Travel Therapy’s Top 10 Tips for Scoring Travel Upgrades & Freebies!

I was on NBC’s TODAY show recently giving my Travel Therapy travel tips for the best ways to get travel upgrades and freebies. From better airline seats and free drinks, to upgrading your hotel room and rental car, these simple tips can help save you hundreds of dollars on your next trip.


1) Ask Nicely: My number one tip for getting travel upgrades is so simple, just ask nicely. It’s all in your attitude and HOW you ask, even the tone of your voice matters. A genuine smile, some kind words, along with a positive attitude and being sincere, is what people will respond to and help you if they can. The number one way to get shut down, acting entitled, like you “deserve” an upgrade. Also don’t ask for something ridiculous, start small, and be grateful and you’ll often get even more.

2) Explain Why You’re Asking: When asking for an upgrade share if you have a special reason for asking, a birthday, anniversary, funeral, special event, anything unique, because people react to personal stories.  But be honest about what you’re asking, don’t make something up, that’s just bad travel Karma!

3) Join Free Loyalty Programs: Many travel brands have loyalty programs that are free to sign up for and just by being a member you can score some great freebies. For example with hotels, this can include everything from free room upgrades, to free wifi, newspapers, happy-hours, etc. It only takes a minute to sign up, but can pay off over and over again in a big way.

4) Mention Your Brand Loyalty: When asking for an upgrade always mention if you are a loyal member, to an airline, hotel, rental car or restaurant, talking about how much you love the brand ( If you genuinely do). People often appreciate hearing that and will want to make sure you come back again. On the flip side, if you’ve never experienced the brand before, mention it’s your first time, and you’re excited to try it and people will often offer upgrades and special freebies to make sure your first experience is a good one.

5) Ask If Any Discounts Are Available: If you have a hard time asking for something for free instead ask if there’s an upgrade available for a discount or any special deals. People will often appreciate you offering to pay ( and not acting entitled) and will end up giving you the free upgrade. If free upgrades aren’t an option they can still offer you some special deals that aren’t publicized.

6) Book Direct: With hotels and rental cars you have a much better chance to get upgraded if you book directly with the brand, because they can immediately see your reservation with them and not have to deal with a third party booking.

7) Ask for Help Instead of Complaining: This goes back to tip #1 and how you treat people. If, for example, you’re on a flight and your entertainment system  isn’t working, or something is wrong with your seat cushion or recline, and there’s no seat for you to move to, instead of getting upset simply ask nicely if there’s anything they can do for you. Suggest they can compensate you with complimentary drinks, a meal, or airline miles, and I’ve seen them do this gladly.

8) Upgrade Airline Seats Early: It’s getting harder to get free upgrades on airline seats because of automated systems. The days of bringing flight crews chocolates and treats in hopes for a better seat are disappearing. Now, it’s all about the timing. You want to ask for any free upgrades before you travel and get to the gate where things are often hectic. If you have a special story or circumstance call the airline ahead of time or go to the customer service counter at the airport and explain your situation, mentioning if you’re a loyal member.

9) Dress for Success: Looking polished and professional always helps in any situation where you’re asking for something because you’re taken more seriously. However, there’s one outfit that beats them all…a military uniform. If you are serving our country and wearing a uniform people will often bend over backwards to help you, as they should.

10) Don’t Be Afraid to Ask: It only takes a second to ask nicely if there are any upgrades available. You have nothing to lose and so much to potentially gain!

Safe travels!