September 3, 2011 8:00 AM PT

How to Get Hotel Room Upgrades

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Hotels are our homes away from home when we’re on vacation, which makes it important to find comfortable rooms where we can relax at the end of a busy day. While many travelers would probably prefer the amenities of a luxury suite, the price often keeps them from these rooms.

If you’re looking for a more affordable rate so you don’t send your credit card over its limit, there are steps you can take to help get room upgrades at no or little price. Before you ask for an upgrade, you’ll want to think about what an upgrade means to you, so you’ll know what to ask and which tactics to take. For example, one person may envision switching from a standard room to a suite while another simply wants a bigger bed or a concierge floor.

Once you know what you’re after, here are some tactics you can use to help you get the upgrade you’re after:

  • Don’t be cheap. If your goal is to score a free upgrade, don’t book the cheapest room in the hotel.

  • Watch the calendar. Sundays and Mondays are typically the slowest days for hotels. If you plan your trip so that you check in on one of these days, you are more likely to be able to upgrade to a nicer room. This is because there will be more open rooms on those days.

  • Ask. It sounds simple, and it is. When you check in at the hotel, ask if there any rooms that you can upgrade to. Joe Brancatelli, a business travel columnist, recommends checking in later in the day if you plan on asking for an upgrade.

  • Offer to pay. Brancatelli also suggests offering to pay just $20 more to see what upgraded amenities are available for your choosing. While this small price increase isn’t likely to land you in the biggest suite, but it may open up the next tier of room. And sometimes the desk clerk won’t make you pay the difference!

  • Take advantage of rewards. These days, most hotel chains offer their patrons frequent stay programs. While these programs might not rack up the points very quickly, if you mention to the front desk at check in that you always choose their hotel chain and are a member of their rewards program, they may provide you with upgrades without dipping into your accrued points.

  • Get personal. According to Michael Matthews, a long-time hotel industry professional, making a personal connection with the hotel manager during your stay will pay off in the future. During your stay, ask to see the manager and give them positive feedback on your experience. While chatting, give them your business card and mention you look forward staying in their hotel again in the future. The next time you plan a stay for that hotel, call the manager directly to book your room and you may see some free upgrades.

  • Make your presence known. If you will be staying at the hotel for an extended period, mention this to the front desk when you check in. They are much more likely to upgrade your accommodations because you will already be spending a larger amount during your stay.

  • Book events. If you have a family reunion or conference you are planning, schedule it for your favorite hotel. It’s not uncommon for the event staff to provide you credits for complimentary nights or upgrades for a future stay as a thank you for your business.

  • Follow your company’s lead. If there is a specific hotel that your company uses for its travels, use that hotel. The more business that the hotel receives from your company and its employees, the more likely it is that you will receive upgrades. When making your reservation and checking in, make sure that the hotel knows where you work and how frequently your company uses their hotel.

  • Try an all-suite hotel. Consumers are often surprised to learn that the suites at these hotels are often offered for similar rates as standard rooms offered elsewhere. These hotels are often used by business travelers, so you may find the stay to be quieter as well.

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