Here are 5 tips I use to make it feel like I’m traveling in luxury for just a few more bucks.
#1 Private Car Service
Your trip starts and ends with how you get to the airport, so you might as well make this a good experience. Private car service (usually a black towncar or SUV) gives you a luxurious ride to the airport. In most places there’s a good car service company for about 20-25% more than taking a cab, and much less than parking your car at the airport for more than a few days. For that little bit extra you get more leg room, a more comfortable ride, plus you can skip the taxi line on your way home. Make sure to create an account with your company of choice, and you won’t have to deal with paying in cash. Having an account that charges to your credit card is great for business travelers because it’s easier to expense. Also, once you have an account, some companies will start to remember your preferred locations. When I scheduled my last car, I just said that I wanted to go from the airport to my house, and when I got in the car the driver already had my home address ready to go in the GPS. You also might find it easier to schedule a car when out of the country if your car service accepts reservations by email.
#2 Ask for a Better Seat or Room
It would be nice to be in first or business class, but these tickets can be ridiculously expensive. You can get some of the same benefits for free though. One of the best parts of business class for a big guy like me is the extra leg room, and fortunately there are a few seats in economy with the same amount or even more leg room: the emergency exit row and the bulkhead. Some airlines let you choose these seats when you book your tickets, and some reserve them until the day of the flight. When you’re checking in, ask if these seats are available. Even if you can’t manage to get these seats, there are always a few seats to avoid like the row right in front of the exit row which doesn’t recline. Plus some seats have perks like an outlet to charge your electronics or a good view of the common TV, that others might not have. Use seatguru.com to find the best seats for your flight, and ask for them.
Just like on your flight, you should ask for the best rooms when you check into your hotel. What constitutes the best room is subject to personal preference, but for me it’s a corner room on an upper floor. Corner rooms usually have different layout than normal rooms, and often this means more square footage. They also might have more windows and a better view. And finally they’re usually far away from the elevator which means less traffic and a quieter room. You might have different requirements than me, but the point is to ask for the room you want; you just might get it for free.
#3 Airport Lounges
Sometimes you have to wait for your flight, and if you’re going to have to wait then you might as well make it a refreshing experience rather than watching the 15 minute loop on the airline news channel in an uncomfortable chair with babies crying and people running over your toes with their bags. The airport lounges are free for customers with business and first class tickets, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones allowed. You can purchase access to some of the airport lounges on a one time basis, and if you use the service regularly, then you can purchase a annual pass.
If you have an international layover, then lounges are a great place to take a nap for a few hours or take a quick shower to freshen up. Turn your layover into a mini-vacation.
You don’t have a personal assistant to track all your travel plans?? Well don’t worry about that, signup for tripit.com and organize all your travel plans in one place. The software will keep track of which flights are late, and even alert you once you get off the plane where your next gate is, or which baggage claim to pickup you luggage at. If you fly Southwest then you know the importance of checking in early and getting an A boarding pass, and TripIt sends you a text the moment check-in opens. I used to forget to check-in and get a C pass which usually means a middle seat or a seat in the back of the plane, but since getting TripIt my worst boarding pass was A32. It’s awesome with the iPhone app to refer to you itinerary while on the go, and I’ve even used it to clear immigration in China to prove I had a connecting flight since I forgot to get a printed itinerary.
#5 Expert Traveler Security Lanes
Nothing says luxury like getting privileges that other travelers don’t get. TSA is rolling out different lines for more experienced travelers that don’t need help going through security. These lines used to be reserved for first class and customers with status, but now they’re open to everyone. The cool thing is that most people don’t use this line, and you can cut down your wait in security checkpoints if you do.