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Ask for a High-floor Hotel Room

View of Hudson River & Jersey City from Hilton Wall Street Area

Image above: View of Hudson River and Goldman Sachs Tower from Millenium Hilton Hotel in New York City. Across the Hudson, the Goldman Sachs Tower became the tallest building in New Jersey.

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While traveling, I always ask politely for a high floor hotel room and the results can be spectacular.

To whet your appetite, check out some of the views I have enjoyed from hotels during the last two years. To show that these are not just for the rich, I list prices paid at the more deluxe hotels, excluding taxes and fees.

In every case except in Cape Town I paid for a standard room, nothing fancy, usually via Priceline “Name your own price” bidding or via its Express Hotel Deals.

Below you will also find seven tips for maximizing your chances of getting a wonderful view at no extra cost. Use these.

This 4-star Millenium Hilton room in Lower Manhattan (a Priceline win for $135 during 2009) looked out toward the Hudson in the view above. I loved how the time of day changed the colors of the river.

View of Ground Zero from Millenium Hilton in New York City

My Millenium Hilton room also looked down into the Ground Zero construction site, a very somber experience. The Millenium Hilton was severely damaged when the World Trade Center towers collapsed and did not reopen until May 2003.

View of Hudson and Lower Manhattan from Westin Jersey City

Not to worry if you are placed in a room on the other side of the Hilton. Higher up, you may enjoy a view of the East River and Brooklyn Bridge.

During a 2010 conference in New York City, I stayed at the 4-star Westin Jersey City (Priceline $108 during a peak period) that looked out directly toward the Millenium Hilton across the Hudson!

Hollywood High School LA seen from Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where Marilyn Monroe once lived, offered this view toward downtown Los Angeles. Hollywood High has graduated more film stars than any other school in the country. Worry not if you stay on the other side. If high enough, you'll look out at the Chinese Theatre (which once hosted the Academy Awards), the Kodak Theatre (which does now), and the Hollywood Hills. 

Overseas, I usually very much prefer to stay at guesthouses, non chain smaller hotels that locals use, and even some hostels, most of which offer less potential for great views, but not always.

Above I peeked out the front door of my Dale Court annex shared suite in Cape Town for an even better view. A bit of the Atlantic shows in the upper left and, of course, that is Cape Town Stadium under construction for World Cup 2010 in the upper right.

A balcony in back gave partial views of Signal Hill and Table Mountain.

Peaks Peak as seen from DoubleTree Hotel Colorado Springs

My DoubleTree Hotel room in Colorado Springs offered two wonderful views, this one of Pikes Peak . . .

Garden of the Gods as seen from DoubleTree Hotel Colorado Springs

And this one of Garden of the Gods Park.

Millennium Park as seen from Hyatt Regency Chicago

Once, my luck ran out at the Hyatt Regency Chicago when my high-floor room in the east tower merely faced the windows of the west tower.

Nevertheless, two other visits went more ideally.

Above, I could see Millennium Park and the Art Institute complex, as well as Grant Park beyond. Day or night, I never tired of this view.

Note the buildings that line Michigan Avenue, a classic American urbanscape. A narrow view of Lake Michigan was sandwiched between two buildings off the photo to the left.

The Chicago River as seen from Hyatt Regency Chicago

Although not taken from my room, this is essentially the view of the Chicago River from a Hyatt Regency room on another visit.

These three Hyatt rooms cost between $75 and $80 using Priceline during 2009 and 2010.

View from back of Holiday Inn Express in Santa Fe

Except for ground-level motels, I always ask for a high-floor room.

Although this Holiday Inn Express has just three stories, my third floor view transcended a delivery area and trash containers to look out at some nice Santa Fe architecture.

High floors may not always work

Congested areas such as the Chicago Loop and older buildings that tend to have been constructed at lower heights present problems. Older buildings are also more likely to have rooms facing each other around central courts or air shafts. You may look solely at other windows and, if lucky, the sky.

View of low-rise wing of Hilton San Francisco Union Square

Here I looked down—way down--at a large portion of the older Hilton San Francisco from my room at the Parc 55 Hotel.

If you ever stay at this Hilton, be sure to ask for a high-floor room in its tower seen on the left side of the photo.

Hilton managers, who must have selected a stock hotel design, may never win any Frank Lloyd Wright “A building is a product of its place” awards for that rooftop pool in San Francisco, a city with average high temperatures below 70F during June, July, and August. I never noticed a single person using the pool area.

Luxor, Las Vegas

The strangest incident happened at the Luxor Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.

Note the promotional banners painted on the Luxor pyramid and tower above. My high tower room was behind a banner like that.

With the naked eye, I could see out perfectly. The banner was designed for that.

View from East Tower, Luxor Hotel, Las Vegas

However, the banner made taking clear photos impossible. They all turned out as this one did.

Nevertheless, I loved the view. I could see nearly every section of Las Vegas McCarran Airport, the MGM Grand Hotel, and the mountains beyond.

Most striking was the church in the foreground—an anomaly on the Strip--with an adjacent Hooters Casino Hotel just off the photo to the left.

Talk about a combination that boggles the mind!

View northwest from Parc 55 Hotel San Francisco

Fog was rolling in when I reached my 32nd floor Hilton Parc 55 room in San Francisco ($90 Priceline). Because I had to leave by 10:30 the next morning, I wondered if I would ever enjoy the potential of this room.

Rose in bathroom at Parc 55 San Francisco

Within three hours, thick fog pretty much limited my view to this rose and a flat-screen TV.

View northwest from Parc 55 Hotel San Francisco in sun

Happily, by 10:00 the next morning, the sun was shining. This view looks out toward Nob and Russian hills and I believe Lafayette Heights.

View of Union Square area from Parc 55 Hotel San Francisco

Glancing to the right, I could see Union Square and Financial District.

For years, the large building in the foreground was Macy’s premier west coast store. It remains one of its more important ones.

Transamerica Pyramid as seen from Parc 55 Hotel, San Francisco

A Parc 55 desk clerk told me that fear of earthquakes does motivate guests to request lower floors in San Francisco.

That increases your chances for a view room, as do the hillside locations of some other hotels in this city.

Above: The Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco’s most well known skyscraper as seen from the Parc 55 Hotel.

Seven tips for grabbing a high-floor room

  • 1. Ask! Other guests check in requesting this and that. Do not be the one who ends up with the less ideal leftover room.
  • 2. Be polite and friendly. You are asking the clerk to spend a little extra time with you.
  • 3. Request a high floor, not the top floor. Because premier hotels tend to place executive suites and other upscale accommodations on their highest floor, you are more likely to be refused if you ask for the top floor when paying for a standard room.

    That is why I ask for a high floor. To the desk clerk, this translates as the highest floor available. He or she may even say, “Oh, you want a view.” I have even been offered a choice of rooms. Of course, you may ask for the top floor at a three-story motel.

The following are less critical, but may help:

  • 4. Dress appropriately for the property.

    Although I cannot remember the last time I wore a suit while traveling, I do dress for the property. That means not showing up at a 4-star hotel looking as if I have not had a chance to bathe and change clothes since prospecting in the Outback.

    Think of a deluxe hotel as a very “in” club. You have to look as if you belong before the rope barrier parts for you.
  • 5. Present the hotel chain’s frequent guest card or at least its number before making your high floor request. The frequent guest card tells the desk clerk that you share a connection.
  • 6. Present a prestige credit card associated with travel at check in, such as the American Express, Chase Mileage Plus, or Citi AAdvantage card, if you can. In my opinion, this subtly tells the hotel that you are likely to return if happy.
  • 7. Make sure that your reservation shows your frequent guest number prior to arrival by calling reservations.That may help even when using a Hotwire or Priceline rate that permits no points. Upon check in, the desk clerk may tell you that your high floor room has already been set-aside for you.

    Online, it takes just a few moments to join a frequent guest program and mention in your profile that you want a high floor.

There are so many other places I could have shown—incredible views of Sydney Harbour from two hotels, airport activity, and on and on—but I did not have the presence of mind to snap photos from these rooms.

Create your own travel memories. Ask for a high floor!


RSA Online
September 21, 2011

I think my favorite part of staying in a hotel is the view ;)

Aparana Chauhan
September 21, 2011

Lodging on the top floor of the hotel is what i also love the most. It gives you the better insight of the area and gorgeous view of the city outside. I feel more relaxed and comfortable on upper floors….

March 21, 2015

Good tips, Don. I never thought of asking for a high-floor room, but a good view does enhance your stay, much like a seat upgrade on a plane—best of all, it’s free. I’ll try that the next time I book into a big hotel. I’m even more impressed by some of the room rates you managed to get.

Don Nadeau
March 22, 2015

Thanks, Paul!

I fondly remember those prices—some five years ago. With travel rebounding no guarantees now!

“Cashing out” is one of the sad aspects of the NYC travel scene. Why run a small hotel—with all the attention that it requires—when you can sell to some condo developer and live on the proceeds? That’s the attitude there.

These hotels have all but disappeared anywhere in Midtown Manhattan and that is a shame.

Even luxe hotels like the Plaza have converted portions into condos. In fact, the owners of the Plaza (the best situated location in NYC in my opinion) would have converted its entire hotel had there not been such a public outcry.

The rest become ever more expensive.

A tip for NYC: The Pod 51 in a great location in Midtown periodically has super specials. Rooms with bath sometimes go for as little as $125. It also has a large selection of rooms with shared bath (kept very clean when I was there on my first visit). Of course, these specials depend on demand.

Thanks again, Paul.


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