how to get yourself a free hotel upgrade
A guest getting her key at the hotel reception – dotshock (canva)

Let’s face it, there are very few things in life that are as exciting as a freebie, especially when combined with your travels. While all businesses and hotels aim for maximum profit, there are a few establishments that don’t mind giving the occasional complimentary room upgrade. Here are some tips that may help you land that room with the plush king-size bed or the suite with the magnificent view. 

1. Travel out of season

When it comes to travel, tourism, and hospitality, the seasons play a significant role. These seasons refer to low and high seasons, peak and off seasons, or whatever else you’d like to call it. Peak season periods typically include school holidays, public holidays, long weekends, and religious holidays, while off-season would be all of the remaining days of the year. 

Most people travel during peak seasons because this is when they can get off work and when their children don’t need to attend school. The downside is that these short periods during the year call for higher rates and overcrowded establishments. 

If it is in any way possible for you to travel out of season, you should definitely go for it! Most hotels aren’t as crowded during these times, which means that not only will you pay less for a room, but the likelihood that you could be placed into a more expensive room for free is also much higher. 

2. Join the hotel’s loyalty program

Most large hotel groups have fantastic loyalty programs that offer various exciting rewards to their members. The best part about these programs is that you can sign up for free and start earning rewards immediately. So, what makes these programs so special, and how can becoming a member ensure that you get a free room upgrade? 

The thing is, hotels and most other businesses take care of their loyal customers. The more you support them, the more they’ll look after you. Thus, if you are a member of the hotel’s loyalty program, you’ll have a better chance of getting that spa-style tub or air conditioning that you’ve been longing for. Visiting the hotel frequently would give you an even better loyalty status and staff members will start recognizing and remembering you, which gives you an even better shot at a free upgrade. 

We’ve compiled a list of the best hotel loyalty programs with the most benefits, check it out!

3. Avoid booking through third-party sites

While booking sites like Trivago and Booking.com have the potential to make your life much easier and save you some money, they can get in the way of some hotel freebies and other benefits. Things are pretty straightforward on these sites and there is little to no room to customize your stay according to your needs. You typically get to choose your room type and your preferred dates before you have to pay for your stay and that’s about it. 

There’s no personal touch or any type of socialization when booking through a third-party site or even on the hotel’s official website. So, there would be no way for you to convince or ask a staff member to give you a better room because you won’t be talking to a real human being. The best way to book a room with the hopes of getting a more expensive one at no extra charge is by calling the hotel or arriving there with the hope that they have an available room. 

We cover more about this in our article about direct hotel booking vs via an OTA.

4. Check in later than usual

Most hotels have an after 3 pm check-in policy but this doesn’t mean that you have to be there immediately. As long as you have paid your hotel deposit or paid in full, there is no rush to get to the hotel at a certain time. For more information on how hotel deposits work, have a look at our article on this topic. 

There are some benefits to arriving later, like missing the rush of other guests checking in and getting the opportunity to have an uninterrupted chat with the receptionist. So, while you’re checking in, you can find out if the hotel is fully booked and if there are better rooms open for the night and you may be lucky enough to get your upgrade. This is because most rooms will be taken by this point and the hotel will know if they’ll be getting more guests for the night. 

5. Book a short stay

There is a much smaller chance that the hotel will give you a better room if you’ll be staying for a long time. During your stay, someone else could’ve booked the more expensive room, which means that the hotel will end up losing money if you’re staying there at a lower rate. So, the best way to ensure that the hotel doesn’t fear losing money for the duration of your stay is by booking a short stay. A single night would give you the best odds but you should opt for no longer than two nights. 

6. Mention your special occasion

We see it in movies and real life all the time; a couple walks into a hotel or steps up to the desk at an airport with big smiles and shiny rings and as soon as they mention that they are on their honeymoon, they get handed freebies and upgrades left, right and center. So, why not take advantage of your special occasion to get some well-deserved special treatment? 

You don’t have to be flashy or give too many hints but a subtle mention of your honeymoon or birthday should be enough. If you really want to, you can tell them that it’s a special occasion and ask if they’d be willing to give you a free upgrade for the night. Remember, the worst thing they can do is say no. 

7. Don’t travel in a large group

Whether you have a large family or many friends that’ll be joining you on your trip, it’s always fun to travel in a group. However, if you want a freebie from the hotel, it would be better to travel in a much smaller party, preferably a group that’ll fit into one room. 

If traveling in a large group is your only choice, there’s still a way to get around it. All you have to do is try and get a complimentary upgrade for yourself and not for the other members of your group. To do this, you need to make separate bookings for each of the different rooms that your group will be using. There is very little chance that the hotel will accommodate all of you with free upgrades.

8. Book at the last minute

The thing about trying to book a room at the last minute is that it can end up being either risky or rewarding. When you wait too long, especially during holidays and other peak season periods, the hotel could be fully booked and you’ll be left scrambling to find a new place to spend the night. 

On the other hand, if you wait a little longer and book right before you leave or when you get to the hotel, you could end up with a free room upgrade. Why? If you book at the last minute, the hotel has a better idea of their availability and whether the good rooms are or will be booked or not. So, when they see that most of the better rooms are empty, you’ll have a better chance of landing one of them for free.  

Booking at the last minute could also save you a lot of trouble because the chances of the hotel canceling your booking are much slimmer. Nevertheless, you should still have a look at our article for some advice on what to do if the hotel cancels your confirmed reservations

9. Go ahead and ask

When all else fails, all you can do is ask and see what happens. If you see that the hotel isn’t as busy and you have a feeling that a better room may be available for the duration of your stay, or even just for the night, you could always ask one of the staff members. You could even ask the person on the other end of the call when you book your stay over the phone. 

The worst thing that could happen when you ask is that they say no and you spend the night in the room that you paid for. That sounds worth the ask, right?  

FAQ

What is a complimentary room upgrade?

A complimentary room upgrade is the magical moment when a staff member at a hotel lets you have a better room than you initially booked and paid for at no extra cost. You can also get a complimentary room upgrade at any other establishment that has various room types, like a lodge or bed and breakfast. 

Is it OK to ask for a free room upgrade?

Yes, there is no harm in trying and you have nothing to lose when you ask for a free room upgrade. As a matter of fact, not only is it OK to ask, but if you scrape up some courage and throw in a hint or directly ask the nice lady at reception, it could pay off and make your stay a thousand times better.  

How much do you tip for a room upgrade?

Since room upgrades are completely up to the hotel and its staff, there isn’t a set amount that you should tip when you get a free room upgrade. However, a fair amount would be anything from $20 and upwards. If you think about it, it’s still a great deal considering the prices of some rooms.

Room upgrade is not the only request you can ask from your hotel for a better experience. Here are our list of the 22 special requests you can ask from your hotel for free. Check it out!

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