Depends on a few factors.
If we’re talking about a small property, a Hampton Inn or a Hyatt Place where the number of rooms is rather limited, depending on occupancy levels, taking into account how well the housekeeping department is staffed the early check in policy changes from day to day. From a business stand point it’s a fantastic opportunity for additional revenue but also a great customer service opportunity so it varies from property to property if they want to offer a limited number of free of charge early check ins and once used the paid options would kick in. I would suggest calling the property either a few days before or on the day of the check in. The latter would be preferred for more accurate more up to date information.
At large properties, it may be a first come first serve kind of basis, once you arrive and there is a room ready for you it’s likely you’ll be checked in right away, unless done before noon or 11 am, in which case they may charge a flat fee, allowing a large number of free early check ins may put a strain on the housekeeping department and create a chain event reverberating throughout the day that would impact multiple departments. Consider leaving your luggage with the bell desk department while you wait for a room at a more appropriate time that normally starts after 11.
In case where an early check in is important to prepare for a business meeting or a convention events there might be paid options which will almost guarantee an early check in, the guest will placed in priority and should the hotel fail to accommodate the early check in fee will be removed. Properties through the country are experiencing difficulties with hiring staff therefore delays in getting the rooms ready are to be expected.
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