This post kicks off part 2 of the 4 part series, Side Hustle Secrets.
I’ll show you step-by-step how you can plan your next vacation with little out of pocket expense by getting paid to write evaluations of your vacation activities.
(This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Check out the full disclosure policy here.)
Welcome back to my 4 part series on how to take a vacation for free (or almost free!) using mystery shopping.
Last week we talked about how to save 50% on airfare. After publishing the post, I talked to a couple of buddies of mine who had no clue the program existed, so I’m hoping this info gets out to the masses ’cause we all know airfare can cost a pretty penny. (Will you do me a favor and share these posts? Please and thank you!)
Now that you’ve landed in your destination of choice with 50% more cash in your vacation fund, your next step is to check in to your hotel, your new home for the next couple of days.
In this post, I’ll show you:
- How you can get a free hotel stay (Nope, you don’t need to have elite status with the hotel either.)
- The perks associated with your free hotel stay
- Requirements involved with your hotel stay
- Where to find mystery shopping companies that offer hotel mystery shops
How to get a free hotel stay with Mystery Shopping
There are literally hundreds of mystery shopping companies that work with various brands and companies that recruit shoppers to evaluate a specific area of their business. Specifically, hotel brands want to make sure their properties are providing top notch service and that their brand standards are consistent across all locations.
These brands partner with mystery shopping companies to get this coveted info.
I’ll show you, below, which mystery shopping companies you should sign up with in order to find free hotel stays in exchange for a written evaluation of your stay.
Before I share the mystery shopping companies that commonly have hotel evaluations, let’s go over what to expect.
First Things First…
Before we go any further, you must first be comfortable with the following. If not, hotel mystery shopping will be a huge waste of time and effort.
- Must have a credit card that you’re willing to use to place a hotel reservation
- Must be able to observe and remember details
- Should enjoy writing
- Must be able to follow directions
Does this sound like you?
If so, let’s proceed!
Booking Your Stay
Once you’ve identified a hotel you’d like to evaluate and have applied or been accepted for the evaluation, you’ll be required to make the reservation (usually online) with your credit card.
Depending on the mystery shopping company, reimbursement might take anywhere from 30-90 days. I’ve seen a company that reimburses within 2 weeks, but that’s rare. Having a credit card and being able to float the bill until you’re reimbursed is a must.
Requirements of your stay
The requirements for each hotel evaluation varies per client, but the requirements are always available to view prior to applying for the mystery shop.
Your hotel stay will usually require several written evaluations based on multiple interactions with hotel staff. Some hotel mystery shops might be simple and only require you to write evaluations based on your check-in and check-out experience. Other hotel mystery shops are more in-depth and might require 5-7 different interactions with various hotel departments.
My most recent paid hotel stay was at an upscale chain that required the following interactions/reports:
- Check- In/Check out
- Room Service
A side perk of hotel evaluations is that you are reimbursed for any required transaction related to your stay, which often includes meals and beverages. On my last hotel evaluation, I was reimbursed for room service, cocktails at the lobby bar, and breakfast the following morning.
With organization and a schedule, you can plan these so you know exactly when to initiate each conversation. Again, each interaction requires their own report. I’ll be totally honest with you, these reports can take at least 30 minutes to write, sometimes longer.
Again, if you don’t pay attention detail or don’t like writing, hotel evaluations are probably not for you.
Perks of hotel evaluations:
Aside from the obvious perk of free hotel stays, there are a few other perks that come along with these evaluations.
- Credit Card Points: Once you are reimbursed for any expenses incurred during your hotel stay, you are still able to keep any points offered by your credit card company.For example, I book my hotel stays on my Alaska Airlines card. I spent almost $900 for a hotel evaluation that I was reimbursed for, and I got to keep my 900 Alaska Air miles because I used my credit card! I also booked the initial reservation through Swagbucks which put another $30 back in my pocket.RELATED: How I Made $300 in 4 months using Swagbucks
- Hotel Brand Loyalty Points: Yep, you can credit each night of your stay to your own personal hotel loyalty number. (This is always done at check-out so as not to reveal that you’re a mystery shopper.) I will usually credit the points earned to my Hilton or Marriott loyalty program.
Mystery Shopping Companies with Hotel Shops
On to the list…
ACL lands on my top 5 mystery shopping companies list due to the caliber of shops they have available and how simple their site is to search for particular types of shops, like restaurants, health and wellness, apartments, etc.
Once you’ve signed up to be a mystery shopper, you can search for hotel shops by going to:
- the AVAILABLE tab
- Select Type of assignment you’re looking for
- Search by Zip, City, or State
iSecretshop is one of my favorite mystery shopping sites because of the variety of shop they post, including hotels. With iSS, the sign-up form is relatively quick, and you can start self-assigning shops quickly. Even better, you can search for available mystery shops offered by multiple companies on one page. Who doesn’t like efficiency?
Hotel shops will vary by region, but I’ve found a few on this site in the past couple of weeks (Portland and Seattle area).
Regal is another company that I highly recommend due to hotel mystery shops being their specialty, often including high caliber properties. On average, they will reimburse expenses within 90 days of your stay.
**Regal often has hotel evaluations in Orlando which would be a great strategy if you’re planning a vacation to Disneyworld.**
Coyle typically has a variety of hotel shops to choose from, depending on your state. The majority seem to be on the East and West coast, but you might be able to find something in the Midwest from time to time. Coyle requires some of the most detailed reporting of any mystery shopping company that I’ve worked with, though. Keep this in mind.
Though they are known for having automotive dealership shops, other shoppers in the industry have stated they’ve found hotel shops with Best Mark. Again, this is dependent on location and timing.
Buckalew is an Orlando-based mystery shopping company that posts hotel evaluations in several parts of the country. You will need to apply and be accepted as a shopper before you can view their list of available hotel shops.
Trust Guest specializes in hospitality evaluations, including restaurants and hotels. Want to shop with them? They mention on their website that shoppers who have completed the most assignments get first priority for hotel evaluations.
Are you a new shopper? They suggest applying for a restaurant shop first so they can get a feel for your writing style and attention to detail before approving you for hotel evaluations.
The hotel rooms on True Guest are often around $500 per night, so be sure you have sufficient room on your credit card available. The good news is that True Guest reimburses quicker than most other companies. Reimbursement may take between 2 and 4 weeks after the reports are submitted.
I’ve found mostly diners and drive-in shops with Strategic Reflections, but other shoppers report the occasional hotel evaluation posting. It doesn’t hurt to check it out periodically.
HS Brands is most known for their casino resort mystery shops. You’ll be required to play various table and slot games, but you’ll be reimbursed. Even better, you can also keep a portion of any winnings.
There have it! Once you sign up for the sites listed above, you’ll be well on your way to securing a free hotel room.
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