Life Travel How to get free travel perks everywhere
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How to get free travel perks everywhere

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Everyone loves free stuff and, apparently, Australians are all too happy to break the rules to get it.

According to a new survey from travel bookings site lastminute.com.au, about 16 per cent of Australians admit to having spun a white lie in order to score an upgrade into business or first class.

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Almost half of those people (44 per cent) said it worked.

Same of the more favoured lies in rotation included: claiming to be newlyweds on honeymoon, pretending to be afraid of flying, claiming to be a bride enroute to her own wedding, pretending to be pregnant with morning sickness and faking a severe leg injury – for the entire flight.

Fortunately, there’s an easier way to get what you want.

Here are some of tips from those in the know about how to go about it.

1. Become a frequent flyer

Building frequent flyer points is a great way to ensure a flight upgrade without having to pay more money. There are credit card companies that offer frequent flyer points for customers so you can earn an upgrade while you’re paying the bills.

2. Get to the airport early

It’s hard to be first in line for a flight upgrade when you’re running late, dragging your bag through the airport, screaming, “wait for me, wait for me”. Getting in line early means you can ask for the upgrade first and be considered first if one is available.

3. Dress the part

If you want to fly Business class, lastminute.com.au says you have to dress nicely to be considered. That is, leave your trackie dacks in your suitcase (or in your carry-on for when you’re on the plane) and wear something a bit dressier. There are certain dress standards people must meet in business class so dressing nicely means you’ll be one step closer to having a seat that fully reclines!

4. Flaunt your followers

How do you think travel bloggers get to go to all those cool places? If your career affords you some kind of large social media following, make sure you subtly let your hotel know that.

Include your Instagram or Twitter account in your email signature and use that to book your stay. Or be upfront and say you are an “influencer” and are wondering if there are any special experiences you could share with your followers. It’s shameless, but it’s the norm these days.

NB: Make sure your follower tally is actually impressive, and not just your Mum, Dad and five high school buddies.

5. Travel at off-peak times

There are more opportunities to get a flight upgrade if you fly off-peak, so check out the best time to fly. Booking flights in the middle of the week instead of the weekend is a good idea. Peak time includes flying on Fridays and return on Sundays. Flying after January 7, during September, the first two weeks of November, or the first two weeks of December are also good times to fly.

6. Be polite

Whether it’s asking for a hotel upgrade to a swishier room, or for a flight change, being polite is the best way to go about it. Flight Centre says being nice to your travel agent, hotel staff and airline crew is key. They’re much more likely to offer you an upgrade or extra perks if you are being friendly and treating them with respect.

7. Special occasions – mention them

If you’re going on your honeymoon, celebrating an anniversary or making a trip for a special occasion – make sure you let your airline and hotel know. You might just receive a bottle of bubbly on check-in or a flight upgrade.

8. Just ask

Lastminute.com.au spokesperson Kate Norris says “you never know” when being polite and upfront could pay off.

9. Tease your loyalty

If you’re staying at a hotel and want to sample some of the perks they usually reserve for their return guests, tell them you’re a member of another company’s loyalty program and are considering making the switch. They will inevitably try to win you over.

Additionally, if you’re already a loyal customer of the hotel or airline, make sure you let everyone know in a subtle way e.g. “I love how you always give me a great view every time I stay here”. They will go the extra mile to ensure you come back again next time.

10. Pre-order plane meals

Gillian Tans, COO at Booking.com, suggests skipping the meal queue by pre-ordering your meals before you leave. Consider ordering a veggie or gluten-free meal as a ‘special meal’ will invariably mean you will be served first. This means you can relax/go to sleep while everyone else is still being served their food.

11. Complain (when appropriate)

When done politely and respectfully, raising any issues you’ve had during your stay at a hotel (or a previous stay) can lead to upgrades or freebies. Of course, ensure your issue is legitimate before you raise it and be firm but considerate.

Similarly, call the hotel ahead of time and ask them about a negative review you’ve seen and whether the issue in question has persisted (e.g. “Are the sea-view rooms still very noisy?”). This will challenge them to raise the bar during your stay and offer up alternatives.

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