This entry is part 2 of 14 in the series How To

One of the things I love about having status at multiple hotels is that you can book the cheapest room and sometimes end up in the most expensive room.  One of my most recent experiences with this was at the DoubleTree in Cape Town.  We had booked a standard room on points (20,000 Hilton Points per night) and because I was a Diamond Status Member, I given a complimentary upgrade to one of their most expensive rooms, the Loft Suite as seen in the pictures above.

But what do you do if you don’t have status at a hotel but you still want an upgrade?  Well let’s take a look at your options.

I should state at the onset that Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV) because these upgrades are at the discretion of the front desk staff and management.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

I’ve watched many people check in over the years and the thing I notice all the time is that people rarely ask to be upgraded.  I’m not sure if it is a North American political correctness thing or if it’s that people are too shy to ask but think about this question:

How is the hotel’s front desk staff supposed to know you want an upgrade?

Even if they presuppose you do, they can’t just ask everyone that checks in if they want an upgrade.  Imagine the chaos that would ensue if everyone was given the choice?

I’m reminded of a situation when my cousin was in from out of town and we went to eat at a mom and pops fast food donair restaurant.  When we ordered, he asked “can I have a discount?”.  The clerk was taken aback for a second and then asked why.  He proceeded to tell her that he had a store up the street (which was true) and was just wondering if they had some sort of neighbour discount.  The clerk thought for a minute and offered us a 10% discount, which we gladly took.  If he hadn’t of asked for a discount, he would never have gotten one.

The same is true for hotel upgrades.  If you don’t ask, don’t expect the front desk staff to read your mind.

Special Occasions Helps

If you are in town celebrating a special occasion, don’t be afraid to email or phone the hotel manager and let them know.  Be sure to politely ask for the upgrade at the same time.

I remember a time when my wife and I were on our honeymoon in Paris and I notified the hotel ahead of time.  When we checked in, we found out our room was upgraded and when we entered our room, we were surprised with chocolate dipped strawberries, a bottle of champagne and a hand written note from the manager congratulating us on our wedding.

Again, you need to let the hotel know as you may be pleasantly surprised.

The $20 Trick

Hotel staff are not the most highly paid people on earth and they very much appreciate getting tips for their service.  One of those people that you might want to consider tipping is the check in clerk.  But how do you encourage your clerk to upgrade you?

It’s standard procedure to give the clerk your licence for identification and a credit card for incidentals so why not sandwich a nice crisp $20 bill between the two when you check in and say “do you happen to have any complimentary upgrades available?”

Some like to call it bribery, I call it pre-tipping.

This practice has been rampant in Las Vegas and there’s even a website set up to tell you how successful the trick is.  At the time of writing, users have reported success 83.2% of the time.  To me, that’s a pretty good chance of being upgraded.

I used this trick in combination with my hotel status at the Vdara a few years ago.  I had booked the cheapest room available and was upgraded to the Executive Corner Suite, a 5 level upgrade from the standard room.

You might be thinking, that this is normal behaviour in Las Vegas, but can I use this trick in Phoenix or San Francisco or Miami?  The answer is an unequivocal yes.  If you read the hilarious book, Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky, you will understand why my answer is yes.

Be Polite

As I mentioned in my previous post about How to Survive Flight Delays and Actually Come Out Ahead, you need to be polite.

Don’t be an a-hole.  You won’t get what you want and there are many tricks that hotel staff can play to make your stay miserable, like making your key card expire.

If you’ve ever been in a supersized hotel in Hawaii or Las Vegas, you know that it could be a 20-30 minute ordeal to take the elevator to your room, walk the 100 mile hallway to your room just to find out your room key doesn’t work.  Guess what you have to do?  Go back to the front desk and get your room key reprogrammed.  And guess how easy it is for the front desk staff to do that to you over and over and over again?

“Sorry sir, we’ve been having issues with our room keys recently” … all because you felt like being an a-hole.  Be a jerk and your room upgrade might be a room right next to an elevator above the hotel’s nightclub.  Your choice.

Now on the flip side, if you are pleasant and genuinely connect with your clerk, the chances of you getting a room upgrade are astronomically better than if you chose to treat the staff with disrespect.

Want Hotel Status?

Feel like there’s still an element of chance in obtaining your upgrade that you aren’t comfortable with?  Well there are two ways to solve that.  The first is to pay for your upgrade and the second is to become a status member with a hotel.

While becoming status with a hotel can be a bit of a long term investment, stay tuned to the blog and subscribe because in the coming days and weeks, I will be covering off how to get instant status with many hotels and how to leverage those statuses to get even more hotel statuses.  Just click on the subscribe menu above.

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Jayce is the founder of PointsNerd, and avid traveller and a teacher by nature. He prides himself on flattening the learning curve through step-by-step guides because everyone needs to start somewhere.


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