Getting Upgrades at Hotels

The Bay Area’s ABC TV station ran a piece on getting hotel upgrades. The sum total of their advice: ask.

That’s actually good advice as far as it goes. More than anything else, style and mojo matter. I’ll usually say something at checkin like, “I’ve heard really great things about this hotel, so I’m pretty excited. I was hoping you might have a room with one of your special views?” More often than not the person at the desk will try to comply. It really doesn’t cost them anything. It makes me happy. And it avoids putting them in the position of either disappointing me in person or getting an earful (I’m not rude, but many guests are).

If I have a reason to explain that a particular stay is ‘special’ I might send a fax to the hotel’s reservations manager a few days before my stay. I’ll write something about how I understand I may not be entitled to it, but it’s my anniversary/wife’s birthday/Arbor Day and I was hoping for a nice room as part of the celebration. A fax is better than a call because a call depends on who you get on the phone, whether they have time to deal with you, and whether they even remember to do something after the call. A fax will go to the right person’s desk and serve as a reminder. It’s not a silver bullet, but at nice properties seems to work more often than not. And it’s one step in the process.

I’ll likely also have mentioned my upgrade request with my reservation. So combined with the fax and the checkin ask one is likely to hit.

Being entitled to an upgrade of some kind helps as well. If you travel alot, focus your loyalty on a single chain and earn elite status. (Know the details of what the chain offers to elites when selecting a program.)

Even if you don’t travel enough to earn status, many hotel programs offer a low tier of status just for getting their co-branded credit card. The Marriott Visa comes with Silver status. The Hilton Visa and America Express come with Silver status. If you spend $20,000 on the Hilton Amex in a year you get Gold status. The Starwood American Express comes with ‘preferred plus’ status, which is basically Gold without the bonus points. The Priority Club program doesn’t offer status with their credit card, but their even their top tier can be had without staying a single night — just earn 60,000 points in a year (12,000 can be earned opening a checking account, points can be purchased, bonus points count, points can be transferred in from other programs).

Comments are open: how do you secure the best rooms at a hotel?

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, 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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  1. I think one key to your “special room” request is the seeming innocence of using a generic term. I don’t have evidence to back it up, but I’d speculate that it hurts your chances to ask for the specific premium service as if you know what it is, know you’re not entitled and want it anyway.

    i.e. good: “I’ve heard about rooms with special views.” bad: “Can you upgrade me to a suite?”

    No evidence! The beauty of blog comments!

  2. I work the front desk of a hotel and one of the things is when we are middle to low occupancy and I know no one will care if I give the room I sometimes do.

    But I usally give it to really nice people simple as that. Not ones who pretend to be nice or laugh and tell a corny joke. I give an upgrade if they are polite, sweet and look like they will appriciate an upgrade compared to a person who just likes to see what they can get free.

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