1. Be specific with your request.
The simplest way is to ask at check-in if they can give you a room upgrade and give the staff a context or a reason for your request. Are you celebrating a special occasion, for instance? Inquire about particular things: Maybe you want a room upgrade, perhaps you want their help with some room decor or perks like rose petals and a bottle of champagne.
“I contact the hotel in advance and mention I am travelling with kids. I ask them which room (beyond the one I’ve booked) is best for my set up and I am usually offered a better room,” says our insider. It is as simple as it sounds: Ask for what you wish, communicate clearly, be nice. You can do this when you make your booking and when you check-in.
“Try calling the hotel, and ask for the reservations manager. You can mention that you’re aware of lower rates on other booking sites and ask how you can get a better offer if you book directly with the hotel. You can usually get as little as a free spa treatment, or as much as a room upgrade,” reveals our source.
2. Always be polite and discreet.
Try to establish a relationship with the front desk or concierge. Introduce yourself, be courteous. This can profoundly impact your access to an upgrade. People are more inclined to do favours for the people they connect with.
The front desk staff are the key holders to the vital information such as what are the more spacious rooms, the ones with a view, the farther from the elevators, and they are used to this type of requests. More often than not, they can also decide who gets access to all these. So, ask, but ask politely. At the end of the day, you’re not entitled to all of this unless you paid for it.
Also, don’t ask for an upgrade within ears from other guests. The front desk won’t be able to give you a positive answer if all the guests decide to ask for a free upgrade.
3. Be a repeated guest or join a hotel rewards program.
One of the main tips mentioned by one seasoned traveller is to ask the concierge about the loyalty programs they have (and be enthusiastic about it). Hotels want to encourage visitors to become loyal members and might have special promotions or perks for new cardholders. They will give you that info and might be more inclined to give some extra stuff.
It’s in a hotel chain’s best interest to keep their most loyal guests happy. If you have a brand’s credit card, be sure to use it if you can at check-in.
4.Travel during off-peak season.
When booking a room during the off-season, ask the hotel about their upgrade and rates policies. More often than not, hotels make their upgrade decisions based on occupancy. Calmer seasons means that the hotel will have more rooms available. Low occupancy = better chance of being upgraded.
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5. Request upgrades during shorter stays.
If higher category rooms are not reserved, and you are requesting an upgrade for a stay of two to three nights, you will have better chances of getting it. There’s no advantage for hotels to have their best rooms empty. In case there are no reservations for a short period, the hotel staff can use those rooms to reward existing customers.
Do note that not all front desk staff will be empowered to give out freebies like upgrades. This might vary from hotel to hotel. If you feel like the staff who is attending to you is limited in what they can offer, you can politely ask for a reservations manager or the manager in charge at the time.
5. Don't book the cheapest room to begin with.
Get out of that “kiasu” mindset and be mindful that you just might get what you pay for. If your goal is to book the cheapest room possible, don’t expect to be upgraded to a much better room. Meaning, if you book a basic double room, you can’t expect to be upgraded to a VIP suite. You’ll have better chances of getting a Junior suite or a King room, for example. Remember, the logic hotels use to give out upgrades is to reward high value and loyal customers.
Also, when you book the cheapest rate, you get the cheapest room. The cheapest room is usually the lesser room. So if you see a double room in two different platforms being offered for different prices, it just might happen that the more expensive is likely a better room.
Get familiar with the types of rooms that are slightly fancier than the one you booked. Going from a basic superior room to the superior room with a corner view would be a fair request.
READ MORE: 8 Shocking Hotel Secrets From Behind The Front Desk
7. Check in later in the day
Your check-in time is also important if you intend to make an upgrade request to the hotel. Avoid the rush hours and try to arrive between 4.30pm to 6pm, when the front desk might be quieter, and the staff will have time to consider your requests.
Front desks are usually busier in the morning between 8 to 9.30am and evenings from 6 to 8pm. Check-out times for existent guests happens usually from 11 am to 12 pm.
If you arrive too early or during rushed hours, the hotel staff will give you the first room to be available and probably will be too busy to accommodate special requests or free upgrades. You might be missing out on better rooms that aren’t vacant or cleaned yet.
If you arrive too late, and you’ll get the last rooms available.
8. Book online and automate your upgrade
If your goal is to save some bucks while staying in a better category room, there are ways to make sure you get the best price by using a rebooking site such as Tingo, DreamCheaper or TripRebel. These type of online services monitor your hotel booking. If a better room becomes available at the price you paid, they will automatically upgrade you. The service cancels your previous reservation and rebooks you at the same rate into the upgraded room.
These services sound like a great solution but we haven’t tried them ourselves yet so we can’t vouch for its accuracy.
9. Choose the latest hotels.
You have a better chance of getting a free upgrade at newer hotels. Newly open hotels usually have a low occupancy rate so they will have better rooms available. Instead of having the better rooms empty, it is in the hotel’s interest to use them as a free upgrade to keep the guests satisfied. So request it when the opportunity arises.
This also applies to independent hotels: you will get more personalised service, and the hotel staff will be more interested in turning you into a loyal repeated visitor.
READ MORE: The Most Romantic Hotel Rooms In Singapore With Private Pools
10. Alternatively, try the “go big or go home” approach.
Feeling bold? We have heard of less conventional ways of nabbing hotel freebies. Although we don’t condone these techniques, here they are for information purposes:
- Reaching out to the Revenue or General Managers of a hotel property – A fellow traveller once wrote directly to a General Manager to the hotel informing that she will be visiting the property to celebrate a special occasion and ask if there was something the hotel could do to make the stay even more special. She was successful in getting special treatment: a bigger room and complementary flowers and champagne waiting for her at arrival.
- Ask to see other rooms – When you feel like your room didn’t meet the expectations, reach out to the front desk immediately and politely request to see other rooms. Hotel staff might be accommodating and give you a higher floor room or a room with better amenities.
- The old “tipping’ technique – One of the boldest moves is to tip the staff at check-in and ask if there are any complimentary upgrades available. This is a risky move as it can be interpreted as bribing.
Whether you get a free upgrade or not, remember the hotel employees are only doing their jobs. Be kind and don’t take a negative reply personally.
Even if you can’t get a room upgrade, here are some great perks you can request to get:
If you plan to use additional services or make reservations for the hotel’s restaurants or spa, ask the hotel if they can upgrade you if you use these services. The idea is that if you are spending extra on other amenities, the hotel might have a bigger or a better-located room to give you. Be reasonable though: a restaurant reservation won’t get you the Presidential suite.
Ask about breakfast and dining deals
If your room doesn’t include breakfast, ask at check in if there are special deals for the on-site restaurant. You could land yourself substantial discounts on food, complimentary happy hour drinks, or special 1-for-1 deals.
It is not unusual to find designer toiletries, exotic teas, slippers or even umbrellas or bikes made available to hotel guests. If you need anything out of the ordinary, don’t hesitate to ask the front desk.
Secret pillow menu
One of the newer perks hotel offer, and most guests aren’t aware of, are a pillow and/or bath menus. Yes, you read it right. In some hotels, you can choose your preferred type of pillow and, in more upscale properties, get someone to prepare a spa-like bath for you.
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Text: Marta Gaspar
A version of this post first appeared on Shopback.