2 Things You Should Never Do When Trying to Get a Hotel Upgrade — And 3 You Should

updated Jan 23, 2024
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Unless you’re staying with family or friends, most trips require booking overnight accommodations. And while you’re likely poring over prices and reading reviews, other folks are out there scoring perks for free. Your hotel may have amenities that are typically an extra charge, such as ocean-view rooms, a breakfast buffet, and on-site parking — but the truth is that sometimes hotels offer these extras to their guests completely gratis. 

Whether you have your sights set on complimentary WiFi or a late checkout time, some practices work well (hint: be nice!) and others fail when it comes to receiving upgrades on the house. So if you want to learn how to land a few perks — and avoid FOMO in your room without a view — hear from experts on how to get a hotel room upgrade successfully.

Quick Overview

How to Get a Hotel Upgrade

  • Join a hotel rewards program — and stick to one hotel brand.
  • Call the hotel instead of booking online.
  • Let the staff know you’re celebrating an occasion, like a birthday or anniversary. 
  • Ask for an upgrade at the time of check-in.
  • Show genuine kindness to all hotel staff.

Do: Join a hotel rewards program. 

Instead of bouncing around between hotel chains, pick a favorite within your price range and consistently book your stays with that company — especially if you can sign up for their rewards program or become a member to stock up points. “If you stay at a different hotel brand every single time, you won’t get a chance to collect points, so try to be loyal to one chain as much as possible,” advises Victoria Heinz, who blogs at Guide Your Travel. Even if you don’t travel often, being a member can increase your chance of getting perks, such as a complimentary breakfast or free parking.

Don’t: Book online if you want upgrades. 

When securing your accommodations through a third-party booking site, it’s challenging to make upgrades even if you want them. However, when you call the hotel to book your room, you have the opportunity to ask about potential promotions, even if it’s just as simple as having an ocean-view room.

“When we make the reservations directly, we have the opportunity to engage with the guest and find out more about the purpose of their visit,” says Patrick Lacassange, the innkeeper at Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, Illinois. “This level of engagement allows us to curate an experience specific to them.” Although booking with an online agency is convenient, they can’t guarantee benefits like breakfast or other small amenities like someone employed by the hotel can.

Do: Let the staff know you’re celebrating an occasion.

Many folks travel for a commemorative reason, such as a bachelorette party, birthday, or retirement trip, so let the staff know that you chose their location for your celebration. “Always mention a special occasion for your visit, and say that you’d deeply appreciate anything they can do to make it more memorable,” suggests Tanya Taylor, the owner of the lifestyle blog Travels & Treasures. For example, your hotel may offer a complimentary bottle of Champagne or luxe chocolates to help you celebrate.

Lacassange also agrees that mentioning an occasion may cause the hotel to give you extra perks. “You can increase your chance of an upgrade by informing the front desk of a special occasion, anniversary, or birthday — and by being sincere and kind to the front desk staff,” he says. However, never take advantage of your accommodations by fabricating a celebration. Being honest is key. 

Don’t: Be afraid to ask for an upgrade when you check in. 

Checking with the staff when you arrive allows them to make a decision based on their current occupancy. “When hotels are quiet, and there isn’t a lot going on, you’ll have a decent chance of getting an upgrade if you ask nicely on arrival,” says Heinz. Although she hasn’t had much success getting a luxe room, she has received other perks. “I’ve always had luck with requesting a room with a view, free WiFi or parking, or late checkout. If the hotel isn’t busy, the staff is usually happy to help,” Heinz suggests.

With boutique hotels, there’s also a slight chance that giving you a better room is in everyone’s best interest. Pricier accommodations usually book in advance, so there is a chance that a hotel may score a booking in the eleventh hour by opening up a cheaper room. “Upgrading guests from lower-priced rooms works well for small hotels because those rooms are more likely to sell last-minute than the more expensive rooms,” advises Steve Jacobus, the owner of Tierra Magnifica in Nosara, Costa Rica. “It’s a win-win for both parties.”

Do: Show genuine kindness. 

The most consistent piece of advice from hoteliers and travel experts alike was to ask nicely and use kindness from the start. “Usually, the first person you speak with when checking into your hotel is the person who has the ability to upgrade your room,” says Eroline Lamontagne, the director of Fond Doux Resort in Saint Lucia. “Make an effort to be extra kind and attentive to the front desk team.”

Heinz also agrees that being genuinely gracious can brighten the day of staff members and often works effectively when seeking extras. “I’ve also found that basic kindness and politeness will go a long way,” she says. It’s also an excellent way to start your vacation — and it’s the very least that the staff deserves.