Hacks To Try When Checking Into A Hotel, According To Travel Agents

Checking into a hotel is mostly a straightforward affair. Usually, all it requires is approaching the front desk, providing a form of identification to confirm your reservation, leaving a credit card for potential incidental charges, and receiving the room key or keycard. Some hotels offer a short overview of what to anticipate during your stay; but more often than not, you're free to head to your suite once you get ahold of your key. While checking in is largely a routine procedure, travel agents note that you can use it as an opportunity to elevate your stay.

In an exclusive interview with Explore, Adriannea Smith, travel agent and travel content creator, dispensed some tips on how guests can ensure a seamless check-in experience, along with ways to secure upgrades. First and foremost, she says that if you're pressed for time and want to get to your room as quickly as possible, you can skip the front desk entirely by doing a web check-in. "I recommend checking in online first. If you have a super long flight, it is beneficial to check in online so that your room will be ready and available when you arrive," she advised. This approach lets you sidestep potential delays, allowing you to retreat to the welcoming embrace of your California king bed's crisp, white sheets without the inconvenience of an agonizing wait.

Want an early check-in? Your loyalty program can help

Many travelers seem to be under the impression that there is a "best time" of day to check in, but Smith clarified that hotels often adhere to strict policies regarding that. "The standard check-in times are 3 p.m. due to their check-out times being 12 p.m. This allows them to flip the room in ample time," she explained. If you want early access to your room, she notes that some properties may accommodate your request, but it often comes with an associated fee.

The only foolproof way to bypass that fee, she highlights, is participation in a hotel loyalty or rewards program that offers early check-in as a benefit. Different hotels have different loyalty systems, of course, so it's always recommended that you double-check ahead so you can manage your expectations upon arrival. "A perk of joining loyalty programs is you can have priority and access to check-in early at no additional cost," Smith said. If you're lucky enough to belong to a program that guarantees early check-in, you can make a beeline to your room ahead of everyone else without forking over extra cash — and maybe even relish in VIP treatment from the staff.

For possible upgrades, all you have to do is ask

Another common misconception is that there must be some secret hack to securing discounts and upgrades, but Smith says that these perks are never guaranteed. Instead, the key to enjoying complimentary benefits lies in loyalty programs and credit cards. "One sure way to get discounts and upgrades is to join loyalty brands like Mariott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt, or IHG One Rewards. Using credit card hotel booking portals can also help you with getting discounts or even complimentary room upgrades," she explained, adding that in the event that the hotel staff fails to provide the perks you've been promised, all you need to do is give them a gentle reminder. "Never be afraid to ask for your perks, as you have spent your money with their brand to have the loyalty status and exclusive perks," she continued.

Speaking of asking, Smith suggests asking the establishment if they can throw any free benefits your way. After all, you don't get what you don't ask for. "Do not be afraid to ask for an upgrade or see if there are any special rates at the front desk when you arrive," she advised. "Often times staff have no problem checking to see what they can do if you are polite and if it is not during high season or holiday travel." Needless to say, when making these requests, it's important to embrace a courteous approach rather than resorting to demands. Politeness always goes a long way.