Some links to products and partners on this website will earn an affiliate commission.
Mr Deeney, it’s my pleasure to inform you that you have received an upgrade…
One of the questions I get asked a lot when travelling with friends is, “why is your room always nicer than ours?”. As much fun as just smiling enigmatically in response to that question is, doing so has encouraged some rather fantastical theories over the years, so I thought I’d share how it actually works.
There is plenty of advice online about how to get upgraded – things like being exceptionally well-dressed, devastatingly charming, and willing to bribe front desk staff, may or may not help – but I don’t think most of us are likely to pull them off.
My own experience is reassuringly mundane, and boils down to two key elements.
The first, predictably, is that because I travel quite a lot I earn elite status with some hotel chains, and usually have status with other chains too through having the right credit card and status matches.
Even if you will never stay enough to earn elite status, you should still definitely join the hotel chain’s loyalty programme. Just being a member can get you useful benefits like free internet and late check-out, plus it can help a hotel to ‘justify’ upgrading you.
Each hotel chain’s loyalty programme has its own policy when it comes to upgrades for guests with elite status (check out the details in our guides here: Hilton, Marriott, IHG, Starwood, Accor, Hyatt), but you can usually anticipate some sort of upgrade from mid-level status upwards most of the time.
That said, even with top-level status, upgrades aren’t always guaranteed and the type of upgrade you get can still vary a lot. In my experience, whether you get upgraded, and certainly how good the upgrade is, actually has more to do with my second tip than simply having status.
Contact the hotel before you arrive
It really is as simple as that.
I rarely contact hotels specifically for an upgrade, but I’m often in touch before a stay about something else (questions about facilities/parking/transport, requesting late check-out, letting them know if it’s a special occasion for the person I’m traveling with etc, etc).
Bonus Tip – Hotels want you to have a great stay with them, so if you are celebrating a special occasion, don’t be embarrassed to let them know. If there’s anything they can reasonably do to help make sure your stay is memorable, they are usually very happy to do so!
If I’m contacting a hotel anyway, I will usually also take the chance to let them know that I’d love a nice quiet room with a good view if at all possible, and I do put my status level (if I have status with that chain) after my account number. I never demand anything and always make sure that what I write is friendly and appreciative.
If you do not have status, getting in touch with a hotel before your stay at least flags that you are a member of their loyalty programme, and if you do have status it draws attention to that.
Some of you may be thinking that simply being a member of the loyalty programme and contacting the hotel won’t do anything, and that you really do need elite status too, or that I get better treatment because hotels know I write for InsideFlyer.
I certainly don’t deny that elite status helps, but let me offer some examples where I had no status, and from before I started writing.
Last summer I spent a weekend in Dublin with family and stayed at the (excellent!) Intercontinental there.
Rooms usually cost £200-300, or 50,000 IHG Points per night. I had booked using Points earned during a promotion earlier in the year, and didn’t have any status with IHG at the time. Even when you do have status, IHG hotels are under no obligation to upgrade Points bookings (although they do 80%+ of the time in my experience), so the upgrade was particularly generous.
I was sharing a room with my brother and his 6 year-old, so had emailed the hotel asking them to set up an extra bed, and for a nice view if possible too.
When we arrived we found out that both our room and the room I had booked for my parents had been upgraded to large, very comfortable suites with balconies.
A great stay in a great city, made even better by fantastic upgrades at a lovely hotel!
I’ve written before about how much I like the Holiday Inn Algarve, and one of the big reasons I enjoy it so much are the stunning views of the Atlantic.
I’ve stayed a few times now, always email in advance to request a good view and have never been disappointed. I stay in the off-season and don’t use Points because the cash rates are extremely reasonable October-March. Almost every time, I have been upgraded to a wonderful ocean-facing room with a balcony -regardless of whether I have had status with IHG at the time or not.
Just last week I was in Nottingham for a wedding and ended up staying at the Park Inn there.
No, not especially – but completely fine, and for 15,000 Club Carlson Points it was an absolute bargain compared to ~£150.00 for anywhere else remotely decent on that Saturday!
Club Carlson is the loyalty programme for Park Inn hotels (along with Radisson, Park Plaza etc), and I usually have Gold status either as a benefit of the Amex Platinum charge card, or due to Club Carlson’s generous status match (they will match any other mid-level or above hotel status to Gold), but I hadn’t been paying attention and my status had expired.
(Correctly) assuming that the wedding celebrations might go on quite late and involve more than a few drinks, I had emailed the hotel to request late check-out, which they were happy to grant.
The front desk agent who checked me in didn’t say anything about it, but when I walked into my room I saw that I’d been upgraded to a good-sized suite. It certainly wasn’t hugely stylish, but it was comfortable and the extra space was useful to have.
I’m not saying that contacting a hotel before you arrive will always get you upgraded, but it really does seem to help.
I’ve shared a few examples here (and have many others) showing that you don’t even necessarily need elite status, but again – that does help too.
By combining the two elements outlined here, I genuinely cannot remember the last time I stayed somewhere where I had mid-level or higher status, contacted the hotel in advance about something, and did not receive a significant upgrade.
Actually that’s a lie. In Vegas, the only thing that works reliably is to ‘tip’ heavily…