There’s some simple ways you can end up in the room facing the river rather than the car park.
Act the part
The hotel isn’t going to offer the penthouse to a bloke who looks like he’s never seen the inside of one before. A little bit of style goes a long way — you’re a much better chance of scoring that upgrade if you’re well dressed, speak confidently, and are friendly to the receptionist . . . especially if they’ve just spent the afternoon fending off condescending guest after condescending guest.
Every major chain has a loyalty programme and it pays to join up, especially if you’re travelling regularly for business — hotels are much keener to upgrade guests with a proven loyalty to the brand rather than someone who’s been penny-pinching off discount sites like Expedia or Trivago. FYI, the travel industry hates those online travel agencies who skin a commission off the room rate without lifting a finger, so when ‘Booking.com’ pops up on a reservation, that’s a one-way ticket to a street-level room with a view of the carpark.
Travelling for a wedding anniversary or a birthday or a graduation or a honeymoon or any other special occasion? Let the hotel know — preferably at the time of booking — and there’s a sneaky chance you can look forward to an bottle of bubbly and a box of chocolates upon arrival. Even a sneaky white lie here and there doesn’t go astray. It can’t hurt to ask, right?
Offer a review
Don’t be scared to be ‘that guy’ who leverages the offer (or threat) of an online review at the front desk through a subtle reminder of their TripAdvisor rating or their reviews on Google. The hotel will be keen to keep you happy if you come across as someone who’s prepared to take the time to provide feedback (and broadcast that feedback to the world) — and no bad review ever started with “Firstly we were upgraded to the presidential suite . . .”
Check in late
The front desk doesn’t know how many last-minute cancellations and walk-ups they’re going to receive if you rock up at lunch time . . . but by 5pm, they’ll have a much clearer idea if there are a few top-end rooms that will remain empty unless they start handing out upgrades. Plus, the receptionist is sure to be in a more charitable mood later in the afternoon once the queue of impatient arrivals has subsided.