Sometimes you are just on the go and want to jet out from a hotel without spending time checking out at the front desk.
But can you just leave a hotel without checking out or could there be consequences?
In this article, we’ll take a look at whether or not you can simply check out of a hotel without stopping by the front desk or even checking out at all. I’ll also lay out some good reasons for why you probably do want to check out on the majority of your hotel stays.
Do you have to check out of your hotel?
No, most hotels in the US allow you to simply leave without checking out although checking out can be a very helpful thing to do at most properties. That’s because it can help improve the hotel’s cleaning logistics and help you more easily resolve any billing discrepancies or issues experienced during your stay.
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Why you may NOT want to check out
Having to wait in long lines
To be honest, there aren’t many good reasons for not checking out other than simply wanting to save time and energy dealing with people.
Depending on the time of your check out, you could be facing long waiting times.
This is especially true if you are taking advantage of late-check out and are checking out around the same time that many guests are checking in.
The end result is you waiting in line for a long time to do something that you probably could have avoided and that is why a lot of people just don’t bother with check out at the front desk.
This should be less of a worry nowadays because you can often utilize an app to check out. You might also be able to utilize check out through the TV in your hotel room.
And finally, you can also call down to the front desk to check out although that could also involve wait times.
Related: What Time Is Check-In for Hotels?
Contributing to long waiting times
Related to the above reason, you may not want to check out because you feel like you will be contributing to long wait times for other people.
You might arrive at the front desk and notice that they are frantically working to keep up with all of the guests arriving. Or you might be at a hotel that is short-staffed with limited personnel early in the morning trying to get breakfast ready or tend to other service matters.
In these situations you may feel like your “trivial” need to check out will only make things worse for other guests and for the staff.
This could be true in some cases and so the best route could be to just check out on the app or online if possible.
As mentioned below, you may feel the need to review your bill and so heading to the front desk might still be necessary.
I personally would not avoid heading to the front desk even if you feel like you are adding to the hectic state of things. At the end of the day, the staff at the front desk are there to help you so you should not feel unwelcomed to sort something out.
Why you may want to check out
Because you have to
Sometimes a hotel will require you to check out.
This is much less common in the US and more common at international hotels but some properties make check out a required step of the hotel stay similar to checking in.
You might even have to submit your passport or some other type of documentation that will require you to return to the hotel before leaving. If you paid for your hotel in cash you may need to check out in order to receive your deposit.
In other situations, you may be given a metal key that you have to return in-person.
It’s even possible that the hotel does not take payment until the time of checkout which would obviously require you to be there to make the payment.
It’s just a good rule of thumb to be more open to checking out at the front desk when traveling internationally.
Helping with hotel logistics and emergencies
Most hotels don’t know when you leave unless you officially check out.
So by checking out you’re allowing the hotel to more efficiently get housekeeping to clean the rooms.
That, in turn, could allow other guests to receive early check-in and prevent more cases of the hotel running behind and perhaps even delaying check-in for other hotel guests.
This is probably the number one reason why I think it’s good to make a habit out of checking out. It’s just a pretty courteous thing to do for the hotel staff and for hotel guests.
On this same note, if you ever are granted late check out but decide NOT to use it, it’s even more helpful for you to check out to let the hotel know you’re not occupying a room.
And finally, you can help out the hotel because if an emergency did happen that required some type of evacuation you would be properly accounted for if you have already checked out.
Related: Should You Tip Hotel Housekeeping?
Settling or reviewing a bill
Heading to the front desk to check out is a great way to get closure on your bill and your stay.
Whenever you check out at the front desk, an agent will usually ask you if you want to review your bill or folio.
If you didn’t already receive your bill under your door or via email, this is a great opportunity to review all of the charges during your stay and to inquire about things like pesky resort fees, which you might be able to get waived.
If you see anything that you don’t recognize on the bill you should definitely bring it up.
Typically, if you don’t check out, your folio will be emailed to you within one or two days of checking out so you should still receive all of your billing information via email.
The advantage of reviewing it in person is that you can resolve any disputes face-to-face.
Sometimes you may find yourself in a back-and-forth phone tag with the hotel when you’re trying to get these things sorted out so that’s one major reason why it’s good to settle the bill in person.
This is especially true for international hotels where communication can be a bigger hurdle.
If you had a short stay at a basic hotel or you did not have any kind of room charges then the need for you to settle disputes face-to-face is probably pretty small.
On the flip side, if you just finished up a stay at a full-service or all-inclusive resort and you were making lots of charges to your room with things like room service, mini-bar, rollaway bed, tours, and other things then that is definitely a situation where you want to give your folio a close look.
You’d be surprised how often you might find unauthorized charges and mistakes on your bill.
If you took advantage of any special perks like complimentary late check out, dining credits, breakfast certificates, parking, etc. it’s also a good idea to make sure that those perks were indeed free. And if you pre-paid for your stay, you definitely want to make sure you’re not getting charged twice.
Also, sometimes you might need a zeroed-out balance for your record keeping or perhaps for business travel reimbursement.
This is something that you may need to get from the front desk when you check out because the receipt found under your door may not always reflect a zero balance.
And finally, if you had any type of awkward/messy booking or redemption such as combined itineraries, mixing and matching points with cash, free night certificates, travel credits, etc., it’s always a really good idea to get someone from the front desk to go over your final bill with you.
Things can really get twisted up in those situations.
You need to complain
If you had some kind of major inconvenience during your stay you might feel the need to complain and request some form of compensation.
Waiting until check out to do this can be effective because it allows you to round up all of your issues that you’ve experienced during your stay and present them in one coherent fashion.
Sometimes you are dealing with something that needs to be addressed in the moment such as a broken AC unit but other times you may experience a number of smaller inconveniences that add up in the end.
For those type of experiences, check out can be a good time to voice them although some people prefer to email the property later so that the chain of communication is documented in writing.
Personally, I like to try to resolve the issue with a manager in person but if I feel like he or she is not taking the matter seriously then I will just contact corporate if needed.
Avoid getting charged for staying late
If you head to the front desk and check out there will almost certainly be video footage of you dealing with a front desk agent and checking out.
Plus, there should be records in the system and a timestamp on your checkout receipt, indicating that you checked out before the required time.
In the event that you were charged for something like late check out or a day rate or hourly rate, you could have irrefutable evidence that you actually left the hotel on time with all of your bags and belongings.
Tip: If you choose to not check out I would recommend taking the “do not disturb” sign off of your door when you leave to decrease the odds of getting charged for a late stay.
You like closure
Some travelers just prefer to receive closure or some nice goodbye vibes when they depart a hotel. Perhaps you want to just say one final goodbye or maybe you befriended someone working the front desk in the morning.
Either way, call it old fashioned, but there is just something about receiving a nice goodbye that feels good to a lot of travelers heading on their way.
What to do with the room key?
At a standard US hotel, you’ll probably have a key card for your room key.
If you don’t plan on checking out, the best practice is to at least turn it into some type of deposit box or slot located near the front desk when you leave.
If your key card has a sleeve with your room number on it the front desk should be able to easily note your check-out status.
But if you don’t see your room number on your sleeve perhaps you want to give the front desk agent your room number when you turn in your key card.
However, if you don’t want to approach the front desk you can always leave the key cards in your room, preferably somewhere easily found such as on a desk or bed. (And don’t worry, your personal information is not stored on the key card.)
If you happen to take your key card with you either by accident or on purpose, you should not be charged for the key card.
Just keep in mind that many properties re-use these key cards (and sometimes even the sleeves they come in) to save money and if you take them, you are hurting the hotel in some cases.
Most hotels in the US will not require you to approach the front desk for check out or even to check out in general. However, it’s a good idea to check out because you can improve the hotel’s cleaning logistics and more easily resolve any billing discrepancies or issues experienced during your stay.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.