8 Ways to Upgrade Your Hotel Room and 6 Ways to Avoid the Worst Hotel Room?

K eeping up with the endless stream of articles which promise to impart secrets to you pertaining to travel about which no one else knows can be a arduously losing battle; but they also create a source of entertainment, occasionally speckled with morsels of advice which have reasonable value to them.

I bring to you a “twofer” today: 8 ways to upgrade your hotel room and 6 ways to avoid the worst hotel room — along with some thoughts and comments from me.

8 Ways to Upgrade Your Hotel Room

Starting off an article with the question “Why book an ordinary stay in an ordinary hotel room when you could be lodging like the BAMF you are?” already lost credibility with me; but this article written by Andrea Bartz for Refinery29 does just that. ’Sup.

Bartz imparts — cool, that rhymes — the good news that you absolutely can travel in style “even if you’re not a world-class jet-setter with money to burn. Read on for eight pro tips and tricks for scoring the best hotel room (and other awesome perks) every time you travel.”

Well, what are we waiting for?!? Bring it on!

1. Pick a New Property

With the reasoning that hotels may be more willing to offer upgrades and other amenities, “if you’re looking for above-and-beyond freebies, consider booking a brand-new, barely reviewed hotel.”

I am not going to affirm or deny that claim, as it could vary by property; but my experience suggests to me that staying at a new hotel property is not always going to be the best experience.

Think of a new hotel property as similar to the first version of software or the first year of a new model of automobile: there will be “bugs” — and I am not necessarily talking about the six-legged kind.

I checked into a brand-new hotel property in a suburb of Charleston, South Carolina some years ago. The climate control system was not working properly as of yet. Dining options at the hotel were not available yet; and there were no restaurants nearby. Most members of the staff were new and therefore inexperienced with serving guests and tending to their needs expeditiously. While it was not a bad stay, it was not an ideal stay either — and I did not receive an upgrade or other amenity of any kind.

Then again, I stayed at a hotel property in Montevideo in Uruguay which was brand new; and although that place had its “bugs” as well, I did stay for two nights for less than $100.00, which was a real bargain…

…so you may have more of a chance of snaring a bargain — to entice guests to patronize the hotel — than you might in securing an upgrade; but as they say: your mileage may vary.

2. Consider Hiring a Pro

Hiring a “well-connected, local travel agent based in the destination you’re traveling to” might not be a bad idea; but again, I would suggest that this is not foolproof, either. You also need to balance the cost versus the return on your investment in said “travel pro.”

Besides, you never know if that “pro” might be “on the take” — that is, paid to recommend establishments and services rather than look out for your ideal preferences and needs.

For me, a better bet is to ask members of FlyerTalk for their options pertaining to a hotel property. I have often read some of them mention members of hotel staff by name and to ask for them — if they are still employed by the hotel. You will typically get good advice based on the experience of a customer; and you might even secure a “connection” to someone at that hotel — free of charge, I might add.

3. Make a Call

Staff at the hotel or resort property at which you are staying may not only be able to match or beat any room rate which you might find via the Internet; but also match the best room option to your preferences — which is why you should call and speak to them via telephone.

This may be true — although I have to admit that I rarely call the hotel directly. In my opinion, this would be a better tip if you are staying at an independent property than one associated with a lodging chain — but again, your mileage may vary.

4. Let Them Know You’re Stoked

While informing members of the staff at the hotel or resort property of a special occasion to occur during your stay — such as a birthday or anniversary — is certainly not a bad idea, be careful on letting them know just how “stoked“ you are at the prospect of staying there. Pour it on too much and you will tend to appear phony and insincere to them — and that will do you no good, to say the least.

Simply be honest, as honesty is the best policy — but again, if you decide to take this route, do not go overboard.

5. Dress the Part

Delta Air Lines bankruptcy emergence Salt Lake City

Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

While you might impress the members of the hotel staff with the way you dress — I doubt you will secure an upgrade as a result; although you never know — it could also backfire on you.

As I explained in this article pertaining to 14 Tips on How You Can Prevent Theft in Hotels and Aboard Airplanes, “Do not dress for success — rather, be as inconspicuous as possible. Wear jeans and a T-shirt when checking in to the hotel; or nice jeans and a polo shirt if you are conscious about your appearance. There is no need to appear slovenly and unkempt; but try not to stand out, either.” This is to mitigate your chances of being a target for someone who may want to rob you. “Ensure that your belongings do not look valuable — for example, using a duffel bag implies that you are not carrying anything valuable.”

You can always dress for success when necessary — such as for a business meeting, for example.

6. Time Your Ask Right


Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

The “sweet spot” for securing your upgrade is supposedly between 4:45 in the afternoon and 6:00 in the evening.

My experiences suggest that that statement is not necessarily true — let alone absolute. If you are fortunate enough to score an upgrade, there are a plethora of factors in addition to the time of day which need to be taken into account: the vacancy rate at the hotel or resort property; the time of year you arrive; and the personality of the member of the hotel staff with whom you deal are only three of many of those factors to take into account.

Besides, we are not always fortunate to arrive at that “sweet spot” of time when checking into a hotel or resort property.

“But get there too late and you’ll get the last room available.” Sometimes that last room is the Presidential Suite — and yes, I have personally scored that without even trying when arriving late to check in. Think about it: if no one is in that suite late at night and no other room is available, employees at the hotel would be nuts to “walk” you to another hotel property.

7. Have Some Chill

Don’t ask for an upgrade in front of other guests? Why not? Don’t they know who I am?!?


8. Use the Hotel’s Mobile Software Application Program

I amended that title because of a hangup of mine about the original title; but that is my problem — 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

The mobile software application program of a hotel or resort property — or of the lodging company of which they may be a part — is where the Internet was years ago. One example — which is no longer available — was that you could have earned 2,500 bonus Hilton HHonors frequent guest loyalty program points simply by using its Digital Key. Remember when airlines would entice you to book your tickets at their official Internet web sites with 500 frequent flier loyalty program miles every time? Well, those days are gone…

…so this is reasonably good advice, as the mobile software application program may supplant the Internet the way the Internet supplanted the toll-free telephone number. Take advantage of it while you can.

6 Ways to Avoid the Worst Hotel Room

“You’ve been on the road all day. You check in to your hotel, head to your room and find it overlooks a dirty alley, happens to be right next to the noisy ice machine and is just across from the elevator.”

That dreary picture was created in this article written by Lyn Mettler for Fox News, who promises to “help you score the best room for your buck on your next trip.”

1. Book Direct

This is essentially a combination of the same pieces of advice as number 3 of the above list titled Make a Call; as well as number 8 titled Use the Hotel’s Mobile Software Application Program. Staff at the hotel or resort property at which you are staying may be able to match the best room option to your preferences — which is why you should call and speak to them via telephone.

For example, Hilton HHonors members can check in to the hotel or resort property and select their room from the available choices before ever setting foot in the door — and Google Maps has been overlaid onto their digital floor plans, so you can see rooms in relation to streets, nearby natural features and more.

This may be true — although I have to admit that I rarely call the hotel directly. In my opinion, this would be a better tip if you are staying at an independent property than one associated with a lodging chain.

I do have to say that my experiences suggest to me that while this suggestion might help, it does not mean that it is necessary More often than not, if I arrive at a hotel property and am assigned a room which is less than favorable, one of two things will happen: either I will be moved to a better room; or I will be given something extra — such as a discount or an amenity which I might not normally receive.

In my opinion — unless the hotel or resort property is completely full or the members of the hotel staff are indifferent to your preferences — you have a better chance of enjoying more favorable results in person than via telephone…

…but again, your mileage may vary.

2. Be Specific

“When booking your room, be as specific as possible when discussing requests.” As with number 4 of the Let Them Know You’re Stoked section of the above list, informing members of the staff at the hotel or resort property of a special occasion to occur during your stay — such as a birthday or anniversary — is never a bad idea.

Prioritizing what is most important to you is not a bad idea, either — but maintain perspective and adjust your expectations accordingly. It is better to not expect something and be pleasantly surprised when your request is fulfilled than it is to expect something and be disappointed when you do not get it.

3. Join Loyalty Programs

As a reader of The Gate — which is part of BoardingArea — please do not be insulted if I assume that you already knew this and therefore do not expound upon it.

Moving on…

4. Call the Morning of Check In

“Many hotel staffers agree it’s also a good practice to call the property the morning of check-in to make your requests or remind them of your preferences.”

Perhaps; although I rarely do that — but that is just me.

5. Time it Right

This is essentially the same advice as Time Your Ask Right, which is the title of number 6 of the above list — except that this time, the word ask was left out of the title.

My aforementioned thoughts pertaining to this advice still stand.

6. Be Nice

It pays to be nice and polite.

This is the single best piece of advice of both articles — advice which I have espoused in numerous articles in the past.

Treat employees of a hotel property politely, civilly and with respect — as you should do with virtually anyone else you meet in your travels — and yes, do it with a smile if you can. Use words such as please and thank you. You might be surprised how far that could get you — especially if you are sincere. Unless you are truly honest about them, compliments and flattery can be interpreted as phony — especially when you are not sincere — and it will show.

For example, when an employee advises me that he or she will be a few minutes before they can engage in a transaction with me, I will usually reply with “Not a problem. Take your time.” They are grateful when a customer is patient; and they will usually return the favor with something as small as a smile to fulfilling your requests — to perhaps voluntarily offer to give you extra goodies just for being flexible.

I cannot tell you how many times employees of hotel and other travel companies appreciate when they are treated like human beings — especially after being verbally assaulted by a customer preceding me.

This is no different than how you should treat anyone who is in a position of customer service whose job can be thankless at times — such as a gate agent at an airport.

Be yourself and do what you can to brighten the day of employees of a hotel or other segments of the travel industry, as it takes little effort and time to do so — but do be genuine about it.”

It also never hurts to politely ask if there are any upgrades or suites available, as my experience repeatedly suggest that you do not get if you do not ask. The worst that could happen is that he or she says “no” and denies your request.

Use local language whenever possible — even if you use only one word or phrase which is popular in that local language. That advice has been proven again and again for me whenever I travel; and it can be fun as well — especially when using that newly-learned language on family, friends and colleagues upon returning from traveling, as I tend to appear oh so…well…cosmopolitan.

Patience is a virtue as well. I cannot tell you how many times my patience has been unexpectedly rewarded because the person serving me at that moment was so appreciative that I waited until he or she was ready without causing an undue fuss — and that reward ranged from a simple smile to upgrades to significant discounts to free items and services; and all without asking.


Some of the advice in both articles is essentially the same — despite the fact that the topics of both articles are actually different — which is why I decided to highlight both of them in this one article.

For me, I reiterate being genuinely civil, polite and respectful — to everyone and not just members of the hotel staff.

Sometimes it is tiring to repeat being redundant repeatedly over and over again…

All photograph ©2007, ©2015 and ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

4 thoughts on “8 Ways to Upgrade Your Hotel Room and 6 Ways to Avoid the Worst Hotel Room?”

  1. DaninMCI says:

    These are all, sorta awesomeish. How about “Pay for a Nicer Room” or “Don’t book a Super 8 and Expect the Ritz (or trucker special on the jacuzzi suite)” 🙂

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Those suggestions would be too obvious, DaninMCI.

  2. Captain Kirk says:


    Good advice. I personally leverage my Marriott Gold status when I really need an upgrade. First off, I only do it once, maybe twice a year, and it is actually for a legit reason (not lying and saying it’s my anniversary at 5 different properties a year which I am sure some people do.) I do my best to contact the property via email, usually to either the GM/Front Desk Manager/Room supervisor/Concierge. I am honest about the reason, I state clearly what I would like and that I understand nothing is guaranteed but that I appreciate any help they can provide, I include my reservation number/details/nights of the stay, and I do it roughly two weeks before the stay. Asking too early they can forget about you or they don’t know the occupancy levels yet, and asking too late and the rooms might be gone. This course of action has yielded suites and corner rooms in some great Marriott hotels.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That is good advice, Captain Kirk — and kudos to you for being honest about what you want, as I believe that is the key for your success rate.

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