Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Elizabeth

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Checking into a hotel and finding out you’ve been upgraded to a room that’s bigger or plusher for no extra cost always feels like a big win. Some travelers seem to get lucky when it comes to freebies or upgrades. But if that’s not you, here are some ways to boost your chances of getting a free hotel upgrade.

Time it right

Hotel upgrades are nearly always at the discretion of management, but your odds of snagging a free perk when the property is booked solid are slim to none. Go during quieter times—maybe the off-season (or even shoulder season) or midweek—and your chances immediately improve. When there is more availability, hotels can often offer complimentary upgrades at check in. It’s an opportunity to provide the best experience possible at no extra cost to them. If you don’t land the upgrade, there’s still an upside as hotel rates are typically lower during off-peak times anyway.

Join the club

Belonging to the hotel loyalty program is an easy (and free) way to signal that you are a valued and potentially repeat customer. That will have sway if they have perks or upgrades to dole out. (The same is true when renting a car, by the way.) Having elite status with major hospitality brands like Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott or IHG definitely ups your chances of getting an upgrade—especially if you have top-tier status.

Note: Some credit cards are known for their generous travel perks. If you’ve such a card in your wallet, see if elite status comes as a benefit.

Request a corner room

Looking for a free hotel upgrade? This simple request may give you some extra square feet. Why? Many hotels are built so that corner rooms end up being slightly larger than other rooms in the same category. Another way of thinking about it: You will pay less per square foot than guests in the middle of the hallway whose rooms are at the same price point. This is a very subtle, polite way to ask for an upgrade without explicitly asking for an upgrade.

Along the same lines, asking for a room with a view is a way to ask for an upgrade without using the U word. This won’t work at properties where views trigger a premium category (like at beach resorts) but it never hurts to ask and it can end up landing you a better room.

Share a celebration

Are you heading to the hotel for a particularly fun reason? Maybe you are celebrating a birthday or anniversary or retirement? Or perhaps you’re revisiting where you got engaged? Call ahead and let the front desk know you’re there for a special occasion. Many hotels will pre-assign rooms and upgrades a day or so before arrival, so don’t hide your celebration under a bushel.

There’s another common scenario that may not be free but definitely still worth knowing about. Many hotel have larger rooms or suites available that the front desk can offer at a deep discount at check-in. There’s no way in advance to know if this will be a possibility, but if it is, it can be a way to score a very special room for, while not nothing, a fraction of the normal cost.

Be friendly

Remember, the first person you speak to when checking into your hotel is often empowered to upgrade your room. Front desk staff have to deal with a lot of guests who arrive tired and cranky, so being cheerful and courteous can make you stand out. An empowered manager who remembers your positive conversation might decide to do you a favor—maybe giving you a better room or free wifi or late checkout—even if you never ask for anything. Remember that a free perk is often something that other guests are willing to pay extra for—so if are lucky enough to snag one, don’t forget to say thank you. It may be just the ticket to a free hotel upgrade on your next visit.