It’s been two weeks since I left Toronto for Russia to watch the FIFA World Cup, and the time has well and truly flown by in that period.
I thought I’d give you guys a brief catch-up on some exciting developments in my trip and also take this opportunity to share one of my favourite tips for maximizing your hotel stays along your travels, which is to exchange emails with your hotel in advance of your stay. With my travels ramping up lately, I’ve been staying at hotels much more frequently, and reaching out to the property beforehand is one of my favourite ways to ensure that my stay at the hotel is an enjoyable one.
My First Time at a St. Regis
But here’s the thing – while I had paid 16,000 Starpoints for the free night at the National, I had also had my eye on the nearby St. Regis Moscow Nikolskaya, which was also an SPG Category 5 costing 16,000 Starpoints a night. I had heard so many amazing things about the St. Regis brand, and was hoping to try it out for the first time on this trip, but unfortunately there had been no rooms available for points bookings for stays during the World Cup…
…until a mere two nights before I was supposed to be checking in to the Hotel National! I knew that hotels often made last-minute spare rooms available for points bookings, and it was clear that the St. Regis wasn’t seeing as many people pay its published rack rates of 50,000 rubles per night (~$1,000) as they had wished, and so made a few rooms available for the relatively paltry amount of 16,000 Starpoints.
And so, after a quick glance at the National’s cancellation policies which allowed me to cancel and refund the points up until one day before arrival, I immediately swapped it for the St. Regis. I was overjoyed that my first-ever stay at a St. Regis property was well and truly ON.
Imagine my delight, then, when the check-in staff told me upon arrival, “Mr. Zhang, we received your email about an upgrade, and are delighted to offer you the St. Regis Suite for the night.”
WOW! I’ll let my Instagram stories do the talking for now, but you can certainly look forward to an upcoming detailed review of the amazing suite that we enjoyed last night. In fact, Jessica and I were so blown away by this turn of events that we decided to change our early train departure and maximize our time at the St. Regis by taking advantage of the 4pm late checkout instead. It was one of those hotel rooms that you just didn’t want to leave.
The good thing about Russian train tickets is that they can be refunded up to the time of departure for a nominal fee, so I quickly cancelled our early morning train and our hotel reservation at the Sheraton Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin, instead rebooking us on the overnight train that would 1) depart Moscow after the Russia v Croatia quarter-final and 2) arrive in Nizhny Novgorod just in time for us to catch our 5:50am Trans-Siberian reservation onwards to Novosibirsk.
I’m sure the sights and sounds of Nizhny Novgorod are incredible, but they’ll simply have to wait for next time.
And here’s the thing – as a Gold Elite member, I’m only supposed to get an upgrade to an “enhanced room” at SPG properties, depending on availability at check-in. I had no business being in the St. Regis Suite, but the front desk agent made it clear that it was a simple email that had tugged her heartstrings in just the right way…
Email Your Hotel in Advance
Emailing the hotel before my stay is something I’ve been doing for a while now, and many of you might benefit from getting in the habit of doing so as well. It takes only a few minutes of your time, always helps to make sure that your needs are met, and can deliver you a very pleasant surprise every now and then.
Many people don’t realize just how customizable a hotel stay can be, and how much the staff are willing to go out of their way to ensure that you have a memorable and comfortable stay.
That’s especially true at premium hotels (in the popular Marriott/Starwood hotel chain, those would be the Marriott, Renaissance, Sheraton, Westin, Le Méridien, etc.) and luxury hotels (The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, W, Luxury Collection, St. Regis, etc.), where most guests will have paid a good chunk of money for their time at the property and would expect more than just a place to sleep for the night (although savvy readers will, of course, have paid for their rooms with points).
In my emails – usually sent a week or two prior to my stay – I take the time to politely make a request or give the hotel a heads-up about something they should know. Sometimes I might be looking to guarantee a bed type or to request a room with a separate tub and shower. On other occasions, I’m aware that I’ll be arriving before the scheduled check-in time, so I inquire as to whether it’d be possible to have the room ready upon arrival. And finally, I always, always, include a simple question along the lines of “I was wondering if there’s any chance of a room upgrade as a Marriott/SPG Gold Elite member?” Make sure to include your reservation number.
You can take this opportunity to make all sorts of requests or ask any questions on your mind about the stay or the city. Examples include:
- Getting a room with a specific bed type / bathroom type / high or low floor / adjoining rooms / view
- Adding extras to your reservation, such as breakfast or Club Level access
- Ensuring that certain items are prepared for you in your room (bathrobe, coffee machine, still or sparkling water, etc.)
- Inquiring about hotel facilities and amenities
- Requesting an airport transfer
- Booking a day trip or arranging a city tour
Even when I don’t have any special requests to make, I’ll just send a quick email letting them know that I’m looking forward to my stay, and inquiring about the possibility of upgrades. Usually, the hotel will reply that depending on your status, you have priority on any room (if you’re Gold) or suite (if you’re Platinum) upgrades.
That’s exactly the email exchange that occurred before I arrived at the St. Regis in Moscow, and it paid off handsomely when I was lucky enough to be met by a check-in agent who saw the email and decided to treat me generously.
Perhaps the most difficult part about emailing the hotel is actually finding out the email address you should be writing to. A few hotels have a contact email on their website, but many leave only a phone number as their contact information. In these cases, simply using Google to search “[hotel name] email” typically does the trick. Usually you’ll find a post on a forum like TripAdvisor, FlyerTalk, etc. in which either someone has previously contacted the hotel, or a hotel representative is responding to queries by providing the hotel’s front desk email for further correspondence.
I was so fortunate to get a taste of the St. Regis lifestyle – in the comforts of an incredible St. Regis Suite, at that – on the eve of a Trans-Siberian journey that’s certainly going to be decidedly less luxurious. This memorable stay wouldn’t have been quite as amazing if I sent the hotel and innocuous email beforehand to let them know that I’d simply love an upgrade and was wondering as to the possibility of receiving one.
Get into the habit of reaching out to your hotel before you arrive! It’s a simple and quick process that just might transform your unremarkable hotel stay into an unforgettable one. Think of it as you doing your part in making sure your hotel stay is as enjoyable as possible – after all, the hotel can’t hope to meet all of your wishes and desires if it doesn’t know about them!