7 Secrets to Free Room Upgrades

Hearing “You’ve been upgraded”  from the front desk can certainly brighten up your day. We all love travelling, and that involves booking hotels. Unfortunately, free room upgrades tend to elude even the best of us. As we usher in the new year, here are some do’s and dont’s to score your next room upgrade sooner than you would have expected.

#1 Join a Loyalty Program

Free Room Upgrades

Loyalty programs are the best way into the heart of free room upgrades. Not only will you be upgraded or given the occasional free breakfast/club access, you will also get a chance to accumulate loyalty points that work towards your next free stay.

All loyalty programs are free to join, here are some of the more popular ones :

IHG Rewards Club
Hilton HHonors
Starwood Preffered Guest
Le Club Accorhotels
Hyatt Gold Passport
Marriott & Ritz-Carlton Rewards

These programs have varying tier levels that offer different levels of upgrades. Mid-tiers are usually to a preferred room, meaning higher floor or corner/bigger rooms. The higher tiers usually come with category and suite upgrades.

Learning how to master your loyalty program and rise through the tiers is key. Keep a eye out for updates on Check My Hacks as I share tips & tricks to blaze through to top tiers easily.

#2 Always Book Direct

Free Room Upgrades

Hotels usually sell off a percentage of inventory to 3rd party booking services, and also keep a small % for other unannounced 3rd party bookings. These vendors are in the form of Agoda, Tripadvisor, Expedia, Asiarooms to name a few, and the inventory rooms are often the unfavorable ones e.g far from lifts, old dusty rooms, rooms with defects.

These middlemen take a cut of the room rate as a commission, as well as lower the rate to make it cheaper especially when using discount codes. This will cause the hotel have a smaller profit margin on your booking, and be less inclined to giving you a free room upgrade.

However, there are cases where a third party booking is more favorable in terms of value e.g miles bonus, huge discounts and error pricing, but never in the form of having better chances for free room upgrades.

#3 Smile when checking in

Free Room Upgrades
Front Desk Check In – Holiday Inn Resort Benoa Bali

Remember that the front desk staff are more likely than not the gatekeepers to free room upgrades. When checking in, always be smiling, dress smart and speak in a positive tone. Never be demanding, or come across with a DYKWIA (do-you-know-who-i-am) attitude. These people meet hundreds of guests everyday, why should they upgrade YOU ?

The little difference you make to brighten up their day by treating them with respect will sometimes be rewarded with a similar gesture in the form of a room upgrade.

#4 Study the Hotel’s Rooms

Free Room Upgrades
Grand Atrium – Regent Singapore

“Whats the difference between a superior, deluxe and executive room at the particular property ?”

Knowing the difference would empower you with the tools and negotiating power for a room upgrade. If you are entitled for a 1-category upgrade, you might want to book an executive room over a deluxe room, because the next category up from executive is a suite which might cost hundreds of dollars more and give the best value.

I once booked an executive room for an upgrade to a normal renovated suite, but they upgraded me to a slightly bigger but non-renovated one. Knowing that a very huge $2,000 suite was still available that day, I tried my luck to ask for it, and got it.

“Does this hotel package club access and breakfast along with executive/club rooms ?”

At the Holiday Inn Atrium Singapore, club access is bundled with the executive rooms. Thus, if you book a deluxe room without breakfast and receive a 1-category upgrade to executive room, you will receive free breakfast and club access which easily crosses $100sgd in value.

#5 Always Check Availability

Free Room Upgrades
Hilton HHonors iPhone Application

It pays to know the availability of rooms right before checking in. A simple check 1 hour prior will equip you with the knowledge needed just in case the hotel staff mentions that there are no rooms available for upgrade. If that happens, do not confront, but gently prompt them that you saw rooms available and that if you could get an upgrade to one of them. This has happened to me twice and I was able to receive multiple-category free room upgrades thanks to the quick check beforehand.

#6 If Dissatisfied, raise it to the staff

Free Room Upgrades
Afternoon Tea – Club Lounge @ Intercontinenal Bali Resort

If you are travelling and staying in luxury hotels, you are probably paying a premium for the level of service and experience. Sometimes, hotels can fall short on some aspects which can affect you as a guest. Say, a mildew smelling room, or delaying your check in and not keeping you updated in which you waste more time and your personal plans are affected.

After speaking to a staff or manager, you can hint that you would prefer a room upgrade to a “nicer” or “newer” room. This method is not to be abused, and only used on genuine cases.

#7 Simply Ask Nicely

Free Room Upgrades
Ambassador Suite View – Intercontinental Singapore

Sometimes, the best way is just to ask for an free room upgrade. Pair it with something like :

“It’s my birthday…”
“Its my first time in your country…”
“Since i’m checking in at 10pm, and checking out early tomorrow…”

I’ve personally received thousands of dollars worth of free room upgrades this way, even with hotels that I do not have loyalty for. This method has a higher success rate when you check in around 4-6pm, this is when hotels get a clearer idea which rooms are going to be empty for the night, and thus more upgrade inventory. It also helps alot if you have loyalty status with the hotel.

I hope everyone utilizes these strategies and receive their free room upgrades, these methods have been tested with decent success rates. Lets look forward to a “suiter” 2016.