Will your next hotel room be simple and small or plush and palatial? Will your curtains open to a panoramic skyline view or a ventilation shaft?
Even within the same hotel, your experience can vary greatly depending on what room number is on your key. Somebody has to get the worst room sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be you. Here’s how to go from from spartan to stylin’.
1) Be Loyal
A hotel chain’s loyalty program can get you in the fast lane to an upgraded room. With most of them you’ll need to rack up enough stays to hit elite level to make this a given. You can get immediate elite status with many of these programs through their branded credit card though. Auto-upgrade ones include the U.S. Bank Club Carlson Visa, the Citi Hilton HHonors one, or Chase cards for Hyatt and IHG.
2) Reserve and negotiate directly
Hotel managers and reservation agents would rather negotiate on rooms than rates. Speaking with a reservations agent or front-desk person at the hotel can put you in a better room for the standard room price posted online. Do it in advance while booking by phone, or just start making calls after landing at the airport.
3) Go independent
In small hotels, owners often handle reservations. Most would rather negotiate than lose the booking. Make a clear upgrade pitch by email or on the contact form on the hotel website. This is especially useful on international trips, when chain hotels are less dominant.
4) Be nice and ask
Front desk workers have a lot of power and leeway. Be nice and respectful to your check-in clerk, then ask for some help. They know which rooms are quiet, larger than others or have a better view. One long-honored tradition can help your cause: a $20 bill slid across the counter.
The upfront tipping strategy is especially helpful if you’ve booked through a discount third-party service such as Priceline, Hotwire or HotelTonight. Reservations agents have been known to put those bookings at the bottom of their priority list when assigning rooms for the night.
5) Pay the executive floor difference
The executive floor in business chain hotels is an easy upgrade. The lounge perks alone can easily make it worthwhile. You’ll also be on one of the highest floors and will get better amenities. At major chains, the premium averages 20 to 30 more, or as little as $30 at off-peak times.
6) Use your influence
We don’t suggest indignantly shouting, “Don’t you know who I am?!” But if you have a big social media following and would post photos for tens of thousands of followers to see, mentioning that to the right manager or PR person could get you upgraded to better digs. After all, they’d rather put their best face out there when given a choice.