After fighting airport traffic, security lines and tightly packed flights, most travelers arriving at a hotel just want to check in and get on with the vacation. But it?s not as easy as it used to be. During the travel slump after 9/11, when hotels had plenty of rooms available, it was often possible to arrive at almost any hour and get into a room, and a polite request to the front desk was usually all it took to extend your stay.

Now, with hotels at their highest occupancy levels in years, there are fewer vacant rooms available for guests who want to arrive earlier than the typical 3 or 4 p.m. check-in time. And travelers who would like to linger beyond the typical noon checkout time are finding difficulties, too. Hotels are enforcing both check-in and checkout times more closely.

Although many travelers simply accept the rules, others find it hard to tolerate inflexibility at a time when hotel prices are soaring. The problem is particularly vexing for American travelers arriving in Europe early in the morning, disheveled and groggy after overnight flights, and in no mood to wait until midafternoon to get a hotel room.

Guests are also simply more demanding than in the past. ?The customer is moving from rule-taking to rule-making mode,? said Chekitan Dev, a marketing professor at the Cornell Hotel School and a hotel industry consultant. Professor Dev has long been advising hotels to overhaul the antiquated check-in, checkout process.

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