They say that nothing in life is free. But… that isn’t always true, especially when it comes to travel.
We’ve all heard the stories, those jammy people who manage to snag a free hotel room upgrade, and if that upgrade happens to be in one of the best luxury hotels in the world then even more reason to celebrate.
So why shouldn’t we be cheeky and try to snag a little freebie from a hotel too?
Never one to settle for inequality, woman&home reached out to a few luxury hotels across London to try to ascertain just who decides to give out freebies – and who is chosen to receive them.
We’d love to tell you we have all the secrets here, but sadly, they decided to keep the secrets to themselves.
Talk about hospitality.
But did we give up? Absolutely not. We are never deterred, and always determined to share with our readers the best travel tips and advice, like this genius flying hack that can shave hundreds off your trip to our expert location guides, like finding the best Spanish tortilla in Madrid.
Rather than wait around in the hopes of a PR-approved message, we thought we’d go straight to the source. The hotel workers. And on Reddit, there’s a whole thread of hotel staff who share their latest tips, grumbles, and unbelievable guest encounters.
We thought we’d use their experience by asking a simple enough question: How do you bag yourself a freebie? And is there really anything people can do to try and improve their chances? What they had to say was enlightening…
Will being nice to receptionists help me get a free hotel upgrade?
First, let’s just state that everyone should always be kind and polite, regardless of whether they expect something in return.
But now we’re off our soapbox, yes, many hotel workers agreed that being nice really can reward you with more than just good karma.
One verified hotel employee from the United States replied, “I give upgrades all the time to nice people. Bringing a gift also helps – could be as simple as a candy bar or treats you’ve bought on the way.”
Do hotel workers really care if it’s a special occasion?
Another tip many might instinctively think to do is to share some happy news with the staff, in the hopes they’ll add a cherry on top.
Honeymooners, special anniversaries, big birthdays are just some of the occasions you might celebrate by travelling. And the great news is many of the hotel workers replied saying you really could receive a little treat courtesy of the establishment… with a caveat.
Tell them way in advance, and not when checking in.
One worker explains, “Send a special request to the Front Office or Director of Sales explaining why you’re staying with them… If you stayed there 20 years ago, tell them that. If it’s your favourite hotel, tell them why.”
Helpfully, they also added, “If you want it to be believable, order a special cake or drinks… and ask them to put it in the room for you.”
Can I just ask for a free hotel room upgrade?
The saying goes that fortune favours the bold, and in some cases, fortune will take the shape of a hotel receptionist.
As simple as this might sound – or perhaps because it is so simple many won’t think of doing it – literally asking can sometimes get you an upgrade. This is even more likely if you’re only staying for one or two nights.
We spoke to Phoebe, a regular business traveller, and she explained that, after becoming a regular face at a string of hotels in the same location, she started getting preferential treatment. Including the offers of using up superior rooms that weren’t booked up – and likely wouldn’t be booked up due to quiet lulls in tourism.
A hotel worker on the thread supported this idea by answering, “At my hotel, there are ‘better rooms’ in each room type. Sometimes we let guests know about this or swap their room if they are available. You can try asking ‘Is this a good room?’ or ‘Is there a slightly better room?’ when checking in.”
Don’t use third party sites to book
One interesting thing crept up in a few answers – you’re far less likely to be upgraded if you didn’t book directly with the hotel.
So if you use sites like Booking.com or TripAdvisor, you’re at the back of the line when people feel like handing out treats.
Slightly expanding on that, fishing around for the very cheapest provider might not always pay off. Someone replied to us saying, “I can see what rate people are paying and I usually upgrade whoever is paying the highest rate.”
Which hotels are you likely to get an upgrade in?
There were a couple of different responses that seemed to align on the same message – independent hotels are more likely to offer upgrades than large chains.
One hotel worker answered us and shared, “I’ve worked at two small, upscale hotels that were not in a chain. I had quite a bit of leeway with upgrades.”
To put this to the test, we spoke with Lisa, a frequent traveller who has managed to snag a few upgrades by always researching the smaller, indie hotels and avoiding well-known franchise names.
Lisa explained, “For me, I’d rather get away regularly, having a few days here and there instead of saving up for just one or two big holidays. So, I’m always looking for cheap, last-minute deals.”
“I used to always stay in the big-name hotels – mostly because I’d get discounts through my credit card or work. But on my first weekend getaway to Paris, I remember booking this totally obscure hotel. When I checked in, I ended up chatting to the receptionist, and she upgraded me on the spot!”
Final tip: sign up for loyalty cards and rewards
Always stay at the same hotel, or the same chain of hotels? Research if they have a loyalty scheme! These initiatives can offer free upgrades, luxurious room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, access to exclusive lounges, and even free nights once you accumulate enough points.
We’ve looked around and recommend the following hotel reward programmes: