Top 10 Ways to Score a Free Hotel Upgrade

You remember Amy Chan, publisher of a blog called Amy Fabulous?

We republished her Top 10 Ways to Get Upgraded to Business Class on 14 February 2011 (with her permission, of course) and her Top 10 Restaurants in Paris on 16 February (again, with her permission).

Well, we were delighted to learn that Amy has a few more tips up her sleeve. This time she is going to share her Top 10 Tips to Score a Free Hotel Upgrade.

We are republishing her tips here, with both Amy’s permission and the permission of the Kiwi Collection, where Amy is director of marketing. And we are adding a few comments of our own.

Sometimes, just being personable and friendly can go a long way in scoring a free hotel upgrade. But for times when a nice smile and pleasant demeanor is not enough, here are some other tricks to try.

1. Timing

Check in later, between 4 and 6 pm, as the front desk can see the cancellations and no-shows of that day. Also, if your dates are flexible, don’t book on busy holiday times, as upgrades cannot be given if a hotel is at full occupancy.


Arriving late in the afternoon is an interesting concept, and one that I had never thought of. When traveling for leisure, I usually try to arrive as early as possible in order to get as much enjoyment out of the hotel and its facilities as possible. Maybe I should rethink that strategy. As for checking out, I usually ask for a late check out. When that is not possible, I have found that many hotels will allow me to continue to use the facilities such as the fitness centre or the swimming pool after I’ve checked out if I ask. Just leave your things with the concierge.

2. Book a room in the middle price range

It’s not impossible to get upgraded when booking the cheapest room category available, but it doesn’t help your odds. Book a room that is in the mid range for better chances.


It’s great if you can get yourself upgraded to the executive floor because that gives you access to the executive lounge. This usually means a buffet breakfast away from the maddening crowds in the coffee shop. Many executive lounges also offer lunches, dinners, cocktails, and snacks, which can really save you money if you’re not on an expense account.

3. Be nice

It’s that simple. Front desk staff and hotel managers deal with a lot of people and handle a lot of problems and stress during their day. Sometimes, just being personable, and friendly can go a long way.


I always try to be nice, and I have sometimes been offered an upgrade. But I’m not sure if that had anything to do with it.

4. Ask

It doesn’t hurt to ask, and the worst thing that can happen is that you get declined. Ask if an upgrade is available. If it’s a special occasion, it doesn’t hurt to volunteer that information either.


Good strategies. I’ve tried asking, “Any chance of an upgrade today?” It hasn’t worked yet, but you never know. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

5. Hotel mistake?

Sometimes a hotel’s mistake can work to your advantage. Perhaps your room wasn’t ready upon check-in, construction causing loss of sleep – you can always address a hotel issue with the management in a nice manner and see if they will do something (like provide an upgrade) for the inconvenience.


If something bad happens, it’s usually best to get them on your side. And keep your complaints impersonal – directed at the problem and not the person handling it. And keep in mind that front line staff are not always in a position to bend the rules. When a problem occurs, ask to speak to someone more senior.

6. It’s all about relationships, baby

It’s true, who you knows matter, and even more so if it happens to be the general manager at the hotel you’re staying at. Don’t have a connection? Don’t fret. Book on luxury hotel site Kiwi Collection and they’ll do the contacting for you. Half the hotels offer free perks and free upgrades, and if you book with a Visa Signature card at one of the 800 Visa properties, you get an automatic free room upgrade. Frequent Kiwi bookers can earn VIP status, and that’s when they actually contact the hotel on your behalf to request for upgrades. There are some other sites that offer this as well, but you have to buy a membership.


Yes, do check out those special privileges. Because I’ve got a Visa Platinum card, I have free access to a paid-in lounge at Hong Kong International Airport. I didn’t even know this, but discovered it by accident when looking for a spot to relax before a flight.

7. Where you book matters

If you’re booking a standard room, a hotel actually can give you a different room just based on the booking source you made the reservation on. Ever experience a really crappy room right by the hotel’s laundry area when booking on Expedia, only to find that your friend who booked elsewhere paid the same price but got a better room?


Interesting. Just curious, but I wonder if booking through the hotel’s own website helps … Any feedback?

8. Loyalty

You’ll have better chances of a free upgrade if you are loyal to the hotel and provide repeat business. It doesn’t hurt at the time of reservation to let them know that you’ve stayed there before. Hotels know that it costs a lot less to keep a repeat customer happy then it is to acquire a new one, so often they’ll give special treatment to return customers.


On my first trip to Bangkok a few years ago, I stayed at a lovely boutique hotel. On my next trip, I was offered a discount, and I didn’t even need to ask. It was in the computer’s data base that I had already stayed there.

9. Title drop

There aren’t any guarantees, but you may find that title dropping can increase your chances of special treatment and upgrades. Hotels may want to impress you more because they know you’re an important businessperson, someone who can refer new business or have blogging or press power.


Hmmm … Maybe I should make my status as the publisher of a “very influential travel blog” known next time I check in. But I’m shy!!!

10. Volunteering information

If you’re at the hotel celebrating a special occasion, like a birthday or anniversary, it can only help your case if you share the information with the front desk. Also, if you did book as a VIP on a site like Kiwi Collection, it doesn’t hurt to mention your status and loyalty as a booker, and politely inquire about upgrade possibility.


This reminds me of the night I was enjoying dinner with friends at a popular Italian restaurant in Hong Kong. It was someone’s birthday so the staff brought out a chocolate cake with candles and sang, “Happy Birthday to You!” Then it was someone else’s birthday, and someone else’s. I think we were the only table that didn’t suddenly “discover” that it was someone’s birthday. Only in Hong Kong!

Pictured: The Surrey in New York City Photo Credit: Kiwi Collection


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