5 Things You Should Ask Every Time You Check Into a Hotel

You don’t get what you don’t ask for. Elite status is only a start. Plenty of people have hotel elite status. It isn’t always properly recognized, and it isn’t always enough.

At a minimum you may want to avoid connecting rooms, rooms by the elevator, or over the HVAC system. On some stays you care more about the view, or size of the room, than on other stays. When it matters you need to learn how to ask for what you want. You won’t always get it, but it’s worth choosing from among these five questions if you want to improve your stay.

  1. “How is your day?” You’re checking into a hotel with a person most of the time. That person has good days and bad days, they can help you if they want or give stick you in an odd shaped room without any natural light (even if you were pre-blocked into a nice room, you can be moved!).

    You want to develop a rapport with the agent. Theirs is a generally-thankless job (except where tipping is involved). They deal with everyone else’s problems. Be nice.

  2. “I’ve really been looking forward to this hotel for its..” and finish the sentence as appropriate, views of the X, great big rooms, what have you. “I’ve needed this trip for awhile. What kind of room do you have for me?”

    Now, you’ll find the most extensive advice on how to ask for and get an upgrade for free in this post, complete with video.

    Just asking doesn’t mean you’ll get the Presidential Suite. But it doesn’t hurt to ask. If you’re nice, and get the check-in agent on your side, they might at least help you out with that better view.


    Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur View of the Petronas Towers

  3. “I won’t have nearly enough time to enjoy the hotel as I had hoped and wonder if you could help make it special. Would you be able to give me complimentary…” and finish the sentence, breakfast/extra toiletries/free internet.

    Again, know what you want and ask for it, small items can be granted, different agents have different levels of discretion and it varies by hotel. They get asked for things all the time, and the answer is most often no, but it could also be yes.

  4. “This hotel has such a great location and I don’t have a lot of time here, what is your one favorite place to..” and ask what you’re most interested in, eat/drink/relax/etc.

    Take advantage of local knowledge. It’s like asking a cab driver for the best food, you may discover some place new. Do not ever ask because the front desk agent doesn’t know you and will probably assume you’re the same generic idiot tourist they deal with every day. What you want is their knowledge, so you’re asking where they would go, or where they would tell their best friend from out of town to go.

  5. “What a great suggestion, I’m going to take you up on it. Could you give me a late check-out, in case I wind up up/out late because of it?”

    If you’re reading this blog there’s a good chance you’ve got some kind of hotel elite status. Marriott and Hyatt guarantee late checkout for their elite members. Hilton and IHS Rewards do not. But even the guarantees have some limitations, and they’re always dependent on the willingness of the local property. So develop that rapport, ask the check-in agent’s advice, and then make a final ask that flows naturally from the conversation. It can be for late check-out, or something else that makes the say — in the context of what you’ve already been talking about — that much easier or special.

Some of these are long shots. But asking is cheap.

Sometimes — even if it is just 10% of the time — you get a yes. And that makes the strategy pay off, as long as you do not mind getting a no the other nine times That, incidentally, is also really good dating advice.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. No offense but I find it hard to believe that any one of these extremely corny (and disingenuous) lines works in real life. Heck half the clerks have such a limited grasp on English that it will go right over their heads.

    I find the best course is to smile, hand over my card and ID, and ask for a room far from elevator.

  2. 1) If you have elite status, can’t you pick your own room? (Hilton has a map…pretty easy to pick the right room for your needs).

    2) I was staying at some big casino resort in Reno for work. We paid $69 for the room. We checked in super late. For my two colleagues in front of me the employee goes “we got you in a studio suite, enjoy your stay”, and they’re all like “cool thanks that’s awesome!”. Then she gets to me and slides me the keycard and goes, “Mr S. I’ve been able to get you in the Presidential Suite.” Four second pause…”Enjoy your stay, let me know if there’s anything you need.” And I’m tired so I just nod and go “thanks goodnight”.

    This was a 1,000 sq. ft. palace that goes for $2K per night retail and I acted like I couldn’t have cared less!

  3. WOW. This is so lame and almost amusing. Did anyone actually fall for it? I would be embarrassed, by both saying it and hearing it.

  4. Boraxo, I’ve definitely gotten suite upgrades just by being nice. The desk agent even commented that he had to give me an upgrade since I was so nice. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to treat people kindly and the questions aren’t corny if you’re sincere.

  5. Gary, I like you. But this is the silliest post I have seen you do in awhile. They don’t care about your niceties and dreams. You sound like the USA Today guy who gives tips on upgrades by saying, “dress in a suit and compliment the gate agent.”

    Best tactic for getting anything worthwhile when traveling at a hotel? Pray to a higher god – or – just cut a deal with the front desk manager like in a Moroccan Bazaar.

  6. “I won’t have nearly enough time to enjoy the hotel as I had hoped and wonder if you could help make it special. Would you be able to give me complimentary…” [from your list] extra toiletries?

    Desk clerk hands Gary a mini bottle of shampoo from behind the desk. Can’t stop laughing for the rest of the night.

    “Be nice” is all you needed.

  7. Agony Aunt nonsense. If someone came at me with this hokey crap they’d get a basement room between the boiler and the sewer main.

  8. Hate to tell ya but while this doesn’t work for sirlines it very much does work at (some) hotels. Obviously adapt to be genuine this isn’t a script just examples.

  9. It does work. I’ve done this many a time and almost always the agent compliments me for being nice like that’s unusual behavior. How is saying “how is your day?” sound hokey? Boorish behavior gets the basement nearest the elevator rooms. I’ll stick with treating people well.

  10. Excellent thought leadership once again.

    #1 and #4 are valid, the rest of this is pure bunk.

    (100+ plus nights in hotels this year for me…)

  11. So sad that people need to be advised to just be nice and treat clerks as human beings (and to get something in return to boot 🙁 )

  12. @ Joanne Harmon
    I’m not suggesting treating them with disdain: on the contrary, I offer courtesy and respect. But the suggestion that the other things on Gary’s list might elicit an upgrade? …..ludicrous….on the same level as wearing a suit at airport checkin in the hope of getting an upgrade.
    The biggest failure of hotel loyalty programs is their inability to preassign upgrades according to status: consequently we see efforts of some arriving guests to negotiate an upgrade. It’s often unseemly and usually fruitless…

  13. Though I commented earlier my initial reaction of this being completely absurd advice I will add these thoughts.

    1. Hyatt, if you are a Globalist, is VERY good at upgrading you to suites. Usually allotted before you even arrive by a rooms manager. That’s how it should be done. I should not have to grovel or beg for something. If you can’t take care of your top spenders with proactive preparation than recognition is worthless. I would say that 90% of my stays at Hyatt get upgraded before I even arrive.

    2. Groveling for an upgraded room with other companies, Bonvoy properties and Hilton, might get you the same room with “an enhanced view.” But it almost never results in a suite upgrade. I am Lifetime Titanium with Marriott and not ONCE this year did I receive an upgrade at ANY property to a suite…even with a nice polite back and forth. At best they offered, “We can look into a paid upgrade to a suite or, yes we found you a room that is higher up and offers a better view.” WOW! I got a room that doesn’t look over the roof air conditioning system!

    3. It is amazing though the suites that are open to upgrade if you mention you would be willing to pay an enhanced rate. This is what they are waiting for. Usually a little back and forth on the price and you are on your way. The W Miami Beach is a virtual Moroccan Bazaar in doing this. The bartering is quite real and they know the game well.

    4. The Front Desk staff is rarely now empowered to give upgrades “to the nice man who asked.” This is done inside the office with the room management staff. Yes, they can go inside and ask them, but your kindness is not going to cut it for the 90% of the room allotment staff who sit in a cubicle could care less how nice you are. They want to see revenue. Throw them an offer of an additional $50-$100 a night for an upgraded room and that will light their fire far more than you jollying up the staff.

    My advice? Be nice to everyone. Expect nothing in return as it’s normally the case. Become a globalist at Hyatt and you can expect them to deliver proactively. Prepare to deal with the front desk with the offer of a paid upgrade when it might really matter to you.

  14. @Stuart
    Yes, completely agree re Hyatt ( and previously SPG)
    In respect of Bonvoy, as a LTTE, I managed to get the trifecta on one stay this year: a room with a view of the aircon system, a brick wall and the alleyway from which the garbage was collected. I didn’t think it was possible…

  15. Folks,
    Sorry to mention this, but honestly some of you just do not seem to acknowledge this. the numbers.

    The earth has acquired one billion more people between 2007 and 2019.

    I was alive in 2007. If you were also, haven’t you noticed the change? While I am strongly in favor of kindness and decency, we are living in an era of reward the investors, screw the customers.

    No wonder so many are cynical about simple requests and any kind of “charm offensive.”

    I am old enough that I would really like to not have to play cute games to be treated well and upgraded if the room is going to be vacant otherwise. The million-miler multi-platinum lifetime is largely inflated nonsense AND planet-destructive.

    We children of Mother Earth are in for a terrifying reckoning soon of extra shampoo mini bottles and men in gladiator costumes obscuring any perspective of the Colosseum. And thank heaven for everything I have seen of the earth before now.

  16. I’ve used variations of these approaches and had some success. Usually doesn’t work, but sometimes it does. I used to teach customer service classes for a major bank. It is so refreshing to have someone take an interest in you (the CSR) that if someone starts the conversation by being pleasant and asking how your day is going, at the very least you’re more likely to be as helpful as you can within the constraints of your job. That could mean just not being given a room next to the elevators.

    Being nice and acknowledging their knowledge of the area will, at the very least, make sure that your check-in experience isn’t adversarial.

  17. Being nice definitely works at many hotels. I am always polite and endeavor to be friendly. I don’t necessarily ask in the described manner, but I’ve gotten plenty of free suite upgrades – not every time or even routinely, but often enough that it is clear that many front desk staff would love to be treated well and respond accordingly. FWIW, that includes an upgrade earlier this year to a 2000 sq ft Presidential Suite at a Ritz Carlton on a free reward night. Some of the cynics might need to examine your behavior. If you stay 100 or more nights in a single chain and aren’t getting routine niceties, you need a better plan of attack or an improved personality.

  18. @highperf +1

    Of course I’m always nice just in the hope I don’t get that basement room next to the garbage chutes.

  19. Gary is definitely correct: you can (sometimes) get nice things from hotels by being nice and asking for them. It’s obviously unpredictable, but there’s no harm in trying. I will say I have the least success at Marriott hotels, at least in North America. Hyatt seems to allow their employees to be nicer. And you never know what will happen at non-chain hotels.

  20. I’ve traveled in over 90 countries and I can confidently tell all you naysayers: Gary is right. There is no harm in asking. And in many countries exactly these sorts of approaches get you what you want.

    In the USA, however, it’s generally useless to use these approaches unless the front desk clerk is a J-1 exchange visitor/student doing on the job training program. These tactics have worked nicely in those cases because I’ve actually been nice to them whereas most guests treat them (in my observations) like dirt.

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