Remember when getting a travel upgrade was as easy as walking up to the ticket counter with your biggest smile? Not so much anymore. Here’s the reality of travel upgrades from Money magazine. They’re not impossible – but they’re rare – and we have some tricks to help you get one.
Let’s start with your flight. Want to get bumped to first class? Your chances are about one in 100. That’s because there are fewer flights. To increase your odds of landing a first class seat, choose your plane wisely. For instance, a Boeing 757 has 14 more first class seats than an Airbus – so your chances are better. Scope out the seats before check-in by going to the airline’s website and plugging in your flight info. If there are first class seats available – go ahead and ask. You’ll have a better chance of scoring one on a Saturday – when fewer business and elite passengers fly.
Want an upgrade on your rental car? Your chances are better: One in 20 people get one.The usual scenario is that if the car you reserved is unavailable, they’ll give you a nicer one. If you want to increase the odds that that will happen – book a midsize car. That’s the class most in demand. You’re most likely to get an upgrade on Friday afternoon or Monday morning. Those are the two peak rental times – so the car you booked is likely unavailable. Here’s a freebie for you: At Alamo Rental cars, you can get a free upgrade from a compact to a midsize if you book through their website until December 31st. Go to Alamo.com.
So what about an upgrade a hotel? Your chances are very good: One in five! Occupancy rates for the first half of 2010 were at only 56%. That means almost half the rooms available weren’t booked. For your best chance at an upgraded room, stay at a business hotel on the weekends. Also, call the front desk and say, “We’re celebrating a special event, any chance of an upgrade?” Or arrive at the hotel after 7pm, long after most people have checked in. The front desk will know which rooms are vacant and available for an upgrade.