Room upgrades are one of the most overlooked perks of “travel hacks”. You see, it isn’t just good enough to stay at a hotel for free, you want to stay in style!
But I must warn you, once you get upgraded you won’t want to go back! Okay you, have been warned..
What is the easiest way to get a free upgrade? Status. Status is your level in a hotel’s “loyalty program”. The most common status tiers are Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The most obvious way to get status is to stay a bunch of paid nights at the same hotel brand. Since you may not travel often for work let’s discuss the free/cheap ways to get hotel status.
Many hotel credit cards will give you status with the hotel chain. Here are a few hotel credit cards that offer free status:
Hotel perks generally consist of room upgrades, such as a better view or bigger room, free wi-fi, early check-in priority, and late check out. With Marriott, for example, they give you free vouchers for breakfast at the hotel (if there is a restaurant on site).
The best part about all these perks is that it doesn’t matter if you pay for your stay or use points for a free night, the perks are yours!
How do I guarantee I will get upgraded?
This is the million dollar question. To improve your odds it is best to have the highest status possible. If you are a platinum member the likelihood of being upgraded is very high compared to a silver member, for example. Typically, the hotel will upgrade you one room “up” from wherever you booked. So if you booked the base level room they will upgrade you (if there is availability) to a mid level room. If you book a mid level room they may upgrade you to a jr. suite, etc. If you book on a busy weekend, such as labor day, it will be more difficult to get a free upgrade as most rooms will be booked.
I have gold status (from a credit card sign up) with Marriott and recently received an upgrade to their 2 room suite in Seattle. I booked the base level room with points for a free night and I didn’t even have to ask for the upgrade. They also let me check in 3 hours early which was nice for an afternoon nap. This is the best room they offer and would be about $400 a night if I paid cash:
If you don’t score a free upgrade don’t feel bad, sometimes a better room will open the next night (if you are staying multiple nights), don’t be afraid to call the front desk and ask if anything better opened up. Remember, with status you will almost always get late check out so don’t forget to use it to your advantage. If you have to catch an evening flight it is nice to be able to take an afternoon nap or shower before your flight.
The last important “tip” to get a free upgrade is the most simple, just ask. Yes, it can sometimes be that simple. You don’t want to ask like you are dehydrated and begging for water, however. The best way to do it is to ask for a feature in the room that you know only comes with an upgrade. For example, ask for a better view, a room with a couch, a room with a balcony, etc. It sounds less “begging” than straight up asking for a “suite”. But hey, what’s the worst they can say?