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How to Upgrade Your Next Vacation

Woman Beach Shelter, Green Robe, How to Upgrade Your Next Vacation

Ashley Jouhar / Cultura RF / Getty Images

What's the number one secret to receiving an upgrade? Ask for one!

The next time you travel think “upgrade,” as in “free upgrade.” Upgrades aren’t guaranteed, and some — those for car rentals and hotels — are easier to score than others. (Airline upgrades are the most difficult to get thanks to computerized seating and competition from elite and frequent fliers.) What’s the number-one secret to receiving an upgrade? Ask for one — politely and with charm. Oh, yeah: if you do get one, remember to compose an email, post or tweet thanking the company for its great customer service.

Airline Upgrade Tip 1 

Dress well. No one wants to upgrade a dude in board shorts, flip-flops and a ball cap. You don’t have to wear a suit, but if you look nice, your chances go up. They also go up if you have a title — doctor, reverend, judge — that appears on your photo ID.

Airline Upgrade Tip 2

At check in, politely and directly say: “If there’s any possibility for an upgrade, I’d like to be considered.” Arrive at the airport early. The sooner you get your name on the upgrade list, the better. Be reasonable in your expectations, though. There might be others who are higher up on the list for an upgrade, such as single fliers or those who have paid full fare. Finally, if you’ve been inconvenienced by the airline, mention it. If it doesn’t score an upgrade on this flight, it might on a future one.

Airline Upgrade Tip 3

Fly at busy times. When flights get overbooked, you might get upgraded from cramped coach to comfy first class as the staff juggles to ensure that all paid passengers get a seat. You can also volunteer to give up your seat if it guarantees you an upgrade on another flight.

Hotel Upgrade Tip 1

Again, dressing nicely works well, as does being a loyal customer. One of the perks of being a member of a chain’s rewards program is using points for a hotel upgrade. And, when you check in, politely and directly say: “I’d like to be considered for an upgrade, if you have any available rooms.”

Hotel Upgrade Tip 2

Research the types of rooms at your hotel. It’s better if you request a specific type when asking for an upgrade (as in, “I’d like to be considered for a suite or an ocean-view room”). Also, consider the timing and duration of your trip. It’s easier to get an upgrade if you’re traveling in the off-season and are staying for more than one night.

Car Rental Upgrade Tip 1

The best time for a free upgrade is when the lot is empty, such as on a Friday night or a Monday morning. If you have a confirmation number for a car rental, and the agency is out of your class of car, most car rentals will give you a free upgrade. Also, rental companies have fewer compacts. If they run out, you might get a free upgrade.

Car Rental Upgrade Tip 2

Look into discounts and online coupons. Sites like Kcarrental.com and CarRentalUpgrade.com offer car rental coupons. And affiliations with organizations like AARP can lead to discounts. Finally, always book compact cars. They not only are cheaper, but also are most likely to sell out, which can lead to an automatic upgrade.

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