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13 Travel Secrets Only Hotel Managers Know

Updated: Jan. 31, 2024

Don't travel before reading these tips—unless you want to skip the upgrade and pay more for your room.

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Insider secrets

There are all kinds of suggestions for finding the best hotel deals and getting upgrades, but we wanted to know the insider secrets so we went straight to the source: Hotel managers. Find out the 13 incredible hotel amenities that will make you want to book a room ASAP.

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Couple on a business trip doing check-in at the hotel
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Just show up

Hotels pay a significant commission to booking agents, so if you simply walk in without a reservation (and the hotel has rooms available), you may be able to negotiate a better price, says Flavio Serreti, manager at Soprano Villas in Italy. “Even if we undercut our website’s listed prices a little, we would still make more revenue than if we had to pay commission,” Serreti says. Booking your stay through a hotel website is one of many common travel tips you can safely ignore.

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hotel receptionist
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Be nice

Simply being nice and cordial to the front desk agents—since these are typically the people who assign the rooms—will give you a better chance at an upgrade, says Michael Nenner, area general manager for Gurney’s Resorts with properties in New York and Rhode Island. Tipping the housekeeping staff won’t hurt, either.

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Most hotels are more connected real-time to their guests through social media services like Twitter and Instagram, and review sites like Yelp, says Patrick Cook, regional director of sales and marketing at Swissotel Chicago. Chances are good that they will quickly respond to any comments posted from the moment you arrive. “Hotels want nothing more than to surprise and delight you during your stay, so if you are celebrating a special occasion, let the front desk know; if you had a great meal in the restaurant, spread the word,” Cook says. “It’s very possible the hotel will show its gratitude with a special treat in your room.” Need to complain via social media? Here’s how to do it… nicely.

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Don’t ask about the best restaurants

Instead, ask, “‘Is there a local food or drink specialty that I should experience while I’m here?'” says Ric Tanner general manager at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City. That way, you’ll be directed to the spots that you really must try.

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Female hand opening hotel room, selective focus
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Request a late check-out early

The chances of receiving your late check-out will improve if you request it early in the day rather than at the last minute, Tanner says. Since they can only let a few rooms have late check-outs, it’s typically first-come, first served. While you’re at it, make sure you avoid these 9 travel mistakes for the best vacation ever.

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interior of hotel room or bedroom

Bring binder clips

Black-out drapes sometimes gap in the middle, Tanner says. If you like a dark room, travel with a few binder clips to keep them snug. “A skirt hanger from the closet will also work in a pinch,” he says.

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Bring liquor

When Michael Wilson, Hotel Zachary’s director of sales and marketing in Chicago, dines at the hotel restaurant, he always takes a 6-pack of local beer or a bottle of bourbon for the kitchen staff to enjoy later. “I give it to our server as he or she takes our first drink order,” Wilson says. “The response from the server and staff is always very appreciative, and they usually send extra bites, apps, shooters—and the chef will usually pop out and say ‘hello’ as well.” Try it with the front desk staff and you may get a free hotel room upgrade.

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Book well in advance—or at the last minute

There are often deals to be found when planning well in advance or waiting until the day before to make your reservation, says Megan Walters, manager of Selvista Guesthouses on Isla Ometepe, Nicaragua. “Hotels want to fill spaces and get heads in beds,” she says. If you’re planning in advance, you’ll want to know the best day to book.

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woman type laptop
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Check social media

Follow your hotel’s social media pages, as that’s where deals, promotions, and sales are often posted, says James Adamson, general manager of Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia. For example, Kimpton has a “social password” which can be used at check-in for a surprise like free parking or a bottle of wine. The catch: the only way to find it is on Facebook and Instagram. Plus, when people book through the link in the bio of Kimpton’s Instagram page, they’re automatically upgraded to the next room type based on availability.

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Trust your concierge

Your concierge is 1,000 times more valuable and reliable than the online reviews, says Anderson Foote, general manager of The Talbott Hotel in Chicago. Foote suggests looking for the Les Clefs d’Or distinction, which is the only national professional organization of hotel lobby concierges. “Know you’ll be guided well,” Foote says.

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business woman at the reception of a hotel checking in

Join the loyalty program

In addition to some great hidden perks like free Internet and discounted food and beverages, you are much more likely to be granted upgrades during low occupancy dates, says Robert Hannigan, general manager at Kimpton Tryon Park in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Singing up during check-in will often get you an immediate upgrade or amenity from the front desk agents who are tracked on signups,” Hannigan says. These are our favorite hotel loyalty programs.

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Book the right hotel at the wrong time

Depending on the type of area you’re visiting, look at the shoulder seasons for a particular city, Hannigan says. “If it’s a short term stay, book a weekend visit at a business hotel, and a midweek stay at a resort,” he says. “In addition to a better rate due to lower occupancy, you won’t have to deal with the crowds.”

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Hotel luggage cart / baggage trolley in the hotel lobby hallway background or Bellman's luggage cart

Use the bellman

They’re here to assist you, to orient you to the building and are often your best resource for immediate help and recommendations, Hannigan says. “Bellstaff are experts in what the locals are doing,” he says. “They’re a perfect resource for finding out about that hold-in-the-wall bar, or small family restaurant that everyone in the city loves, but is reluctant to share with someone from outside the area.” Read on for more of our best tips and tricks for saving a ton of money on hotel rooms.