Ever dream of spending a night or two in a luxury hotel, sipping a drink by the pool or eating at the upscale hotel restaurant? Well, this dream doesn’t have to be out of reach when you’re a mystery shopper. Instead of digging around for steep travel discounts or missing out on a vacation, try secret shopping and stay in a hotel for free.

Sign up with a reputable site

Your first step on the road toward mystery shopping as a hotel guest is finding a reputable site to work with. Secret shopping is a well established and legitimate business, but there are still people out there who would like to scam you out of your money.

Always avoid companies that instruct you to set up wire transfers to send them money, as well as those that charge large sign up fees without any description of payments you’ll get in return. To be safe, the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) warns shoppers to avoid email solicitation, and instead recommends finding MSPA approved companies to work with.

Search the job boards

Once you’re signed up with a reputable secret shopping company, you’ll gain access to an electronic job board full of postings for you to choose from. One of the greatest appeals of mystery shopping is the freedom you are granted in your work schedule. You can search through job boards looking for assignments to complete one Saturday a month, or you can set up a schedule to make a steady income through secret shopping daily. It’s completely up to you, and that same rule applies to choosing a hotel shopping assignment.

Get going

Secret shopping in a hotel can be rewarding and is a great excuse to get out of town. You can choose assignments a few miles from home, or across the country — again, it’s up to you. Once you arrive at the hotel, you’ll likely have a long list of requirements to fulfill for the assignment.

Some hotels may ask you to test each faucet in the bathroom, flush the toilets, check the lights or even measure the distance between wall paintings to see if they’re up to scratch. You might also be asked to call down to the front desk and create a fictional complaint, such as the room smelling of smoke, or you might even remove the light bulb from a desk lamp and report it to the front desk. Once you’ve called to complain, keep track of how you were treated.

Concierges and maintenance crews should be polite and efficient, so take note of how long you waited before getting a response, the tone a concierge took with you while replying to your complaint and how quickly the problem was resolved. Once you’ve gathered the information, make detailed notes of your encounter which will be put in your report later.

Stay sneaky

Some of the fun of mystery shopping is pretending to be someone you’re not. It’s crucial to the shopping process that you remain clandestine in your actions and not give up the secret that you’re a mystery shopper. This means no spilling the beans to another hotel guest in the lobby, talking on the phone about your assignment near the pool, or behaving strangely enough to warrant suspicion.

The trick is not over thinking it. Act naturally and remember that you’re on an assignment, so you’ll need to be professional. Be courteous and straightforward, and don’t engage in any extra conversation with hotel employees unless you’re instructed to.

Remember, you’re trying to blend in and be just like any other hotel guest on vacation — the only difference is that you’ll be getting paid.