4pm to 12 noon. That is 18 hours.

    If my room is not available until 6pm, that is ~17% of the time I am paying for. Am I entitled to to a discount of 17%?

    If I rented a house for a year and it was not usable for the last 17% of the year, I would not have to pay for the last two months.

    So again, it would interesting to get the lawyer's take.

  5. iamhere Guest

    If your desired room type is not available but another type of room is, then I think the guest should decide their final preference.

  6. iamhere Guest

    Agree with Tom about clear communication. Some people's five minutes is different than others. Also, agree with the comment that it is a bigger impact if you are staying for one night with a tight schedule.

  7. anon Guest

    Just like airplane sold out in Y get opup to J Should be expected to upgrade if available

  8. Tom Guest

    My big thing here is just clear communication from the hotel. I hate when they overpromise and underdeliver. If they tell me the room will be ready in an hour and it takes two hours, that's a problem. But if they say upfront it's gonna be late, that's usually fine.

  9. NedsKid Diamond

    I had this happen two weeks ago at a Hampton Inn. Hotel was sold out. I arrived to the hotel about 530pm and no room available until after 7pm (which then turned out there was a room that was ready and clean all along but the housekeeper didn't change its status... the front desk decided to go start checking rooms). Not a ton a Hampton Inn can do but the front desk agent told me...

    I had this happen two weeks ago at a Hampton Inn. Hotel was sold out. I arrived to the hotel about 530pm and no room available until after 7pm (which then turned out there was a room that was ready and clean all along but the housekeeper didn't change its status... the front desk decided to go start checking rooms). Not a ton a Hampton Inn can do but the front desk agent told me to take whatever I wanted from the pantry/shop for a snack and drink.

    More irritating was a Doubletree where I was attending an evening event followed by a 5am check-out and early flight. The hotel was oversold as it turned out. I called when I arrived into town at noon and asked what was the earliest they may have a room, being a Hilton Diamond. They said normal time, 3pm. At 3pm, no room available, come back at 4. Nothing at 4. Finally at 5 they told me they'd upgraded me to a suite, had no standard rooms available anymore, but they'd given late check out to the Diamond in the room before me and they wouldn't leave. I had to use the lobby bathroom to get ready for my evening and finally had a room (a standard, not a suite, the prior occupant I guess decided not to leave) when I returned at 10pm.

  10. a380flyer Guest

    I've also experienced times where they are trying to upgrade me, but that causes a later check in (usually a standard or booked room is offered if need to check in on time). In that scenario I don't feel like further comp is needed and it's up to guest to chose between an upgrade or on time check in.

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The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Miami305 Gold

@Lucky - It would be interesting to hear a lawyer's take on this. Using your example... I agree to pay X. I get the room from Y (check-in time) to Z (check-out time). Let's say 4pm to 12 noon. That is 18 hours. If my room is not available until 6pm, that is ~17% of the time I am paying for. Am I entitled to to a discount of 17%? If I rented a house for a year and it was not usable for the last 17% of the year, I would not have to pay for the last two months. So again, it would interesting to get the lawyer's take.

1
The Road Goes On Forever Guest

"Sometimes hotels may be short staffed on housekeepers" Not likely at this point in time. Most brands have not, nor will they ever, return housekeeping service standards to pre-pandemic times. The industry as a whole over the past four years has riffed a lot of jobs and housekeeping is where most of them are from. Usually if a property claims to be short staffed, they're full of crap. You can't find what you're not reasonably looking for. It's a self-inflicted wound. That has a lot to do with why rooms are not ready at the advertised check in time. Fewer housekeepers cleaning more rooms per day which takes them longer since five years ago they would have had a mix of stayovers and checkouts and now basically all of their rooms are checkouts. Tangentially, as someone that has been in the industry a very long time, no, check in time is never guaranteed. While it's nice to receive some form of compensation if there is an egregious delay, it's not owed nor is there a standard requiring it.

0
Charlie Guest

Last trip I took, two hotels weren't ready which peeved me for sure since they didn't offer anything other than come back later. One was a Hilton. Took them over one hour then they guaranteed late check out but I started getting knocks on the door and phone calls after 12pm when they guaranteed me until 3 or 4pm check out. The other one was a smaller hotel which they asked when I'd be there - around 5 to 6pm. Then the owner of the hotel proceeded to go to a wedding or something and leave said hotel lobby dark when I arrive and then say room would be ready by 9pm after they return. Ugh. I'm glad the article states this does happen but man really losing faith in hotels providing service then. When it's good, it's good but when you pay for a room with said check in time. I mean they could upgrade your room or something especially something like the Hilton...

0
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