The Ultimate List of Ways to Get a Hotel Upgrade

Sep 11, 2018

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 travellers 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 Starwood Preferred Guest, Kimpton Karma, Hilton HHonors, Marriott Rewards, 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: Travelzoo's hotel platform offers our members special extras like free upgrades, free breakfast, welcome drinks and more; see travelzoo.ca/hotels. Other brands that do a great job of ensuring you get a free upgrade include American Express. Travellers can get a free upgrade at The Savoy Hotel in London, complimentary breakfast, complimentary dinner and more when booking via its Fine Hotels & Resorts program. Websites like Mr. and Mrs. Smith in the UK also focus on upgrades.

After you’ve picked your place

  • Book a fully cancellable rate: "I have noticed when I arrive with a fully cancellable rate, I generally get better treatment than I did with a prepaid rate," one of our Deal Experts tells us. "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."
  • 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: 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 little 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 and 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: 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. Ask if they might have something on a higher floor. Higher floors are generally more expensive, but the front desk staff often overlook this because they don’t want you to be disappointed. 

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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