Early Departure Fees: What They Are & How To Avoid Them (Maybe)

by SharonKurheg

There are a lot of hotel fees that are discussed quite a bit. Both what they are and how to possibly get out of them:

However, there’s one hotel fee that doesn’t come up very often, probably because it’s not a typical part of a typical hotel stay.

Early departure fees.

An early check-out fee involves situations where the guest leaves the hotel before the end of the reservation on a multi-day stay. These guests are required to pay the fee (one time, regardless of the number of nights) rather than the room rate for the unused rooms. Most hotels with this fee say that it applies to (not prepaid) reservations if you don’t inform the hotel of your plan to leave early around the time you check-in.

Sometimes it can be even worse. Some hotels’ policies may state they don’t refund money for early departures, which means you’d be charged for the entire reservation period, regardless if you check out early (this is more likely to happen if you reserved some sort of a discounted or negotiated rate, such as with an Online Travel Agent (OTA), such as Priceline, Hotwire, etc., or with a prepaid stay).

The reasoning for this fee is simple. Say you’ve made a reservation to stay at a hotel for 5 nights, but you leave after 2 nights. That’s 3 night stay the hotel is out. They MAY be able to get someone else to stay, but probably not for that first night. And it may not be at the same rate you paid (maybe you paid rack rate and they resort to Priceline to sell the other nights last-minute).

Every major hotel group in the U.S. has a policy about early departure fees:

  • Choice Hotels: Early departure fees, deposit and cancellation restrictions may apply and will vary by hotel.
  • Four Seasons: Our Best Rate Guarantee does not apply to the following: #6. Taxes, gratuities, service charges, early departure fees or other fees and incidental charges.
  • Hilton: Early departure fees, deposit and cancellation restrictions may apply and vary by hotel (this was on their Hilton Honors Member Benefits Details & Disclaimers page).
  • Hyatt: Early departure fees may apply for checking out prior to your scheduled departure date. For specific details regarding these potential fees, please check with a Hotel Host or contact us prior to your arrival.
  • IHG: An early departure fee is applicable to guests who check out prior to the agreed check-out dates. The latest point at which the guest can change the departure date without incurring the cancellation charge is at the point of check-in.
  • Marriott: If a Guest checks-out of their Room earlier than the originally scheduled departure date and is charged a fee: it is typically called an ‘Early Departure Fee. Please speak with the Front Desk directly, if you unexpectedly need to shorten a planned length of stay.
  • Wyndham: Reservations must be canceled in accordance with the cancellation policy outlined by the hotel for the rate and dates booked.

How much are early departure fees?

Although all major hotel brands mentioned early departure fees, there’s nothing set in stone about what they are. It really depends on the hotel, and it could even change for different hotels under the same flag or brand.

It could be a flat fee. It could be the equivalent of 1-night’s stay. It could be 50% of what you would have paid, had you stayed. Some hotels may not be willing to refund you anything and you’re stuck paying for your entire stay. Some may not charge an early departure fee at all. Some require 24-hour notice and then they won’t charge you (or will charge you less than if you just up and check out early). Early departure fees are something where the individual hotels appear to have some flexibility.

How to get out of paying it?

Just as each hotel varies in handling early departure fees, there’s no hard and fast way to get out of paying an early departure fee. However, these ideas can improve your chances:

Notify the hotel ahead of time

Say you made the hotel reservation for the World Tiddlywinks Championship. You made a reservation for the entire event, which is 2 weeks long. But “your” team, from the United States, was out of the competition by Day 3. There’s no need for you to stay now, so you want to check out earlier than planned.

Make sure you tell the hotel every step of the way that you may not stay for the entire length of your reservation; it all depends on how the U.S. does in the Tiddlywinks competition. Write it in the notes when you make the reservation. Tell them again when you check-in, and make sure they write it down. Tell them the night before you depart early that you’re going to depart tomorrow.

None of these guarantees you won’t have to pay the early departure fee when you check out early, but they might charge you less, or there may be another way they may be willing to work with you, because you warned them ahead of time.

Inquire about early departure & associated fees before you make your reservation

Explain the Tiddlywinks situation before you confirm your reservation. Some hotels are more forgiving than others; find one that’s more forgiving.

See what your travel insurance covers

Some policies cover fees related to early departures, depending on the situation. A losing Tiddlywinks team may or may not not cut it, but an emergency at home might.

Look into making a future reservation

You’re leaving early for Tiddlywinks, but you also know you want to come back here for a vacation this summer. Offer to make that reservation now. The hotel may not be willing to charge someone an early departure fee to someone who’s coming back to do business with them again.

Make multiple smaller reservations

Look, I know you’re a fan, but you knew as well as I did that the U.S. just isn’t that great at Tiddlywinks; there was a good chance they’d be out of the competition early. So instead of making one 2-week reservation, maybe you should have made several smaller reservations. That way you could cancel the reservations you weren’t using before you even checked in for them (just know what their cancellation policy is).

Check out early on your day of early departure

If you check out as early as you can on the day of your early departure, the hotel may still be able to fill your room with another reservation for that very evening. If you check out at 6pm, chances are they won’t be able to fill the room that night. Guess which situation is more apt to get a lesser early departure fee, or maybe get it waived entirely.

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