I find that a fax is better than a call because when you phone your luck is dependent on who answers, whether they have time to deal with your request, and whether they even remember what you wanted once you hang up. A fax stands a better chance of going to the right person’s desk and the piece of paper can serve as a reminder. It’s not a silver bullet, but at nice properties it seems to work more often than not. And it’s one step in the process.
I’ll likely also have mentioned my upgrade request with my reservation. So combined with the fax and a conversation at check-in I have a pretty good success rate.
It happens most frequently though when you
check in very late when all the other rooms might just be gone.
A single night stay, late check in, often means that they can give you the upgrade without tying up the room that they might otherwise sell to a higher paying guest. When the room would go empty it’s a costless perk for the hotel to deliver.
That’s when the great suites are most often given away — when the guest isn’t going to be around long enough to enjoy it!
Being entitled to an upgrade of some kind helps as well. If you travel a lot, focus your loyalty on a single chain and earn elite status. (Know the details of what the chain offers to elites when selecting a program.)
Even if you don’t travel enough to earn elite status, many hotel programs offer a low tier of recognition just for getting their co-branded credit card. The Marriott Visa comes with Silver status. The Hilton Visa and America Express come with Silver status. If you spend $20,000 on the Hilton Amex in a year you get Gold status. The Starwood American Express comes with ‘preferred plus’ status, which is basically Gold without the bonus points. The Priority Club program doesn’t offer status with their credit card, but even their top tier can be had without staying a single night — just earn 60,000 points in a year (12,000 can be earned opening a checking account, points can be purchased, bonus points count, points can be transferred in from other programs).
Taken together, these strategies won’t work 100% of the time, but they should help keep you out of the undesirable rooms and might just get you that great ocean view.