Changing hotel rooms at and after check-in

By Randy Keck

There are times when travelers arrive at a hotel or other accommodation to find that they wish to change from the room they have been assigned, even though it is of the room type and category they requested and reserved. In this edition of “Under the Microscope,” I will examine some typical situations encountered and some of the options available.

Check-in strategies and procedures

First, at the point of check-in, make no assumptions and confirm that the room being assigned to you is in fact the type and category requested and reserved.

Next, ask to see a hotel room chart or floor plan so that you can note specifically where your room is located, if such is not already obvious. Most hotels have such room location charts or floor plans.

Determine if the location addresses any special needs or preferences, such as being close but not too close (noise considerations) to an elevator to reduce walking distances. Ask whether or not the room being assigned has a preferred view, if there is such at the hotel. If it does not, ask if you can be changed to a room that does, assuming that would be your preference. Usually, higher floors offer the best views.

If advised that view rooms are more costly than the one you have confirmed, you may wish to inquire as to the possibility of upgrading for a small additional charge. I have done this successfully on many occasions, sometimes with the upgrade charge even being waived.

Room inspection versus rolling the dice

If, while still at the check-in desk, you have any doubt whatsoever about any facet of the room you have been assigned, I strongly urge you to request a room inspection before committing to and taking occupancy of the room. The small amount of extra time necessary to do a room inspection may pay big dividends. If there is a reasonable choice of rooms, it may be possible to inspect two or more, especially if there is a variety of settings, locations, views, etc.

The lower the recognized rating of the hotel and the longer the planned stay, the more important this advance room inspection effort may prove to be.

Remember, you are the customer who needs to be satisfied, and as long as your requests are reasonable and friendly, they should and deserve to be cheerfully accommodated by hotel staff.

You may need to temper your room inspection requests somewhat if, for example, the hotel check-in desk seems to be very busy and or hotel occupancy is clearly at a high level. Nevertheless, you always have the right to a room inspection if you feel such is advisable.

Should you encounter clear and obvious indifference or other attitude problems regarding your requests on the part of hotel check-in staff, I suggest something along the lines of the following reply: “I understand it is the policy of your hotel to insure that good customers such as myself are satisfied with their rooms and hotel service in general. Is that correct or have I been misinformed?”

Normally, this direct approach will result in a rather immediate attitude adjustment. If not, ask to speak with a supervisor or duty manager regarding your requests. The above considerations should also always factor in language-related communication issues and local cultural mores, habits, manners, etc.

Changing rooms after check-in

Even with the precaution of a room inspection, sometimes, after you have checked in, problem situations develop that could not be anticipated in advance. Malfunctioning plumbing or electrical and noise-related annoyances from adjoining rooms head the list of post check-in problems that may need to be resolved.

Additional problems that can occur, especially if there has been no advance room inspection, include loud street noise (usually a problem with streetside lower-floor rooms) and a lack of sufficient privacy from windows when window coverings are open.

Recently, I checked into a room in a 4-star-plus hotel, and five minutes later a couple next door began engaging in an extremely loud, obscene shouting match for which the common wall between our rooms offered little respite. A few minutes later I went out to inspect my water-view balcony and found the couple continuing the fray on their balcony literally 15 feet away, with their dual cigarette smoke streams drifting downwind into my space and face.

I immediately went inside, called the front desk and explained the problem, and 10 minutes later I was relocated to an equivalent room devoid of problems.

Reaching a satisfactory resolve

It is possible to be reasonable and courteous yet still firm regarding room-exchange requests. Keep in mind that you may encounter room-change limitations related to high hotel occupancy. If so, be prepared to utilize your own gray matter, if necessary, to assist hotel staff with brainstorming a satisfactory solution.

Possible solutions may include a room upgrade with or without additional cost; a discount on the room price, if you are willing to remain in the room and deal with the problem, and changing to another room the following day. The length of your planned stay at the property is often a consideration, since what may be acceptable for one night may not be for more.

Individual philosophies definitely apply. I admit that I tend to view my hotel room as my temporary castle. Therefore, I wish it to be as comfortable in all ways as possible and am willing to make the extra effort to try to insure such is the case.

Having said that, I would also proffer that in many situations, overall one may experience less stress and be best served by simply being prepared to “go with the flow,” the key to which often is being able to determine what the flow is, if indeed there is one.

A chaotic front desk atmosphere at the point of check-in may not be the indicator of “a flow,” for example, but merely a temporary situation that will sort itself out naturally if you have the time and will to exercise a modicum of patience.

A final advisory

The “early bird” theory definitely applies regarding increasing the likelihood of room-changing options on arrival both before and after check-in. Generally, I recommend trying to arrive at the hotel as early as possible, even before the advertised earliest check-in time. The more unfamiliar you are with the property and the longer your planned stay, the more important this can prove to be.

At the conclusion of this considerable discourse, one final thought reigns supreme: may you, as deserving fellow travelers, always find healthful, respite-endowed lodgings along your way.

Keck's Beyond the Garden Wall

❝If, in the normal course of journeying,
One tends to find comfort with comfort,
Should it not then follow
That absence of delay
And cleverness of way
Indeed may save the day
And thereby, as well, the night? ❞
— Randy’s mirthful scribing regarding the subject of this column