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Travel Unravelled: How to Get a Free Hotel Upgrade

Q: I’ve heard that you can sometimes get an upgrade to your hotel room without having to pay for it. Is this true, and if so, how do you do this? Is it okay to ask? – Sally Bluehorn, Toronto, ON

A: Getting a free upgrade at any hotel often depends on luck and timing, but there are a few ways to boost your chances. Here are 10 tips that I’ve found helps get you into a high-roller suite.

1. Know what you want

When you request an upgrade, ask precisely for what you would like. Do your research–do you want a room with a view? A balcony? Near the pool? Upgrades mean something different to everyone.

2. Ask nicely

Ask politely for an upgrade. Nice people like to help other nice people, and if there are better rooms available, the clerk may be inclined to give one to a polite person.

3. Timing is everything

Try to travel during an off-peak period or a weeknight. Also, if you only need the room for one or two nights, you are more likely to be upgraded. Hotels can still sell the room at full-price the next night.

4. Arrive late

If you arrive about an hour or two after check-in time, hotel staff will have a good idea of which rooms are available. If it’s a busy day, this leaves more possibility for them to sell out of regular rooms and they will have to upgrade you to a suite. If it’s slow, hotels will upgrade you because they have a better chance of selling budget rooms to last-minute travelers.

5. Tell them it’s a special occasion

Is it your birthday trip? Honeymoon? Wedding anniversary? Let them know. They may just help you celebrate by putting you in a suite.

6. Be loyal

Stay at the same hotel in cities you visit often. Join the club if they have one–you will most likely get a small gift just for signing up. In Vegas, you get points for gambling any amount of money in the slot machines or at least $25 per hand at the tables. Some hotels offer points for eating at the hotel’s restaurants or spending money in the hotel’s shops. These points lead to room discounts and often, complimentary upgrades.

7. Speak up

If you have a legitimate complaint, be vocal. If the room you received is unsatisfactory, let the front desk know and they may upgrade you for your trouble.

8. Be professional

Dress appropriately. Presenting a professional image will increase respect, especially if you are young.

9. Have an event

Organize a reunion, meeting or convention at the hotel. They may say thank you with an upgrade or free nights, either at the time of the event or at a later date.

10. Be patient

Allow the staff time to accommodate your request. Remember that they are doing you a favour. If they have offered you a suite but it isn’t ready, have dinner or go for a walk.

by Jennifer Hilliker

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