Here at Budget Travel we speak fluent French, Italian, Spanish, and other languages. But we’ve also mastered the phrases that can score you a deep discount, a steep upgrade, or some tasty perks.
Have you ever had a conversation where moments—or even days—later you realize, “I wish I’d said that“? Travel booking and airline and hotel check-ins can often feel like that, with so many questions, options, and price points to juggle. The travel experts at Budget Travel have been there and back. We’ve assembled a 12-point cheat sheet with a dozen phrases to help make your next travel booking easier, nab you some upgrades, and save you money.
“CAN I GET AN UPGRADE?”
Well, that question seems a little on-the-nose, doesn’t it? But most airline passengers never ask, and it can pay off. Ask politely, and if you’re met with silence, be willing to wait for an answer instead of backing down. Last-minute first and business class seat availability can mean you pay an “up-sell” fee (typically $50 and up) to get out of coach. The same question can work at a hotel, especially if it’s a hotel that caters to business travelers and you’re checking in over the weekend.
Airline crews deal with a lot of tired, anxious, and sometimes just plain cranky passengers all day every day. Letting them know that you’re willing to get bumped to another flight solves some major problems for them—and can result in your being moved up to first class just because you were willing to be accommodating. Note: It might also get you bumped, so use this phrase only if you mean it.
“I SERVE IN THE MILITARY”
We can’t guarantee it, but first-class passengers have been known to trade seats with military personnel as a way of saying “thank you” for their service. On a more predictable note, cruise lines will often offer a discount if you tell them about your military service.
“WOULD YOU LIKE SOME CHOCOLATE?”
This may sound a little precious, but handing out one-pound chocolate bars to the gate agents and flight crew gets John E. DiScala, founder of travel advice site johnnyjet.com, a better coach seat or upgrade about half the time.
“WE’RE ON OUR HONEYMOON!”
Our evidence here is anecdotal, but Budget Travel readers have reported that telling airline personnel at check-in that you’re newlyweds can get you moved to first or business class. Hotels, of course, will almost always respond with an indulgence or two. But don’t say it if it’s not true—apart from the fact that lying is wrong, you may have a difficult time answering questions about your alleged recent nuptials!
“I HAVE KIDS”
Hotels may be willing to upgrade you to a suite at no charge, and if you ask for a later check-out to accommodate the little ones you’ll almost always get a thumbs-up.
“I’M FLYING ALONE”
When airlines try to accommodate families who want to sit together, it helps if they know they can move your seat, and there’s a chance they’ll move you to first or business class, where single empty seats are more common.
“GIVE ME THE CHEAPEST CAR YOU HAVE”
We know, we know. When renting a car, you don’t really want to cram yourself into the cheapest model in the company’s garage. But if you’re willing to take the chance, booking the lowest-priced car available and showing up super-early in the morning (before most people have returned their rental cars) can garner you a free upgrade to a bigger car.
“HAS THE PRICE GONE DOWN?”
Yeah, airline seats and hotel room prices fluctuate, and there’s a chance that the price has dropped since you made your reservation. Call the airline or hotel regularly as your trip approaches and, if the price goes down, ask for a refund or re-book. (But make sure there’s no significant re-booking fee!)
“IS THAT ‘FREE’ NEWSPAPER GOING TO COST ME $25?”
Resorts are notorious for tacking on fees up to $25 per night for goodies you might assume were free—including pool towels, Wi-Fi, newspaper delivery, gym access, and even access to the resort’s casino. Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Las Vegas are especially known for these non-negotiable surprises. Your best bet it to ask about extra fees up front when making a reservation.
“I’M A RETURN CUSTOMER”
When booking a cruise, mentioning that you’ve sailed with the line before can nab you a 5 to 15 percent discount on your fare.
Yup, just remembering the 1960s should get you a 5 percent discount from most cruise lines.