Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.
Here’s an ugly truth: Traveling is expensive. But what if you could elevate your hotel stay without spending a fortune?
Free room upgrades, complimentary behind-the-counter toiletries and leftover items from other guests could all be yours — if you know who to ask and where to look.
Even if you’ve already booked and paid for your room, there are still ways to get more for less during your next trip. Each business is different, so some venues might not be able to accommodate your request. Still, it never hurts to ask!
Here are some of the best tips we’ve found on how to get free stuff at hotels — besides the complimentary breakfast.
1. Tell the Hotel About Your Special Occasion
Are you staying at the hotel for your anniversary, birthday or some other special occasion? Hotels love to be a part of your celebration, so let them know.
“Call the hotel directly and try to get to the front desk manager, assistant general manager or general manager and ask if there’s anything they can do to help you make this an extra special occasion,” said Seth Fagan, general manager at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Pensacola Beach, Florida.
They might just surprise you with an upgrade or add a thoughtful touch to your room. For example, some hotels will leave a bottle of Champagne or a box of chocolates in your room if you tell them it’s your wedding night or honeymoon.
Remember, the key here is to share your excitement without sounding demanding.
“Above all else, be nice,” Fagan told The Penny Hoarder. “A courteous and thoughtful demeanor will go a long way.”
2. Ask for a Free Room Upgrade
Dreaming of a room with a better view or more space? Hotel staff often have flexibility when it comes to upgrading guests.
Politely asking for an upgrade is a smart move that could work wonders for your stay.
The early bird principle applies here. If you want a better chance of getting an upgrade, arrive at the hotel during non-peak hours. When the hotel isn’t swamped with guests, the staff may be more willing to accommodate your request.
“Hotels tend to be less busy in the middle of the week and during off-peak seasons, which could also increase your chances of getting that free upgrade,” said Steve Turk, owner and founder of Turk Hospitality Ventures, a full-service hospitality consulting firm in Miami.
Engaging the staff in a pleasant conversation can go a long way, too. Tell them why you’re visiting and ask if any complimentary upgrades are available.
Tips for Getting a Free Room Upgrade
Here are some other ways to score a free hotel room upgrade.
- Ask for a corner room: If space is what you crave, corner rooms are often larger and more private. You can say something like, “If possible, I’d love a corner room for the extra space.”
- Use your rewards status: If you’re a member of the hotel’s loyalty program or even a frequent guest, don’t hesitate to mention it. Hotels value their repeat customers and may be more inclined to reward your loyalty with an upgrade.
- Offer to leave a review: Some hotels, especially new locations, may be willing to offer free upgrades and other perks in exchange for a positive review on Google or Facebook.
- Ask for a quieter room: If you’re a light sleeper or just value your peace and quiet, request a room away from noisy areas like elevators, ice machines and large groups.
3. Ask for a Later Check-Out Time
While this isn’t exactly a free item, your time is valuable, so asking for a later checkout is a big perk many hotels are willing to accommodate.
During the check-in process, ask if the staff can delay your check-out time by an hour. Explaining why you need a later time without sounding entitled is key.
Just keep in mind that late check-outs aren’t always available, especially during busy periods. Respect the hotel’s policies and be understanding if they can’t accommodate your request.
4. Ask Hotel Staff for Toiletries and Other Items
We’re all familiar with the little bottles of shampoo and the bar of soap that are complimentary at almost every hotel. But did you know that hotels often keep a stash of less-common toiletries and other essentials behind the reception desk?
If you forgot something or need more supplies, don’t hesitate to ask! Some of the items you might be able to score include:
- Razors and shaving cream
- Tampons and pads
- First aid supplies, like bandaids
- Sewing kits
- Boxes of laundry detergent
Some hotels offer other items like lip balm, makeup remover, nail clippers and tweezers. Just don’t overdo it by requesting a year’s supply of toothpaste. Only ask for what you genuinely need to avoid inconveniencing the hotel staff.
Some hotels can offer you more than just toiletries. Staff are likely to lend you a phone charger or an umbrella if you left yours at home. We’ve also heard about hotels lending guests clothes left behind by other guests.
5. Explore Hotel Buy Nothing Groups
Buy Nothing and Freecycle groups are online communities where people give away items they no longer need to others who could use them.
Believe it or not, these communities have expanded to hotels, where guests leave behind toiletries, food, laundry detergent and even clothing for others to use.
Disney World Pixies Freecycle is one such group on Facebook.
People visiting Walt Disney World or staying at a Disney resort post a description and a photo of the items they’re leaving behind, along with details on where to find it. Most people leave free stuff in the laundry room or outside their room.
You never know what you’ll find in these Buy Nothing groups. One traveler in the Disney World group left behind 3 pounds of apples, 2 pounds of baby carrots, an unopened gallon of water and a mostly full bottle of ketchup in her resort’s laundry room.
Just remember: You’ll need to act fast before someone else claims the items — or before housekeeping scoops them up.
Tips for Buy Nothing Groups
It’s also important to note that while Buy Nothing hotel groups exist (they were even mentioned in a Wall Street Journal article) they’re not very widespread.
“In my experience, these programs usually take the form of book exchanges, magazine baskets or communal toy bins in family-oriented resorts,” Turk told The Penny Hoarder.
Interested in paying it forward during your next stay?
Before you check out, gather any unopened toiletries or items you won’t be taking with you. Leave a note indicating these items are up for grabs and post about it in a local Buy Nothing or Freecycle page.
Just keep this in mind.
“Due to health and sanitation concerns, especially in the wake of the pandemic, some hotels may be reluctant to encourage such practices,” Turk said.