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The Knack

Make Your Hotel Work For You

The inside track on how to swing a room upgrade, spa treatment or an impossible-to-get table at the new, cool resto

Whether on a throw-money-at-it honeymoon, a flirty weekend away, or a mid-week business trip, your hotel should be sophisticated, stylish and discreet, with the potential for mischief bubbling just below the surface – much like yourself.

For the savvy traveller, getting the most out of your hotel requires preparation and commitment, which will be rewarded with upgrades, freebies, or just envy-inducing service from the moment you stride through the lobby.

To help you become a fully qualified hotel whisperer, we persuaded a few travel insiders to share the tactics they use to get the best on offer, every time they book. With their help, you can make any hotel realise how lucky they are to be host to your charming self.

1. Be flexible

If you’re able to pick the day you travel, avoid the weekend, says Mr Tom Marchant, co-founder of luxury travel company Black Tomato. “Mid-week travellers get more perks – country hotels in particular are less busy, meaning you’re more likely to get an upgrade. And to improve your chance of hearing those magic words, ‘Here are the keys to your suite, sir’, stay somewhere that’s fresh on the scene: recently renovated or new hotels will want you to experience the best they can offer, as good word of mouth is vital in getting established.”

2. Be a better booker

The trick here is preparation. See what rates are being offered online and then – because you can’t negotiate with a computer – pick up the phone, says Mr James Wilkinson, travel editor of Time Out Australia and editor-in-chief of Hotel Management magazine. “Ask what price they have for a basic room, and then move up to a larger one – you’re less likely to get a deal on the cheapest rate, but if they think they’ve persuaded you to spend more, your bargaining power will increase. Your next move is to enquire what they can offer to sweeten the deal. Asking for a room with a bath often equates to a bigger bathroom, or request free breakfast, a spa treatment on the house, or complimentary Wi-Fi – all well within their ability to grant you over the phone. A free bar tab is a little less likely.”

3. Friends in high places

The general manager is the king of your castle. Get in touch with him/ her a week before you arrive, explain why you’re coming, and ask them to introduce you to the concierge who will be on duty during your stay, suggests Mr Marchant. “That way you’ll have made contact with the two most influential people in the hotel, who will, with a bit of luck, do everything they can to make sure you have all you want. And now’s a good time to mention any requests you have, too: if you really must to go to the hottest place in town (ie, where everyone else wants to go), the concierge will appreciate a bit of notice. Help them look good, and they’re much more likely to do the same for you by getting you the best table.”

4. Ask nicely

If something’s not right, don’t be unpleasant, says Ms Juliet Kinsman, editor-in-chief of boutique hotel portal Mr & Mrs Smith. “Keep smiling. Think about what you want to get out of your conversation – better service, a bigger room, a room without a plague of spiders – and explain, politely, that something has gone wrong, you’re disappointed that it’s not up to the standard you were expecting from them, and that you feel sure that the matter can be taken care of by… And always get a name. Staff will be extra incentivised to help if they know they’re accountable.”

5. Tip smart

Good concierges (especially those with a badge of crossed golden keys on their lapel, denoting a member of Le Clef d’Or) don’t need tipping from the off, says Mr Edwin Kramer, manager of Mr Ian Schrager’s London EDITION hotel, but if you know you’ll be relying on them a lot while you’re there, there’s no harm in handing over a note once you’ve made a connection. But there are other ways of making an impression. If you’ve taken Mr Marchant’s advice, you’ll have already made contact before you arrived, but do make sure you say hello in person as soon as possible. In our digital age, a smile and a handshake go a long way.

6. The write way to say thanks

Sure, everyone from the bellman to the maître d’ likes the feel of a note in their hand, but even better is a note of a different sort, sent to the GM once you get home, mentioning an impressive staff member by name and explaining how they made your trip. According to Mr Kramer, these billets-doux are often posted on internal bulletins and read by the entire staff who, if you happen to have another week left of your stay – or if you’re planning on returning – will all want to look after you hoping for similar acclaim. Not that you’d be so calculating to do it for that reason, of course…

WHAT TO PACK

  • Rimowa Topas Multiwheel 78cm Suitcase

  • Mismo Canvas and Leather Tote Bag

  • Aesop MR PORTER Dapper Gentleman Grooming Kit

  • Smythson Cross-Grain Leather Travel Wallet

  • Marvis Whitening Mint Toothpaste, 2 x 75ml

  • Foreo LUNA Cleansing System