How to get upgraded at hotel check-in

Hotel hacks: How to get upgraded at check-in

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Ascending to hotel heaven—the realistic way!

Have you ever heard this phrase when checking into a hotel: “You’ve been upgraded.” If so, you know it’s a warm a fuzzy feeling that makes you want to break out in a Super Bowl–style touchdown dance.

Any time I roll up to the front desk of a hotel with multiple room categories, a stay enhancement is the one thing on my mind. I’m not sure why I’ve become so obsessed, but upgrades have become my travel catnip, even if the perk is petite!

Traveling nonstop for the past 10 years, I’ve learned that a hotel upgrade at check-in is not a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Play your cards right and the chances are pretty strong. Just remember this golden rule: Never ask for an upgrade—the power of suggestion is a much stronger strategy.

Here’s how to work toward making it happen. See you on the club floor!

1. Spiff up

Appearances matter, so spiff UP for an UPgrade (read: You need to look the part to hang out in the club lounge, or on a suite-level floor). As important as it is for you and your attire to look pulled together, appearance is only part of the equation; non-verbal communication such as posture and poise also play a big role. So, when you approach reception, make sure your appearance and attitude are clothed in style.

2. Have a hook

Let’s do a role reversal for a second; put yourself in the hotel’s position. If you arrive at a front desk, barely utter a word, bark your last name, and don’t even feign a smile, why would the agent want to enhance your stay? However, if you waltz up looking sharp and smiley and tell them you’re there to celebrate a special occasion (of any sort), you’re going to pull at their heartstrings, because, after all, agents are humans too. Always have a hook to increase your chances of reaching hotel heaven.

3. Understand occupancy

If you’re traveling over the holidays or a weekend, know that many well-managed hotels  have employees whose entire job is involves filling rooms to achieve high occupancy. Traveling in shoulder season or during off-peak days (aka: period of lower occupancy) increases your chances of experiencing the hotel’s finer side (read: better staff-to-guest ratio, more pool/beach chair choice, more attentive service, etc.).

When occupancy is high during peak times or a conference fill, there’s only so much a property can do as far as playing room roulette on your behalf. However, other extra perks such as spa passes, happy hour comps, or a surprise fruit plate may still be available if the hotel is feeling generous and/or you’ve given them a reason (see points 1 and 2 above) to shower you with extra amenities.

4. Play the long game

If you’re keen to open a hotel’s Pandora’s Box of perks, play the long game. First, email your accommodation in advance to advise of your arrival time (or request an earlier check-in), what occasion you’re celebrating, and why you’re excited about your stay. As a follow-up, call them a few days before your arrival and share the same information to ensure it’s on your guest folio. Finally, if the front desk agent does not mention any of the items you emailed or called about at check-in, bring them up to ensure they are added into your stay profile (thereby alerting a third person of your plea).

While all this may seem a tad repetitive, here are the facts: Because hotels have many staff members, requests can occasionally fall through the cracks. With the long-game approach, you’re ensuring there’s no possible way your message will be lost. Investing 10 minutes to gain a 10th floor view is worth it.

Viewfinder Tip: Hoping for coveted access to the club lounge? Consider paid access! While most hotels are not quick to comp lounge entry, they may offer access at a discounted rate.

5. Suggest an enhancement versus an upgrade

Finally, never use the word upgrade. Think and speak in terms of enhancements and be specific with your suggestions. For example, if you want a room upgrade, inquire, “Do you have anything on a higher floor?” or “Does this room have a view?”

Alternatively, if you’re happy with your room and are trying to make headway into the world of hotel extras, say “I love the breakfast here, is it included in my rate?” or “I’ve read so many incredible reviews about the spa, I’d love to surprise my [significant other] with a hydrotherapy pass.”

As much as jet-set guests know how and when to suggest stay enhancements, they are also realistic. For example, don’t expect to overnight in the presidential suite if you book the cheapest room category. In the same way, don’t expect club-level lounge access if you’re not a frequent visitor and/or part of the loyalty program. Be realistic in your expectations and your upgrade hope.

Want more hotel hacks? Check out our series:
7 ways to MAXimize your stay as a hotel guest
What NOT to buy at hotels
Etiquette Rules for guests
7 hacks for booking the perfect hotel room in Vegas

What tried and true methods have worked for when it comes to hotel enhancements?

Expedia compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site, such compensation may include travel and other costs.

Trip Styler

Trish Friesen chose an unlikely profession given her fear of flying and propensity toward car, air, boat, train, and chairlift sickness. Thanks to Gravol, Sea-Bands, and cruise ship stabilizers, the reluctant—yet enthusiastic—jetsetter packs her bag once every two weeks to swim with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef or to sample the latest libation in Portland. Trish unpacks her suitcase in Vancouver, Canada, Eh! where she’s the editor-in-chief of, a travel lifestyle website for aspiring jetsetters. Find her moonlighting on Expedia, Fodor's, Jetsetter, and as a travel expert on TV while circumventing the globe with her entourage: a MacBook Air, an Olympus camera, and the biggest carry-on she can fit on the plane.

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4 thoughts on “Hotel hacks: How to get upgraded at check-in”

  1. Wow, nonstop travel for 10 years is quite impressive.

    When there is an issue at checkin, I now consider that a great sign. If the agent says my room is not ready, I ask whether I can have another room or should I wait for my assigned room. Their eyes and demeanor speak more than their words. I usually either sense, every room is booked and we will get to you when we get to you OR we have a sweet, sweet upgrade for you and it is worth the wait.

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