The Ultimate List of Ways to Get a Hotel Upgrade

Sep 28, 2017

One of the most common questions Travelzoo Deal Experts are asked by friends and family is "How can I get a free upgrade at a hotel when I'm on vacation?" We've found there's no exact science to the art of asking, but here is some advice to consider. We’ve polled our deal experts and members, and here’s what we’ve learned:

When researching

  • Consider booking a new hotel: Because so many travelers are brand loyal, it can negatively affect recently opened hotels trying to lure new and repeat guests. When guests book at new properties that want to grow a dedicated fan base, those hotels may be more willing to offer upgrades to get people talking about their property and accommodating staff as well as in hopes of getting some repeat business in the future.
  • Or, be as loyal as possible: Brand loyalty has its benefits. With so many websites for hotel booking these days, hotels will often give out upgrades and perks to guests that show loyalty to the brand. Sign up for the frequent guest program -- whether it's Kimpton Karma, Hilton HHonors, Hyatt Gold Passport, Fairmont Presidents Club, Omni Select Guest or others. Make sure your reservation has your account attached, and casually name drop your status at the front desk.
  • Book with a brand that offers free upgrades: It's no surprise that hotel deals often guarantee upgrades. Travelzoo's hotel platform offers members special extras like free upgrades, free breakfast, welcome drinks and more, see Other brands that do a great job of ensuring you get a free upgrade include American Express. Travelers can get a free upgrade at The Savoy Hotel in London, complimentary breakfast, complimentary dinner and more when you book via its Fine Hotels & Resorts program. Websites like Mr. and Mrs. Smith in the UK also focus on upgrades. I particularly like Mr. and Mrs. Smith because they really care about their customers and James & Tamara (the founders) are some of the coolest people in travel.

After you’ve picked your place

  • Book a fully cancelable rate: According to one deal expert: “Now I only book nights I can cancel because my schedule changes a lot, in the past I would also book prepaid rates. I have noticed when I arrive with a fully cancelable rate, I generally get better treatment than I did with a prepaid rate. When I asked my hotel friends why this was, I was told that hotels prefer the guest who pays at the hotel, because the hotel is making more revenue from that guest and collecting payment for the room immediately upon checkout. Hotels generally don't like to work with online travel websites where the booking takes place on that site and the hotel has to wait for their money. With prepaid rates on third-party websites, many hotels do not "own" the guest information, so the hotel does not necessarily consider the guest someone who they might market to in the future. Prepaid rates on large online travel sites also have somewhat of a stigma attached to them, harking back to the early days of internet travel -- some hoteliers just think prepaid third-party booking = cheap guest and therefore no free upgrade.”
  • Share and share alike: Tweet at the hotel's Twitter account about how excited you are about your upcoming stay at the property. If you have a solid social following and are effusive (but authentic) about promoting good experiences, the hotel might just hook you up.
  • Drop them a line: Travelzoo member Jennifer H. says, “I’ve hand written and mailed a note to the GM (general manager) before arriving to say the travel is for a special occasion, letting them know and saying ‘if there is anything you can do in order to make our trip more enjoyable -- it would be greatly appreciated.’” If that doesn’t work? “Put a $20 between your ID and your credit card when you check in and ask if there are any complimentary upgrades available.”

During check-in

  • Politeness pays off: Smart advice from Travelzoo member Gigi S. is “dress nicely, ask politely and use their name” upon check-in.
  • Know when rush hour is: More Travelzoo deal expert advice: “Arrive between 4:45 and 6:00 p.m. Hotels generally clean from 7:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. The front desk rush hours are between 8:00 - 9:30 a.m. and 6 - 8 p.m. Check in too early and you will just get the first room available, a large number of the really good rooms will not be vacant or cleaned yet, so there is zero chance of a free upgrade. Get there too late and you will get the last room available (or get bumped to another hotel). Get there during rush hour and the front desk is too busy/cannot be seen to treat you to a free upgrade. Time it just right, there will be lots of rooms still unoccupied and you will have the time and attention to see more rooms.
  • Something to celebrate: We do not condone making up a special occasion, but if it is one -- anniversaries, birthdays, etc. -- by all means say so. Who wouldn't want to add to the merriment, if possible?
  • Be discreet: Try not to ask for an upgrade around other guests. Front desk employees will not want to start a chain reaction, so play it smart (or very quiet) when inquiring about upgrades. And if you got it, don't flaunt it.
  • Ask to see more rooms: According to a Travelzoo deal expert: “If you are lucky, you’ll get a nice room the first time. But if you arrive in your room and hate it, immediately walk back down to the front desk. Explain that you are "disappointed" (be nice!) and you would like to see more rooms. Typically, I get two more keys at this point, and I always emphasize with the front desk that I want to go to a higher floor. The higher the floor, the better the room. Higher floors are generally more expensive, but the front desk staff often overlook this because they don't like that you are disappointed. I was reminded of this last night at Hotel Vitale. The very nice lady at the front desk originally gave me room 257, which was right above the tram line. It had a nice view, but I really could not tolerate the idea of hearing the tram all night. I ended up in room 528, a much better room -- much higher up!”

Members can get best available rates and valuable extras (including upgrades at some hotels) by booking through Travelzoo. Start your search for a hotel deal at this collection of select hotels and resorts.

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