Sam Shank, co-founder and CEO of top-rated booking app HotelTonight, is here to help make sure you never make these common mistakes upon hotel check-in or checkout.

By Maya Kachroo-Levine
Updated July 11, 2020
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Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.

Travel logistics, in general, can be a major source of stress while on vacation. It’s when we’re rushing through airports, out of hotel rooms, or off to a dinner reservation that things get overlooked or lost. The easiest antidote, which is challenging when you’re in transit, is to simply slow down. Taking the extra few minutes (that you usually don’t want to spare) will help you keep everything organized on the road. There’s no reason to check out of a hotel room, finish packing, search for your travel documents, and call an Uber all at the same time. Focus on one thing at a time and give yourself room to breathe instead of over-scheduling, and you’ll ultimately avoid some of the classic mistakes travelers make.

When it comes to staying in a hotel, there are some definitive dos and don’ts to follow that will make your travels even more enjoyable. To ensure your check-in and checkout process is as smooth as possible, we called on a hotel expert: Sam Shank, co-founder and CEO of top-rated booking app HotelTonight. With Shank’s invaluable advice, we’ve outlined the 10 biggest mistakes to avoid when checking in and out of your hotel.

Getty Images/Maskot

1. Not Asking About Resort Fees

The last thing you want on vacation is to fall victim to hidden fees. But sometimes, the built-in additional costs, like resort fees, are inevitable. The best thing you can do is be forewarned about these fees, so you can budget them into the cost of your room rate. However, Shank also recommends asking about the resort fee — even if you already know about it — when checking in. “Resort fees are unfortunately becoming more common,” he says. “I always ask if the resort fees are optional, and sometimes I am successful.”

2. Not Requesting an Early Check-in or Late Checkout

When booking your hotel, remember that a few properties are making moves to nix the typical check-in and checkout rules. The Hoxton hotels, from Williamsburg to their forthcoming Rome location, have introduced Flexy Time to do away with restrictive check-in and check-out times altogether. When requesting an early check-in or late checkout, Shank says it's best to be flexible about your room type, as it may increase the likelihood that the hotel will be able to comply with your request. “I have found that early check-in and late checkout is as easy as asking nicely about it at the front desk,” he says. “And be willing to trade a particular room type for early access.”

3. Not Asking for a Specific Room If You’re a Light Sleeper

Always be aware of your sleeping preferences when traveling — this is, after all, your time to recuperate and relax. If your sleeping habits dictate the type of room you’ll be happiest in, speak up. “I’m a light sleeper, so I always ask for a room far from the elevator, on a high floor, and facing the least busy street or a courtyard,” says Shank.

4. Forgetting to Do a Final Sweep of Your Room

Do you ever stop before leaving your house and whisper, “Wallet, phone, keys?” to yourself. If you don’t, but are constantly at a loss as to where your personal belongings are, it might be a good time to start. The same “wallet, phone, keys” principle applies when you’re checking out of a hotel room. Go through a mental checklist and do a walk-through of your room before leaving. “I can’t count all of the device chargers I’ve left in hotel rooms,” admits Shank. “Now, I make sure to look at every outlet during my final sweep of the room.”

5. Not Providing Your Contact Information at Check-in

Shank makes an interesting case for leaving his information with the front desk as soon as he arrives at a hotel. "During check-in, I leave my email address and ask for my folio to be sent to me after checkout,” he says. “This way, I can skip checkout and walk out of the hotel, knowing I’ll have a chance to review any charges later on my own schedule.”

6. Not Leaving a Tip for the Housekeeping Staff Before Checkout

We instinctively tip servers, bartenders, hair stylists, and cab drivers. Leaving gratuity for the housekeeping staff at a hotel should be second nature as well. If you’ve forgotten to tip housekeeping daily during your stay, the best thing to do is leave a tip in the room before you check out. “I always make sure to leave a tip for the cleaning staff — they do as much as anyone to make sure I had a great stay,” says Shank.

7. Waiting in Line to Check Out If You’re Crunched for Time

Traveling in 2020 means not having to stand in line at the front desk to check out. Your responsibility is to vacate the room on time, whether that’s at the designated checkout time or a previously agreed upon late checkout time. You also need to ensure that you have a way to review your bill, and that the hotel staff has a credit card on file for any room charges. If you prefer to review your bill in person, or you need to switch the billing information on the room, you should line up for checkout. But if you’ve followed Shank’s tip to give an email address and card upon checking in, you’re welcome to just head out. Don’t forget to leave your keycards in the room or hand them to someone on your way out, so the hotel can reuse the plastic.

8. Forgetting to Look at an Itemized Bill Upon Exit

If you’re worried that the hotel will not email you a bill — or that you won’t see it because your email inbox is a mess — then ignore the last tip and leave yourself extra time to review your bill with the front desk before checking out.

9. Not Asking Nicely for an Upgrade

Shank is very much in the camp of asking for an upgrade, if there’s an opportunity to do so politely. “On the day of arrival, the front desk will have a lot of discretion to assign rooms,” he says. “They likely will have a few nicer rooms that they have to put someone in. That someone could be you, so ask nicely.”

10. Overpaying for an Upgrade at Check-in

The song and dance of getting an upgrade at a hotel is not unlike trying to qualify for an upgrade with your preferred airline. In either instance, you’ll want to put in the request as soon as you can, and you should have a threshold for the amount you’d be willing to pay. If it comes up, Shank recommends “offering a reasonable amount for an upgrade — my rule of thumb is 10 percent of what you paid.”