Staying in a fancy hotel suite for the price of a cheaper hotel room isn’t a travel legend. With a few clever tactics, it’s possible to clinch an upgrade to a posh room for free – although Dele Alli’s recent outburst at the May Fair Hotel in London, when he was filmed allegedly demanding to stay in the hotel’s £3,000 a night penthouse, probably isn’t the way to go.
The first piece of advice is to just ask for one (minus Alli's angry ranting) – the worst the hotel can say is no.
If that doesn’t work, here are some top tips to persuade a hotel to give you a free upgrade.
Book direct with the hotel
When guests book through a platform such as Booking.com, the platform will charge a small amount of commission – meaning the hotel loses a slice of the money you paid. Which is why they like customers that book direct. By booking directly – either online or by phone – you’ll endear yourself to hoteliers, which could make them look more favourably on you when deciding whether to upgrade.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, tells me: “If you find the price for the hotel room cheaper on an aggregator rather than booking direct (as is usually the case), phone the hotel and quote them the price. They’ll sometimes match, but more likely offer you an upgrade/free bottle of champagne etc. Works 9/10.”
Even if the upgrade is out of reach, booking direct can also proffer a whole host of benefits, including early check in, free breakfast or the dreaded “welcome drink”.
It’s about timing
Choose your timing carefully. You might not want to travel to the Maldives in monsoon season (summer), Southeast Asia during typhoon season (late summer/autumn) or the Mediterranean in the cooler winter months, but going in low season means hotels aren’t full – therefore there’s a higher chance of an upgrade. Low season also means cheaper prices.
Even if you’re not in low season, there are some tricks to be aware of. Business hotels are likely to be emptier at the weekend, while the opposite is true of a trendy city centre base – visitors will have gone home by Sunday night. All this means is that the hotel is likely to be less full, and therefore more likely to be in a position to offer an upgrade.
In terms of the actual stay, if you’re booked in for just one or two nights, the likelihood of getting an upgrade is higher – purely because the hotel won’t have to switch you halfway through your stay for a cheaper room.
Join the hotel’s loyalty scheme
If an airline wants to upgrade a passenger on a flight, they’ll start by looking at their most frequent fliers – typically those that belong to the airline’s loyalty scheme. It’s the same for hotels: they like guests that have either stayed frequently or are a paid-up member of their loyalty scheme. If you’re staying in a hotel that’s part of an international chain (Marriott, IHG, Hilton, Hyatt) join the scheme before you stay and add your membership number to your booking. Even if you cancel your membership immediately, it will still count in your favour.
Check in as late as possible
Expensive suites are more likely to have been booked further in advance, so hotels know when they will be occupied. By checking in perhaps in late evening, when guests will have typically checked in already, the hotel will know which pricier rooms are still available for upgrade.
Say it’s a special occasion
Whether that’s a babymoon, honeymoon, new job, anniversary… telling the hotel staff you have chosen their property to celebrate a very special occasion is flattering, and they might look more favourably upon you for an upgrade. There’s also the possibility of added extras like wine or chocolates. Just don’t say anything that can be easily fact-checked by hotel staff – like your birthday.
Lastly, be polite
“Politeness pays off,” says Emma Grimster at TravelSupermarket. “It’s very unlikely your hotel will give you an upgrade if you’re being in any way unpleasant. Try to build a relationship with the hotel staff, provide constructive feedback on their services and give credit where credit is due.”
Unfortunately, Grimster adds that “there’s no exact science for bagging a hotel upgrade”.
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