It is perhaps every travelers dream; arriving at your hotel after a long flight, approaching the smiling front desk agent who advises you that you’ve just been upgraded to the Presidential Suite.
While this extreme might not always be in the cards for you, there are plenty of things that can be done to increase your odds of getting an upgrade to a room with a better view or even a more spacious and comfortable suite.
Come In Knowing What You Want & Ask For It
A generic request for “an upgrade” is unlikely to land you much favor with the front desk agent. This just screams of “I don’t know your hotel, I don’t care to check and I have no interest in anything other than getting a generic freebie”. Before you depart take the time to look at the hotel’s website, get familiar with what room types there are, what makes them different from each other and most importantly, what room/suite types show as being available the nights of your stay. By walking in with knowledge you show the agent you know what you are looking for. State the specific room or suite you are interested in, let them know you have been told or could see that it was available and then ask them if they can provide you a complimentary upgrade. Respect them by showing that you know what you’re talking about.
Check In Late… But Not Too Late
There are many schools of thought on this subject however I can only speak from personal experience. Quite often the best rooms in a hotel get used last. If you are going to just happen upon a Presidential Suite without paying for it, most often it’s because it’s one of the last rooms that they have. Quite often when hotels get tight on availability, the hotel will begin upgrading their frequent travelers first. If you don’t happen to be one of those, you can hope that when you come walking in, they have no choice but to put you somewhere excellent. A big caution here though; Hotels will ‘walk’ guests if they are full which means moving you to another hotel at likely a very inconvenient time of the night. There is a fine line between being late and being too late
Earn (or Buy) Your Status
Obtaining status with hotel chains can be a rewarding way to seal the deal on making sure you get first crack at the best rooms. While sticking with one chain and staying often is the traditional way of earning your status (you can gain Marriott Silver status with as few as 10 nights per year), there are also many other ways of being gifted hotel status. These include signing up for specific credit cards(depending on what country you reside in, there are ample credit card options for many of the hotel chains) and inheriting your status annually as long as you hold the card and pay the annual fee. You can also gain your favorite hotel chain status by accessing a status match or status challenge. A status match is where you have obtained status with one hotel chain and you can gain benefits from another chain that is looking to woo you, often with a much smaller room night commitment. A status challenge is where you can gain temporary status with a chain and are provided a finite period of time (often 3 months) to get in as many stays as you can to keep that status for the year.
Go In Having Already Had A Conversation
Nothing is more effective in this world than “knowing someone”. While it is unlikely you are going to have a personal relationship with every property you travel to, small techniques can assist you in getting an upgrade. Often within your reservation confirmation email the General Manager or Chief Concierge will generically welcome you to the property stating to let them know of anything that they can do to make your stay more comfortable. Email them back stating you would love an opportunity for an upgrade. They will likely take little to no stock in this request, but go in knowing the GM’s name and state to the front desk you had specifically requested an upgrade from them. If they reply to your request it is likely to not promise anything stating very non-committal that upgrades are sometimes offered based on availability. Use this as leverage at the front desk stating that their boss mentioned that an upgrade might be possible if available. Using your research from the first suggestion, let them know you have taken the liberty to confirm that “X” room type is currently available based on their website or central reservations.
Sometimes all the front desk agent will need is a good excuse to move you into an upgraded room or suite. If you are celebrating something (anniversary, retirement, heck even your dog’s birthday) make sure they are well aware of it before you get to the counter (ask that notes be added to your reservation beforehand) and mention it in passing when you get to the counter. Engage in conversation with the front desk agent, reminding them of this occasion and that you would love the extra room (or view) to celebrate properly.
Watch The Rates You Book
Finally, look out for which rates you book. While the hotel is unlikely to admit they treat their customers differently, a guest who books their room through an opaque third party a website you book at bargain basement prices not knowing the exact hotel until you have fully prepaid) like hotwire.com, who is paying a fraction of the going room rate, is unlikely to get the same kind of special treatment as a guest who booked at full price. If you are banking on an upgrade, which can save hundreds of dollars a night, you better weigh your options of saving a few dollars on the face value of the rate. You are also more likely to land that Presidential Suite if your stay is short or you are planning on checking out early the next morning. Mention if this is an option when you arrive hopefully showing you are willing to ‘give’ to ‘get’.
Most importantly, remember to be polite. As the old adage says, people like to help people they like; this includes the front desk staff at a hotel. Don’t be rude or hostile and avoid giving off the vibe of entitlement. Their inventory is perishable and, after tonight, that unused upgraded room or suite will go to waste. The only person that literally holds the keys to your upgraded room experience is standing right in front of you. Treat them with respect and you will often get treated the same.