No word rings more musically in a traveller’s ears than “upgrade.”
After spotty in-flight wi-fi, tasteless airline meals, and cramped cabin seating, you want nothing more than to stretch out on a luxurious bed with a soothing cocktail beside you and room service on the way.
Frequent jet-setters know how to work the system for the best nightly rates, free upgrades, and extra amenities to make their stays exceptional. Once you’ve gotten a taste of what their hotel hacks can do, you’ll never want to go back to your un-upgraded life.
Try these tricks next time you check in.
Look The Part
You’ve heard to “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” If you’re hoping to score a sneaky room upgrade, apply the same strategy to hotel check-in. Spiff up and look worthy of the Presidential Suite. No one’s upgrading the guy who looks like he’s just coming off a 3-week bender.
Talk The Talk
Appearance is only part of the equation. Pay attention to non-verbal communication – your posture and poise – and always, always treat the staff well. Be polite and personable. Hours of dealing with idiots will make your graciousness even more gladly received. A little goodwill can go a surprisingly long way.
Offer A Review
Slip an inquiry about the hotel’s online presence into the conversation at the front desk (“Are you on Yelp or TripAdvisor? I’d love to write a review…”). It may be just enough subtle pressure to secure a better room or a smaller enhancement, like free breakfast or late check-out.
Coordinate Your Comings And Goings
Request an early check-in or a late check-out. It’s a simple way to extend your time spent lounging in the lap of hotel luxury, and front desks are often happy to oblige. The odds of a “yes” go up if you have loyalty with a hotel group.
An alternative option is to check in late intentionally. The later the hour, the fewer last-minute guests will arrive, and the more the front desk knows about the day’s cancellations and no-shows. You have a stronger shot at being bumped to a better room when the hotel knows it won’t get filled that night.
Travelling during a hotel’s period of lower occupancy – the shoulder season or off-peak days – increases your chances of having a cushy stay. A better staff-to-guest ratio means more attentive service. Fewer fellow lodgers also means no one to fight for prime poolside real estate, and of course, a larger number of open rooms available if you’re hoping to switch.
If your hotel is primarily a business destination, it will likely be busier during the week and quieter on weekends. If it’s in a popular tourist destination, its occupancy will be down in the off-season.
Don’t Book On Discount Sites
Booking at a deeply discounted rate on a site like Expedia may save you money up front, but you’re bound to get stashed in one of the hotel’s more dismal rooms (and don’t even think about asking for an upgrade). Hotels know that bargain shoppers are unlikely to return unless they get a similar deal, and they aren’t interested in doling out perks to people with no potential to be repeat customers. Book directly via a hotel’s website if you want the red carpet treatment.
Be A Regular
While discount customers get discount experiences, regular guests get pampered. Join the hotel or hotel group’s loyalty programme to receive vouchers, upgrades, special amenities, and other perks for your bookings. The promise of future business is a powerful motivator for a hotel to treat you like the A-lister you are in your own mind.
Try Travel Hacking
Travel hacking isn’t just for flights. Investing in the right credit card can earn you substantial sign-up bonuses as well as ongoing rewards that can be applied to hotel stays. Some cards grant the holder elite status instantly.
Advise Staff Of Special Occasions
Mention any special occasions – a birthday, a honeymoon, an anniversary, etc – at the front desk when you check in. Better yet, let the property know in advance when you make your booking. Many hotels will gift you something to help you celebrate, whether it’s a day pass for the spa, a bottle of bubbly, or the coveted upgrade to a king-sized bed.
Broaden Your Definition Of “Upgrade”
‘Better’ doesn’t just mean ‘bigger’. When more square footage isn’t an option, seek enhancements of other kinds – a corner room, a bath with two sinks, a nicer view, free movies, included breakfast, a spa pass, or a free minibar can all make a stay more special. Just don’t go overboard with your asks.
Stay Somewhere New
It may sound counterintuitive to book at a new hotel if you’re gunning for an upgrade – that’s when everyone is dying to stay, isn’t it? -– but hotels are rarely operating at full capacity during this time. They’re trying to train staff and work out the kinks, and some parts of the property may still be under construction. Being a willing guinea pig could get you treated to extra perks, especially because they want you to spread the word to family, friends, and social media followers.
More common sense than a hack, every gentleman knows that money talks. Slipping a bill to the front desk staff (plus valets, bellhops, housekeeping, food and beverage staff, and the concierge) is an easy way to ensure you’re well taken care of. They’re almost always authorised to upgrade for special circumstances, and your hard-earned in their hands is most definitely a special circumstance.