There is the wish for things to be true, and then there is the making of things. As far as suite upgrades go, I prefer the latter. Few things in life are 100%, but using any of these six tips will put you in the best possible position to turn a bedroom into a suite, at a fraction of the cost.
And even if you don’t succeed, at least you have a nice room, right?
2022 brings many opportunities for those who dare to travel, because as business travel remains quiet, hotel suites remain empty. This is an opportunity for someone who knows how to use the system to their advantage.
How not to be upgraded
Sometimes knowing “what not to do” is just as important as knowing what to do.
If you want to upgrade to a suite and don’t want to pay for that suite, try to optimize the “channel” through which you are booking.
Bookings made directly with the hotel or hotel group, or through luxury travel agents that have a relationship with the hotel, will be upgraded ahead of what are known as “OTA” bookings.
“OTA” stands for Online Travel Agency, and things like Expedia, Orbitz, Hotels.com and others are all “OTAs” and hotels have a love-hate relationship with them. These sites can be fantastic for unbeatable deals, but since they take huge booking commissions from hotels, hotels are the least likely to upgrade their customers.
Tip #1 Category Upgrades
Many hotel booking channels, such as those through a luxury travel agency or a premium credit card booking program, such as Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, Chase Luxury Hotels and others offer an “upgrade a category, subject to availability”.
Knowing this is crucial, as even booking directly with the hotel you might miss out on this offer, so any upgrades would be purely goodwill, rather than what should be done if a room is available.
To really optimize around this “one category upgrade” offer, you want to find the room category just below a suite, and if the economy looks right, book that room. If an upgrade is to occur, the only room category you will be sent to at this point is a suite.
Tip #2 Book hotels with point upgrades
Hyatt operates everything from basic roadside hotels to true five-star luxury stunners in capitals around the world, and on some beautiful beaches, such as the Maldives too.
This is important because Hyatt has by far the most generous and accessible way to use points for hotel upgrades. By booking online at Hyatt.com, you can see instant upgrade rates, where you pay cash for a room, and can then upgrade with points to a suite.
Suites cost between 6,000 and 9,000 points per night, depending on the wow factor, but being able to pay cash for a standard room and instantly upgrade with points, even at the time of booking, is a game-changer. You can learn more about how to do that, here.
Hilton is also another decent choice! Premium rooms and even suites can be made available using points, which technically isn’t free, but it’s a chance to get into a suite without paying cash. Here’s how Hilton prioritizes upgrades, too.
Tip #3 Start the Conversation
Everyone wants an upgrade and everyone will understand why they should get it for free. Divorces are just as worth celebrating as engagements, so ultimately a sequel upgrade comes down to a few tie-breakers.
Investigating early on whether there are any suite upgrade offers is a great opportunity to identify the importance of your trip – if there is one – and also to skip the other upgrade contest by offering to pay “something” for it.
Ideally, you’ll avoid paying anywhere near what the suite costs, but you can establish a special occasion, or why you want the suite, and put the ball in the hotel’s court, to see what may or may not be done.
Tip #4 Timing is everything
Suites are a more premium and expensive experience and hotels are doing their best to accommodate guests who book them or elite status guests who are upgraded. This means that you will almost never get an upgrade right away if you try to check in too early.
Late check out is one of the most requested things when traveling and trying to check in early is one of the easiest ways to kill your chances of an upgrade as most suites will either still be occupied or in progress of cleaning.
Arriving on time for a hotel reservation, or just after can be a great way to book suites that weren’t available hours before. If that’s not possible, suggesting that you’re happy to put your bags in storage and wait to check in much later is your best bet.
Showing up really late could work, as even the last of the late checkouts would need to be checked out by then, but it also risks someone grabbing available inventory in the meantime. There is no perfect science!
Continuing that upgrade conversation at check-in can also be huge. Front desk agents are often incentivized to sell suites to guests – and earn a commission for doing so – so showing an interest can net you a suite for pennies on the dollar, compared to what it might have cost. in advance.
Tip #5 Use shoulder season
No, shoulder season does not mean weeding out other guests to get an upgrade. The off-season is the art of being between peak and off-peak periods, in order to avoid hotels at full capacity. Off-peak hours can be great too, for what it’s worth.
Much like airlines, hotels want to “oversell” rooms to make more money, and when it’s high season the easiest way to do that is to upgrade people to suites from rooms. ordinary. By doing so, they can then resell that ordinary room to someone else.
This means that the chances of random upgrades occur frequently when things are full, but the competition is also higher. During the shoulder season, there are more chances to use these tips like booking a category below the suite and ending up in a suite.
Tip #6 Maximize Elite Status
Earning elite status is easier right now than in previous years. Many hotel chains have halved the typical number of nights or dollars spent to earn top rewards and that means if there ever was a time to dive in, it’s probably now.
Groups like Marriott Bonvoy and Hyatt have issued guidelines suggesting hotels upgrade top-tier members to suites, rather than just better rooms, so this is one of the best ways to continually earn upgrades. if you can spend 20-30 nights a year, or ideally more.
To make things even richer, many channels offer easy and quick status matches, or challenges, to give people the chance to earn status with another program, with lower requirements.
Statusmatcher.com is a great resource for tracking success rates for matching your current status to another hotel or getting accepted for a challenge. Having status with multiple channels can make you a free agent for follow-on upgrades!