As someone who spends a good part of each year in hotels around the world—perks of my travel writing gig!—I’ve learned how to maximize standout stays in small and big ways. Forget looking for a property to provide the “comforts of home.” Instead, I like to turn my time away into a treat (where I can pick up the phone and order croque madame any time or sleep with 10 pillows cocooning me).

Whether it’s the “early check-in trick” or learning the names of the people who work at the hotel, here are seven tried and true ways I use to maximize my nights away.

1. Arrive early, stay late

The arrive early/stay late trick is elementary to elongating the time you get to lounge in your hotel’s lap of luxury. It works exceptionally well for “the overnight”—making it seem, length-wise, like a weekend away—as well as when you’re traveling abroad and hopping between inns every two or three nights.

MAXimize: If you have loyalty with a hotel group, they will usually oblige—based on availability—when you ask about extending your stay by a few hours on each end. If you are not part of any loyalty program, just remember, early check-ins and late check-outs are not odd requests. To prime staff of your extension, give the front desk a heads up that you’re thinking of coming early and staying late. While they’ll often say, “We can’t guarantee this request in advance,” they will at least make a note in the system, and most smart properties will try and accommodate the request. Whether you gain one hour or four, you’re winning.

2. Celebrate good times

Good hotels know that aside from lodging, they are in the business of surprise and delight. With this, you must tell them in advance if you’re celebrating something—think: birthday, anniversary, babymoon, night away from the kids, etc. This gives the property a reason and opportunity to gift you with perks they have at the ready, whether it’s chocolate-covered strawberries, a bottle of bubbly, a cheese plate, an early check-in/late check-out, or a coveted upgrade to the lounge level.

MAXimize: Call the hotel in advance and let them know what you’re celebrating! If they don’t mention it at check-in (sometimes information gets lost in the shuffle), casually let the front desk agent know how happy you are to be staying at their property to celebrate your occasion.

3. Know what’s what

Arrive educated! Don’t show up to reception with zero idea of what amenities are included and what fees or incidentals are extra. Do your research in advance to avoid any surprises, and to hit the ground running. (Read: Run to the spa’s eucalyptus steam room, sign out a bike for local exploration, or take advantage of the hotel’s nightly wine and appetizer hour.)

MAXimize: Look into the hotel’s perks and incidentals before you get there, confirm all the amenities you’re excited about with the agent you’re speaking to when you arrive, and ask for any insider information or best practices to employ during your hotel stay.

Viewfinder Tip: Use the “Do Not Disturb” sign to your advantage. Hang it on your door for some extra morning shut-eye, during an afternoon nap, or if you feel like being messy.

4. Talk the talk

When requesting an upgrade or a room change, or lodging a complaint, make sure you talk the talk. Using hotel verbiage such as occupancy, satisfaction, loyalty, or guest profile reinforces your status as a frequent traveler who is aware of your rights.

For example, when asking about a room upgrade, determine if the hotel’s occupancy will even allow the enhancement. If not, try a better room in your category with a more desirable location, a king versus two doubles, or more square footage. Just remember: It’s all about who you talk to and how you talk to them. Finally, if you’re not happy with the result of your ask or complaint, suggest a solution you feel is fair.

MAXimize: All requests should start with the person you’re talking to. If you’re unhappy with the result, escalate to a manager. For complaints, ask to speak directly to a manager.

5. Loyal = royal

When it comes to travel, unless you book the presidential suite or throw money at the hotel like you’re Kim Kardashian, it’s mostly loyalty that equals royalty. Furthermore, knowing the details of your loyalty program, and how it relates to redemptions or perks for your stay is very important as far as augmenting your experience.

MAXimize: Double check if you’re a member of the hotel’s rewards program or Expedia+ Rewards for complimentary nights, vouchers, or extras while you’re there. Alternatively, check to see if your travel credit card has available cash or points you can apply to the room, or use for add-ons such as hotel breakfast.

6. Ask and you shall receive

Don’t be afraid to ask for extras. In four-star hotels and above, minor requests such as slippers, extra conditioner, ear plugs, additional coffee, a pint-sized robe for your little tyke, an iPhone cord, or a pillow menu are often complimentary. Just ask. Forget your toothpaste or razor? Again, just ask.

MAXimize: Just ask because most of the time hotels have basic sundry items available (they just aren’t advertised).

7. Get to know the staff + tip well

Friendliness goes a long way at hotels where the occasional guest can treat staff poorly. Rule no. 1: Call them by name. Rule no. 2: Ask staff for their local insights. I often get to know hotel employees, and friendliness combined with tipping well (see my hotel tipping guide here), makes all the difference from a service (to you) point of view.

MAXimize: Get to know staff for local tips and insider picks.

Want more hotel hacks? Check out our series:
Etiquette guidelines for guests
7 hacks for booking the perfect hotel room in Vegas

Let’s build this list! How do you maximize your stay at standout properties?