Why Hotels Won’t Guarantee Early Check-In

Why Hotels Won't Guarantee Early Check-In
The Peninsula Paris is an Exception: Most Hotels Won't Guarantee Early Check-in

Will Hotels Ever Guarantee Early Check-In? A TravelSort Client who will be staying at a Four Seasons resort for a friend's wedding requested a guaranteed early check-in at 12noon, noting how important it was to get into the room early so as to prepare for the wedding and get the kids situated with their nanny.

Unfortunately, early check-in, for all Four Seasons hotels and for most other hotels as well, is subject to availability. Here's why: existing guests can check-out until 12noon (typical check-out time is 12noon; some hotels may have an earlier check-out time). Housekeeping needs time to clean the room before the new guests arrive, which is why check-in time at this resort is at 4pm; most U.S. hotels have a 3pm or 4pm check-in time.

You might ask–so how are hotels able to offer a guaranteed 4pm check-out time to some guests? AMEX Fine Hotels & Resorts, which we do reserve for clients with an AMEX Platinum or AMEX Centurion card, when they need a guaranteed 4pm late check-out, has a guaranteed 4pm late check-out as a published benefit. The answer is:

  • Hotels such as Four Seasons limit the number of reservations they take for a given night that are booked with AMEX FHR benefits. That's why sometimes it's not possible to book with FHR even when there's availability through the hotel site–because the hotel needs to manage how many guests could potentially avail themselves of this late check-out benefit.
  • Hotels make a point of requesting guests' anticipated arrival time in advance, so that they can balance check-outs with check-ins. Late check-outs can work if the incoming guest is an evening check-in that still provides sufficient time to turn the room.
  • If worst comes to worst, the guest may not be able to check into his or her originally booked room type at normal check-in time. If the hotel isn't sold out, a guest in that situation can push to be given another room or suite that is available, and is in a strong position to argue for an upgraded room or suite, or at least a goodwill gesture, given the inconvenience of not being able to check-in at normal check-in time.

In contrast, a guaranteed early check-in is a huge liability as it means the hotel can't sell the room the prior night. The hotel can't force a guest to check out earlier than the stated check-out time, which is what would be required in order to provide the next guest with a guaranteed early check-in. Can you imagine how you'd feel if a hotel woke you up at 8am, saying they need you to check-out in an hour, because the next guest has a guaranteed early check-in at 12noon, such that the hotel needs to clean the room?

But what if there isn't a guest in the room the night before? While chances are higher that a hotel might grant an early check-in request at the time of check-in, you'll still find very few hotels willing to guarantee early check-in in advance, because the hotel will be giving up the possibility of selling that room the prior night.

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Best Options to Guarantee Hotel Early Check-In

Most hotels will, of course, let you leave your luggage with the bell man, and probably allow you to use the hotel spa to freshen up. But what if you really need an actual hotel room early? Here are the best options:

1. Pay for the Prior Night

The is the only option that works at ALL hotels: paying for the prior night. While this may seem expensive, if early check-in is that important to you, say because you have an exhausting night flight into Europe, or because it's imperative that you have the room for an important work call or so that the entire family can get ready for a wedding, the additional expense may be worth it.

2. Peninsula Pen Club

There are only 10 Peninsula Hotels, with the Peninsula London, Peninsula Istanbul and Peninsula Yangon under development, but this small luxury hotel chain has a fantastic benefit when TravelSort Clients reserve with Pen Club benefits: flexible check-in and check-out times. If your reserved room or suite isn't yet ready, you will be given a “holding room” to use until your room or suite is available.

One of my favorite hotels is the Peninsula Paris, and it's the luxury hotel I most recommend to U.S. clients arriving in Paris from a red eye flight, since they are guaranteed early check-in, and are able to take a nap or shower instead of leaving their luggage with reception and having to return to the hotel later.

3. Your24 for Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elite Members

This was a Starwood elite benefit, and has been kept for Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elites who stay 100 eligible nights and spend at least $20,000 annually. You can choose your check-in, even if it's 7am, and then your check-out time will also be 7am on your day of departure. This isn't as generous as The Peninsula Pen Club (where you could conceivably check-in at 7pm and check-out on departure day at 11pm) but it's still an innovative perk for elites of such a large hotel chain.

4. Standard Hotels: Pay Extra for Standard Time Flexible Check-in / Check-out

Standard Hotels is a small 3.5-4 star chain with hotels in NYC, Miami Beach, Hollywood, and Los Angeles. If booking at least 7 days in advance, you may be able to reserve a “Standard Time” rate for an additional fee (typically about 15% more) that enables you to to guarantee early check-in and late check-out in advance of your stay. Note that “Standard Time” cannot be combined with any other discount or special rate.

If you've guaranteed early check-in at a hotel in advance of your stay, which hotel was it for?

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