What Time Is Check-In for Hotels? (Early Check-In Tips) [2023]

Have you ever wanted to get into your hotel room early so that you can enjoy your hotel experience longer or simply get some much-needed rest? Well, it’s very possible to check-in early to your hotel in a lot of cases.

But how exactly is it done?

I personally have taken advantage of some form of early check-in on almost every hotel stay I’ve had over the past few years, so I’m very familiar with the process.

In this article, I will talk about how to check-in early at your hotel and provide you with some specific tips on how to increase your odds of getting early check-in and what to do if you can’t get it.

What time is check-in at hotels?

The standard time for check-in at a hotel is 3pm or 4pm. However, if a hotel has your room ready for you before that time, they often will allow you early check-in and access to your room.

Below, I will talk about how you can check-in even earlier than these times so keep reading!

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

How to check-in at a hotel

Before jumping into all of the different ways to get early check-in, it’s a good idea to review the check-in process since it is the time when you would typically request early check-in.

When you arrive at a hotel, you typically pull into the front and head straight to the front desks in the lobby. If you have elite status with the hotel’s loyalty program, you can head to the dedicated desk for elite members.

Usually, a hotel staff member will greet you and ask what they can do for you and you simply tell them that you would like to check-in. (It’s at this point that you would typically request early check-in but more on how to do that later.)

The hotel agent will then ask for your name and then they will pull up your reservation. Usually, at this point they will confirm the type of reservation you have and the dates (e.g., a one bedroom suite for three nights). You might also get a special thank you for having elite status if that applies.

Then they will ask you to present a government-issued ID along with a credit card and the staff member should take care of everything else, such as issuing you your room key, parking pass, and any other materials or pamphlets.

Related: Do You Really Need to Check Out of Your Hotel?

hotel check-in sign for Hyatt elite members
Dedicated check-in line for Hyatt elite members.

How to check-in early at a hotel

Now that you have the check-in basics down let’s get into some specific tactics you can take advantage of in order to check-in early.

The big thing to keep in mind is that early check-in is virtually always going to be based on the occupancy rate. If the hotel was at 100% occupancy the night before and is dealing with guests who want to stay late, getting early check-in is going to be more difficult regardless of things like your hotel status.

That is because the only alternative would be for the hotel to essentially wake up guests and kick them out of their rooms. That type of service would probably not be ideal for most guests so it is not likely to happen.

Also, early check-in is dependent upon the housekeeping procedures. Some hotels don’t begin housekeeping until a certain time in the morning and rooms just don’t get cleaned 24 hours a day.

So while the strategies below can certainly help your early check-in odds just remember that in some cases there is only so much that can be done to get you in your room early.

Just show up and ask

One way to access your hotel room early is to simply show up at the hotel and ask if they have your room available. For best results you probably don’t want to try this crazy early (especially if you do not have elite status).

So let’s say that check-in is at 3pm, showing up around 1pm and asking if your room is ready is not unreasonable.

In some cases when trying this, I’ve been able to check-in absurdly early like the time we checked in at the Singapore Marina Bay Sands hotel around 6am!

That is probably an outlier case because some hotels have policies that don’t allow early check-in before a certain time such as 6am or 7am. If you attempt to check-in a little bit before that cut-off (e.g., 5am), you’ll likely be charged a full or partial day rate. If you attempt to check-in wayyy before that, such as a minute after midnight or 1am, expect to be charged for a full extra night.

In most cases I would not expect early check-in to work until at least 10am to 11am but even that can be pushing it for some properties — it all comes down to available inventory (and housekeeping procedures).

The key with making a request like this is to be extremely presentable and friendly when making your ask. A simple smile and a “Hello, I have a reservation for today and I wanted to see if early check-in was available” can take you far.

Related: What Hotels Have Free Breakfast?

Call ahead of time

Sometimes I call the hotel ahead of time and ask about checking in early. You could call ahead anytime before your stay but the most effective time to call would be the night before and/or the morning of your stay.

Most of the time when I call about early check in, they tell me that they cannot guarantee anything until I physically show up at the check-in desk. However, sometimes they are able to guarantee that my room will be ready early whenever I arrive. It’s pretty hit or miss.

If you are calling the night before and can’t get a straight answer on early check-in you could ask them what the occupancy rate is for the night. Assuming they have accurate information, and they tell you that the hotel is not full, you could expect some rooms to be available before check-in.

(You could also check the hotel’s website the night before to see if a lot of rooms are available.)

If you are calling the day of your stay, convey to the person on the phone how close you are to the hotel. It is much more effective to let them know that you are on your way to the property because that will put some pressure on them to actually find out if your room is ready rather than giving you a vague or generic response.

Email ahead of time

You may also choose to email the hotel and request early check-in. Typically, I would go this route if I had a very specific reason for needing early check-in.

If that applies to you then you could send an email in several days prior to your check-in. Most likely the hotel staff will tell you that they cannot guarantee early check-in but at least it will already be noted on your reservation and potentially prioritize the cleaning of your room.


Certain hotel chains like Hyatt are now offering you the option of requesting early check-in online or via their mobile app (but sometimes you have to pay). Also, you can now mark your preference for early check-in in your profile for certain hotel chains.

I personally would not rely on ticking a box on my hotel profile to get me early check-in and would much rather make the request face-to-face at check-in.

Elite status

Having hotel elite status is one of the best ways to increase your odds of getting early check-in. Unlike late check out which is often guaranteed, early check-in is usually not guaranteed.

One of the cool things about early check-in is that it is often a benefit given to lower elite levels.

For example, the bottom level of elite status with Hyatt, known as Discoverist status provides you with early check-in. I have now utilized that early check-in at numerous Hyatt properties and it has become very valuable.

As an IHG Spire Elite (now diamond), you can check-in as early as 10am, subject to availability. Marriott has been pretty good about offering me early check-in and if you have Platinum status or above, you can get instant lounge access if your room is not ready.

Hilton has been pretty hit or miss with early check-in for me (even as a Diamond member) but it never hurts to ask since they base things on availability.

Overall, hotel elite status doesn’t usually guarantee early check-in but it does make it more likely that you’ll receive it in a lot of cases.

It might even be worth mentioning your status when you make your early check-in request (although typically the staff member working the desk will point out your elite status when they look up your reservation).

Hotel programs

There are a number of special hotel programs that provide you with early check-in but a lot of times this benefit is subject to availability.

Here are some programs to look into:

In addition to early check-in, these programs also offer great benefits like upgrades, free breakfast, property credits, etc., so be sure to look into those.

Ask about a downgrade

If you really want to get a room as soon as possible and you don’t really care what type of room it is you could ask for a downgrade to see if you could get into a room earlier. This will obviously only work if you did not book a basic room, but it is one of the most effective ways to get early check-in.

I’m not sure if a hotel would refund you the difference in the room rate since you are receiving a benefit (early check-in) but it would not be unreasonable to inquire about a potential refund in an instance like this, especially if you booked multiple nights.

Ask about a paid upgrade

On the flip side, you could also ask about paying for an upgrade. Perhaps your basic room is not available but there is already a suite that has been cleaned. If you stand no shot of getting a free upgrade, then asking about the paid upgrade route could be a smart option if you really want a room ASAP.

Repeat customer

Generally, the more you visit a specific hotel the more special treatment you will receive. If you repeatedly visit the same hotel your odds of getting early check-in probably go up. This is especially true if you can develop some type of relationship with management or staff at that hotel.

When you arrive at check-in you could say something like “Hello, it’s good to be back again! I was wondering if early check-in was available for my room?” That will immediately signal to the hotel agent that you are a returning guest and might prompt them to act more expediently to get you in your room.

24 hour stay

Sometimes you might run into a hotel that allows you to check in at any time but requires you to be out 24 hours after that. So if you checked in at 10am you would be expected to check out by 10am the next day. As long as you have your exit plan for your check-out day this should not be an issue.

Half-day rate

Sometimes when you try to check-in really early, such as early in the morning you may be offered a “day rate” or “half-day rate.” As the name suggests, this could be 50% of the nightly rate but in other cases it might actually be a different dollar amount.

If you are offered this you could counter and ask them at what time you could attempt early check-in to avoid the half-day rate. Also, feel free to negotiate. You might be able to get them down to half of the day rate depending on when you are arriving.

Read more about hourly rate hotels here.

Marina Bay Sands
I once received 6am early check-in at the Marina Bay Sands!

Hotels that play hard to get early check-in

For the most part, I have had some great success with early check-ins but there are certain types of properties where early check-in usually becomes problematic. The hotels that have given me the most trouble with early check-in are resorts.

Specifically, all-inclusive resorts have almost never provided me with early check-in.

It could be just a matter of bad luck but it also could be caused by the fact that there is just more going on at resorts in terms of occupancy rates and stocking up rooms.

Another type of property where early check-in has been hard to get is specialty lodging such as cabins, lodges, etc. and it’s likely a product of having a smaller housekeeping staff.

What to do if not given early check-in

When it comes to early check-in, it is a very good idea to have a back up plan because you never know what to expect. If you were not given early check-in you have a few options.

Ask for priority cleaning

If you were not given early check-in you can request for your room to be put at the top of the list for cleaning. If you have elite status or some type of VIP status with that hotel this should be very doable. Sometimes the hotel will even offer to shoot you a text when your room is ready.

The key with this request is to be extremely nice when asking. You need to give the front desk a reason to go out of their way to help you and to put (mostly unnecessary) pressure on housekeeping.

Check in your luggage

If you are denied early check-in and get stuck with a lot of luggage the hotel should be able to store your bags for you while you wait for check-in. In fact, many hotels will do this for free. When doing this, I usually make sure I keep valuable items on me like my electronics or passport.

Related: Is It Safe to Use a Hotel Room Safe?

Hang out in the bar area, lounge, etc.

Sometimes you might just be forced to hang out at the hotel for a little while. Ask about any restaurants, bars, pools, or lounge areas you can visit. If your elite status provides you with lounge access you will probably be given early access to the hotel’s lounge.


Some all-inclusive hotels will still issue you a wristband even when you are arriving early. This will allow you to start partaking in the food and beverage experience before you even are assigned a room.

Hilton Americas Executive Lounge.
The Hilton Americas Executive Lounge.


One of the major downsides of checking in early is that you could hurt your upgrade chances.

The reason is simply that there will be a more limited availability of rooms and because you’re checking in early the hotel may not know what type of inventory they will have that night.

So always be sure to balance that trade-off and perhaps even inquire with the front desk to see if you’re killing your chances of an upgrade by requesting early check-in.

Checking in late

In some cases, you might be wondering about the opposite end of the spectrum: if it is possible to check-in late.

For example, you might have booked a hotel stay for a Wednesday night and you might not be showing up until 1am Thursday morning. (Sometimes people do this so that they are guaranteed early check-in.)

At a major hotel chain, you should be able to check-in 24 hours a day but you should still verify this.

If you think you will be checking in after hours (after 9pm) your best bet is to call the hotel ahead of time and let them know about your situation. They should be able to put a note on your reservation so that your booking is not cancelled and they should also inform you about any special procedures for checking in that late.

For example, sometimes you have to call a special phone number or input some type of passcode to get into the building.

Smaller hotels such as boutique hotels or hotels in random locations sometimes have hard limits on when you can check in. (I once encountered this in Iceland.) These should be explicitly stated in the terms of your booking but again I would always follow up to verify these policies if you think you’ll be checking in late at night.

Related: How Late Can You Book a Hotel? (After Midnight!?)

Final word

As you can tell, there are several different ways to get early check-in. Sometimes it is as simple as showing up early and politely requesting it while other times you can rely on hotel status or special hotel programs. Just remember to always have a back up plan just in case early check-in is not granted so that you are not forced to linger around the lobby for hours on end.

Want a Hotel to Store Your Luggage? Read This First

It’s not always easy to time your arrival time or departure flights to your hotel check-in and checkout time.

As a result, during your travels you may find that you need to store your bags for a few hours in order to have the freedom to sightsee, get something to eat, rest, etc.

One of the easiest solutions to this problem is to get a hotel to store your luggage.

But will hotels always be willing to do this and what do you need to know about things like security and liability?

Below, we’ve broken down everything you need to know before storing your luggage with a hotel!

Will a hotel store your luggage?

Lots of hotels will store your luggage while you wait for your room to be ready or for a few hours after you check out. Some may even allow you to store your bags for several days although you may have to pay a fee.

When storing your luggage at a hotel be sure to ask where your luggage will be stored and if the hotel has any process for identifying your luggage so that others may not be able to retrieve it.

And finally, it helps if you are aware of the liability rules in place for when a hotel is storing your luggage.

Keep reading below for more details!

Luggage in hotel lobby

Common reasons to ask for a hotel to store your luggage

Room not available when you check-in

A common back up plan when going for early check-in is to simply leave your luggage with the hotel until your room is ready.

This is a common practice and it would be pretty rare for a hotel to deny your request to hold onto your luggage until your room is ready.

In fact, at many resorts you can still get your wristband and get access to all the amenities once you check in your bags so this is often a great option at all-inclusive resorts or resorts with pool areas.

For those, consider having a small bag or removing your swimsuit from your luggage before you store it.

Late check out not available

In the event you were not able to get late check out, you may request for the hotel to store your luggage until you are ready to depart. Generally, this would mean the hotel holding onto your luggage for about 3 to 6 hours.

This can allow you to get in some sightseeing on your last day of travels before you fly out so it’s a pretty common request.

This may not be honored as often as storage before check-in but every time I have asked a hotel to hold on to my bags after check out, they have been willing to do so free of charge. Still, this is a good time to leave a nice little tip for the bellhop!

bellhop using cart

Extended absence

Some properties will agree to hold onto your luggage for extended periods of time such as several days or even weeks or months!

Generally, these services are provided to frequent guests of the hotel (regulars). These are people who have a proven track record with the property and are consistent revenue generators.

On occasion, a hotel may allow a guest to store a bag with them for several days but chances are you will have to pay some type of fee.

Also, if you’re not a regular and you don’t show up at the end of your storage period then it’s possible that your bags could end up in the hotel’s lost and found.

If you are not a hotel guest, you might still be able to store your bags with a hotel but chances are that’s going to be much less common to find.

That’s because hotels might view you as more of a security risk than someone who has booked a room and provided a credit card, ID, etc. The hotel also might not want to risk running out of space for their guests by catering to “strangers.”

Where do hotels store luggage for guests?

Before you hand over your luggage to a hotel, you may want to inquire about where (or how) it will be stored.

Below are different ways that a hotel may store your luggage and these can give you an idea of the type of security your bag may have.

Ideally, a hotel will have a system where they issue you a ticket for your luggage whenever they take it but that is not always the case. If you are not issued a ticket, you may want to confirm how the hotel will keep other guests from retrieving your luggage.


Some hotels that take storage really seriously have designated lockers or safes that can fit some bags and smaller luggage.

I wouldn’t expect your checked bags to be kept in a locker for the simple reason that that would require some pretty huge lockers. However, if you had something like a backpack or small carry-on, that might be capable of being stored in a locker.

Other times, you may just be able to request that specific items get placed in a safe or locker such as your laptop. That way, only your less valuable luggage contents are not safely locked away.

Designated rooms

Sometimes the hotel will set up designated rooms for storing luggage.

These rooms may only be accessible to hotel employees but other times they will allow guests into the room to store and retrieve their luggage.

Hopefully, there will be a staff member checking tags to make sure that people only retrieve an item belonging to them but this is not always the case.

Manager’s office

It’s not uncommon for your item to end up in the manager’s office at a lot of hotels. This is an office that typically can be locked so if the manager is out of office your bags can still remain pretty secure.

Behind the front desk

If there are no other storage options a hotel may just place your bags somewhere behind the front desk or near the desk but in the lobby.

This can leave your bags exposed to the public but often times there will be a front desk agent or bellhops nearby to keep an eye on the luggage.

The hotel liable for your luggage?

Another important question you want to know before handing over your bags is will the hotel be liable if something happens to your bag?

For example, if you had an iPad go missing from your luggage bag, would the hotel be liable?

Lots of states have limitations of liability for hotels when it comes to the personal property of a guest.

For example, the hotel may only be responsible for up to $500 worth of valuables, although the limit is often dictated by whether or not negligence occurred, if a safe was used, notice given, etc.

These rules are often designed for items damaged or stolen while held in the guest’s hotel room so there could be more specific rules for when luggage is being stored.

Typically whenever a hotel takes your luggage to be stored this invokes the legal doctrine of bailment. This means that the hotel must care for your bag like they would care for their own property. In other words, they need to use reasonable care.

For example, if you give them your bag to store and they place it outside by the doorstep and it gets soaked during a rainstorm, that’s probably a clear breach of the standard of care.

It’s good to know about the limits of liability and the standard of care that the hotel must abide by but ultimately just remember that hotels don’t want to establish a reputation of losing luggage for guests.

So they have a pretty strong incentive to take a good care of your bags.

You can make life easier for the hotel and yourself by removing valuable items such as cash, jewelry, etc.

It also wouldn’t hurt to take photos of the contents of your luggage and to have a valuation of how much those contents are worth. That’s because some hotels might actually request for you to declare the worth of the luggage whenever you hand it over (for liability reasons).


If you are struggling to find a hotel that will store your luggage you can also look into finding other options. You can use some websites like this one to help you find storage locations at local facilities.

Lots of airports also have storage options for your bags although in my experience these can be very expensive. For example, for just a couple of bags you could be paying $30+.

Final word

As you can see, many hotels will be willing to store your luggage as you wait for your room to get ready or as you wait for the right time to head to the airport after check out.

It’s always a good idea to inquire about the location that your bag will be stored in so that you have an idea of the security of your luggage contents.

Also, it helps to be aware of the potential liability of the hotel in the event something happens.

Hotel Early Departure Fees Guide (Leave a Day Early?) [2022]

Okay, so you have a hotel booking for multiple days but you were thinking about leaving a day or two early. Is it possible to check out a day early or even multiple days early and not have to pay extra?

Or will you get hit with an early departure fee?

In this article, we will take a look at the policy for different hotel chains and brands and give you a sense of what you can expect if you need to check out of a hotel before the end of your reservation.

I’ll also provide you with some tips on how to best go about shortening your reservation after you have checked in.

What is an early departure fee?

If you decide that you need to leave a day early or shorten your hotel reservation after the cancellation deadline (or after you check in) you may be forced to deal with what is known as an “early departure fee.”

This is a fee that requires you to pay something for not fulfilling the remainder of your stay. As you will see below, the fee can vary from hotel to hotel. Below, I’ll give you some examples of how major hotel chains and brands handle early departure fees.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

What type of booking did you have?

Your first consideration when trying to figure out your early departure fee is what type of booking did you make?

If you booked a prepaid stay (advanced rate purchase) there is a good chance that the hotel will try to stick you with the full price of your booking.

So if you paid $200 per night for a five night stay but you only stayed three nights, you still may have to pay the full $1,000 for the stay.

Of course, many hotels will work with you in certain situations. Perhaps they will allow you to split the difference?

Or you might be able to ask them to credit your unused nights for a different date. So if you were only using three out of five nights maybe you can schedule two nights for some future time a couple of months out?

It’s worth noting that when you book a prepaid stay your credit card is not always instantly charged. And in those cases where you have not been charged yet you may have more wiggle room for making modifications to your reservation.

But just remember the hotel will usually have the right to charge you the full price.

If you booked through an online travel agency (OTA) chances are you will have to contact them and then they will have to contact the hotel to process your request. Don’t get your hopes up in that situation. But again, a compromise may be possible.

Different ways hotels handle early departures

If you booked a flexible or standard rate that allows you to cancel within a certain time window before your stay such as 24 hours, 48 hours, or 72 hours there are a few different ways a hotel may handle you leaving early.

No fee with full refund

Some hotels will provide you with a full refund and will not charge you any fee for an early departure whenever you cut your stay short.

This is obviously the best case scenario but you need to make sure that you check out in time so that the hotel will honor this policy.

That probably means checking out at the standard check out time around 10am to 11am. The earlier the better.

Hotels that confirmed this generous policy with us included the following:

  • Park Hyatt New York
  • Holiday Inn Express New York City Times Square
  • La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Times Square South
  • Wyndham Garden Chinatown
  • H Hotel Los Angeles, Curio Collection by Hilton
  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Los Angeles Downtown West
  • Kimpton Hotel Wilshire
  • Super 8 by Wyndham Los Angeles Downtown
  • Ramada by Wyndham Los Angeles/Downtown West
  • Radisson Blu Anaheim
  • Hampton Inn Majestic Chicago Theatre District
  • Residence Inn Chicago Downtown/Loop

As you can see those brands range from low end to very high end so it’s not always the cheaper hotels that have the more flexible early departure policies.

However, some brands with Wyndham and Radisson were much more likely to have this policy than other hotels.

Charge you for one night

A lot of hotels will simply charge you for one night plus taxes when you leave early. This seems to be the most common policy for all of the hotels we have stayed at and that we contacted.

So if you had a five night stay and you decided that you needed to cancel after the third night you may only have to pay for the fourth night and not have to pay for the fifth night at all.

This turned out to be the case at hotel chains like Hilton and Hyatt, where the following properties confirmed they would only charge you for one night:

  • Hilton Garden Inn New York/Times Square Central
  • Conrad New York Midtown
  • Waldorf Astoria New York
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles Downtown
  • Andaz 5th Avenue
  • Hyatt Regency Los Angeles International Airport
  • Hyatt Grand Central New York
  • theWit Chicago – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel

Quite a few Marriott properties also had this policy although as a chain Marriott seemed to be a bit all over the place.

Charge you a different rate

When you book a longer stay, especially an extended stay, your nightly rate may go down. This means that a longer stay will allow you to pay a cheaper nightly rate on average.

So if you end up shortening your stay it’s possible that the hotel will charge you based on the nightly rate you would’ve been charged had you booked a shorter stay.

For example, if you were staying ten nights maybe the nightly would have been $150 per night but if were staying seven nights the rate would have been $170 per night.

In that case, when you decide to shorten your stay you may be charged $170 per night.

Charge you a flat fee

Some hotels will actually have a flat fee that they charge you for early departure.

In these situations you only have to pay for the nights that you are actually staying at the hotel plus the flat fee. This fee could be $50, $100, or more it all just depends on the type of hotel. For example, the InterContinental New York Barclay had a flat fee of $400.

Some hotels may charge you either a flat fee or a certain percentage of the nightly rate, whichever is more expensive.

Beware of some hotels that have exorbitant early departure fees. Sometimes these fees can be significantly more than a single night’s rate.

They might set these fees really high to discourage people from leaving early but sometimes the fees can be flat out ridiculous like three times the cost of your total stay.

If you noticed that the early departure fee is quite expensive you can try to talk to someone at the front desk to confirm if they were actually going to charge you that ridiculously high amount.

You can also think about just doing an Irish exit on the hotel.

Basically, you don’t check out and that will force you to pay for the night or nights you did not stay but allow you to avoid the costly early departure fee.

Tip: When you’re not physically staying at a hotel during your booked reservation you may want to place a do not disturb sign on your door to keep the hotel from possibly checking you out.

Related: Do You Have to Check Out of Your Hotel?

Unofficial policies

A lot of times a hotel will have a stated policy for how they handle early departures but when it comes down to it, they may be more lenient. For example, they may waive the fee so that you don’t have to pay anything.

Out of all of the different cancellation policies and fees that hotels deal with, it seems that early departure fees are one of the more flexible fees for a lot of hotels.

I would not expect every hotel to waive the fee or to cater to your needs but you often stand pretty good odds of being able to work something out when needing to leave early.

How to know how your hotel handles early departures

Early departure fees are one of those things that require you to check with your individual hotel to see how they will play out.

You should be able to find language for early departure fees in your confirmation email or in the terms displayed to you at the time of booking (or both). They may also be listed somewhere on the main website.

You could also contact the hotel and inquire about the early departure for you to see how it will work.

Tips for dealing with early departure fees

Notifying the hotel

If you suspect that you might be leaving early this is something you should notify the hotel about. If you notified them about this at the outset of your booking you might be able to avoid an early departure fee to begin with.

Or at the very least you may get clarification on how the hotel will choose to handle your early departure. For example, maybe they claim they will only charge you 50% of the stated fee on their website.

Check out early

If you do need to leave a day early or cut your reservation short by multiple days, it’s really important that you check out as early as you can on your last day.

Your odds of avoiding the early departure fee for the night go up if you can check out super early in the morning and go way down if you are checking out later in the afternoon or evening.

Take a look at the inventory

Sometimes the way the hotel will handle your early departure will depend on the inventory. If the hotel is full and they had to turn away potential guests because of your booking, they will be more likely to charge you.

But if the hotel has plenty of rooms available, they might be more likely to waive the fee because you did not force them to take a hit of turning away guests.

Splitting up reservations

If you’re worried about getting hit with early departure fees one trick that sometimes works is to book multiple reservations.

So let’s say that you had a 10 night stay coming up but you were not sure about if you would be hanging around after the fifth night. In that case, you can just book two five nights stays.

For this to work, you want to have one of the most generous cancellation policies that allow you to cancel the day of or perhaps just 24 hours prior to your stay so that you can make a last-minute decision.

I’ve heard of people taking this to the extreme and booking many single night stays but that just seems a bit excessive to me and perhaps more hassle than it is worth.

You’ll also need to compare how much you would be saving if you had just made one single booking because the savings could outweigh paying the potential early departure fee.

Complaining to the hotel

If you’re going to be leaving early due to some “defect” at the hotel, you can use that to convince the hotel to not charge you an early departure fee.

For example, if you had issues with the AC not working, a dirty bathroom, or perhaps even rude service you might just let the hotel know that they have delivered a substandard experience and that you would like to go elsewhere.

This could definitely be used as leverage to avoid the early departure fee.

Related: How to Complain to a Hotel (And Get Compensation)

Final word

It’s always a good idea to get clarification on an early departure fee. Many hotels will state a departure fee in their official policy but may not enforce that fee when it is time.

In other situations, you might be able to avoid or mitigate the fee by getting a little clever or by simply talking with someone at the front desk about your situation.

Why You Should (And Shouldn’t) Check in Online for Flights

A lot of travelers wonder if they should check in online for their flights. Some people see no point in doing so if they are going to be checking luggage in at the airport since that will require them to check in anyway.

But could there be some benefit to checking in online in virtually all cases?

In this article, I’ll take a detailed look at whether or not you should check in online and point out when it might be beneficial or detrimental to your travel goals.

Check-in overview

Generally, in the US, check-in opens for your flight 24 hours prior to departure.

Check in will end close to departure but this exact time may depend on the airline and route. Generally, these are the cut off times:

  • Domestic: 30 to 60 min before departure
  • International: 1 to 1.5 hours before departure

If you missed the window for checking in, you may have to inquire with an agent about boarding a different flight.

Be aware that once you receive your boarding pass after you check in the information on the boarding pass is subject to change. For example, your gate could change and your flight number/time could also be changed.

Also, sometimes the boarding pass you get from online check-in does not include all of the details such as your terminal or gate information.

So don’t always treat your boarding pass received 24 hours prior to departure as the final details for your flight.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Why you should check-in online

Fix boarding pass issues

One reason why you want to check in online is that you may have issues with your boarding pass that need to be fixed.

By checking in online, you might be able to detect these issues as far as 24 hours before departure which will give you plenty of time to sort them out via phone before arriving at the airport.

For example, you might notice that the seat you selected has not been provided to you or your name might be misspelled.

Another common issue that you might see is that your boarding pass does not have TSA Pre-Check or perhaps you are not in the right boarding group.

Sometimes you may not be able to check in online at all.

This could mean that you’re going to receive an SSSS screening but it could also mean that you have some other type of issue related to your boarding pass (I’ll cover those later in the article).

Even if you can’t work out what’s going on over the phone at least you’ll be on notice that you should arrive extra early to resolve issues with your ticket.

Related: How Early Should You Get to the Airport?

Running late with checked bags

There is always a cut off time for checking your bags.

The exact cut off time will depend on the airline, the route, and possibly the aircraft. But these are generally the latest times you should check bags for your flight:

  • Domestic: 30 to 45 min before departure
  • International: 60 min+ before departure

If you happen to miss the cut off time for checking your bag but you have already checked in online then you still might be able to check your bag at the gate. This is taking the gate-checked bag travel hack to the next level.

This is not something I would count on working every time but it certainly is worth giving a shot if you ever find yourself in such a predicament.

Get better seating

Checking in online can ensure that you have better seating.

If you wait too long to check in it’s possible that the airline could move your selected seat to accommodate other passengers!

Also, some airlines have boarding policies that benefit those who check in early.

For example, if you’re flying Southwest then you definitely want to check in at least 24 hours prior to your departure.

That’s because the Southwest boarding process does not provide for assigned seating. Instead, you are issued a boarding pass based on your time of check-in.

The sooner you check in, the higher your boarding position, and the easier it is for you to find optimal seating. Of course, if you don’t want to hassle with the 24 hour check in you can always purchase EarlyBird which will automatically check you in 36 hours prior to departure.

Other airlines may allow you to select your seat at check-in although sometimes check-in time is actually too late for selecting or changing your seat. It all depends on the airline.

Avoid involuntary bumps

Those who check in last are more likely to receive an involuntary bump or IDB.

Basically, in some cases, airlines sell too many tickets for a given flight.

In those situations they are forced to assign passengers to other flights. They will usually ask for volunteers but sometimes nobody will volunteer and the airline will be forced to involuntarily bump some passengers.

It’s said that if you are among the the last to check in or if you simply have not checked in yet your name will be more likely to be selected for this type of bump.

The idea is that the airline will use several different factors to select those who get denied boarding and check in time is one of those factors that gets a lot of weight.

I don’t know if this is true for all or most airlines but it certainly would make sense if this is the way that it usually worked. For that reason, I would suggest checking in as soon as you can so that your name is low on the bump list.

Dealing with upgrades

Sometimes in order to view the waiting list for upgrades or to get on the list you may have to check in online. This will allow you to keep tabs on your upgrade chances via the airline’s mobile app. Checking in early may also benefit you for the upgrade standby list.

Also, whenever you check in you may be given the opportunity to pay for extra upgrades like more legroom, priority boarding, etc.

By checking in online 24 hours prior to departure, you give yourself sufficient time to research if these opportunities are worth it rather than making it a more impulsive decision at the airport.

Save time

Checking in online can save you time in a few ways.

If you don’t have to check any baggage you can go straight to security and if you have something like TSA Pre-Check or CLEAR that means getting through in possibly just a couple of minutes.

If you do have checked baggage sometimes you may find a line or zone for those already checked in online. These lines might be shorter and allow you to simply print out a luggage tag and drop off your bag in a hurry.

You could get charged for check-in

Ultra low-cost carriers like Spirit Airlines and Frontier have no shame in charging you for checking in at the airport. For example, if you print out a boarding pass at the airport with Spirit Airlines it will cost $10 to print each boarding pass.

For these airlines, it’s usually better to not only check in online but also to pay for your baggage whenever you purchase your ticket so that you can save money.

You have connecting international flights

If you are flying internationally and dealing with connections it helps to have all the documentation available to you.

So let’s say you were having a three hour layover in a foreign country with one or two connecting flights.

It’s a big help if you can produce your boarding pass that you may have already received from checking in for those onward flights. This is especially true if there would otherwise be some type of visa requirement for you to be in one of the countries.

It also can be more helpful to have a paper version of these boarding passes since some officials seem to demand paper copies when processing passengers.

You have a very early or late flight

If you have a super early flight checking in online means that you might be able to arrive at the airport a little bit later. Otherwise, you would have to arrive before the cut off to check in which sometimes can be ridiculously early.

If you’re cutting things close and you have one of the latest flights heading out of the airport and you don’t check in online, it’s possible that the airline will think that all flying passengers have already gone through the check in process and they might shut things down, which in turn could get TSA to shut things down.

But if you had checked in online you may have been able to squeeze through security since you would still be unaccounted for as a checked-in passenger.

When you should not check-in online

The situations where checking in online for your flight is detrimental are probably very rare.

However, here are some situations where you either want to reconsider checking it online or where you possibly will not be allowed to.

You need to make last minute changes to your flight

If you are someone who will need to make a last minute change to your flight then it’s a good idea to think about not checking in online until you know the consequences of doing so.

This will differ with each airline but some airlines (especially those of the ultra low-cost carrier variety) have a no change/cancellation policy after you check in. In those cases, checking in could drastically reduce options available to you as a passenger.

You need to make changes to your seats (after seat selection is closed)

If you anticipate on making changes to your boarding pass such as changing your seat after seat selection is closed, you may want to just wait to check in until you arrive at the airport.

The reason is that if you have already checked in online the agent will likely have to cancel your boarding pass and re-issue you another one.

An experienced agent should be able to do something like this without any problems.

However, sometimes you may run into someone who is fresh on the job and these type of things can confuse them, forcing you to wait extra time.

Or, in a worst case situation, you could run into an agent who simply does not want to do extra work for you.

I’ve booked flights where certain seats are only available at check-in and they required an agent to switch my seat last minute in order to get them.

You could imagine a scenario where by checking in online you are adding one extra hurdle for the agent to take care of. If they are feeling particularly uninspired at their job that day they may simply deny your request, especially if they are getting swamped.

When online check-in is not available

In some cases you may not be able to check in online, at least not for all passengers.

For example, if you are flying with or as an unaccompanied minor it’s possible that you will be forced to check in in person.

Other people who may not be able to check in online include:

  • Guests traveling with pets 
  • Guests traveling on a group reservation
  • Guests traveling with a lap infant
  • Guests traveling with Military ID instead of a passport
  • Non-U.S. citizens departing from international locations
  • Guests who purchased an extra seat or special items

Also, for whatever reason sometimes online check-in is not available for international flights. As mentioned above, this could be because you’re getting a secondary search but that’s not always the case — sometimes it just seems random.

Other times, it might mean you have an issue with your passport or visa in which case you definitely want to start working on fixing that ASAP.

If you were put on some type of government watch list then it’s likely you will not be able to check in online. (If you are subjected to many SSSS searches, you could consider applying for a redress number.)

If you get that redress number that might help allow you to check in online in the future although there are no guarantees.

If you only want a paper boarding pass

Some people don’t like to rely on a mobile boarding pass and so they just bypass the entire online check-in process.

Instead, they like to print out a hard copy of the boarding pass either at a kiosk or at a check-in desk.

I would encourage these people to still check in online because there is nothing wrong with having both a mobile boarding pass and a paper boarding pass. Also, you can always print out your boarding pass after you have checked in.

Final word

For the most part, I believe it’s a good practice to check in online for your flights.

Among other benefits, it allows you to catch any errors on your boarding pass and to resolve those before arriving at the airport. And even if you can’t fix those issues, at least you’ll know to arrive a little bit early to get them straightened out in person.

There are some limited scenarios where checking in online may not be available or possibly even not recommended but for the most part there is no downside to checking in online.

Do You Have to Check Out of Your Hotel? [2022]

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.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

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.

Final word

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.

What Are the Age Requirements for Check-In at a Hotel? [2022]

Are you thinking about booking a hotel but worried that you or your kid might be too young to check-in? In this article, I will break down the minimum age requirement for checking into hotels. I’ll explain why there are certain limitations and how to know what the minimum age requirement is.

What are the age requirements for check-in in at a hotel?

Generally, hotel guests must be 21 years-old (or accompanied by someone 21 years-old) to check-in but age requirements vary. Some hotels may allow 18 year-olds to check-in while other hotels, in more rare cases, may even increase the minimum age to 25.

The age restrictions are often property specific but state laws and local ordinances can play a role in dictating the age requirements as well. Keep reading below to learn more.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

How to find the minimum age for check-in

Every hotel has a booking process that works a little bit differently but generally you can count on finding the minimum age for checking in the terms and conditions during booking.

A lot of times the terms and conditions will be visible near the end of the booking process — just before you input your payment details.

Scan the terms and conditions for any mention of age and a lot of times you’ll find the minimum age requirement around the “check-in” section. For example, take a look at this snippet taken from the terms and conditions for the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas.

Example of the age requirement found in the terms and conditions.

Other times there may not be an official terms and conditions section. Instead, you might find the age requirement listed near the payment details or price summary.

In the event that you do not find an age requirement explicitly stated, don’t take that to mean that there is no minimum age required for check-in. Instead, I would highly recommend that you contact the property and inquire about minimum age requirements.

Related: Guide to Rental Car Age Requirements (Under 25 & 21)

Minimum age for booking a reservation

One thing to consider is that the minimum age for checking in could be different from the minimum age of booking a reservation.

Take a look at the Hilton terms and conditions below and see what they state.;

You warrant that you are eighteen (18) years of age or older to reserve a room on this Site. If you are under the age of eighteen, you may contact the hotel directly for assistance.

The minimum age for booking a reservation or using the hotel website is often 18 because that is when the enforceability of a legal contract becomes a factor. But terms aren’t so clear all the time.

For example, Hyatt’s terms and conditions state the following:

You may only use the Site if you are at least eighteen (18) years of age and can form legally binding contracts under applicable law. The Site is not intended for and should not be used by minors.

Hyatt then offers somewhat conflicting guidance in its terms when Hyatt states:

Generally, the minimum age to reserve a guestroom at Hyatt is 21 years old. However, this age may vary by hotel. Please check the specific policy of the hotel you plan to visit. A person of the minimum age requirement must be present at check-in and become a registered guest in the room.

This is illustrative of the different ways that hotel chains and brands deal with the age requirement and why it is so important to contact the individual hotel to find out their specific policy. Don’t rely solely on 1-800 numbers or even universal terms and conditions for your information.

Related: Why Do Hotels Ask How Many Guests are Staying in Your Room?

There may be age differences for booking vs checking-in.

Why is there an age requirement?

So you might be wondering why exactly is there an age cut off at 21 or 18 for some hotels? Well, there are a few reasons.

Legally binding contract

Believe it or not when you book a hotel room you are entering into a legally binding contract with the owners of the hotel. In consideration for your payment of the room rate you are receiving the room for a specified period of time along with any amenities that go along with it.

This poses an issue for people under the age of 18. That’s because entering into a contract with people under the age of 18 gets tricky as those contracts may not be valid or legally enforceable. The reason: minors are considered not legally competent to enter into contracts.

Essentially, a 17-year-old could book a room and decide to check-out without paying and a hotel may not have much recourse because the contract entered in with that minor is void or not enforceable.

For that reason, a lot of hotels require a guest to be at least 18 years of age in order to book a room and check-in.

This is not an issue for ages 19 and 20, since those individuals are legal adults. For those over the age of 18, typically there are two other concerns that lead to age restrictions: alcohol consumption and partying.


Some hotels offer alcohol that can be served up through room service. Or, in other cases the room may have a stash of alcohol in the mini fridge or in a wet bar. It’s not uncommon to find alcohol in hotel rooms in places like Las Vegas or at all-inclusive resorts.

In order to ensure compliance with the minimum drinking age in the US, some of these hotels may require guests to be 21 years old when checking in. If alcohol is only available at the bar in the hotel lobby, the age requirement might be more lax.

Related: Can You Bring Alcohol (Mini-Liquor Bottles) on Planes & Through Airports?


Let’s face it, a lot of people under the age of 21 lack the maturity that a hotel wants to see when renting a room. They may be more likely to damage or practically destroy a room by throwing the party of the century. This is why it is pretty common to see the minimum age of 21 in party cities such as those located in Florida like Panama City.

At the same time there are a lot of mature people under the age of 21 who could rent a hotel room like any other responsible adult.

For these people there may be a workaround.

Let’s say a well-dressed and mannered 18 year-old is trying to check-in and they have a credit card that matches their government-issued ID. The hotel may be much more likely to work with them because they can ensure a deposit on the card at the time of check-in and may not have concerns about the 18 year-old’s maturity.

But let’s say there is an 18 year-old trying to pay cash for the hotel room. That could end up being a major problem because it makes it a lot harder for the hotel to guarantee there will be a way to cover incidentals and potential damage to the room.

You might still be able to get by but chances are you will have to front up a pretty hefty cash deposit.

Some hotels that are really worried about partying may even jack up the age requirement to 25! Sometimes this might be a temporary policy that gets applied during known party times such as spring break.

Local laws

Some states or cities may have specific laws or ordinances that require a minimum age to check into a hotel.


Military members

A point of controversy for the 21 year-old age requirement is military members. For one, it seems illogical that someone would be old enough to fight for their country and put their life at risk but not old enough to simply check into a hotel.

It seems that some hotels make exceptions for military members under the age of 21 especially when they are in their military uniform or can present a military ID.

A lot of people want to avoid showing disrespect to military members at all costs so it is definitely worth asking the agent at the front desk if they can make an exception to the age requirement based on your military status.

Related: Comprehensive Military Airline Benefits and Discount Guide

Out of state folks

If you are under the age of 21 and have an out-of-state ID your odds of being able to check-in might actually increase in some cases.

Usually, having an out-of-state ID raises more concerns of fraud but if you present a valid ID and credit card a hotel might be more willing to accept you provided that you are traveling on business.

The reason is they understand the type of inconvenience they would be causing to young business travelers and so they may be willing to accommodate you. (If you are perceived as a local then the hotel agent may be more likely to suspect you to be a kid just looking for a place to party.)

This out-of-towner exception will probably be more common at hotels known for catering to business travelers versus hotels known for being party hotspots. And again, your ability to convey maturity at check-in could dictate if the exception is made for you.

Parent adds child to reservation

Some people attempt to get around the age requirement by getting the parent to book the reservation and adding the child to the reservation. The minor then attempts to check-in and simply tells the hotel agent that the parent is “on the way” or some other type of excuse.

Reportedly, this can work better when the booking is made through an OTA such as Expedia but I can’t personally vouch for that method. Presumably, this would work better because some of those OTAs have a minimum age requirement for using their services. If the minor were to show proof of booking (email receipt), perhaps a hotel would not focus on the minor’s age as much when viewing the ID.

This is an approach that is not guaranteed to work so I would not recommend going this route. If you do go this route you need to make sure that the minor has both an ID and a credit card in their name. Without both of those the chances of this working go from small to nonexistent.

A more safe and reliable approach would be to contact the property and ask them if you can work out a situation where the minor can check-in on their own. Perhaps even bring up signing a guarantee of liability for the child.

Some hotels may be open to this, especially if the booking is not taking place in a party location or during a party time such as New Years, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, etc. Also, if there is no direct access to alcohol (even via room service) that would help your cause.

Under the age of 18

I’ve seen online reports of people being able to check-in at hotels at the ages of 16 and 17. After reviewing tons of hotels all over the country I have not seen any terms that would explicitly permit someone that young to check-in. (Hotels in other countries will probably be more accepting of guests under 18.)

If I had to guess I would say those cases involve generous hotel agents who felt that the 16 and 17 year-olds were mature enough to check-in. There may have also been extenuating circumstances as well such as a parent arriving at the hotel late.

I personally would not count on this working but it’s possible since in the terms and conditions of some hotels they state to contact the hotel if the individual checking in will be under 18.

Note: If you are a parent thinking about allowing your child to check in, remember that in many states you can be liable for property damage caused by the conduct of the child.

Unaccompanied minors

You might also be interested in finding out more information about unaccompanied minors which are minors flying on planes without adults.

The policies for each airline differ and they often have key distinctions in how they classify minors and how they allow them to fly. You can learn more about unaccompanied minors here.

Final word

Many hotels will require you to be at least 21 years-old to check in. Some properties may allow you to check-in at the age of 18 while others may even require you to be older than 21. That is why it is always smart to check the terms and conditions during the booking process and to also contact the hotel to verify their age restrictions.

Southwest Check-In Guide: (Mobile Boarding Passes & More) [2021]

Nothing is worse than realizing that you’re going to be one of the last people to board your plane, especially when you don’t have assigned seats. You’ll likely be stuck in the middle seat (between God knows who) and may not even have space to store your carry on.

Luckily, you can help avoid situations like this on Southwest if you know how the Southwest check-in process works.

I’ve checked in to dozens and dozens of Southwest flights and in this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Southwest check-in process.

I’ll cover things like how to do check-in online and in the app, best tips and practices, and how to deal with mobile boarding passes. I’ll also talk a little about other options like Southwest EarlyBird.  

When does Southwest check-in begin?

The check in process will begin exactly 24 hours prior to your departure time. 

So the first thing that you need to do is to find out exactly what time your departure time is. Once you find that out you need to be aware that the check in process will begin exactly 24 hours prior to that time.

Note that you will be going by the local time zone. So let’s say you are flying out of Houston at 3:05 PM. Your check in time will open up at 3:05 PM central time the day before. 

Once you know what time check-in opens you need to try to check in at exactly 24 hours. The reason is that Southwest Airlines does not have assigned seating.

Instead, you are assigned a boarding group and position within that group in the order you checked-in. There are three groups (Group A, Group B, and Group C) and there are 60 positions within each group. 

You will be called to line up with your boarding group in the order of your boarding position and then you can choose any open seats you would like once you board the plane. (Read more about the Southwest boarding policy here.)

This means that if you wait a long time to check in you will be assigned a boarding position in the back and you will not be able to choose some of the best seats. You might be stuck in the middle seat and you might not even have enough room to store your carry-on. 

This can make your flight much less enjoyable and that is why it is a good idea to check in as close to 24 hours prior to departure as possible. 

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Southwest Airlines seats.
Check-in as close to 24 hours from departure as possible for the best seats.

Best Southwest credit cards

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card comes with the following benefits:

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 6,000 anniversary points (learn more)
  • Earn 1,500 Tier-Qualifying Points for every $10,000 in purchases, up to 15,000 Tier-Qualifying Points each calendar year
  • $99 Annual fee

Southwest Airlines Priority Card

The Southwest Airlines Priority Card comes with all of the benefits offered below:

  • Bonus spending:
    • 2X Rapid Rewards on Southwest purchases
    • 2X Rapid Rewards on hotel and car rental partner purchases.
    • 1X Rapid Rewards on all other purchases
  • $75 Southwest annual travel credit (learn more)
  • 7,500 anniversary points each year
  • Four Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
  • 20% back on in-flight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn tier qualifying points towards A-list Status
  • $149 annual fee applied to your first billing statement

What about Southwest EarlyBird? 

Southwest EarlyBird is a special perk that allows you to automatically check in 36 hours prior to departure.

This allows you to avoid counting down the seconds to check in and is extremely convenient if you are not going to have access to your computer or the internet 24 hours prior to checkout.

For example, there have been times when we were out and about doing something like scuba diving and there just was no practical way for us to check-in. But because we purchased Southwest Early Bird, we still secured good boarding positions.

Note: You will not be guaranteed an “A” boarding position with EarlyBird. However a lot of times you will get an “A” boarding position or a lower “B” spot. These spots are generally good enough for you to get a window or aisle seat so in a lot of cases it can be worth it to purchase EarlyBird. 

The price for EarlyBird ranges from $15-$25 per one way and the price just depends on your route. You can read more about Southwest Airlines EarlyBird here. 

I’ve also heard about a Google Chrome extension that you can use to automatically check in. I have never used this Chrome extension before so I cannot comment on how reliable it is but it certainly is something interesting to think about.

It does call for a little bit of technical knowledge (it deals with scripts), so not everyone will probably feel comfortable using it. Read how it’s done here. 

Check in online or on the app

The easiest ways to check in are checking in online on the Southwest website or on the Southwest app.

You can find online check-in here. All you will need to enter is your confirmation number, first name, and last name.

Tip: I recommend that you have all of the different fields already filled out so that once check-in opens you can just check-in instantly.

If you really want to maximize your our odds of getting an A boarding group, you could always open up a few tabs and have the information filled out on those tabs.

Then you can start hitting the check in button a minute or so before check in opens. The reason for doing that is that sometimes your web browser could be a little bit delayed once you click the check in button. 

If you are using the app, you should see a button for check-in at the bottom of the app on the main page. Once you click that button you will be prompted to enter your confirmation number and your first and last name.

After your checked in, you can opt to print out your boarding pass or send your boarding pass via email or text. 

If you experience any errors when you try to check-in then you can call Southwest customer service at: 1-800-I-FLY-SWA. You can also hit them up on Twitter. 

Further Reading: Southwest Rapid Rewards Value Guide

Getting your boarding pass

There are several different ways that you can get your boarding pass. If you check-in online you will have the option to immediately print out a copy of your boarding pass. But you don’t have to print it out so if you don’t have a printer don’t worry.

Southwest mobile boarding pass

You can seek out a Southwest mobile boarding pass so you won’t have to print out your boarding pass and can head directly to security (if you don’t have checked baggage).

You can get these by requesting them at the time of check-in on Southwest.com, the Southwest.com mobile site, or the Southwest mobile app for iPhone, iPad, or Android.

You can have the mobile boarding pass sent to you via email or even text message (or just view it in browser).

Tip: Save your mobile boarding pass to your mobile device for easy retrieval just in case you can’t access the internet at a later time.  

Mobile boarding passes aren’t available for everyone, though. For example, they won’t be available for:

  • Infants
  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Individuals traveling on Senior Fares that need to be age verified
  • Nonrevenue passengers
  • Military Fares
  • Passengers traveling on international flights

Also, you’ll need to check-in as an individual in order to take advantage of a mobile boarding pass. Read more about the mobile boarding pass here. 

Business Select drink coupon 

If you’re flying Business Select you might be wondering how your free drink coupon will work. Well, if you have a Business Select ticket, your drink coupon eligibility will be noted on the mobile boarding pass.

To receive your drink during your flight, just show the drink coupon portion of your mobile boarding pass to the flight attendant.

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Printing the boarding pass out at the airport 

Another method is just to wait until you arrive at the airport to print out your boarding pass. At the airport, there are several different places where you can get your boarding pass.

You can use the Southwest Airlines kiosks that you can find at select airports and quickly print out a boarding pass without having to deal with an agent.

To begin the check-in process at a kiosk you can do any of the following: 

  • Enter your confirmation number 
  • Enter your Rapid Rewards number
  • Swipe your Rapid Rewards A-List Membership Card
  • Swipe a major credit card with your name on it

These kiosks are great if you don’t have to check in baggage because you can simply input your information and grab your boarding pass and then head off to security.

However, you can also take care of some additional tasks at the kiosks, such as: 

  • Add a Rapid Rewards number to a reservation
  • Upgrade to Business Select 
  • Change your flight
  • Add your name to the standby list
  • Print an itinerary receipt

Upgrading to Business Select can be worth it, especially whenever you are one of the only people flying Business Select.

That is because you can lock down some of the best seats with extra leg room or potentially snag a row of seats with only two seats which is perfect for traveling.

If you are traveling to a leisure or vacation destination, there likely will not be many people flying Business Select so this could be a great time to upgrade.

But even if you can’t get one of those seats, you’ll be able to board the plane before the vast majority of people and get a seat at the front of the plane. 

The cost to upgrade to Business Select varies from $30 to $50 per segment, depending on the route. To find out more about Southwest business select click here. 

If you find yourself at one of the Southwest kiosks you might want to take a look around to see if anybody has dropped any free drink coupons. If you want to find out more about how to get free drinks on Southwest you can do that here.

Keep in mind that certain types of passengers will not be able to use the check-in kiosks. These include the following:

  • Unaccompanied Minors
  • Customers traveling with pets
  • Customers traveling on age-qualifying fares (Infant, Child, and Senior Fares) that have NOT already been age verified
  • Customers traveling on a Military Fare
  • Customers traveling with paper tickets

You can also simply head to the ticket counter to get your boarding pass. There may or may not be a long line so this will be more time-consuming. However, if you have A-List or A-List Preferred then you can use the exclusive check-in line and won’t have to deal with the long lines. Those are the elite status levels for Southwest and they come with additional perks like: 

  • Priority boarding
  • Priority security and check-in lanes
  • 25% bonus earning
  • Free same day standby
  • Dedicated A-List phone number

You can read more about Southwest A-List here.  

If you need to check baggage you can simply go to the baggage check-in desk and get your boarding pass printed out as you check in your baggage. 

By the way in case you were not aware Southwest allows you to fly with two checked bags for free. Most other airlines will charge you something like $30 for your first checked bag and even more for additional bags so this is a great way to save money. Read more about the Southwest baggage policy here. 

Southwest Airlines group travel check-in

The check-in process is a little bit different for Southwest Group Travel and the exact process for check in would depend on if you are flying on a domestic flight or international flight.

Basically if your flight is a domestic flight you can check in the group or specific passengers but if you’re checking in for an international flight you will need to check in each passenger one at a time. Click here to read more about Southwest Airlines group travel.

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Southwest Check-In FAQ

What is Southwest EarlyBird? 

Southwest EarlyBird is a special perk that allows you to automatically check in 36 hours prior to departure.

Where can I check-in?

You can check-in online on the Southwest website or on the Southwest app. You can find online check-in here.

Who can’t get a mobile boarding pass?

Mobile boarding passes aren’t available for:

– Infants
– Unaccompanied minors
– Individuals traveling on Senior Fares that need to be age verified
– Nonrevenue passengers
– Military Fares
– Passengers traveling on international flights

Final word

The Southwest check-in process is easy to do but it is very important that you try to check in as close to 24 hours prior to departure as possible. Unless you purchase Southwest EarlyBird or a Business Select fare you could end up with some pretty bad seats.  

Cover photo by Tomás Del Coro via Flickr.