Ten easy tips to score a free hotel room upgrade

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (May 12, 2017): Tips for getting a hotel room upgrade without paying for it.

I previously published my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel (and save money). Today, I explain how to score a premium room at a luxury hotel without having to pay for the upgrade. Although there are a few guaranteed ways to get a room upgrade, it most often requires a mix of skill, emotional intelligence and a considerable amount of luck.

Here are the 10 best travel tricks to get a hotel room upgrade. And keep in mind that I can always arrange for you a confirmed upgrade at the time of booking at the world’s most luxurious hotel brand, Soneva.


1. Stay during the low season

Being smart about the date you purchase a hotel room can entitle you to an upgrade, without doing any extra work. Book a room during the off-peak season when rooms are likely to be available. Leisure hotels are often fully booked during school holidays or over weekends (especially when there’s a big event or concert in town). On the contrary, hotels that cater to business clients have more availability during the weekend, increasing your chance for an upgrade.

2. Arrive late in the afternoon

Arrive late in the afternoon — between 3pm and 5pm is ideal — when reception has a better idea of what rooms are likely to stay empty overnight (and the next days). As a result, you may just be bumped up to a more superior room.

3. Join a hotel loyalty program

Most hotel chains offer benefits for loyal customers. Joining a hotel’s loyalty program may entitle you to a room upgrade, depending on the status you have attained. I have previously explained the pros and cons of the most popular hotel loyalty programs:

  • Starwood Preferred Guest by Starwood hotels, which includes St Regis, W, and The Luxury Collection hotels.
  • World of Hyatt by the Hyatt group, which includes Park Hyatt and Andaz hotels.
  • Hilton HHonors by the Hilton group, which includes the Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotels.
  • Marriott Rewards by the Marriott group, which includes The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels (Bulgari hotels are excluded from the program).
  • Sirius by the Jumeirah hotel group.
  • President’s Club by the Fairmont hotel group.
  • IHG Rewards Club by the IHG group, which includes Intercontinental hotels.
  • GHA Discovery wich includes – among others – Kempinski, Alila, Viceroy and Anantara hotels & resorts.
  • Leaders Club by the Leading Hotels of the world.

4. Advocate your special occasion

Drop a special occasion such as an engagement or a birthday into the conversation. But don’t just blurt it out of nowhere and be honest about it; casually talk about it mid-chat. This way hotel teams will feel you are a genuine customer and be more inclined to go above and beyond to make sure you have a special stay.

5. Be a frequent visitor

Sometimes it’s simply a case of who you know. The more times you stay at a hotel, the more familiar you will become to hotel receptionists. Your details are often stored in the system too — so they can tell when you last visited. To make sure you are acknowledged as a frequent stayer, be friendly and get to know one or two receptionists or better yet the hotel manager, so you are recognized on your return.

6. Review your stay

Leaving a happy guest review on the likes of Trip Advisor, is one of the best ways to ensure you become known to a hotel team and it also spreads positive feedback to other potential guests. You scratch their back and they’ll scratch yours, when you return.

7. Use your manners

Manners accompanied with a smile can go a long way to make someone feel happy to help. Greet hotel team members as soon as you arrive and use your discrete charm to stand out from other guests. Hotel receptionists deal with travellers on a day-to-day basis so being that one person who made their day, with a compliment or witty line, could earn you some brownie points.

8. Try out the new kids on the block

Because so many travelers are brand loyal (cf tip no. 3), it can negatively affect recently opened hotels trying to lure new and repeat guests. When guests book at new properties that want to grow a dedicated fan base, those hotels may be more willing to offer upgrades to get people talking about their property and to get some repeat business in the future.

9. Book through Virtuoso

Virtuoso travel advisor will not only help you to create unique journeys and explorations in every corner of the globe, but, more importantly, Virtuoso bookings come with special amenities and extra perks, such as complimentary upgrades. This is particularly true for the world’s most exclusive hotel brands, such as Aman, Soneva, St Regis, Park Hyatt, Rosewood, Mandarin Oriental, Six Senses, and Four Seasons resorts. All hotels were you can enjoy the Virtuoso extra perks are listed on their website. My preferred Virtuoso travel agency is Classic Travel, because they offer an excellent online booking tool.

10. Use your credit card to get a complimentary room upgrade

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a hotel-branded credit card will probably have some sort of built-in upgrade benefit. But other credit cards do the trick as well. Visa Signature card membership gives you access to the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection, a network of 800+ high-end hotels around the world. Whenever you stay at these hotels and book thru Visa Signature you will get an automatic room upgrade at check-in (when available). Same is true for the more expensive American Express credit cards.

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