Free hotel upgrades were a lot easier to come by a few years ago during the height of the Great Recession when hotel occupancy had plummeted to record lows in many areas. Desperate hotels were practically bending over backwards to make guests happy and, hopefully, keep them coming back. The climate has changed a bit, but all is not lost! Here's what you can do to increase your chances of moving on up:
I have received a free upgrade simply by inquiring about the availability of any better rooms. It's definitely a crapshoot, but worth a shot — the worst they can say is no. Now, of course, you don't want to come across as demanding or with any air of entitlement. Being courteous and friendly can go a long way towards getting what you want. If it's your birthday, anniversary or honeymoon, say so! That alone is sometimes enough. Keep your expectations realistic — getting upgraded might not mean you'll be kicking back in the presidential suite. With luck it'll be a room with a better view, a larger room or a recently renovated room.
2. Check in a little late
Arriving right around check-in time will likely squash your chances for an upgrade because it's too early for the front desk to know how many reservations will be cancellations or no-shows. A few hours later they'll be aware of which guests aren't coming, which may free up a nicer room to which you could be upgraded. A lucky few have even checked in late, discovered that their room category was oversold, and the hotel had no other choice than to upgrade them to that junior suite!
3. Stay during the off season
Off seasons vary depending on where you're traveling, but, generally speaking, staying at a hotel when occupancy is low can increase your upgrade chances because it's likely that the hotel would not be able to sell their higher-priced rooms. Weekends and holidays at hotels that cater to business travelers primarily during the workweek are often a good bet, as well.
4. Book a mid-priced room
Avoid booking the cut-rate special if you're hoping to be upgraded, and make your reservation directly with the hotel instead of through third-party booking websites featuring rock bottom rates. Management is not likely to bump you up from a bargain-basement-priced room to the penthouse.
5. Stay only a night or two
A lengthier stay likely won't be upgraded, because hotel management is not going to give up the chance to sell that suite they just upgraded you to for free longer than a day or two. Their goal is to get a full-paying guest into that suite.
6. Be a loyal customer
Become a repeat guest at a specific hotel chain and be sure to sign up for their loyalty program. Hotels are more willing to roll out the red carpet for good customers.
Okay, now I don't mean frivolous, ridiculous gripes for the sole purpose of getting something for free. However, if you have a legitimate complaint, such as the air conditioning isn't working in your room or construction noise from the renovations is unbearable, let management know. They will find alternate accommodations for you and may even upgrade you for your trouble. This happened to me at an all-inclusive hotel undergoing renovations in Cancun. They actually relocated us to one of their other properties nearby. I had stayed with them several years in a row and casually asked if, by any chance, they might have a larger room or suite available. They upgraded us to a two room, two bathroom suite at no extra charge!
8. Tip the front desk clerk
In casino hotels in Vegas and other cities it's not unheard of to slip a folded bill to the front desk clerk as you hand over your ID and credit card in order to get a better room.
9. Book hotels with a lot of suites
It can be easier to get upgraded at hotels that have many room categories or a large selection of suites. Check hotel websites before booking to get a feel for the number of room tiers.
10. Read hotel reviews
I always read hotel reviews on sites like TripAdvisor before booking any hotel. Some reviewers are very detailed and provide valuable information such as the actual room number they were in, pros and cons of the room location, whether it was in the newly renovated wing or the outdated one, if and how they got an upgrade, etc. If you don't get upgraded, your Plan B is then to request a certain room, or particular wing, or specific floor where, thanks to your research, you know the best regular rooms are.
Keep your expectations down to earth — an upgrade doesn't always have to be the top-tier suite to be worth something to you. A beautiful view, a corner room, or extra down pillows can add value and enhance your stay!
This is a guest post by Deidre from Dania Beach, FL
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