|by Fran Golden||Cruises, Real Deals, Airfares & Flying, Airlines, Hotels, Rental Cars||9|
You may dream about going past the magical Business/First Class curtain on airplanes and into the fancy room-with-a-view in hotels, but how can you get there without paying?
There are strategies you can use to improve your chances of snagging an upgrade.
Loyalty to a particular airline, hotel company, cruise line or car rental firm certainly helps—especially when you gain "elite" status in their frequent traveler program.
Experts say a friendly smile and few kind words for the check-in agent also goes a long way when it comes to upgrades.
I've seen "pro" upgrade-seekers in action. One pal even brings chocolate as a gift for airline gate agents and flight attendants and says it frequently works in getting him a better seat — on one overseas flight I observed, chocolates didn't get him out of coach but did get him near constant attention including extra water and a cheese plate from First Class.
An interview with a fellow who tracks upgrades revealed you're more likely to get special treatment at hotels and car rental firms if you book directly, even if you pay the same price as at discount travel sites.
Another pal says he always books the cheapest rental car because they tend to sell out, leaving the car rental company no choice but to upgrade him.
We want to hear your experiences, questions and techniques when it comes to getting upgrades.
How did you snag a complimentary First Class seat?
Did you trade in that economy car for a mid-size at no extra charge?
What was it like getting that lavish suite even though you paid for cheaper accommodations?
Has your credit card or membership in an organization helped you get an upgrade?
How did you get the ocean-view cruise cabin for the price of an inside?
Are upgrade coupons online worth the effort?
We'll feature reader comments and answer your questions in the Trip Coach column in an upcoming issue of Budget Travel.
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