5 min read

Midnight Wanderers Guide: Snag Last-Minute Hotels Easily

Ever found yourself in a new city, the clock's struck midnight, and you're without a bed? Let's turn that into an adventure, not a nightmare—here's your after-hours guide to snagging a cozy hotel spot!

Tobi Miles
September 1, 2022

In a world that is increasingly mobile, where airline schedules and delays often dictate your schedule, planning arrival times at hotels can be difficult. You may find yourself in a situation where you need to book a hotel room after midnight with plans to leave after only a few hours of sleep. However, many hotels won’t rent a room just for the remainder of the night.

There are several strategies for booking hotel rooms after midnight for that same night. The easiest way is to contact the hotel directly to make your hotel reservation. You can reset the clock on your smart device and make the reservation online. Some hotels don’t use the traditional check-in and check-out schedules and will rent rooms on a 24-hour basis.

Weather delays and mechanical delays seem to be a plague in the airline industry. All too often, travelers find themselves stranded in strange airports late at night. Understanding how hotels tend to operate and working with that understanding can often score you a hotel room for a few hours on very short notice.

The Easy Method to Book a Hotel After Midnight

Probably the easiest and surest way to book a hotel after midnight is to get on the phone and contact the hotel directly. Online reservation systems typically have no means for you to get exceptions to hotel rules.

Many reservation systems prevent you from making a hotel reservation after midnight for the same night. A call to a real person with access to the hotel’s booking system will often make a huge difference. There are some tips to success even for this simple process.

Be Precise if Possible

Before you make the call directly to the hotel, have your arrival and departure information ready. Also, the hotel may want to know which airline you are flying and the flight number to confirm your arrival. If you are in a foreign country, there may be other questions. To expedite making your after-midnight hotel reservation, have as much information as possible ready when you start making calls.

Make it Clear When you Want to Check in and Check-out

Remember, you are asking for several exceptions to most hotels’ normal operating procedures. Many hotels don’t take reservations for the same night after midnight. Most hotels have a check-in policy of 3 pm and a check-out policy of 11 am. You may be asking for exceptions to both of these times.

Related Read: Can You Rent A Hotel Room For A Few Hours?

Be Prepared to Pre-Pay for your Hotel Room

Often the hotel will require prepayment of the hotel room charges at the time you make your reservation. You are asking for exceptions to the hotel’s general operating policies, and they have an interest in protecting themselves. Have your credit card ready to provide your billing and payment information if the hotel can accommodate your special requests.

Be Patient, Polite, and Courteous

You may be tired, frustrated and aggravated by airline delays you can’t control. However, it is important that you don’t let these emotions creep into your contact with the hotel personnel.

If anything, you want to be grateful for the help you receive from the booking clerk to accommodate your needs outside the regular hotel operations. A smile, a friendly voice, and generous ‘Thank You” will go a long way to getting the help you need.

Booking Online for an After Midnight Hotel Room Check-in

Many online reservation systems aren’t set up to accommodate making a hotel reservation after midnight on the same day. A lot of this is dictated by how hotels operate and their rules for check-ins and check-outs. Essentially, you must trick the reservation system into thinking you are making the reservation a day earlier.

This procedure involves changing the date on your smart device. Different devices and operating systems require slightly different approaches to this method.

One thing to remember is that this method doesn’t always work. The reservation system may not use the date on your smart device to make the reservation, and you will still run up against the hotel rules for check-ins and check-outs.

Apple iOS Operating Systems

To change the date on most Apple iOS operating systems, these simple steps will help you navigate the Apple iOS setups.

1. Select SETTINGS on your Apple-based system.

2. Navigate to the GENERAL tab.

3. Select DATE & TIME from the menu selections.

4. Uncheck the selection titled “SET AUTOMATICALLY” to prevent the smart device from updating the time and date back to the current, correct time and date.

5. Set the time and date to the day before the current date

6. Exit out the setup menus and go to the reservation app you are using to make your after-midnight hotel reservation.

Related Read: Can You Check Out of a Hotel Early?

Android-Based Operating Systems

Many phone manufacturers modify the basic Android operating systems installed on their smart devices. These instructions may vary slightly depending on the make and model of your phone but should be close. These instructions are based on the Samsung Android operating system that is installed on their newer devices.

1. Select SETTINGS from the main menu screen.

2. Navigate to the GENERAL MANAGEMENT option on the SETTINGS menu.

3. Select DATE and TIME from the GENERAL MANAGEMENT menu

4. Uncheck the AUTOMATIC DATE AND TIME option before going further

5. Choose the preferred date. We suggest the date and time be at least 24 hours before you plan to arrive at the hotel.

6. Exit out of the SETUPS option and use your selected hotel reservations app to make your after-midnight reservation.

Call the Hotel and Confirm

You should receive a confirmation email from the reservation system. Check and make sure all the dates and times are correct. Sometimes, the reservation systems will ignore the time and date set on your smart device and default to the current time and date. This can lead to problems.

Once you have your confirmation email, immediately call the hotel, and confirm that they have the reservation. Be sure that all the dates and times are correct on the hotel’s side of the reservation and that they understand that it will be after midnight before you check in to the hotel.

Related Read: Do You Have To Check Out of A Hotel?

Which Hotels Allow you to Book After Midnight?

In a world that is increasingly independent of traditional times and dates for travelers, many hotels close to airports are moving away from the traditional hotel reservation model. Instead of the usual 3 pm check-in and 11 am check-out, you can find hotels that simply book hotel rooms on a 24-hour basis.

These hotels have learned that air travel doesn’t conform easily to the traditional hotel scheduling model and have adopted a policy of renting rooms for 24 hours beginning when you check in to the hotel.

Some of the third-party reservation aggregators identify hotels that allow 24-hour check-ins. As an example, Booking.com categorizes some listings as ‘Last-minute Hotels.”

Many of the larger hotel chains, such as Holiday Inn Express and Residence Inns, have adopted a 24-hour check-in policy. A quick search on the internet will often turn up dozens of options for hotels that offer 24-hour check-ins to travelers.

Why Can’t I Just Generate an Early Check-in to Arrive After Midnight?

It might seem logical to be able to book a hotel room and then get an early check-in, but logic sometimes doesn’t dictate reality. You must understand how many hotels operate. Hotels typically don’t run on a regular 24-hour day that begins at midnight.

Hotel operating schedules are based on a 3 pm check-in time, and an 11 am check-out time. However, the calendaring systems used by the hotels are based on traditional midnight to midnight days.

If you make a reservation after midnight, the system assumes you are making a reservation for that night of the day of the reservation. It can seem confusing, but if you think simplistically, it makes sense.

Also, many hotels have strict policies about check-in times, and automated reservation systems adhere to these policies. In most cases, these systems have no provision for booking an early check-in, especially one that occurs many hours before the standard check-in time.

Related Read: Can You Pay Cash For Hotels?

Why Won’t a Hotel Rent Me a Room for Less than 24 Hours?

There is a lot involved in renting hotel rooms aside from the reservation systems that are based on hotel rules and policies. Hotels have huge staff requirements for maintenance and housekeeping services. It is almost impossible to keep staff on duty to clean rooms on an as-needed basis.

Hotel work schedules are arranged so that the bulk of the maintenance and housekeeping staff are on duty from mid-morning to the middle of the afternoon.

This staffing policy coincides with the 11 am check-out time and the 3 pm check-in time. The hotel staff must have a window in which they can access the rooms to perform housekeeping and maintenance when the rooms are empty.

Renting rooms for a few hours at a time would involve keeping both maintenance and housekeeping staff on duty 24 hours a day in some instances. From a management and financial standpoint, this is an unsound policy and is avoided by host hotels.

What is the Best Way to Ensure an After Midnight Hotel Reservation?

If your encounter a situation that dictates that you make a hotel reservation after midnight for the same night, the best method is usually a phone call to the hotel. Remember that hotels are in business to rent rooms.

My experience is that if the hotel has empty rooms, the employees will make the necessary exceptions to their policies to accommodate your needs. After all, an empty room generates no revenue, and the name of the game is making money.

Article updated:
January 5, 2024

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