There’s wishing things to be true, then there’s making things come true. When it comes to suite upgrades, I prefer the latter. Few things in life are 100%, but by using any one of these seven tips, you’re putting yourself in the best possible position to turn a room into a suite, at a fraction of the price.
And even if you don’t succeed, at least you’ve got a great room, right?
2022 brings many opportunities for those who dare to travel, because as business travel remains quiet, hotel suites remain empty. That’s opportunity for someone who knows how to work the system to their advantage.
How Not To Get Upgraded
Sometimes knowing “what not to do” is equally as important as knowing what to do.
If you want an upgrade to a suite, and don’t want to pay for that suite, you want to try to optimize the “channel” you book through.
Bookings made directly with the hotel or hotel group, or through luxury travel agents who have relationships with the hotel are going to be upgraded before what’s known as “OTA” bookings.
“OTA” stands for online travel agency, and things like Expedia, Orbitz, Hotels.com and others are all “OTA’s” and hotels have a love-hate relationship with them. These sites can be fantastic for unbeatable deals, but because they take huge booking commission from hotels, hotels are least likely to upgrade their customers.
Tip #1 One Category Upgrades
Many hotel booking channels, like those through a luxury travel agent or a premium credit card booking program, such as Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, Chase Luxury Hotels and others offer a “one category upgrade, subject to availability”.
Knowing this is crucial, because even booking directly with the hotel, you might miss out on this offer, so any upgrades would be purely good will, rather than what should be done if a room is available.
To truly optimize around this “one category upgrade” offer, you want to find the room category just below a suite, and if economics seem ok on doing so, book that room. If an upgrade is going to happen, then only room category to send you to at that point is a suite.
Tip #2 Book Hotels With Points Upgrades
Hyatt operates everything from roadside basic hotels to truly five star luxury stunners in capital cities around the world, and on a few lovely beaches, like the Maldives too.
That matters, because Hyatt has by far the most generous and attainable 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 into a suite.
Suites cost between 6,000 to 9,000 points per night, depending on 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 read more on how to do it, here.
Hilton is another decent choice, too! 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 cold hard cash. Here’s how Hilton prioritizes upgrades, too.
Tip #3 Start The Conversation
Everyone wants an upgrade and everyone is going to have an angle of why they should get it for free. Divorces are as worth celebrating as engagements, so ultimately a suite upgrade comes down to a few tie breakers.
Making an early inquiry about whether any suite upgrade offers exist is a great chance to identify the significance of your trip — if there is one — and also leapfrog the other upgrade competition by offering to pay “something” for it.
Ideally, you’re going to avoid paying anywhere near what the suite costs outright, but you’ll be able to establish a special occasion, or why you desire the suite, and put the ball in the hotel’s court, to see what can, or can’t be done.
Tip #4 Timing Is Everything
Suites are a more premium and expensive experience and hotels do their best to cater to guests who book them, or elite status guests who get upgraded. That means you’ll hardly ever land a suite upgrade if you try to check in too early.
Late checkout is one of the most requested things in travel and trying to check in early is one of the easiest ways to kill your upgrade chances, since most suites will either still be occupied, or will be in the process of being cleaned.
Arriving on time for a hotel reservation, or just after can be a great way to secure suites which weren’t available just hours before. If that’s not possible, suggesting that you’re happy to place your luggage in storage and then wait to check in until much later is your best bet.
Showing up really late could work out, since even the latest of late check outs should be checked out by then, but it also runs the risk of someone snagging what inventory was available in the meantime. There’s no perfect science!
Continuing that upgrade conversation at check in can also be huge. Front desk agents often have incentives to up-sell people to suites — and get commission for doing so — so showing an interest can land 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 bumping fellow guests out of the way to score an upgrade. Shoulder season is the art of straddling between peak and off peak dates, so as to avoid hotels at full capacity. Off peak can be great too, for what it’s worth.
Just like airlines, hotels want to “oversell” rooms to make more money, and when it’s peak season, the easiest way to do that is to upgrade people to suites from regular rooms. By doing so, they can then sell that regular room again, to someone else.
This means the chance of random upgrades happens frequently when things are full, but the competition is also higher. In shoulder season, there’s greater chance of using these tips like booking one category below 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 halved the typical number of nights or dollars spent required to earn the best rewards and that means if there was ever a time to dive in, it’s probably now.
Groups like Marriott Bonvoy and Hyatt have published guidelines that suggest hotels upgrade top tier members up to suites, rather than just better rooms, so this is one of the best ways to continually achieve upgrades, if you can swing 20-30 nights per year, or ideally more.
Making matters all the richer, many chains are offering easy and fast status matches, or challenges, to offer people opportunities to earn status with another program, with lower requirements.
Statusmatcher.com is a great resource for keeping track of success rates for matching your current status to another hotel, or being accepted for a challenge. Having status with multiple chains can make you a free agent for suite upgrades!
Tip #7 Shorter Stays
Ultimately, suites are prime real estate for hotels. They are where they make their money, and giving a suite away for free can be really costly, if there’s a chance that someone might pay for it while a guest is in there “for free”.
This is where an unfortunate truth of business travel rears its head. Many of the best suite upgrades happen on one night stays, when you are alone and need them least. It’s nothing for a hotel giving someone checking in late an incredible experience for a night, but it’s a lot to give it to them for longer.
I’ve had all my best suite upgrades when I’ve checked in at night and left early in the morning, sadly. This included the $3600 a night ‘Tony Bennett’ Suite at the Fairmont in San Francisco. I’m still gutted I was only in there long enough to sleep!