As a seasoned traveler and luxury hotel lovin' queen, one of my most frequent questions is, "Cherie, how do you nab all these fab hotel room upgrades?" A huge part of From Nada to Prada's brand message is to inspire others to live a glamorous life without the Prada price tag, especially in the world of luxury hotels. Scoring a free hotel room upgrade isn't a pipe dream. I'll give you practical tips for that sought out upgraded room/suite.
1. Just Ask! I always say, "don't ask, don't get." This is the simplest technique, requiring little to no work on your part except simply mustering up the confidence to ask the front desk - they hold the keys to the land of upgraded rooms :) Be kind and don't be tacky and whip out the $20 trick. That is so 2000 late. We're not in Vegas.
2. They Say It's Your Birthday! Now I'm not saying make up an occasion. But if you're traveling for a birthday, anniversary, graduation, or even just your first time visiting a city, let the hotel know. Hotels love being part of a celebration and may just surprise you with a bottle of bubbly to get your shindig off to a great start. Boutique hotels (my favorite) are known for providing unique and curated welcome amenities. At the Quin, when our dear friend Holly Breuche managed it, for Gregory's birthday she surprised us with the Quin's opulent 17th floor penthouse, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, and an absolutely stunning and mouthwatering cake from Trattoria Dell'Arte. You can read more (and salivate) about it here.
3. Become A Regular. Loyalty Programs are not something to be sniffed at. Below are a list of loyalty programs that are worth investigating. Personally, I use Relais Chateaux and Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
Starwood Preferred Guest by Starwood hotels, which includes St Regis, W, and The Luxury Collection hotels
World of Hyatt by the Hyatt group, which includes Park Hyatt and Andaz hotels
Hilton HHonors by the Hilton group, including the Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotels
Marriott Rewards by the Marriott group, including The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels
Sirius by the Jumeirah hotel group
President’s Club by the Fairmont hotel group
IHG Rewards Club by the IHG group, including Intercontinental hotels, Kimpton etc
Leaders Club by the Leading Hotels of the World
4. Stay During The Low Season. This is a no brainer. If you stay during a convention, high season, or when a large wedding is being held, there is a low chance of getting an upgrade.
5. Use That Credit Card. Use your credit card that has a built-in upgrade benefit. The two that immediately come to mind are Visa Signature card and American Express. Visa Signature membership gives you access to the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection, a network of over 800 upscale hotels worldwide, and guaranteed upgrade upon arrival and other fun amenities tailored by the hotel.
6. The Hotel Manager Is Your New Friend. I can't tell you how many of my hospitality friends are hotel managers --- or Sales and Marketing directors. When you do reach out, make a genuine connection. Not just I-want-a-VIP-stay outreach. Inauthenticity reeks and WILL show. Write an email or call them saying how excited you are about your stay, the reason for your stay, and inquire about hotel amenities and available room upgrades. Also, it doesn't hurt to get to know Concierge too :) Just throwing that out there.
7. Stay At A Brand New Hotel. To get the word around, most new properties sell their luxury rooms for a lower price to dip their toes in. They want to start building their loyalty and are more willing to offer upgrades to get the public to talk about them.
8. Complain. But about a legitimate problem. I'll give an example. Our favorite hotel in NYC, The Quin, has a gorgeous, state of the art gym that Gregory regularly uses. One day, all of their stationary bikes were not working, interfering with Gregory's workout. We immediately confronted Vincent Vienne, the hotel manager at the time (and a dear friend, of course lol), and he profusely apologized, informing us that new equipment was already on the way to be shipped and proceeded to give Gregory a free week's pass at a luxury gym nearby. Voila! Not to mention, later that day a bottle of red and strawberries were delivered to our room. Intuitive customer service at its finest!
9. Book directly! As a luxury travel designer, I find it annoying when people naively use rebooking sites, essentially giving their travel power away. Cut out the middle man, it gives you more clout. Personal touch and customer service are thrown out the window the moment you start using sites like bookings.com and hotels.com unless you make the effort to contact the hotel, say the general manager, like I mentioned in #6. Frankly, if you book directly with the hotel, you will find you are given far better treatment because hotels prefer to get paid in full and not shell out a commission to third party booking sites.
10. Sharing Is Caring. Share on your social media platforms. It's about time for hotels to get social media savvy and all the best ones are. Did the hotel surprise you with say, chocolates, flowers, or even a card? Snap it for the 'gram and Facebook. The hotel WILL see it, delightedly, and continue to up their game.