Upgrades are one of the rare pleasures associated with flying, and you should definitely try to get them on your honeymoon. But few upgrades just drop out of the sky. You have to work to get them, and they’re seldom completely free.
A travel upgrade is like finding a $20 bill on the sidewalk: one of those rare moments when the universe seems to be on your side. If you’re on your honeymoon, an upgrade makes you feel like the whole travel and hospitality industry is joining in the celebration of your marriage.
One of your best resources for getting upgrades is your credit card–and your credit card points.
But as you’ve watched your tally increase on your statement month after month, like a scoreboard for a game you didn’t even know you were playing, you may have wondered what you were going to do with these reward points.
Unless you’re George Clooney’s character from Up In The Air, the whole rewards and redemptions process is confusing: deliberately so. There are a lot of ins-and-outs, a lot of restrictions and blackout dates, and a lot of red tape. Some cards will require that you book your trip through their travel service, others will only allow you to use your points with specific partners. Rewards programs differ from one airline, hotel, and credit card to another, but here are some general tips for using points to upgrade your honeymoon game.
Myth: the Free Airline Upgrade
You’re not getting a free upgrade to first class just because you dressed nicely and smiled politely. These days, flights are habitually overbooked, seating is computerized and upgrades are done electronically for elite-level flyers only. Premium class seating is viciously shielded from “undeserved” upgrades even on half-empty flights, and volunteering to give up your seat doesn’t guarantee any kind of special treatment (as that doctor on United Airlines learned the hard way).
Fact: the Points Airline Upgrade
Sometimes, if you’re willing to throw in some extra cash, you can use rewards points towards upgrades. The airline, the stipulations of its rewards program, and the seat class you’ve already paid for will all determine how many miles it will cost you to get that upgrade, how much extra cash you’ll have to pay out, and whether you’ll be stuck in standby.
When you try to decipher the ins and outs of an airline’s reward system, you may feel like you’re losing your grip on what’s real and what’s not. Most people don’t have time for that while planning their honeymoon. If you get to that point, just book the best deal you found so far and move on. There are easier ways to get upgrades with your points, including…
Myth: No Free Hotel Upgrade
Remember how we said that truly free airline ticket upgrades were a thing of the past? Not so for hotels. The thing is, if you’re staying off-season or mid-week, the hotel has plenty of inventory still available, and the elite status competition isn’t nearly as fierce. So get there early. Dress nice. Be friendly and smile. Say please and thank you. Explain that you’re on your honeymoon. If they don’t go ahead and upgrade you then and there, just ask.
That’s really all it takes, and might mean the difference between a ground floor room overlooking a pool full of screaming kids (something you’ll have ample opportunity to experience later in your marriage) or a top-floor room with a magnificently romantic view of a city skyline or beach.
Fact: the Points Hotel Upgrade
You can book your hotel room with points. Unless you’ve got an airline-branded credit card, rewards points work on all kinds of travel expenses–and redeeming them for an amazing hotel suite is often easier than figuring out an airline’s rewards. Check the terms of your points program, and try to avoid mistakes like missing out on bonus nights that come with the card, or limiting your entire stay to one type of room. (Check out this article at credit card rewards guru The Points Guy for mistakes to avoid.)