So you’re about to embark on a fabulous vacation. You’ve been looking forward to it for months, and now the day is finally here. But there’s just one catch: you’re not quite sure how you’re going to get the upgrades you want. Guess what you probably won’t. But there are few strategies which can still make a difference.
The truth is airlines rarely if ever offer flight upgrades anymore. Most are paid for with cash, miles, status or some combination. But you can still ask and you can still dream. Here’s what you can do when traveling to make the journey a little better.
Join a loyalty program
This is perhaps the simplest and most effective way to get upgrades while travelling. If you belong to a hotel rewards program or an airline frequent flyer program, you can spend and travel your way to be first in line for upgrades. And even if you don’t get the upgrade you want, being a member of a loyalty program often comes with other benefits, such as free breakfast or early check-in at hotels and lounge access for airlines.
Be flexible with your travel dates
If you’re willing to be flexible with your travel dates, you’ll have a much better chance of getting upgraded. That’s because airlines and hotels practice dynamic pricing, which means during off travel times prices drop and the rise during peak times. The last few years have changed the predictability somewhat but prices do fluctuate dramatically. So you might not score a ‘free’ upgraded travelling during the off season but you may be able to afford a business class ticket for about the same price as an economy one during the high season.
Ask for an upgrade
It never hurts to ask! If you really want an upgrade, politely inquire about availability when you check in. We’ve seen hotels offer on-the-spot pay upgrades to suites for a fraction of the regular price and most airlines offer some form of last minute paid upgrades. One colleague scored a $400 one way upgrade to premium economy from economy on a long haul flight from Toronto to Taipei. Trust us, that was money well spent.
Dress the part
Conventional wisdom says dressing well can also help your chances of getting an upgrade. We’re honestly not sure this have ever worked, but we do know if you look like you belong and you know what you’re doing, then you are less likely to get bumped off of a flight or switched to worse hotel room at check in.
This one should go without saying, but it’s important to remember that being polite and friendly will always help your chances of being treated better. There’s a lot of randomness to travel and if you’re nice and patient sometimes you can be rewarded with little unexpected kindnesses by hotels and airlines. So put on a smile and enjoy your trip!