2-Minute Travel Tip: How To Get A Good Hotel Room

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I was almost tempted to file this as one of Tom’s ‘Idiot’s Guide’ posts, but having chatted with various friends since, perhaps the following strategy isn’t as obvious as I thought… Anyway, if you want to avoid rooms with views of the bins, here are some simple tips (that I regularly use personally) on how to get a good hotel room.

How To Get A Good Hotel Room

Does having elite status with the hotel’s loyalty programme help? Absolutely – but it’s actually neither necessary nor sufficient. The real ‘trick’ is even simpler: Ask in advance, and be prepared to pay.

Right, I told you it was obvious – but bear with me a bit further! Here are a couple of examples that will illustrate exactly what I mean.

I recently booked a room at IHG’s Principal Hotel in York. In common with many different hotels (and different hotel programmes), an ‘eStandby custom upgrade’ box pops up when you login to view the booking (also sometimes on booking confirmation emails):

When you click through, you are presented with a number of discounted upgrade options:

The problem with these eStandby upgrades is that you can’t confirm them in advance – they depend on availability when you arrive. They do provide a very good starting point for negotiating a confirmed upgrade directly with the hotel though.

So, decide which room you would like, then simply send a quick (friendly!) email to the hotel with a screenshot of the eStandby upgrade options and ask if it is possible to confirm an upgrade in advance. Of course, feel free to mention elite status if you have it, and if it’s a special stay let them know that too, but make clear that you’re happy to pay the same as the eStandby offer if required.

Occasionally, some hotels will generously upgrade you for free anyway. Usually though, you’ll get an offer back that either matches the eStandby rate, or is even lower.

In the above example, by sending just two short emails, I was able to upgrade a standard room (booked with points) to a Suite with views of York Minster for just £25 per night. The same can be done with cash bookings, but is particularly pleasing when using points from a programme (IHG Rewards) that doesn’t allow you to book upgraded rooms using just points.

In case you think this is just an IHG thing, it’s not. I’ve had similar success with all the major chains, and many independent hotels, for years. In fact, I’ve written before about how, even when booking with Radisson Rewards Points, it is possible to upgrade from a standard room to a suite with a terrace and Westminster views at the Park Plaza Riverbank for just £50 more.

Does it always work? No. But the success rate is excellent – and the worst thing that can happen is a hotel saying no, or asking for more than you are happy to pay for the upgrade.  The eStandby upgrade option isn’t necessary either, but it does provide a useful starting point, so is worth clicking on if you see it.

Bottom line

One of the interesting things here is that IHG Rewards and Radisson Rewards are generally seen as two of the less generous loyalty programmes when it comes to things like upgrades for members with elite status. But, if you are willing to ask, and to pay a little, fantastic upgrades are often easy to negotiate.

I certainly don’t bother emailing hotels before every stay – I don’t normally care very much what room I get at a Holiday Inn Express or a Hampton by Hilton. If I’m celebrating something with friends/family though, or just fancy a treat when staying somewhere nice, a cheap upgrade to at least ensure a good view, really can make a huge difference to your stay!

Have you got any other tips on how to get a good hotel room?


  1. P W Court says

    “….having chatted with various friends since, perhaps the following strategy isn’t as obvious as I thought” – Sometimes something that is ‘Obviously simple and simply obvious’ to one person isn’t to another. The thought had never really crossed my mind to use the standby upgrade offer as a bargaining chip.
    I do recall once getting a double upgrade at Hong Kong IC guaranteed before arrival becasue I had looked online and found building work next door and emailled to seek assurance that I wouldn’t be put in a room on that side of the hotel. I was a IC Ambassador at the time which may have helped.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Cheers P W – yeah, exactly that.

      Even if you don’t want to pay anything (and aren’t actually even asking for anything), hotels quite often take opportunity to impress when you get in touch to query something before the stay. An upgrade doesn’t really cost them much, but can lead to a very positive guest reaction = repeat stays, recommend to friends, etc.

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