For Some, December Means… Mattress Runs. But What are They?

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If you believed me when I wrote about the value of elite status at a hotel chain or two, you are probably aware that elite status qualification with hotel chains works on a calendar year basis. But if your “organic” travel requirements – i.e. whatever comes naturally from work or pleasure – doesn’t quite get you there, you might be tempted to squeeze in some extra stays in December. These are often called “mattress runs” (a play on the better-known concept of a “mileage run”).

What is a mattress run?

A mattress run is essentially a hotel stay that is completely unnecessary. The most extreme example is checking into a hotel and immediately leaving. Slightly less extreme is booking a local hotel and spending the night with partner / family even though the family home is nearby.

Although not strictly a mattress run, some people also find it advantageous to move between hotels during a longer stay in the same city. One night in one hotel, followed by one night in another, followed by a further night perhaps at the original hotel. This generates additional “stays”, reasons for which I’ll explain shortly. Many people call that “hotel hopping”.

How to do a mattress run

Book it Right and Make Sure to Check-in and NOT Check-out

The most important thing to remember about mattress runs – or any stay intended to earn points or status credit – is that somebody must check-in to the hotel in person. Simply booking a prepaid stay doesn’t count. Completing the check-in process on an App won’t work either; you need to access the room with your phone to be fully checked in.

The second most important thing to remember – although hopefully readers already know this – is that you must book directly with the hotel chain. No Online Travel Agency bookings will count for elite status qualification!

When doing a mattress run, I make a point to visit my room briefly to make sure there is no damage I might subsequently be blamed for. If I have the spare time, I’ll visit the hotel’s gym and/or pool. If there are complimentary items such as bottled water, etc. I often grab these as well. However, you don’t really have to visit the room if you don’t want to, and you definitely don’t need to mess up the bed or otherwise make work for housekeeping. If the hotel has those simple plastic throw-away key cards, I will take one with me, but otherwise I just leave the keys on the desk and go.

Under no circumstances should you immediately check-out again. This process will undoubtedly screw up the computer system and you might miss out on the credit you are there for. All modern hotels will automatically check out guests on departure day if they do not pass by the front desk in person. You leave credit card details at check-in specifically for such purpose. Some people with a very late overnight flight will book an additional night in the same hotel (since standard check-out time would be noon or earlier). When they physically check-out, even at 11pm, they often find that the final night is not credited properly. Just leave and let the hotel check you out automatically in the morning…  If you have any doubt about what might end up charged to your room – ask for an interim bill and query it before leaving.

When Mattress Running Consecutive Nights…

Most mattress runs are for one night only. In certain cases, it might advantageous to book a multi-night mattress run. In those situation I tend to leave a note on my desk, explaining to housekeeping that I want a base for the week but that I’ll be returning later. I might also inform the front desk. This is because some hotels will automatically check-out a guest if the room appears unoccupied. Many countries or individual hotels also have policies that require hotel staff to ignore “Do Not Disturb” signs occasionally to check to see whether the guest has died (or accumulated an arsenal of weapons or set up a marijuana-growing operation, etc.)

Usually there is no problem if you inform somebody that you do indeed want the room for the entirety of your reservation, but don’t rely just on a DND sign.

Do I Have to Go Myself?

It doesn’t always have to be the member who physically checks in. Many chains allow for a second person’s name to be attached to a reservation. It is a simple matter of calling the hotel (or loyalty programme) a few days in advance to say that my partner/friend/whoever will be sharing my room and will be arriving before me – please allow them to check-in on my behalf. In some cases, the hotel might be strict and might insist that the principal reservation holder (i.e. you) passes by the front desk at some point; most don’t really bother. Be wary of allowing third parties to use your hotel rooms. If you don’t know them well and they trash the place, you will be financially responsible. Were it not for this risk I would love to offer my mattress run rooms to a homeless person or some other charitable use…

How Much Will it Cost Me?

This may seem obvious, but the cheaper the mattress run the better. However there is a trade-off between the most convenient hotel and the cheapest (which might involve more time/effort/petrol/etc.). It also takes some effort to find the cheapest night of the week/month/period that can be booked at your preferred mattress run hotel. It can be tempting to use your hotel points on a “free” mattress run (at any chain where reward stays qualify), but make sure you’ve decided that the value of those points is less than their value when used on an actual holiday.

Why do a mattress run?

Promotions and Other Ways to Earn Points

It seems that the hotel industry is booming, since there are fewer and fewer promotions that might be considered “mattress run worthy”. The most obvious example remaining is probably IHG’s Accelerate, where you might be able to pick up tens of thousands of points from a single stay.

The Best Rate Guarantee policy from Starwood Preferred Guest – click here for a reminder of how it works – is also an interesting way to generate value from mattress runs. A successful claim will earn 2,000 Starpoints (worth £40), along with the standard points earned for your stay, including any welcome amenity points.

Elite Status Qualification

If you enjoy the benefits of elite status with a hotel chain, such as free breakfast, room upgrades, bonus points, etc. the cost of a mattress run or two is likely to be lower than the value received from those benefits during an entire year.

Certain hotel chains allow for elite status qualification based on “stays”. In the extreme, 25 stays can be reached by spending only 25 nights, as long as those nights are split into individual one night stays. So one-night mattress runs, or hopping from hotel to hotel, can allow for quite low cost elite status qualification with chains such as Starwood Preferred Guest.

Hilton Honors often allows you to book day-only rates online. These are often much cheaper than overnight rates, since they only allow use for a few hours during the day (perhaps to freshen up after an overnight flight or to prepare for a meeting). If you already have Gold or Diamond status, most hotels even allow you to show up in the morning on a day rate, enjoy your free breakfast and then leave. These rates earn stay credit for sure, and in my experience they also end up adding to night credit.


If you are likely to fall just short of the requirements for elite status at a hotel chain, you might want to consider doing a mattress run or two. Just make sure to do it correctly!


  1. Pangolin says

    You can also get 10 elite night credits by booking a meeting at a Marriott hotel (it works outside the US also). It can be for just two people and you don’t even have to show up (although it might be a good idea to do so).

    It could be useful if you are still several nights away from Gold or Platinum and a mattress run is too impractical or expensive.
    Either status is worthwhile having: Gold will give you lounge access and breakfast and Plat will give you matched Platinum status in the SPG scheme (which is excellent).

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