Top secrets to scoring a travel upgrade

Cutbacks in the travel and hospitality industry have made it harder than ever to snag a bargain, but you can still get more for your travel dollar. Whether you're going by air, car or checking into a nice hotel, these tips might help you secure an elusive upgrade.

Top secrets to scoring a travel upgrade

Flight upgrades

Want to escape the crowded, cramped quarters of coach into the oasis of first class? It is possible, and your chances of an upgrade could increase dramatically if you follow these three cardinal rules:

  1. Book the right flight. Make sure it has a first-class option and book at an unusual departure time, if possible. The more there are empty first-class seats on your flight increases your chances of snagging one.
  2. Join the club. Make sure you have a frequent flyer card and join any business, VIP or travel clubs the airline offers. Airlines are more likely to reward loyal customers.
  3. Always be flexible. An airline that has overbooked a flight may be desperate for seats – any seats. If you are able, the reward for giving up your seat may be a free flight or upgrade a few hours later.

Snag a suite

Ready to move to the concierge floor or at least to a better view? Try calling the hotel directly when you book.

  • If the hotel is getting 100 per cent of your nightly rate, they'll likely be more flexible working with you. Plus, it helps to build positive, friendly rapport with the staff when you tell them you called directly versus booking via email. You may sometimes receive perks that become available only at the last minute, which aren't reflected on travel websites.

Should you book through an online broker or off-price site, although you might be benefitting from some deeply discounted prices, chances are you'll be left out in the cold as far as upgrades are concerned. Hotel staff are usually the best placed to tell you about the latest deals, since they have their "eyes on the ground."

Rental cars

There are only a few ways to boost your chances of an upgrade at the rental counter, but they do exist:

  • Book below the class you want (but be willing to accept the car you booked) and be nice to the rental agent. Kindness goes a long way in this day and age of hurried (and sometimes irate) travellers.
  • Asking about the size of the car or legroom may help, as well. In some cases, simply being tall (or wearing heels) can help you out of a compact and into a standard rental.

Although these tips usually work well and work often, they don't work every time or for everyone. Travelling during busy times and busy seasons definitely reduces your chances of getting upgraded, as does travelling out of a small airport or choosing a cut-rate hotel. So use your best judgement and be willing to accept what you booked.

Lastly, be sure to enjoy the incredible perks when you do receive an upgrade and remember – always smile and say thank you!

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
Close menu