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(Inspired by this question on flight upgrades),

Most non-budget hotels have various categories of rooms - perhaps larger rooms, "Executive" rooms, suites, and so on. What tips or tricks can you use to get upgraded to a larger/better/nicer room?

I normally join the frequent stay program for the relevant hotel chain - if it's part of a chain - and most of them have various elite levels - in my experience, becoming a higher level in those programs is one easy way.

However, what other approaches are there? What about if you've never stayed at that hotel before, or that chain? What factors influence the room you are given, and how can you control them?

(Related question on car hire upgrades)

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Money is the most obvious one. –  mouviciel May 2 '13 at 19:32

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Getting hotel upgrades is indeed like getting flight upgrades -- the odds are low, and stay low even if you try to game the system, but occasionally you win.

First of all, it's important to understand that there are "upgrades" and then there are upgrades. A slightly larger room or a room facing the park instead of the parking lot is a small upgrade and these are often handed out like candy, but putting you in an executive floor room with lounge access, buffet breakfast and complimentary minibar involves real additional cost to the hotel, and these "real" upgrades will be harder to score.

You can usually tell the levels with careful reading of the room descriptions on the hotel website: eg. the Intercontinental Sydney has something like 20 room types, but "Superior", "Deluxe" and "Premium" are all exactly the 32 sq.m. same room, just facing in different directions. The "Club" rooms are the same room again with lounge access, and it's only "Executive Suite" (72 sq.m.) and above that are genuinely different.

So, here's some ideas.

  1. Short stays are more likely to get upgrades. You might get the grand suite for a night if nobody's using it, but you're extremely unlikely to get it for a month.

  2. Ask nicely on check-in if you could have a room facing the Eiffel Tower (or whatever). If it's a small upgrade (see above), you just might get it; if it's a big upgrade and they've got a bunch free, you might be offered a discounted upgrade.

  3. When booking, request something restrictive but not obnoxious: eg. "high floor" or "away from elevators". On check-in, ask if they can fulfill your request. If they can't find a standard room that fits, they just might bump you up.

  4. If something is genuinely broken in your room and you complain about it, you may well get shifted to a nicer room. I once ended up in the presidential suite because it was the only room they had left with functional internet! (Wasn't a particularly nice hotel and I was staying with my boss on a business trip, but hey, first-world problems...)

  5. A high-risk, high-reward tactic is to simply check in late; if all the standard rooms are gone, they'll bump you up. Of course, if you check in too late, then all the rooms may be gone and you'll probably end up at the Motel 6 instead... and if you do get a nice room, it's already late so you won't have much time to enjoy it!

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+1 for Motel 6 where I ended up once xD –  Jay Claiton May 14 at 16:01

In my experience, there are four things which affect your chances of getting an upgrade.

The first, and easiest to arrange, is being a member of the loyalty program for that hotel chain. You'll often need to be at least off the bottom rung to get a very good upgrade, and suites tend to only come for people with the highest status. However, when deciding who gets the room overlooking the bins or the one right next to the lifts, being in their loyalty program should be enough to stop you getting one of the less-good rooms if nothing else!

The second, is how you book. Booking through certain travel agents, for example American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts or a Virtuoso linked travel agent can get you guaranteed upgrades (along often with dining or spa credits). Only certain properties tend to be covered, and there are often eligibility requirements to book through those channels (eg you need an Amex Plat or Centurion card to book through FHR), but if you qualify and the hotel you want is in the list, it's a great option.

The third is how long you stay. If you're on a very short stay and it's busy, they might upgrade you as they're short on standard rooms that night, need to upgrade someone, and would prefer not to upgrade someone staying longer who'd then keep the nice room for longer. If you stay for a long time and they're quiet, they may choose to upgrade you to say thank you for your long stay at a quiet time. (Long stays at busy times, and short stays when quiet tend not to get upgrades, except through the other routes mentioned)

Finally, how often do you stay there? If you stay with the chain a lot, you'll get status which'll help (see #1), but if you stay in that hotel often they'll notice. If you're a regular, you can often expect an upgrade, maybe even a welcome drink, and generally be treated well as they appreciate you keep coming back. This is the most reliable way to get upgrades and VIP treatment, but the hardest...!

(I've rarely, but not never, been upgraded in chain hotels when at their lowest tiers. I've had excellent luck with upgrades with SPG Gold and Hilton Gold, whilst now Hilton Diamond it is even better. FHR rarely works for my need, but when I've booked those I've always had upgrades. My best upgrades have tended to be long stays at quiet times combined with hotel chain status. My "regular" hotel always gives me a quiet room with a nice view, but sadly all their rooms are the same size so that's the only upgrade available!)

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