For Some “Travel Hackers”, December Means Mattress Runs – But What are They?

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For many people, elite status with one or more hotel chains is a very valuable perk. 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.

Some people stretch the definition of “mattress run” to include holidays that they wouldn’t otherwise take, except for the need for some additional elite night credits. I don’t agree with that extension of the definition – after all, most holidays are discretionary and many people choose their hotel based on “needing elite nights” – but I include it here because you might come across it elsewhere…

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 is never guaranteed to work either (although sometimes it does). Unless you access the room with your phone, the hotel can mark you down as a no-show.

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 this 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 be advantageous to book a multi-night mattress run. In those situations 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 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 insist that the principal reservation holder (i.e. you) passes by the front desk at some point, though most don’t bother.

Be wary of allowing third parties to use your hotel rooms. If you don’t know them well and they cause damage, 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 – or better said… “cash-free” – mattress run , but make sure that you aren’t wasting them unnecessarily.

Don’t Try to do a Deal with the Manager

Some people have attempted to contact a hotel in order to propose a mattress run arrangement that doesn’t require showing up in person:  “I’ll give you money, you give me the elite night credit and you can keep the room for another guest…”.

Although you might see this as a win-win opportunity for the hotel, in fact it could get them into a lot of trouble with the hotel chain. So don’t bother…  Would you do something that put your job at risk, just because a stranger called you to offer your employer a few hundred quid? Probably not.

Why do a mattress run?

Promotions and Other Ways to Earn Points

It has been a while since I’ve seen a truly mattress run worthy promotion. Perhaps this ongoing Radisson Rewards Americas promotion comes closest – click here for details.

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.


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

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