I often joke with my friends that I spend so much time on planes that I don’t even know why I have an apartment anymore. Just last week I was in Frankfurt, Germany for a layover, running through airport terminals like the family in Home Alone and trying not to knock a nun over.
And despite my frequent travels showing up to the airport is always filled with surprises. Will TSA pull my bag aside to screen it again? Should I get this $14 airport sandwich or just settle for the pretzels on the plane?
Sometimes travel can even feel like a punishment when a middle seat is the only option or it costs extra just to choose your seat, you only get a “snack” on a five hour flight, and when you arrive to the hotel, your room isn’t ready yet. But travel doesn’t have to be uncomfortable, and you shouldn’t have to suffer just because you don’t have a private jet … yet (keep the faith). While there are some things in life we just can’t control, what we can do is be proactive. When you’re always on the go, learning how to work the system so that it works for you is key. As a travel writer, I’ve learned that sometimes something as simple as a smile and asking someone about their day can get you a flight upgrade. Yes, kindness does work. Other times, it’s about researching and even trying out your own travel hacks to see what works for you.
Here are just a few ways things I’ve learned along the way that have taken my travel days from drab to fab. Let me upgrade you…
TRAVEL HACK #1: LOUNGE IN AN AIRPORT LOUNGE
So you booked that flight with the four hour layover because the airfare was two hundred dollars less. But are you roaming the airport driving yourself crazy until the next leg of your flight? If so, consider paying for lounge access. No, you don’t have to fly first or business class to relax before your flight. Many airports around the world offer access to a general lounge for a reasonable fee. An added bonus is that some even have showers. For domestic travelers, Alaska Airlines, offers a one-day pass for the airline’s Board Room lounges for $45. American charges $50 for lounge access, while United and Delta charge $59. If you’re traveling internationally, you might want to check out LoungePass.com, which sells day passes to hundreds of lounges worldwide, starting at just $20 per day. Be sure to read about any restrictions before purchasing.
TRAVEL HACK #2: YOUR CREDIT CARD IS YOUR FRIEND (FOR ONCE)
There’s no easier way to get a little bit closer to that dream business or first class flight, or even a free hotel room than by signing up for mileage programs with your credit card and letting points accumulate. The American Express SPG card, for example, is a Starwood Preferred Guest program that puts points toward some of the world’s most fabulous hotels, with an option to also transfer points to their 30+ airline partners. Another great travel mileage hack? You can link your Lyft account to Delta Skymiles program, and with every mile you travel, you receive one mile. You get double the miles if you use Lyft to and from the airport, and you can even link your Airbnb account to your SkyMiles account for more rewards HERE. Once you are finally eligible for a perk in business class, two airlines that I prefer for their great service are Lufthansa Airlines for international flights and JetBlue for domestic and the Caribbean.
TRAVEL HACK #3: GET GLOBAL ENTRY
Making that appointment for global entry access is single-handedly the best travel investment I’ve ever made. Did you know that it also includes TSA Pre-check? So, not only do you basically skip the line when you enter back into the U.S. from international travel, you also get expedited TSA line perks when you leave. The appointment literally took me about ten minutes and I received my card within two weeks. You can make an appointment HERE.
TRAVEL HACK #4: SCOPE OUT YOUR SEAT
That dreaded bathroom or middle seat is something most of us have had to deal with at one time or another. Use a seat app like SeatGuru to plug in your flight info and see where you’re sitting, then make adjustments. On their website, travelers review their seat experience and offer suggestions, which can definitely be handy for international flights. You can also get real time flight status alerts.
TRAVEL HACK #5: PLAN (SMART) AHEAD OF TIME
Keep a copy of a photo of your passport in your inbox, just in case you lose it. Bring an empty water bottle so that you can fill it once you get through security. If you don’t have to check a bag, don’t. It saves a ton of time, and you’ll never have that dreaded feeling of “where’s my bag” once you’ve been standing at baggage claim for too long. Keep track of all of your travel confirmations and schedules with easy-to-use apps like Tripit by forwarding your flight times, hotel details, car rental, restaurant reservations, and the app will create a master itinerary for you to have everything all in one place.
Now, get out there and see the world…
Kristin Braswell is an award-winning travel journalist and founder of CrushGlobal Travel. Follow her adventures on Instagram, @crushglobal.