Nothing adds some extra joy to your hotel stay like a free room upgrade. Say goodbye to the double bed tucked behind the elevator on the first floor, and say hello to an upper-level suite with a city view.
OK, the move may not always be that dramatic. But getting a better room than the one you reserved can definitely enhance your trip, whether it's for business or pleasure. And it's even better if you don't have to pay for it.
That's right, it's definitely possible to get an upgraded hotel room for free. If you play your cards right and employ some time-tested strategies, it's very much doable. While this is no guaranteed playbook, these are the things you need to think about if you're angling to improve your next stay.
Sometimes the simplest method is the best - just ask for an upgrade when you check into the hotel. Sometimes a hotel will have additional rooms that it didn't book for the night. The hotel may be willing to grant you a little goodwill if you inquire about upgrading to a better room.
Typically this will be a modest upgrade, such as from a single, king room to a suite or to some other type of enhancement with a little extra space. Don't expect to pick up the presidential suite for free. To try and make this happen, there are a few guidelines that you should follow.
For starters, be kind. The squeaky wheel may get the grease, but it doesn't always get a better room. You've probably heard those accounts of someone who throws a professional tantrum and comes away with a free upgrade. Don't be that person. You're more likely to get consistently better service and better perks if you embrace the better angels of your nature. When you check in, ask if they're offering any upgrades.
You may be presented with an option that will cost you money. At that point, you can politely decline or accept the offer. Hotels are in the upgrade business, so in many cases, you may have to part with some cash or turn them down.
Also, the hotel might be booked. Others may only grant such upgrades for a fee or for those who are unsatisfied with their experience (more on that later). A pleasant ask is one way to get an upgrade without paying, but it's not the only one. There are a few other strategies to employ if this one backfires.
Be there for a special occasion
Hotels love to show their guests a good time. This especially happens during special occasions like an anniversary, wedding, birthday, or another special trip. If you make the reservation over the phone or you call in to confirm after booking it online, you may want to drop that you are in town for one of these reasons. If you're actually celebrating one is up to you.
One of the perks you may be offered is a room upgrade. It's not a foolproof plan, as sometimes it's a bouquet of flowers or some chocolate-covered strawberries that you'll receive. But it's worth a shot. You may also want to drop this line when dining at the hotel restaurant, coffee shop, or other spots throughout the hotel if it's a large facility. The worst you'll get is a friendly congratulations.
Be a loyal guest
Hotel brands have to do battle with a large range of competitors when it comes to securing a booking. When most people go to find a hotel, they often turn to a third-party aggregator like Trivago, Expedia, Travelocity, or others. While the hotel benefits from the exposure, it means paying a fee to those services. Many of these referrals also come from Google, which also takes a cut from sponsored referrals. Then there's Airbnb, which was a major disruptor to how people travel.
Hotel chains have begun to strike back by building up their loyalty programs and tailoring the experience to return guests. This means that without too much difficulty you can rack up a batch of freebies by joining a company's loyalty program and ensuring that you attach all your stays to it.
For example, I've earned free upgrades and a few hotel nights through one of these programs, which also extends to the other properties that are part of the large company brand. Hilton has put a lot of resources into its app, making it an easy way to book, check your points, and get features like extra towels without the need to wait on hold while calling the front desk.
Unlike with airline miles, I've found that hotel points tend to add up more quickly. And there are some ways to earn extras, like foregoing housekeeping during some nights of your stay (many hotels, especially in California, are trying to cut back on their water usage) or using other services that are attached to the chain's mobile app.
The key takeaway here is that a surefire way to get free upgrades is by racking up the points in a loyalty program. It's an easy way for hotels to earn loyalty, and it's just a matter of going through the extra steps to sign up with such programs and to keep an eye on your account status.
When things go south
Not every stay is a great one. You've probably had that situation where you check in, head to the room, and find out that evidence of the previous occupant is still there. Or, perhaps it's been cleaned so thoroughly to within an inch of its life that the smell of bleach can be detected from down the hallway.
There is one potential upside to this. To correct this grievous mistake, many times the manager or other front desk personnel will offer a room upgrade to make up for it. When this happens, take them up on the offer. Or if in some other way you're not satisfied with the room, it's within reason to ask for another. You can also slide in the hope of an upgrade for your trouble.
You certainly don't want to hope that things go sour for you, but this is one way to get a free room upgrade. While you initially call or head back down to the front desk, you can always ask for an upgrade as a way to get the hotel to make up for the trouble. Be firm but respectful, and it just may work.
Always think upgrade
Finally, the main strategy is to be on the lookout for opportunities to try and get an upgrade when it's in the hotel's interest to do so. When you check in late, you have a much likelier path to an upgrade than if you check in at 4 PM.
When it's late, most of the hotel rooms have already been spoken for. So the desk clerk may have more flexibility in giving you a room given that there are far fewer odds someone else is going to show up unannounced and ask for one.
But even if it's not the middle of the night, getting a free upgrade isn't an impossible task. Whether it's through your membership in a loyalty program, charming personality, or just some luck, the potential is definitely there. Think in advance about the specific situation behind your booking, and you just may find yourself in a much nicer room without any extra money out of your pocket.
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