People are always asking me how I manage to get upgraded on flights and in hotels, and given freebies along the way, so I’ve put a post together that might help…
Even before I had the Luscious blog (and people treat me rather marvellously because they’re keen for me to share their product or service with you all), I developed an ability to travel lusciously, even when I barely had a cent to my name. I feel that most of it is common sense, but considering I get asked about it so often, perhaps it’s not.
So here are some suggestions which you might find useful too – if I’ve missed something, feel free to leave a comment below so everyone can benefit.
Securing an upgrade on flights is much harder these days, as you really need to be a celebrity or member of the travel industry (or their family). But here are some tips that have worked for me:
- Become a member of the airline’s frequent flyer program: This is an absolute must – you need to be officially on the airline’s radar to even get a look-in for an upgrade. And if you’ve got some sort of title (Dr, CEO…) this is the time to use it so check your account details via the website’s FF section before you travel. If there are no VIPs on board to upgrade, it’s members of the FF program who will be next in line. Besides, you’ll start earning points and will be able to apply for a points upgrade in the future. Note: If you have a credit card, you should also consider moving it across to the related FF points-earning card, just do your research first to decide if it’s worth it (eg. if you have to pay $100 to apply for this card but don’t travel very often, is it really worth it?)
- Be flexible, and ideally, travel alone: Singletons, especially women, are sometimes regarded as more easily approachable if there’s a need to move seats around. Be gracious and say yes to letting a couple or family sit together and you might get a glass of champagne as a thank you. Or better yet, moved up to the pointier end of the plane. But clearly, if you are wanting to travel with others, this scenario isn’t very practical!
- Share the celebration: If it’s your birthday, honeymoon or other significant event, there’s no harm in mentioning it to airline staff. You won’t necessarily get an upgrade, but you might score a bottle of champagne and a little bit of fuss.
- Present well: If there’s a seat going in Business or First class, they’re more likely to give it someone who looks the part, rather than the beach bum who’s travelling home from Bali after several months, no? For one thing, the airlines doesn’t want to upset the people who have spent thousands more than you for their pointy-end seat, so dress to fit in – an elegant scarf, fresh white T-shirt, elegant cardigan and plainnavy trousers would be great. And if you’ve got smart looking handbag and luggage, now is the time to use it.
- Travel during quiet times: Christmas Day, anyone? Put some research into your destination to ensure you’re not flying into a big annual national event, or a business leaders convention (you’ll have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting an upgrade then), and hopefully you can find dates when the flight is quieter, and more the staff more open to upgrades. Also, if you’re travelling on a known business route, avoid Mondays and Fridays when many business travellers are on their way to meetings or travelling home. Mid-week is better.
- Buy the next best thing: Usually fly Economy? Save your pennies and stretch them to buying a Premium Economy ticket. You won’t be plucked from Economy and moved up to Business, but you do have a chance if you’re in Premium Economy. The same point applies for First Class – you’ll need to be flying in Business class to be considered for a First upgrade.
Here are some of my tips for hotel stays:
Travel at the very beginning of the season: You’ll still get the experience of the location and everything will be fresh and cheery, plus the weather should be generally great too.
For example, some years ago I wanted to stay at the famed Hotel Splendido in Portofino, Italy, and saved all my pennies to book the cheapest, tinest, closet-sized, single-bed room. But I was lucky enough to be upgraded to a grand suite with the most amazing views from the balcony in the very best part of the hotel, and I’m sure it was because it was the first week of being open and there were few guests staying there are the time.
If nothing else, I cherish this experience and have told many people about it, which works out well for the hotel – word of mouth referrals are the best form of marketing!
Travel during the worst possible weather season: Yes, this is a big risk so only try it if you’re game (perhaps best avoided for locations which suffer from hurricanes), but whenever I’ve done it, I’ve been rewarded by super-attentive staff, beautiful snowy vistas, and peace and quiet.
Many tourist attractions will be closed during winter but I’ve always found heaps of museums, galleries, restaurants etc that are open and keen for business.
Always be friendly and polite, even when things are not going so well: Being seen as an amenable guest, especially if things are chaotic, will be remembered, either on this visit, or saved into the computer system for future visits.
Be friendly and talk to the staff: Not only are they likely to be interesting people, you’re sure to gain some special insight into the hotel, the local area, and non-touristy tips such as where the locals love to eat. And hey, you might also get an extra little something when it comes to your hotel stay too.
Here’s a look at some books which will give you some insight into how to get upgraded to first class, secure a hotel suite when you had only booked into the cheapest room, be seated at the best table in a restaurant, and be offered that complimentary glass of champagne, and many other lovely discounts and free items along the way.
And, perhaps even more importantly, how to avoid being treated shabbily!
The official blurb:
In the tradition of Kitchen Confidential and Waiter Rant, a rollicking, eye-opening, fantastically indiscreet memoir of a life spent (and misspent) in the hotel industry.
Jacob Tomsky never intended to go into the hotel business. As a new college graduate, armed only with a philosophy degree and a singular lack of career direction, he became a valet parker for a large luxury hotel in New Orleans.
Yet, rising fast through the ranks, he ended up working in “hospitality” for more than a decade, doing everything from supervising the housekeeping department to manning the front desk at an upscale Manhattan hotel.
He’s checked you in, checked you out, separated your white panties from the white bed sheets, parked your car, tasted your room-service meals, cleaned your toilet, denied you a late checkout, given you a wake-up call, eaten M&Ms out of your minibar, laughed at your jokes, and taken your money.
In Heads in Beds he pulls back the curtain to expose the crazy and compelling reality of a multi-billion-dollar industry we think we know.
The official blurb:
The manager of an exclusive boutique hotel (who shall remain nameless) exposes the low-life styles of the rich and famous.
And we’re not talking just loud all-night bashes…
The anonymous author has encountered lavish drug parties, gorgeous call girls, naked guests falling out of windows, $9,000 bottles of wine, astronomical telephone porn bills, bathtubs of Evian, and on more than one occasion, dead sheep. And every dirty word of it is true.
This is a trawl through the decadence and debauchery of the ultimate service industry—where money not only talks, but gets guests the best room, the best service, and also entitles them to behave in any way they please.
See also: Air Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones
The official blurb:
New York City’s top concierge gives up a keyhole view into the luxe hotel rooms, private dining and dressing rooms of the ridiculous, rich and demanding.
Michael Fazio is the ultimate behind-the-scenes support man. Want two orchestra tickets to the Broadway musical that just won the Tony? Call Fazio. How about an upgrade to first class on an overbooked overnight flight to Tokyo? Call Fazio. Or a roomful of fresh hydrangeas—in winter? That’s right. Call Fazio.
From his early start as the harried and neglected personal assistant to a typical L.A. casting agent, Fazio took what he learned there and moved into concierge work at New York City’s Intercontinental Hotel, where he was eventually able to parlay his services into a large and successful business of his own.
In Concierge Confidential, Fazio reveals the behind-thescenes madness that goes into getting the rich and famous what they want, and shares some great insider knowledge on how to get access to the unattainable without making the concierge, waiters and other service people crazy.
The official blurb:
Flying the not-so-friendly skies…
In her more than fifteen years as an airline flight attendant, Heather Poole has seen it all. She’s witnessed all manner of bad behavior at 35,000 feet and knows what it takes for a traveler to become the most hated passenger onboard.
She’s slept in flight attendant crashpads in “Crew Gardens,” Queens—sharing small bedrooms crammed with bunk beds with a parade of attractive women who come and go at all hours, prompting suspicious neighbors to jump to the very worst conclusions. She’s watched passengers and coworkers alike escorted off the planes by police.
She can tell you why it’s a bad idea to fall for a pilot but can be a very good one (in her case) to date a business-class passenger. Heather knows everything about flying in a post-9/11 world—and she knows what goes on behind the scenes, things the passengers would never dream.
Heather’s true stories in Cruising Attitude are surprising, hilarious, sometimes outrageously incredible—the very juiciest of “galley gossip” delightfully intermingled with the eye-opening, unforgettable chronicle of her fascinating life in the sky.
More suggestions here:
- Cruise Confidential: A Hit Below the Waterline: Where the Crew Lives, Eats, Wars, and Parties. One Crazy Year Working on Cruise Ships by Brian David Bruns
- Flying by the Seat of My Pants: Flight Attendant Adventures on a Wing and a Prayer by Marsha Marks
- Plane Insanity: A Flight Attendant’s Tales of Sex, Rage, and Queasiness at 30,000 Feet by Elliott Hester
- Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by Steve Dublanica
- Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter by Phoebe Damrosch
- Kitchen Confidential, Insider’s Edition: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
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