How to Get a Hotel Upgrade for Free

October 23, 2017 - Comment

The One Bag Traveler recommends Gear, Destinations and Adventures. There’s plenty of chatter out there about how to get an upgrade on your flight—first class is pretty dreamy in comparison to the current state of air travel. But a more realistic place to try for an upgrade is your hotel, since pricey rooms are more

The One Bag Traveler recommends Gear, Destinations and Adventures.

There’s plenty of chatter out there about how to get an upgrade on your flight—first class is pretty dreamy in comparison to the current state of air travel. But a more realistic place to try for an upgrade is your hotel, since pricey rooms are more likely to be left empty than any seat on an overbooked airline.

How to Get a Hotel Upgrade

I’ve tried my hand at this task with some successes, and have found some surprisingly easy solutions from travel experts along the way. Here are three simple tricks to keep in mind on how to get a hotel upgrade.

Use a Booking Service with Hotel Connections

One of the most reliable ways to get a hotel upgrade requires virtually no effort. Book with a hotel-savvy online travel agent—one that uses people (rather than algorithms alone) to seal a better deal. Ones that search across flight, hotel, and car rental deals are unlikely to have a finesse for hotels, but more niche booking sites sometimes do.

SnapTravel founder Hussein Fazal told me recently how the chat-based hotel booking service utilizes agents to follow up on your reservation. SnapTravel says it can usually secure customers a higher floor (60 percent of the time) and can often score you a room upgrade (30 percent of the time). Aside from being able to save you money by sending private deals directly to your inbox, the service gives you a 90 percent chance of improving your hotel stay in some way. That’s worth a shot.

Ask Ahead, Arrive Late

A no-brainer I’ve had luck with in the past, sometimes all you have to do is ask nicely. If you’re unhappy with some aspect of your stay, a good hotel will do all it can to upgrade you when the opportunity arises—and asking before you arrive might give you a leg up on any travelers asking the same at check-in.

After I booked a hotel deal in San Francisco last year with a big online travel agent, I realized the third-party site didn’t accurately list the hotel’s unique amenities: shared bathrooms for standard rooms. I called the hotel directly to confirm I had indeed booked a shower-less room, and asked how much it would cost to upgrade to a room with a full bathroom. Unhappy with the upgrade price (and that third-party site), I decided to hold off—and was pleasantly surprised to find upon arrival that the hotel gave me the upgrade for free.

The change, the staff told me, was thanks in part to my arriving well after check-in began, at which point they had a better idea of what was taken and knew they could offer up a room with a bathroom. So yes, asking works—but arriving later can also help.

Mention Special Occasions Early

It’s wise to mention special occasions to increase your chances of getting an upgrade, and experts say to do it upon booking. Hotel specialist Jack Ezon has told the New York Times that many hotels will make a note of birthdays or anniversaries on your reservation beforehand, in case something opens up. “Usually, if rooms aren’t booked, the person checking you in is open to giving you an upgrade,” he said.

It’s also not uncommon for newlyweds or those celebrating an anniversary to get a complimentary add-on, like Champagne or chocolates—simply for mentioning they’re celebrating. You might not get the penthouse suite, but hotel treats and amenities are pricey. You could at least be able to say you got something for free, albeit through some light nudging.

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Associate Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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