Recently, I stayed in a hotel where the room was so cramped, I had to keep my luggage on a desk chair and makeup bag on top of a mini Keurig. The bathroom felt more like a closet, and counter space was non-existent… And it’s worth noting that I say all of this as someone who lives in a small NYC apartment.
But this stay occurred during a busy weekend of a big conference, so I knew that a room upgrade would have been difficult and unlikely. (And, to be fair, the fact that the hotel was at capacity is probably also why I also got this specific room.) But over the years, I’ve discovered that room upgrades can be surprisingly accessible, if you know how to pursue them. Here’s a rundown on how to make it happen the next time you’re traveling — because who doesn’t want a bigger room, or a better view?
Be Friendly – And Chatty!
For the best chance at snagging a complimentary upgrade, overshare with the concierge: If you’re visiting a hotel to celebrate a special event or occasion, share that with the front desk team ahead of your arrival. If you come to the hotel every year for that occasion, mention that, too!
“We recommend calling the front desk directly, as opposed to making a note in your online reservation. These are the types of subtle cues front desk staff are trained to pick up on that will trigger them to review inventory for potential upgrades and provide guests with special welcome amenities,” says George Cook, Director of Guest Services for Deer Path Inn.
Plan a Quick Visit
An easy way to get an upgrade is to only book a one or two-night stay. For many reasons, shorter stays are more likely to score upgrades than larger ones. (It’s similar to why you have an easier chance of getting a dinner reservation with a prime table if you are a smaller party.)
“It’s easier to move someone into a better room for just a night or two than for an entire week’s stay, because it’s most likely booked the majority of the time,” says Eva Keller from DiscoveringHiddenGems.com. “When I worked front desk and we were near capacity, the first guests to get upgraded to make space were the top tier loyalty rewards members that were only staying for 1 or 2 nights,” says Keller.
If you’re a repeat customer, consider doing something thoughtful for the staff. “Whether it’s sending a thank you note after a memorable stay or bringing pastries to the front desk team when you arrive, these small gestures will be logged in your guest profile for present and future employees to see,” says George Cook, Director of Guest Services at the Deer Path Inn.
If a time ever arises when you’re looking to secure a reservation or upgrade during an extremely busy booking period, you’ll have a much better chance of securing them (without any additional charges or fees) because of the relationship you’ve established with the on-site team.
Loyalty is Rewarded
Joining a hotel loyalty program is a great way to improve your chances of an upgrade during your stay. Hotel loyalty programs offer a variety of special rates and benefits, even if it’s only your first stay. For example, at Conrad New York Downtown, Hilton Honors Gold and Diamond guests enjoy complimentary suite upgrades based on availability, says Kara Freedman, Complex Director of Marketing for Conrad New York Midtown and Conrad New York Downtown. “As a bonus perk, our Gold & Diamond members receive a complimentary daily food & beverage credit.” In other words, even if you aren’t planning to log multiple stays during a year, it’s still worth signing up to make sure you’re earning points and in line to gain as many freebies as possible.
Have you ever received an email or text from a hotel’s team asking about your upcoming trip, or inquiring as to how your stay is going? Always open this email and answer the questions, fill out the survey, or do whatever else you’re being asked to do — this will be to your benefit! “Our Guest Relations team sends these messages to learn more about our guests and surprise them with tailored amenities and little touches. Even if an upgrade might not be available, engaging with team members about your preferences and reason for traveling may result in a preferential high-floor or corner suite assignment,” says Freedman.
Check Social Media
Connect with hotels on social media. (We promise they may be even more fun to follow than your high school friends who have all managed to find you on Facebook.) From giveaways to sales, social media can be a great way to find deals. “At Conrad New York Downtown, we are running a ‘Secret Code’ campaign via Instagram from Sep 27, 2022 to March 31, 2023, and guests with confirmed reservations who DM us can receive a $5 upgrade to our 700 sq. ft. Executive Suite (normally a $150 value),” says Freedman.
You may also see about special offers via social media or packages wherein a stay for a long weekend comes with complimentary tickets to a sporting event or show. When you stay in touch, you can get a welcome heads up on what you might want to ask about.
Negotiate An Upsell
If you’re looking to upgrade your hotel room, one of the best ways to do it is by negotiating an upsell. “Most hotels have upsell goals for their front desk agents and even run monthly upsell contests with incentives for the highest selling agent,” says Allison Sicking, a Playa del Carmen, Mexico-based travel blogger at Viva La Travelista. This creates competition among the agents and means that there is some flexibility when it comes to rates for upgraded rooms.
Sicking advises that when you arrive at the hotel, begin by asking the front desk agent what kinds of upgrades are available and at what rates. Keep in mind that upsell rates are typically not set in stone. “It never hurts to try and negotiate, and you might be surprised at how willing they are to work with you. Because after all, they are in the business of selling rooms and are incentivized to make a sale,” says Sicking.
In other words, don’t be afraid to negotiate. If you’re polite and reasonable, you might just get the deal you’re looking for, for a fraction of the price you were first quoted. Because if a bigger and better room is available, they’d rather sell it to you for a small amount than see it sit empty for the night.
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