How A Professional Traveler Upgrades His Flights And Hotels

Oh, it’s savvy.

04/23/2016 10:26 am ET

We’ve all been there — about to embark on a lengthy flight or check into a hotel for a few nights. While there’s nothing wrong with the seat we’ve booked or the room we’ve reserved, it sure would be nice to stretch our legs just a bit further, or stare at a view of the water instead of the parking lot.

What you’re craving in that moment is an upgrade. Not a major, world-class, uber luxurious upgrade. Just a slight bump — a seat that’s a bit wider, or a room that’s a bit higher. There are a few key things you need to know about making those requests.

Business class looks pretty nice, doesn’t it?

Take it from Karl Backlund. The young entrepreneur started a travel collective called Marchay, a company that’s designed to provide curated travel experiences for a community of high-end business and creative leaders. While the company is geared toward consumers familiar with luxury travel, Backlund still tries to offer his members great deals on premium seats or fancier hotel rooms. So he knows a thing or two of making the most out of a flight or hotel experience.


Backlund’s trick here is simple: “Never ask for an upgrade,” he told HuffPost. “Instead, you should focus on the specifics you’d like to have and ask for those, whether it’s a balcony, bathtub, view or high-up floor with lots of light.” Most properties will want to accommodate you, especially if you make the request in advance of your arrival. Hotels will often give travelers a courtesy upgrade of one or two categories, if rooms are available, Backlund says.

If you’re angling for a suite, Backlund warns you might have to shell out some dough. But there’s a savvy way to go about that, too. Check the hotel’s website before your arrival, as well as discount sites like Jetsetter, HotelTonight and Gilt Travel, to see if you can gauge what a suite at your hotel costs for the night. Then, negotiate down.

Some hotels even use higher-quality linens in upgraded rooms.


The chances of scoring an upgrade on a flight varies depending on whether you’re traveling on a domestic or international route. Backlund says that airline loyalty programs usually dominate domestic flight upgrade possibilities, so it’s crucial to stay loyal to your domestic carrier and build status. If you’re like Backlund, though, and select flights based on fare and schedule, keep checking your flight’s seat map a few days before takeoff to see what’s available and if there are any last-minute offers.

If you booked through a credit card that has great travel rewards, you could also call your credit card company to see if you have any points to put toward an upgrade, or if they have any deals that could take you from an economy to a premium seat.

When traveling internationally, Backlund spends some cash. “I pay for a seat upgrade at check-in to go from Economy to Premium or Business class,” he says. He’s found he can upgrade to a premium seat sometimes for as low as $100-$200 more, which is well worth it. He’s had luck bumping himself to business class for as low as $300-$400, but says he’s had significantly more luck on European, Middle Eastern and Asian airlines.

It’s sometimes worth paying a nominal fee at check-in, especially if you’re on a long flight.

While upgrades can always make your travel experience more enjoyable, Backlund’s key tip for less stressful travel comes down to a change at the airport: “Apply for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry,” he says. “It’ll make your trip easier and less stressful. Some credit cards even offer discounts.”

Bon voyage!

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