The hotel check-in desk may soon be going the way of phone books and fax machines. That is to say, people born after 2000 may not even know what it is. As big chains like SPG and Hilton move toward app-based check-in for their preferred guests, and smaller hotels move toward online check-in, it may only be a matter of time before the friendly exchange of a credit card and ID for a room key is but a fond and distant memory. But that doesn’t mean hotels have completely abandoned the process of checking in with people or stopped using it as an opportunity to do something creative in welcoming its guests. From a private lounge in the Maldives to free beer in Denver, here are eight hotel check-ins that are an integral part of the hospitality experience.
1. The Assemblage — New York City
The folks behind this wellness-centric hotel know that every block walked in New York City increases your stress level immeasurably. That’s why the entrance to this hotel is dressed in a calming green moss, pumped full of a soft, pine scent that immediately makes you forget the cacophony of odors one gets while strolling through the Big Apple. The tunnel relaxes guests further with a custom-made Gamelatron gong, where after pressing a button, they’re soothed by the slow, vibrating sounds. By the time they arrive at the front desk, guests are about as de-stressed as one can get in New York, and are invited to set their intentions for the day with a bowl of water and dried flowers.
2. Getaway — New York, Boston, Washington, DC
These tiny cabins set out in big city-adjacent wilderness build the excitement of a mysterious weekend escape by never divulging the exact location of a guest’s cabin until the week of departure. So, checking in early is impossible. Once the guest receives directions in a witty, celebratory email, they’re invited to check-in, then given a Spotify playlist curated to where they’re going and the time of year. For road trips, this style of check-in sets the energy for the entire vacation, creating a memorable experience before guests even arrive.
3. Palazzina Grassi — Venice, Italy
Nothing feels more Venetian than riding a boat through the Grand Canal on a warm summer evening. So, it seems only fitting place to check into this restored 16th-century palace full of rich mahogany wood and Murano tile while still out on the water. Guests at the 26-room Palazzina Grassi can have this experience aboard the hotel’s 1962 Celli boat, as they’re driven to a private dock on the canal. Or, if they’d rather take in the sights, sounds, and smells of Venice in the summer, they can check in at the hotel’s bar, or even once they get to their room.
4. Carpe Diem — Santorini, Greece
Upon arriving in the Greek islands, you’ll undoubtedly want to waste no time taking your clothes off and getting outside. The people at the Carpe Diem hotel understand this and help you make the most of the Mediterranean sunshine by putting their check-in desk right at the pool. So you can enjoy your first glass of Greek wine while you check into your room at the pool bar/check-in desk, and not even bother unpacking until you’re at least two shades darker.
5. Moxy Chicago Downtown — Chicago
Though there’s no swimming pool involved, Moxy in downtown Chicago runs its entire check-in process through its swanky upstairs bar. As you might imagine, this causes a great deal of confusion when people arrive and see nowhere to get their key. “People ask where the reception area is,” Moxy Captain Rob Mastro told us. “And I bring them up to the bar, and they say, ‘I didn’t ask for the bar, I asked for the reception area.’” Once they get a welcome cocktail with their keys, however, the confusion goes away.
6. W Retreat and Spa — Maldives
Not that anything at a luxury Maldives resort would be short of first class, but this resort’s check-in process might be the finest we’ve seen. From arrival at Male International Airport, guests are whisked in a private van to a W Lounge where they can eat, drink, relax, and even shower, all while W staffers busily check them in. By the time the private seaplane arrives for the 25-minute flight to W’s private island, their villas are all set up, and there’s no need to do anything but get the vacation started.
7. The Source Hotel and Market Hall — Denver
Of the great many things to do in Denver, drinking a cold craft beer is chief among them. This requisite part of any trip to the mile-high city gets checked off your list almost immediately upon check-in at the brand new Source Hotel, where New Belgium Brewing has set up a brewery right in the lobby. You won’t even need to carve out time to visit it either, as a freshly-brewed beer is handed to you as soon as you reach the front desk.
8. Riad AnaYela — Marrakesh, Morocco
In order to create a truly immersive experience inside the centuries-old walls of Marrakesh’s medina, the owners of this restored riad have eliminated the check-in process completely, asking guests to check-in online before they actually arrive. This way they don’t have to waste a minute after riding in a private shuttle from the airport to the walls of the old city, where they’ll walk five minutes through bustling, narrow streets filled with merchants and savory smells to the hotel. There, they can drop off their luggage and continue their adventure, without having to stop to pick up a key.