As summer travel season begins, so does the fight to find the best hotel room for the lowest price. But did you know that how and when you make your hotel reservation and what time you check in to the hotel can help you get an upgrade for free?
Here are seven tips and tactics to get a better room without paying the price.
Reservation matters: Reservation codes include the source of your booking. You are less likely to be upgraded, says luxury hotel site Kiwi Collection, and more likely to get a room next to the noisy ice machine, if you book through a mass discounter such as Expedia or Priceline.
Loyalty: It’s all about relationships. Even if you’ve booked through a discount site, you have a better chance of a free upgrade if you are loyal to that specific hotel location or to its chain. So mention at check-in that you’ve stayed there before and are oh-so-happy to be back. Hotels know it costs less to keep a repeat customer happy than it is to acquire a new one, so they often give special treatment to return customers. Even if you don’t get an upgrade, you might receive a platter of cheese and crackers.
More loyalty: Join the hotel chain’s frequent guest program. These programs are free to join, and some offer automatic upgrades or coupons for a free breakfast after a certain number of stays. Large chains such as Hilton and Marriott operate many different brands in different price ranges, and offer special promotions like triple points or fourth night free. Some credit cards, such as the Visa Signature card, also get you an automatic upgrade at participating hotels and resorts.
Timing: Check in mid-afternoon whenever possible. That’s when the front desk has a handle on the day’s cancellations and can move you to a better room. If your dates are flexible, avoid peak holidays, since upgrades cannot be given if a hotel is near full occupancy.
Call ahead: Calling the hotel directly can get you a better rate or an upgrade — or both. Even if you make your reservation through an online discounter, or if your stay is part of a package tour, call the reservations manager a few days ahead of arrival to ask to be added to the upgrade list.
Be patient: If it takes you longer to check in than the guest in the line next to you, that’s a good thing. It’s likely the front desk is juggling to find you an upgrade, or at least a room away from the elevator.
Hotel error: Make the most of it if your room wasn’t ready at check-in. Recently, I got the second night of a two-night weekend stay for a family event free because of a check-in disaster. The room assigned me wasn’t ready at 5 p.m., when my son and I checked in tired and hungry after a long drive. The replacement room they assigned smelled so musty that even the bellboy assigned to help me find it agreed we shouldn’t stay there. While we were out to dinner, the manager left a bottle of wine in the third room they found for us, along with a note that I wasn’t being charged for the second night.
Smile: Just being personable and friendly can help you get a free upgrade to a nicer room, even a suite, when you ask for one. This also works when you check in for a flight.
Photo by Mr Lightman, freedigitalphotos.net.