Getting out of your hotel room on time

the reception desk at a hotel

Your trip is winding up, and it’s time to pack up your things and check out. You may have a tour bus waiting downstairs, you may have a short walk to the nearby train station, or you may need to catch a cab to the airport. Either way, you have a deadline — either an exact time you need to get out by, or if not an exact time, in time enough to take local transportation to the place where there is an exact time you have to be there.

Whatever the case, you have to be packed and out the door before it’s too late.

The idea for this article came to me in a dream. In it, I realized my train, right downstairs, was about to leave. So I raced down the steps, only to see the station attendant close the last door. I tried to get her attention, but she just ignored me and finished closing the door so the train could leave. Which was just as well, because in my panic, I left all my bags upstairs, most of which were not even packed yet.

Three rules for getting out on time

The first rule of meeting a deadline is to know when the deadline is. You’re not able to plan your time effectively if don’t know how much of it you have. Find out what the deadline is up front — don’t wait for later to find out when you have to be ready; you may find out, too late, that there’s already not enough time remaining.

The second rule is know what time it is now. If you suddenly and unexpectedly find yourself within 3 minutes of the cutoff point, it’s probably too late to make it. So keep checking the time.

And while we’re on the subject, the third rule is know what the penalty is for missing the deadline. If the subway comes once every five minutes, and no one cares if you get there a little bit late, it’s no big deal to miss one train and catch the next. But if it means missing an airplane that flies only once a day, that’s more serious and you have to be extra careful not to be late. (Anything said here about what time also applies, on a larger scale, to what date.)

Getting ready to shuffle off

Once you have determined the above three, and you approach your checkout day, begin packing. Whatever can be stuffed into your luggage ahead of time should be — the night before, or at least a few hours in advance. The idea is to get some of it finished early enough, so if sometimes takes a bit more time than you expected, or you have an unplanned interruption, then you have some wiggle room to be able to get the job done without panic or disaster.

When there is nothing more than can be done prior to checkout hour, take a deep breath, look around, and estimate the length of time it will take to do the last-minute stuff. Empty the drawers, remove your things from the bathroom, and put it all on top of the dresser. The goal is to not have anything forgotten and left behind.

Estimate how long it will take to get to where the place of your hard deadline, like the time your cruise ship leaves. Add a generous sum of padding to the total, but only add the padding once — don’t add a padding amount for each step. Something may go wrong somewhere, but it’s not likely everything will go wrong.

Of course, if you determine that leaving at 10:15 will get you there on time, but checkout time is 10:00, you still have to check out at 10:00.

On your way

If it seems like you’re going to get where you have to be early, don’t dawdle; get there as quick as you can. You may have plenty of time now, but there may be a delay at or getting to the airport. You don’t want to kill time early on then not have enough extra at the last minute when you really need it.