How to Snag a Hotel Upgrade (yes, it’s possible!)
Let’s get real, people: these days, the coy but confident slip of a Franklin to the receptionist just doesn't work (unless you’re 007 or George Clooney). The next time you’re looking to swap your near-windowless room for a super-luxe suite, try these moves instead.
Disclaimer: There is no surefire way to get a hotel upgrade; be prepared to fail sometimes, and come out victorious others. With that in mind, go into your stay with realistic expectations and just try, try, and try again.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask, But Know Your Stuff
First thing’s first: It’s more than okay to ask for an upgrade when checking in, in fact, it’s expected. Hotel receptionists are authorized to give out a whole bunch of freebies (movies, mini-bar snacks, room service); you just have to ask for them, and it’s best to do that in person, upon arrival.
Go with a specific request ⎯ a corner room (they’re often larger), one with a balcony or a killer view, or one that’s close to the pool. The clearer you are, the more accommodating they’ll be.
In most cases, hotel receptionists want to help and are willing to work with you, but things get dicier if you’re staying during peak season, over a weekend or for a long stretch of time. Chances are the shorter your stay, the better luck you’ll have scoring that knockout suite.
Avoid Rush Hours
Knowing the right time to start your sweet talking is key. Steer clear of high traffic hours like 8 am to 9:30 am and 6 pm to 8 pm – the more congested the check in desk is, the more likely the receptionist will whisk you in and out. Not to mention, the more guests around, the harder it is to be discreet (this is very important, emphasis on very).
Plan to hit the lobby mid-afternoon during a lull. This is prime deal time: by now, front desk agents have a better idea of what inventory they have to play around with since they’ll know about guest cancellations, and how many people are likely to be no-shows (it does happen).
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Flirt with Hotel Membership
If you’re brand loyal and frequent particular hotels, consider joining a rewards program. Most hotels have different levels of membership – usually gold, platinum and diamond – all of which typically come with standard perks like late check outs and no blackout dates. In the case of Marriott Rewards and Hyatt Memberships (both free to join), points can be redeemed for late checkouts, free nights, and, you guessed it: room upgrades. Do your research and see if there are any exclusive deals given to guests who sign up online. If not, sign the dotted line at the hotel; they’ll be able to answer any questions you might have, and may sugarcoat the deal.
If you’re not actually interested in a program, feigning interest might spell out freebies (it’s a bit of a sleaze move, but the potential swag is worth it). Listen to their spiel, sell your interest and cross your fingers for a free continental breakfast, room service credit or in-room movie rental, if not more. Casually mentioning that you’re a member of a rival program (but are thinking of switching) could up the ante, and you might be offered trial nights in nicer rooms regularly reserved for members.
Harness the Power of Social Media (In the Name of Sweet, Sweet Leverage)
It certainly doesn’t hurt to throw a positive vacation update on Instagram, Twitter or TripAdvisor, with a hotel hashtag (especially If you have a sizable following). Hotels might be generous with perks if they see you as a means to free advertisement.
Wildcard alternative: Calling out a hotel for previous issues can (occasionally) work – just be smart about how you go about putting them on blast. If you mention a past experience with the hotel that was less than stellar, or cite a bad online review and ask if anything has since changed – they might be persuaded to show you the best stay possible.
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Camouflage Your Penny-Pinching Ways
Booking the cheapest room possible sets you at an immediate disadvantage when asking for an upgrade. This doesn’t mean you have to go all out; booking even the second-most low-cost option can significantly boost your chances of promotion. The more you come in spending, the more hotel agents will be willing to tweak your amenities. (PS: Your choice of dress may seem insignificant, but presenting yourself as a businessman or woman could be the bargaining chip that tips the scales in your favor.)
Cash in On Truly Special Occasions
Front desk clerks probably hear it a hundred times a day – "We’re here for our honeymoon!" or, "It’s my [insert milestone] birthday!" And yeah, yeah, that’s cool, and definitely still mention it, but everyone has a birthday. If you’re celebrating something more unique though (say buying a new house, getting a kick-ass job or finally divorcing your husband) – really talk it up.
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