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10 Secrets to Score a Free Hotel Room Upgrade

Updated: Mar. 16, 2023

Top hotel managers shared their secret hacks to score a free hotel upgrade so your next trip can be even better than you ever imagined.

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Let the staff know it’s your special day

“My best recommendation is to travel on your anniversary and mention it when you book your reservation,” shares Nils Stolzlechner, the general manager of the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort. He says that if there is a suitable room available, hotel staff will go above and beyond to make your stay special, give you a hotel upgrade, and may offer you other amenities. See? It pays to celebrate your romance.

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Be loyal

This is especially important for business travelers who may end up visiting the same cities over and over again and want a hotel upgrade: If you find a hotel that suits your needs and you enjoy your stay, keep booking the same place and get to know the staff. “If you are a return guest it’s common for the hotel to upgrade you. If there was a hotel room you had on a prior visit that you liked, just ask—hotels do like to recognize their repeat guests,” explains Nils. This is also one of the many ways travel agents suggest how to travel cheaply.

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Travel on your birthday

Birthdays are extra special, and nice hotels are just itching for a way to make guests feel warm and fuzzy. “We love celebrating and recognizing special days, so make sure to let us know if there is a member of your party that is celebrating a birthday,” tells Nils. Usually, a better room, a more scenic view, or extra amenities are added to your stay without adding to your bill. Here are some special hotels for your special day.

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On your honeymoon? Let everyone know it

“We know it is a special occasion, so we want it to be the most memorable vacation. Always inform hotel staff at the time of reservation to increase your chances on upgrades and possible amenities,” says Nils. This is something he personally does time and time again at his property, a popular honeymoon spot. Here are 21 more things a hotel won’t tell you.

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If you’re up to it, travel while you’re pregnant

If your doctor says it’s OK and you’re feeling pretty good, hop on board the babymoon trend and take a vacation. Make sure you mosey on up to the check-in desk with your belly proudly pronounced, because telling hotel staff about your babymoon is one way to get a great free hotel upgrade. “This one is quite a new trend and many don’t use it, but for the hotels that do know about babymoons, they know you want to relax and feel special, so make sure you let them know.” Nils also suggests this tip will work if it’s your first romantic trip away from the kids, because hotels like to help you rekindle your romance, too.

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Join the hotel’s rewards program

“Membership programs usually allow for the guest to use their points for upgrades,” shares Nils. “The beauty of it is that you are still earning points for staying at the hotel in an upgraded room.” This free hotel upgrade hack is particularly useful for people who don’t stay frequently, develop relationships with staff, or have a life milestone to celebrate. Only hotel managers know these travel secrets. 

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Call the hotel directly to book

“Call the hotel to make your reservation rather than email or book online,” hares Richard Bussiere, Managing Director at Langham Place, New York. “This gives you the opportunity to interact with another person and share some details about the reason for your stay. We unearth little nuggets of information that wouldn’t organically come up in the course of an email exchange.” Perhaps it is your first trip to New York, or you are celebrating the fact that a family member recently recovered from an illness…when the reservation agents finds these things out, they form a personal connection with the guest and that inspires them to surprise and delight that guest to an even greater degree, which can sometimes mean an upgrade.” Aside from the personal connections, hotel booking sites often take hefty fees that cut into the hotel’s bottom line. If the hotel isn’t paying as much as 10 or 20 percent to a booking site, they have more room to throw you a free upgrade, dinner, or add some special touches to your room.

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Book last minute

“Last minute is your best shot,” tells Jade McBride, hospitality manager at Vermejo Park Ranch in New Mexico. “If I have the chance to sell a room at a higher rate, I can’t offer the upgrade.” Last minute is best for both parties, he says, and it makes sense. Waste not, want not, right? Find out the things you should never ask hotel staff.

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Bring some goodies from home or the airport

“Staff love gratuity, and we love it when a guest genuinely shows appreciation, but no one likes to feel like they are being bribed,” says McBride. Try bringing some little gifts from duty-free like chocolates or packaged snacks from a far-off land to help pave the way to a hotel upgrade request.

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When all else fails, just ask

“Most managers are looking for ways to impress their guests and the last thing we want to do is say ‘no’ to a guest,” McBride explains. “If I have the room, I love doing something to make a guest’s stay with us great.” Next, find out the 12 most outrageous hotel amenities in the world.