10 Strategies for Getting a Hotel Upgrade

Posted Jun 22nd 2010 04:14 PMUpdated Jun 25th 2010 01:20 PM


Having thoughts of staying in a hotel suite, but don't want to pay the price?

Travel guru John E. DiScala, founder of JohnnyJet.com, says when you check in at your hotel smile, be friendly and ask the front desk for an upgrade. "It never hurts to ask," he tells AOL Travel News.

But there are also strategies you can use to greatly improve your chances of being bumped up from a standard room to a suite.

Pick a low occupancy time and spot

You're more likely to get upgraded if you travel at a time when a hotel is less busy, such as in the so-called shoulder season. According to Travel +Leisure, lean economic times and low occupancy rates in some destinations - including Las Vegas, San Francisco, New York, Hawaii and Orlando - have also made hotels more likely to reward guests they have with upgrades.

Stay at a new property
When a hotel opens they want buzz, and just may upgrade you to get you talking positively, hoping you'll mention your suite on Facebook, Twitter and other social websites. "Anytime a new property opens, especially if it's not in a major city, they offer deals on rooms and you can get upgraded. These hotels want to get the word out," DiScala says.

Try going standby
Hyatt and Hilton both now have programs that allow you to pay for a chance at a space-available upgrade, when you make your booking, T+L reports. The fee is as low as $30.

Hype your celebration
If you are celebrating an anniversary, birthday or other occasion let the front desk know when you check in, DiScala says. They just may help you celebrate by putting you in a suite.

Pay off the bellman
DiScala says this strategy has worked for him in Vegas in particular: "It's sneaky, but show the bellman taking you to your room a 20, and ask if he has any pull to get you a better room," DiScala says.

Check in later
Don't show up at your hotel at noon. When you check in to a property later in the day you improve your chance of getting an upgrade since the hotel will know at a certain point what it isn't going to sell that night, DiScala says.

Use your cards
According to T+L, some cards such as American Express' Centurion or Platinum, will get you an upgrade at select properties, so check your program details.

Check other programs
Look at the perks of other programs you might be in for upgrade deals too. If you bank with Merrill Lynch, UBS, or HSBC, you may be able to book an upgraded Ritz-Carlton package though the banks' member benefits programs, T+L says. Business- and first-class passengers on Singapore Airlines flights, as another example, get automatic upgrades at Raffles hotels.

Be loyal to one chain
Many hotel chains upgrade customers who stay often at their properties. That's one reason you should always give your membership number when you book a chain hotel. Charging everyday purchases on a hotel-affiliated card can also earn you upgrades, T+L says.

Use a luxury travel agent
Booking with a luxury travel agent can help too, as they have connections, including through agent groups such as Virtuoso, and may be able to make a call on your behalf. Julie Klein, an agent in Boston, tells AOL Travel News that she spends much of her time letting hotels know she is sending a client and that she expects them "to be taken care of."

Photo of Raffles Hotel, Singapore, Eustaquio Santimano, flickr
Filed Under: News

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

I agree with the hotel manager,Marti. Used to work in a major hotel as head of housekeeping. My husband also worked at the hotel as the bookkeeper.
Needless to say people are stranger than fiction. Had guest state that they "lost" something and the housekeeper took it. Never was true they misplaced it or had it in their car.
But they would go raise hell with my husband and want a discount. Or that the room was not cleaned properly. Which also was a lie.
Some times when they would keep pn raising hell in the front lobby they were given a discount to just leave the area and go back to their room.
The hotel would often upgrade guest for just about any reason. Word of mouth of a clean good hotel is priceless.
Upgrade is getting the regular price of the room for a better deal no extra money.
The hotel I used to work for also made your breakfast for you just the way you asked. And some times the guest wanted to take take-out. When they were told they had to eat everything in the hotel resturant some got upset. And wanted a discount. The room breakfast,free coffee,ice tea and cookies were all included in the price of the room.
But some times you can not please every guest no matter what!

June 30 2010 at 3:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Don't just show the bellman the $20. Give it to him. They are all very use to the guys (mostly New Yorkers) that flash the $20 and then put it back into their wallets when they get what they were after. Just isn't going to work any more.

June 30 2010 at 2:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I tend to stay at safe locations and in motels where I can unload items directly from my car. I believe any rate above $75.00 a night is a waste of money. I have found almost all my rooms a 3* and no problems have occurred. Oh and get this !!!! The low paid hard working staff do get a tip left in the room if it is really clean. I stayed on Christmas Eve one time and the next day I called the front desk and asked if the housekeeper who prepared my room was on duty, and yes she was. I got her name and walked to the laundry room and located her....told her Merry Christmas and gave her a $50.00 cash tip, and thanked her for the clean room. Turned out to be a woman around 60yrs old, she got tears in her eyes and that really made me feel good. I had a great Christmas just knowing she needed that money more than I did. I also complimented her to the desk clerk to relay to management for a job well done . All people are not looking for freebies and upgrades, just a clean place to sleep.

June 30 2010 at 2:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Lynn's comment

Lynn, what a beautiful gesture. I'm glad you asked for the girl who prepared your room. So many times that person is off the day you arrive and someone else will get that great tip. Not that she didn't deserve one but it's nice to know that you sought out the correct girl. To me, that's the hardest job in the hotel and so very important. I couldn't do it so I give them all the credit in the world. Bless you for your generosity and thoughtfulness.

June 30 2010 at 11:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My sister and I were upgraded to a suite in a lovely Las Vegas hotel because we were only staying one night. It was easier to give it to us rather than move someone out of it after just one night. It was at the top of the hotel and just stunning.

I had stayed at that hotel twice previously, so that may have helped too.

June 30 2010 at 2:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Janel, please don't think that I meant everybody was an idiot. We get about a dozen calls a day from people leaving things behind and these are seasoned travelers who should know better. Sure, everybody leaves something sometimes (truthfully, I haven't because I check the room more than once) but many 'forget' they put their diamond rings in drawers or slid their laptops under the bed, or left their chargers plugged in. Lost and found items aren't part of the front desk job in my hotel. That task belongs to housekeeping who are the ones who find it all. Lost and found items are locked in a safe area until the housekeeping managers come in so all calls are transferred there. Many don't want to leave a message and DEMAND we go down and check when there's no way we can get into the area. It's a guests responsibility to check the room.

June 30 2010 at 12:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I worked as a hotel reservations director for over 10 years for Marriott and Sheraton hotels and some of the things on this list are true and some aren't. First, checking in late will not increase your chances of getting an upgrade and it may even impact your chances of not getting a room because hotels always try to oversell by at least 10%. The later you arrive (even if your room is held with a credit card) the more you increase your chances of being walked to another hotel. If you're a loyal, repeat guest, that is one of the best ways to get an upgrade. Staying at a particular brand doesn't necessarily matter because about 99% of hotels are franchised, however if you join the brand's travel program that will help enable your chances to an upgrade because certain levels with certain brands mandate an upgrade. Sometimes, simply asking for an upgrade is another great way to get one. Also, if you had a bad stay previously or are not happy about something complaining sometimes will also work because the hotel does not want an unhappy guest and upgrading a room on the day of arrival (when it will likely sit unsold) to an otherwise disgruntled guest is a cheap way to ensure that they will be a repeat guest (what all hotels want). I also do not recommend paying for a "stand by" upgrade. This is totally bogus because these days most hotels run on a 60-70% occupancy at best so there are many empty rooms. Also a "luxury travel agent" is something that hotels could care less about. Travel agents are considered pests by hotels because they are always so disorganizes and make so many mistakes for the customer, also they often get discounts that they do not pass on to the guest which in turn makes it difficult for the hotel. Hotels are more interested in repeat guests, big companies that send their clients often, social functions that get overnight sleeping accommodations and finally, guests that are in higher levels of the brand's frequent stay program.

June 29 2010 at 11:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

gr8bsn, your comments are SO right on. I've worked at the front desk of a large chain for over nine years now. And five years at a different one before that. I know what I'm doing. The general public is sometimes just not to be believed. Everything is my fault. I've even had people come to my desk and yell at me that their luggage hasn't arrived from the airport yet "AND WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?" Also, anybody get calls a thousand times a day because some idiot left something in their room? You know it's coming. Phone rings and you hear the first words...."Hi. I stayed in your hotel last week....." and you know it's coming. It's usually a cell phone charger. We have hundreds of them. Oprah needs to do a show with front desk employees. I just wonder if the general public will see themselves and change their ways. Somehow I doubt it. But I do love what I do and don't intend to stop.

June 29 2010 at 11:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to J.S.'s comment

Well, Im glad to hear most people love their job. But is it really fair to call someone an idiot because they forgot something in the room? Has this never happened to you, and how else would you get it back besides calling the hotel? to take care of something like that I assume is part of your job, at the very least if you have it they can stop looking elsewhere. I would not do this for something like a phone charger, but I have done it for other, less replaceable items.
Also, remember it goes both ways, the customer likes friendly "sweet" people as well, who knows what kind of day they went through before getting there.

June 29 2010 at 11:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

HAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!!!!!! YESS YESS YESSS!!! We used to have a basket at the font desk full of lost chargers. These sat there and often went unclaimed. When a guest would come to the desk and ask: "Do you know where an electronics store is? I lost my charger," I'd produce the charger basket. I'd smile and tell the customer "These are lost and unclaimed, if it works, it's yours." I looked like a hero every time. Overall, I actually kind of liked the job, but after two years, business slowed down and everyone's hours got cut. It paid for two years of college so I can't complain, but seriously, some people....

June 30 2010 at 1:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Listen to all the persons in these comments adovcating lying, cheating, deceiving, which is same as stealing, and even using a gun, intimidation. Then the ones trying to sneak their websites in there. They should all be reported for abuse.

June 29 2010 at 10:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I also work at a brand name hotel and have been in the hotel business for about five years. I have worked for both Hilton and Marriott. I can tell you from the post before, it is ok to ask for a handicap accessible room at check in. Worst case they won't have one available. It is not rude to take this room because often people who are in need of a handicap room would have called ahead to reserve it, being that there are limited handicap rooms available at all hotels. I also agree with the article about asking for an upgrade. If you are a rewards member to that brand they might automatically upgrade you if there is one available. It doesn't hurt to ask even if you aren't. The whole suite upgrade at a new property thing, I'm not so sure about that. I work at a new property now and I can tell you we don't upgrade to suites just to make a buzz. I can't tell you all properties are like this, I'm really not sure. Our suites are a decent price above our standard rooms though. A big big no no is being really rude and yelling. Remember that the staff wants you to enjoy your stay. If your not happy, be honest and remember sweet goes further than spice! Unless there is something terribly wrong there is no need to treat the front desk badly. Management cares for their employee's and if they feel their front desk associates were treated unfairly, and the guest acted extremely inappropriate, they can ask the guest to leave. I have seen that plenty of times. You have to remember whatever is wrong with your room, probably isn't the front desk's fault. If you bring it to their attention appropriately, they are much more likely to sympathize with you, and make your stay much much more enjoyable. If you want a lower rate, simply ask. You could act like the rate they are offering is just too high and see if there is a manager you can speak with. They have the authority to change the rate and often will unless it is a very busy night. And lastly, I'm sure if there is a travel agency that has a relationship with the hotel you will get a better rate. Finding out what travel agencies can get you the good deals, I don't know that one. I know with the hotels I've worked for, it wouldn't have mattered what travel agency called.

June 29 2010 at 10:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You attract bees with honey, not vinegar. Tipping the desk employee that checks you in and saying something along the lines of I appreciate any thing you can do to get me an upgrade works. This works for me everytime. It's pleasant and shows respect for the employee.

June 29 2010 at 10:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Melanie's comment

Thanks Melanie...I work the front desk at a large hotel on the LV strip. Many guests come to the desk and say I want...I want...I want....Of course, we always try to go above and beyond and please our guests BUT a tip to show they appreciate the extra they received is nice.

June 29 2010 at 11:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply