Remember to be realistic in your expectations. If you're traveling to a chain motel where most of the rooms are pretty much the same size and configuration, there may not be much of an upgrade available -- though there may be a better view on one side of the building or the other. And keep in mind that availability may be limited if you're visiting at a busy time of year when the hotel is sold out, or if you're staying at a bed and breakfast where rooms are booked on an individual basis. However, it never hurts to ask.
Presumably, at this point you're prepared. You know what type of room you want, and you've presented your frequent stay card and your free upgrade coupon. Even so, make it painstakingly clear what you expect. Be firm but polite when making your requests; employees will be much more willing to help you, even bend over backwards for you, if you treat them kindly.
Consider the noise factor; look out for the locations of restaurants, parking lots and pools. The top floor is generally the quietest. You should also ask which side of the building has better views, particularly if you're facing the beach, mountains or a city skyline.
Tell the front desk that you want to see the room prior to checking in, and before moving your luggage. Be sure to address any concerns immediately before you get settled in.
Also, if it's a special occasion and you haven't mentioned it, this is the time to do so. Don't feel foolish telling them it's your anniversary, birthday, baptism -- whatever!
When traveling with children, make sure to select hotels that offer amenities for them such as play areas, nearby parks, pools, and most importantly, free meals. And for longer stays, you may want to consider booking a room with a kitchenette -- it will make your life easier and can save you money, even if you just use it for cooking small meals and snacks.
A lot of hotels have suites for just a few dollars more. Think about that if you are traveling with several people, as most hotels offer suites with two full beds and a fold-out sofa. Another alternative to paying full price for two adjoining rooms would be to ask about a junior room. This is is a smaller room that is generally much less expensive.
Editor's Note: IndependentTraveler.com is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, which also owns VirtualTourist.