Eight Secrets to Upgrade Your Hotel Experience – Not Just Your Room

Family travel is about great experiences with your children and spouse, not just about scoring a better room. You can spend an impersonal night in a cookie cutter room or you can seek out something special. Here are eight secrets on how to upgrade your hotel experience and make lasting memories without breaking the bank.

1. Location and Facilities
The best value hotel is not always the cheapest. Choose a hotel within walking distance of the sights you want to see so that your time is not wasted traveling. Our family always wants a pool to relax in at the end of the day and a good family restaurant so we can eat in if desired. We like hotels with character. Chicago at the landmark Beaux Arts gem, Palmer House a Hilton Hotel, is not the same experience as a distant and nondescript, suburban hotel. Location and facilities can make a huge difference.

2. Ask for Your Preferences
Many rooms at the same price are actually quite different. Tell your travel agent and the hotel what is important to you. Ask politely for a more spacious layout given your family’s size. Request a good view. Ask to be close to the elevators if desired or alternately in a quieter room away from the elevators. Need extra towels or special pillows? Say so beforehand! Good hotels will always try to accommodate their guests’ preferences but they don’t read minds if they aren’t told directly.

3. Join the Frequent Stay Program
Hotels reward loyalty and membership is free. All Hilton Honors members get late check-out on request. Gold and Diamond members get breakfast, free internet and room upgrades. Even infrequent guests can quickly build points for free or reduced cost stays. Most importantly, I find that frequent stay members are consistently treated just a little more like family than non-members by the hotel.

4. Remember My Name
Get to know the hotel staff and address them by name. You will always get better service from a friend. On any subsequent visit, using the first name of the front desk staff or the bartender or wait staff often scores little extras, a superior room or free snacks. As importantly, your own attitude changes for the positive when you stay with people that you know by name, your new friends.

5. Ask the Concierge
Locals know a place in more depth than the best guide book and the concierge is the ultimate local insider. Ask the concierge for advice and you will learn the best places to visit, the hottest clubs, and the city’s hidden gems. Have the concierge book a restaurant and you will get a better table. Look for tickets and you will often get a discount. Use the concierge on your visit to add fun and insight as we did at the Hilton Evian-les-Bains in the French Alps. Our daughter Shannon wanted to eat French Pastries in France. The concierge at hotel made her dream come true.

Sampling French Pastries with the concierge at Hilton Evian-les-Bains
Sampling French Pastries with the concierge at Hilton Evian-les-Bains.

6. Consider Hotel Bundles
Sometimes the best value comes from booking more than just a room. Hilton offers a family hotel package that adds internet and breakfast for four at a special price. Other promotions vary by hotel but may include event tickets, meals or parking.

In some hotels, to ensure the best experience, my family has booked Executive Level rooms. We get a slightly upgraded room but what we really like is the lounge access. This gives our family space to relax in during the day plus breakfast and evening snacks. We also enjoy the opportunity to talk with other travelers in a friendly environment. Compare your own options before booking just a room and make your stay more memorable.

7. Tell the Hotel About Special Occasions
My 12 year old daughter had the best birthday ever when everyone, starting with the doorman, greeted her by name and congratulated her. The chocolates in the room completed a great day. On our honeymoon and again on our anniversary, we let the hotels know about our special occasions. We were touched by the warmth of the hospitality shown to us and we enjoyed several little extras over our stays.

8. Do Something Special Yourself
Making memories depends on you, not just the hotel. Add some romance to the room by arranging to have rose petals scattered through the room before your arrival. If the kids are with you, a trail of candy or lollypops from the door to their beds will ensure broad smiles. You can order a fruit basket, a group of balloons, or a stuffed animal to be put in the room as a surprise. These small items are not costly and can usually be arranged by a call to the hotel. However, it is the little touches that upgrade your vacation.

Seek out personal hospitality wherever you stay, and you will smile as you truly upgrade your hotel experience.

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