Secrets to Getting a Free Hotel Upgrade

VIDEO: Find your best destination at a Ritz-Carlton.

So you've chosen your hotel. You've made sure it has all the practical amenities you require: it's in the ideal location, and it has ambience and flair at just the right price. And you've done your homework -- surfed the Web for the best rates, maybe gotten an online discount or a weekend special, even picked up the phone and called the hotel yourself to make sure it offers what you need.

Now, you may think you're done, but there is one final step that is essential to ensuring that your stay is a pleasant one: you must get the best room in the joint.

Nothing is foolproof, but here are a few tips for landing the best available hotel room on your next trip.

Plan Ahead, Arrive Prepared

There are ways to get upgrades and preferential treatment at a hotel just for being you. Join the hotel's rewards program and get credit for each of your stays; this is an easy way to earn upgrades, discounts and even free nights. You can also get these types of perks through your airline's mileage program, so ask which hotels participate.

Join a travel club for discounts, and seek out deals that could help you afford a better room than you might ordinarily choose. Try the Entertainment Book, which comes with a card that can save you money not only on hotels but also on dining, airfare and other travel-related benefits.

To find more helpful travel tips and money-saving deals, or to share your travel stories with fellow travelers, head over to our partner

AAA membership is also good for hotel discounts. And don't forget to check out our discount hotel deals for discounts on accommodations around the world. Save a few pennies on the front end and use the savings to upgrade yourself to a better room!

Tips for Free Hotel Room Upgrades

Do your research. Sites like TripAdvisor, VirtualTourist and MyTravelGuide offer honest hotel reviews from real travelers, many of whom offer details on what their individual rooms were like. Read travel guides, scan ads in newspapers and magazines, join frequent anything clubs, talk to anyone who has been where you are going and keep notes about everything you find out.

You should also visit the hotel's Web site before you go. Often there will be photo galleries or even floor plans that will give you an idea of what the rooms look like and which ones might suit you best. Hotel Web sites also will occasionally have upgrade or discount coupons that you can print out and take along.

When staying at a resort that has multiple buildings, you may want to ask the resort to email or fax you a layout of the property. Then give the property a call to describe what you are looking for (best view, proximity to beach, etc.) and ask for their recommendation as to the room or suite that will best meet your interests. While discussing the options, you can refer to the property plan and determine whether to take their recommendations or select another option of your own.

You may also want to obtain and bring along with you a brochure or a printout from the hotel Web site when you arrive. If you don't get a satisfactory room, explain that you expected the type of room represented in the photo/description when you made your reservation (or at least something similar).

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