It’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised with a nicer room than you booked at check-in. When traveling, I usually book the cheapest available room type for my needs, and hope to get upgraded when I arrive.
Allow me to share some of my strategies for getting an upgrade at a hotel:
Aside from being able to earn valuable points and enjoy status recognition during your stay, booking directly with a hotel property or it’s associated loyalty program saves the hotel from having to pay a commission to a 3rd-party hotel booking site (such as Priceline or Expedia).
When a hotel can save a bit of money on hosting you, I find it more likely that they’d be willing to give you a nicer room. If you’re like me and are price-motivated, you can always submit a best rate guarantee claim to get the property to match (and often further discount) the cheaper rate found elsewhere.
Contact The Hotel Manager Ahead of Time
Once you’ve booked your room, it never hurts to send the hotel manager a personalized note sharing your excitement about your upcoming visit or to mention if you’re celebrating a special occasion. I often find a responsive manager’s name and email address on their replies to recent TripAdvisor reviews about the property.
Use Social Media
If you can’t find a manager’s contact information, you can always turn to social media. During a recent stay at the Hyatt Regency Aruba, I sent the property’s Facebook page a message sharing my excitement about my upcoming stay with my family. I received a response back in minutes! I find hotels and loyalty programs to be very responsive on social channels such as Twitter and Facebook.
Use Elite Status
If necessary, you can also mention that you have elite status with the loyalty program that’s associated with the hotel you’re staying at.
Having elite hotel status can get you an upgrade either on a complimentary-basis when there’s availability or with suite upgrade certificates (example: Hyatt). Don’t get discouraged if you only have mid-tier hotel status (speaking of, did you know that One Credit Card Can Get You a Ton of Hotel Status?), even mid-level tier status that’s easily attainable by a co-branded credit card can score you an upgrade (example: Hilton gold status).
If the hotel doesn’t automatically upgrade you at check in, you can simply ask for an upgrade while mentioning your status with the hotel.
Check Availability Before Checking In
Before arriving at the check-in desk, check to see what room types are still being sold to the public on the hotel’s app or website. If there are suites or better room types still available for purchase, they are most likely vacant. Sometimes a hotel clerk might say, “Sorry, we are completely committed tonight” or “We don’t have any room upgrades available”, if they just want to speed through the check-in process or are unwilling to put the effort to take a better look at their inventory.
In that case, I usually will respond [politely] with something along the lines of, “Oh that’s too bad. I do see (insert room type here) is still available as of now on your website. Would it be possible to get that room?”. Of course, being nice and polite is key here.
Ask For a Specific Room Type
Whether it be weeks, days, or even hours before check in, have an idea of what specific room type you’d like. Do some quick research on the room types available beforehand.
If there are multiple suites available, for instance, perhaps say, “Would it be possible for us to have a Sunset Suite for the duration of our stay?”. In life, being specific usually is a good starting point for any type of negotiation.
Is The 20 Dollar Trick Dead?
The $20 trick is simply defined as taking a $20 bill, folding it up, and sandwiching in between your ID and credit card at check in. If the agent is willing to accept the $20 tip in exchange for an upgrade, then it’s a win-win for both. If not, they simply hand it back, and you’ll get a rush of awkward middle-school rejection.
This “upgrade bribery” usually tends to work at casino properties in Las Vegas, and I failed miserably during my one and only attempt last year. After doing some research, I learned that “$50 is the new $20”. With that being said, I’m not sure I’ll try the $20 trick again anytime soon.
What upgrade strategies have worked for you in the past?