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How Late Can You Check Into A Hotel?

how late can you check into a hotel

When it comes to travel, the best-laid plans can sometimes go wrong. Flight delays, car breakdowns, whatever the cause, it’s not uncommon for travelers to arrive at their hotel tired and stressed about their late arrival.

But How Late Can You Check Into A Hotel?

What’s the situation if arriving really late, after midnight, for example?

Well, I decided to take an in-depth look at what happens when you arrive at a hotel after hours and explain the policy difference between small and large establishments.

So, next time you find yourself running late for a check-in, you’ll know exactly what to do.

Ready to dive in?

Hotel Check-In and Check-Out Schedules 

Typically, hotels have a standard check-in time of 3 pm. The exact check-in time can be found in your reservation, but the earliest you can normally check in is 3 pm. That’s the industry norm. Early check-ins can sometimes be accommodated if a room is available. Most hotels are happy to do that if they can, so it’s always worth asking.

Some hotels will happily let guests check in early and allow them to make use of amenities before their room is actually ready. If they have a swimming pool or gym, you could get some exercise in or find the restaurant/bar to wait for your room.

 What about checking out?

The standard check-out time is 11 am, giving hotels a four-hour window to get the room ready for the next arrivals. If you arrived very late, some hotels might arrange for your room to be the last one cleaned, allowing for a later check-out time.

The Steps To Take

Notifying hotels of late arrival is common practice and should always be done for your own benefit and out of courtesy to the hotel. But what qualifies as “late” varies quite widely. There are a number of factors at play, but generally, it depends on the hotel’s size and their individual policy.

Small Hotels

As a rule, the smaller the hotel, the less scope there is for late check-ins. A small hotel with limited rooms may consider check-in after 7 pm as late. 

Remember, these are often small, family-run businesses with only a handful of staff. Someone must be present to check you in, so it’s vital to let them know exactly when you intend to arrive. If they can afford to refuse the business, many small hotels may well even turn down reservations if the guests will be turning up after midnight.

Medium-Sized Hotels

More often than not, a night manager will be available for check-in after midnight at medium-sized hotels. But that doesn’t mean they will be sat at reception all night long. To make sure you don’t have a long wait outside, it’s best to call ahead and let them know if you’re arriving after 9 or 10 pm. Hopefully, someone will be ready and waiting when you arrive rather than doing another job elsewhere.

Medium-Sized Hotels

Large Hotel Chains

Large hotels staff their reception desks around the clock, so you can effectively arrive at any time up to a point. However, there are risks attached to this, especially if you haven’t paid for the room yet. There is a chance from 10 pm onwards that they might sell your room if they think you’re a no-show and haven’t prepaid.

Once again, it’s best practice to call the hotel and let them know if you’re arriving after 10 pm, especially if booking through a third-party site. If you’ve paid already, you’re pretty much good to turn up anytime up until 7 am. If you arrive any later than that, it will be considered the next day, and there is little to no chance you’ll be allowed access to the room, unless you’ve booked it for a number of days.

Read The Small Print

Regardless of the hotel size, make sure to read their rules and regulations when making your reservation. Their check-in and check-out times will be clearly stated, as will their rules on late arrivals. 

This is particularly important with smaller establishments as they will have less of a check-in window than the major hotel chains. Costly errors or, worse still, an uncomfortable night sleeping in your car can be avoided by double-checking hotel policy.

What To Do If You Need A Last-Minute Room?

If you find yourself without a reservation, you can walk into large chain hotels at any time of the night and get a room if they have vacancies. Something you’d be hard-pushed to do in small or medium-sized establishments.

 You generally need to be near a larger metropolitan area to find the bigger hotel chains. So, if you find yourself in more remote areas, highway motels are likely to be your best bet for a late-night room. The internet is your friend in this situation. You can use it to find the nearest late-night option and get a phone number to call ahead if need be.

What To Do If You Need A Last-Minute Room

Motels are perfect for last minute!

Motels are specifically designed to accommodate people on road trips who often make decisions about where to stay at the last minute. They are used to people turning up at all hours, and there will almost always be someone manning the reception desk.

Regardless of the hotel’s size, a late check-in, even one as late as 4 or 5 am, won’t entitle you to a late check-out. This will depend on the individual hotel policy. You can always ask, and you might even get lucky, but there is no obligation on the side of the hotel.

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Final Thoughts 

Late check-in at hotels requires someone to be available at reception to process your arrival. To ensure a smooth late check-in, it’s always best to inform the hotel of your expected arrival time to guarantee you’ll be accommodated. 

Smaller hotels generally have stricter arrival times, so clear communication is always the way forward in these situations. At large hotels, the staff are often on-site 24/7, but notifying them of a late arrival is still advisable to avoid being marked as a no-show and losing your room.

Keep in mind that late arrival for a single-night stay will lead to a shorter stay, as check-out time the next day is usually the same regardless of the time you arrived. 

Have a wonderful trip!

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