The Getaway
Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Budget Vacation

One of the biggest misconceptions about travel is that you can't satisfy your wanderlust without a sizeable vacation fund. Most budget-minded adventurers mistakenly believe that thrifty travel has to be a bare-bones-minimum experience. The truth is, a vast number of upgrades exist, you just have to know where and when to reach out and grab them.


01 Choose Your Idea of Luxury

For most people, traveling is a way to reward ourselves. Everyone needs an occasional break from the day-to-day grind, and getaways are a sure-fire way to recharge your battery. Treating yourself to a few luxuries during your escape can make a trip even more memorable. Whether it's flying first class, opting for a nicer rental car, or indulging in a luxurious hotel room for a couple of nights, there are lots of affordable ways to enhance your travel experience without wrecking your budget.

Aerial shot of womann relaxing in a water bungalow Orbon Alija / Getty Images

02 Simple Rules for Scoring Upgrades

You may be surprised to learn that one of the easiest ways to secure free upgrades and other benefits is to be nice. Demanding, rude travelers or hotel guests don't tend to score upgrades; they may even end up paying more in the long run. Travel experts suggest that dressing in business attire and flying alone are the two best ways to get a free flight upgrade. Additionally, if your travel has been a particularly harrowing experience, tarnished by lost luggage and canceled flights, mention that to the hotel concierge when you check-in. They may waive certain fees or offer upgrades to cheer you up.

Business traveler arriving at hotel valentinrussanov / Getty Images

03 Loyalty Programs

If you plan to travel a lot, rewards and loyalty programs are worth looking into. These days, every airline and hotel chain has a points program. Not all pay off when you need it. Look for airline programs with a simple redemption process and options such as air miles that never expire or extra points for flying coach during off-peak travel periods. Hotels reward members with nicer rooms, plus upgrades such as premium Wi-Fi and free breakfast.

Breakfast in Room StefaNikolic / Getty Images

04 Check-In Flight Upgrades

A flight upgrade from coach to business or first-class is a great way to start your trip out on a high note. Many airlines offer upgrades for as low as $50. These low-cost upgrades are sometimes available during online ticket purchases, at kiosk check-ins, or by simply asking the agent at check-in. The fuller the flight, the better your chances. If there aren't seats available in first-class, ask about "premium" seats in the front sections and behind the exit rows in the coach section that offer additional legroom.

African American man holding boarding pass and passport at airline check-in desk at international airport wundervisuals / Getty Images

05 Volunteer for Later Flights

Airlines of all sizes overbook flights. But flyers who aren't on a strict schedule can pull off some excellent upgrades because of this. Although smaller, regional airlines have higher bump rates, major airlines are more likely to compensate passengers for the inconvenience. Most of these airlines authorize agents to hand out perks for travelers who volunteer to take later flights when overbooking occurs. You can score miles, gift cards, or airfare credit. Early morning or late night flights will tend to have better upgrade options. Avoid peak travel times on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons if you want to take advantage of extra perks or upgrades.

Crowd of people on railroad station lobby. baona / Getty Images

06 Hotel Upgrades for Special Occasions

Are you celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, a family reunion, a honeymoon, or another special occasion? Don't forget to share this with the desk clerk or concierge when you arrive at your hotel. You could score a room upgrade or other amenities. Don't be afraid to ask for simple upgrade options such as switching to a corner room, but make sure the desk clerk doesn't have a line of guests waiting for service.

Embracing couple standing in doorway of room in boutique hotel Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

07 Travel Agents and Advisors

If spa credits and complimentary nights are on your list of perks, it might pay off to use an online travel advisor or travel agency to help you plan your trip. You'll find options such as free access to amenities as well as complimentary meals and services. If you're not an experienced traveler, or you're headed to an unfamiliar destination, these professionals can help you book luxury hotels with the best discounts.

Mature man using laptop and credit card while he waiting flight at airport terminal Hirurg / Getty Images

08 More Hotel Booking Secrets

Hotels seek to fill rooms as quickly as possible. If the market feels a bit sluggish, they post deals on social media to incentivize travelers into booking rooms. We suggest that you start following social media for hotels in your destination city about three months before your trip to earn upgrades and savings. When making your reservation, don't call the 1-800 number. Call the hotel directly if you're looking for upgrades. An employee authorized to offer additional perks is more likely to handle your reservation.

Latin american hotel receptionist taking a phonecall Hispanolistic / Getty Images

09 Speak Up About Hotel Issues

Messy rooms, damages that could cause injury, and noisy neighbors are all legitimate issues you should report to the hotel management. Show patience, be polite, and calmly state your complaint as soon as you recognize a problem, not two days later. Report the issue in-person to the concierge or desk supervisor. Snap a photo with your phone to illustrate your concern. Be persistent. In most cases, the hotel will offer you an upgraded room option or add some amenities to your stay.

Angry Passenger Complaining To Staff At Airport Check In monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images

10 Car Rental Upgrades

Airport surcharges hike the cost of car rentals by as much as $6 a day, with additional fees added to the per-day rate. You can usually save money by hiring a rideshare service from the airport to a car rental site in your destination city. Shop around online and don't rule out budget rental sites. Reserving a rental car online may earn you a significant upgrade for as little as $3 more per day. Keep in mind that certain credit cards, professional associations, insurance companies, and retail club memberships can get you additional benefits and discounts with certain car rental companies.

Smiling kids Weekend Images Inc. / Getty Images

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