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The best upgrade I’ve ever negotiated!
I’m new to the boardingarea.com family and thought I would republish the very first entry I ever wrote on monkeymiles. It still stands as the best hotel negotiation and upgrade I’ve ever been able to score…and there have been some doozies. Hope you enjoy and also realize that often times asking for what you want pays off YUUUUUUUUUUUUGE. YUGE, YUGE, YUGE!
This is throwback trip where we just didn’t settle for the best suite American Express FHR had to ffer and sought to upgrade. What we ended up with is arguably one of the best suites anywhere in the world. It’s from January 2013 and it exemplifies the kinds of experiences that can be achieved leveraging the following:
- Great use of Amex FHR benefits
- Negotiating for upgrades
- Utilizing the hotel’s concierge for great trip packages
We were just 3 dudes looking to live it up in Asia.
We had a budget in mind…around 3k for 3 weeks including flights and hotels. We started in Beijing at the Grand Hyatt Beijing in a 2 bedroom family suite ( thanks amex fhr for the sick upgrade and hyatt with plat status) and ended in Bangkok and the granddaddy of them all: The Peninsula
None of us had stayed at a Peninsula anywhere in the world
Tthe prices were just within budget so we decided to splurge. We arrived late at night and decided to stay the first night at the Shangri-La which was directly across the Chao Phraya river. I only have good memories of that hotel but the Peninsula is just on another level. From the moment you go to the dock to board their specially designed boats, you’re in for a truly remarkable experience.
The moment you arrive at the Peninsula Hotel dock they are waiting to greet you and adorn your wrist with flowers. Despite the working nature of the Chao Phraya the Peninsula somehow is able to pump a floral fragrance even out onto the docks.
This may have helped our upgrade chances but I accidentally tipped the porter $100
We had just gotten Baht out of the ATM and I was in Malaysia before that, Singapore before that, and I messed up the exchange rate. But then again, the dude had a GINORMOUS smile on his face, like his team won the world cup smile…which I found odd for a few buck tip. That’s cause it was 20 times that! I looked it up – the average hotel receptionist in Bangkok makes about $200 a month – I was immediately grateful for my life and also very happy I made that mistake. We ended up tipping everyone more than we would have otherwise.
We had booked into a Grand Deluxe Suite – the largest American Express FHR category
It was 18,900 THB (580usd) per night but Amex FHR was running a buy 2 get 3rd free promotion which brought it down to about 386 bucks per night or about $130 per person. This was our big splurge. The suite was really more than enough, but as Miles has come to know…if you can upgrade, do! Using the Amex FHR benefits which for this hotel were:
- 12pm early check-in
- Room Upgrade upon arrival when available
- Daily Breakfast for 2
- Complimentary high tea for 2
- 4pm late check out
- An added bonus of buy 2 nights and the 3rd was free.
- this was huge for us as it knocked the price within range.
Prior to booking the room through the Amex FHR website we had noticed that they had room categories that were beyond the normal upgrade reach. Typically the Peninsula website will show you all the categories of rooms that are available; however, if you compare this to Amex and call the number: 1-888-683-0029 they will let you know that some speciality suites are just not within their covered benefits list nor their “room upgrade when available” policy. As I mentioned above, The Grand Deluxe Suite was the top level room that the Amex benefits apply and upgrade to, so had we left it alone, we would have ultimately been in a 796 sq ft one bedroom suite…
Getting the ball rolling with an upgrade
- Know what you have before you walk up to the front desk.
- We were in the largest of the Amex FHR suites
- Hotels typically love to reward Amex Plat and Centurion members
- There was no upgrade to give because we were at the top of that category booking
- The big bad baller suites are rarely occupied and certainly with the Peninsula Suite it’s more a calling card than a revenue generator
- If they gave us a discount cash rate on a specialty suite upgrade they’d not only make revenue off the larger suite,but they’d free up the smaller room for additional revenue which is more likely to rent anyways. It’s a win-win for them and for us
- We were in the largest of the Amex FHR suites
- They confirmed our Grand Deluxe Suite with roll-a-way and all the Amex Bennies
Always ask to see the room you have before negotiating anything. You need a point of reference and time to think
- As you can see, compared to the hotel pictures, the suite is very much the same. Impeccably appointed.
The desk agent took us back down to the front desk to finish our check-in. At this point we had done enough research to know that the Grand Terrace Suite had a jacuzzi outside overlooking the city, and we were willing to try and pay for it.
I asked – is there something bigger we could have? Like the Grand Terrace Suite?
- this suite normally is in the range of 2500 -3500 a night, but our thinking was that it was attainable to get for 750/night. At first she saw 3 guys, in shorts and t-shirts, asking for a baller suite. Then, and this is where it pays to use Amex FHR, she told us to hold on one moment.
We were all a flutter. HOLY TOLEDO, were we about to get upgraded beyond belief? We had been in Kuala Lumpur at the Ritz Carlton a few nights before this and ended up in a 2 bedroom suite for about $120 per person for the wekeend, so luck was on our side.
The General Manager came back in slo-motion, I kid you not.
and told us that if we were willing to delay check-in until 4pm that he could give us the Peninsula Suite for an extra 500 a night. We had a few looks between us. I then asked if our Amex benefits would be extended and if that 3rd night would be free. He told the base rate would be, but that we would still have to pay the extra 500. Done deal. Peninsula suite, which can easily run in excess of 5000 a night, we got for $886 with Amex benefits.
In addition to this, they allowed us to occupy our Grand Deluxe Suite until the Peninsula suite was available. We left our bags there and went to Swasdee Custom suit makers.
When we got back, we were introduced to our butler.
For reals?!? A BUTLER!!! HIYOOOOO. We were taken up to our 3885 sq ft, entire floor, penthouse suite. We found later on, that the suite was so huge that we had to switch wi-fi connections 3 times from end to end. Ridics to say the least.
The Main entrance. The suite has 3 in total. As you scroll through the pictures, you’ll see a media room with full surround sound, dvds on demand as well as a built in media library, a full bar, 2 master suites, 4 bathrooms, maids quarters, full dining room, small kitchen with gold leaf plates and cutlery, views from one side of the suite to the next across the facade of the building, a workout room, and last but not least the shoe caddy. Put your shoes inside, press the button, and 30 mins later someone has shined them. Every day 3 maids would come to clean our place. Unbelievable. We had custom made suits ( 3 for 800 bucks ) and the final fitting was done in the living room of the hotel with music bumping from the 4 foot speakers and built in subwoofers. It’s really quite a special suite.
Moving from the Living room towards Dining, Kitchen, Master Bed/Bath2
See the toiletries on the ledge…I took every single toiletry, every single day we were there. Dave and Tys thought I was cray.
Care for a shoe shine? It’ll be back within 30mins of pressing the loaded button. Redonks
Going now from the Master Living room the opposite direction towards Media Room, Office, and Master Bed/bath 1 + gym
I love Asia for its immense culture enriched with history and texture.
In my opinion it also has the best customer service anywhere in the world. The Peninsula Bangkok is at the top of the top. We experienced unparalleled attention, amazing food, and great tours. There are several dining options at the Peninsula Bangkok:
- Mei Jiang: Award winning Cantonese.
- Looked amazing, didn’t eat here. On the pricier side
- Thiptara: Thai Feast is the translation. We loved it.
- Expensive for Bangkok but reasonable compared to western prices
- River Cafe & Terrace: ate here every morning. Buffet breakfast as well at lighter fare at night. Delicious and in the middle of everything.
- The Lobby: This is where the high tea was served. The setting was incredible and included champagne. Wouldn’t have done it had it not been a part of Amex FHR, but I would highly recommend as it allows one to really take in the hotel and setting. Ask for the terrace seating.
- The Bar: had a couple drinks here. Nice atmosphere and live music. Extensive whiskey selection and prices to match. If you want a truly remarkable bar, scene, and location I would recommend the Sky Bar at Lebua
- The Pool: had lunch here while relaxing. Very delicious but typical sandwiches, wraps, etc. They also serve traditional thai food too. 10-15 bucks.
As part of the Amex FHR benefits we were given free buffet breakfast. It was incredible!
The pool and spa area are well attended, crystal clear water, and very serene.
- They serve great food and drinks courtesy of the Pool bar from 6am to 9pm every day. The food is light and the drinks refreshing.
We made use of all the spa facilities. They have a cold plunge, jacuzzi, steam shower, sauna, as well as private showers and use Davi products. In all honesty the facility was a bit on the small side for the level of hotel. The facility at the Grand Hyatt Beijing was so jaw dropping that we left a bit underwhelmed with this one. We actually had massages almost every day and instead of having them done at the hotel we went to Topaz Medical spa and had $12 – 90 minute massages that were painfully surreal.
In the end: $500 per person made a life long memory.
That’s the beauty of this hobby. To me, I love stuff like this. Other people, they may opt to spend $500 on football tickets, electronics, clubbing, whatever it is. I save up money so I can experience things that I will remember and savor.
I mean, come on, every room had surround sound, and the mini bars were full size.
When you total up the Amex FHR bennies – >$1000
- buffet breakfast daily ( 50 a person = 100/day),
- high tea ( roughly 50 each)
- and a free night $580
That’s over two years of membership at 450/year and that doesn’t include the airline reimbursement, global entry, and lounge access. I also credit the Amex VIP status with giving us street cred to secure our reduced Peninsula Suite upgrade. That alone was in excess $4200 a night and a once in a lifetime experience. Not that I’d ever pay that.
They even let us fool around… a lot.
If you liked the review of the Peninsula Suite and would like to give us a shout out, please do! Or if you have questions? Leave us a comment!