When planning for trips you’re sure to have had ‘must-have’ travel deals or upgrades thrown your way. And you’re likely to have given some thought to whether these deals and upgrades would make you trip better. While some travel perks may be practical to get, many are just ways to get you to unnecessarily spend more money.
The team at LearnVest spoke to a couple of travel experts and got us the low-down on a few common travel perks and an idea of where they should fall on your Get-it/Skip-it list.
Upgrade #1: Shelling Out for More Legroom
We get it. You’re six-foot-four—and totally dreading the hours you’ll spend cramped in coach before arriving at your destination.
So, naturally, you’re eyeing those “economy comfort” seats that promise more space to stretch out, and maybe even an earlier boarding group. And who wouldn’t want the chance to nab a spot for your bag in the overhead bins before they fill up?
Worth It? No. These upgrades can cost up to $200, depending on the length of your flight – on top of what you’ve already paid for your economy ticket. “And the seats are equally hard and uncomfortable,” Hobica says. “Paying that much more for a couple extra inches of legroom simply isn’t worth it.”
What Our Travel Pros Suggest Hobica recommends springing for the full monty: an upgrade to business or first class – but only under certain circumstances.
First, make sure your flight time is pretty substantial, and you’re spending at least three hours in the air or more, Hobica says. Otherwise, the benefit isn’t significant enough to justify the cost. Then check that you have enough frequent flyer miles or credit card rewards points to cover the upgrade expense.
Spending cash for a last-minute, first-class ticket could set you back thousands, even for a short flight, Hobica says. But using rewards miles is a much smarter strategy, since you’ve likely accumulated them for free as a perk of using your credit card or taking other flights, so your cash output will be significantly lower.
For example, on American Airlines, Hobica says you may be able to find an upgrade for 30,000 miles and just $75. And deals on Delta are comparable at 12,500 points for a one-way upgrade.
Upgrade #2: Paying for Club Floor Access
Bebell describes hotel club levels as a secret society with indulgent treats – not only free hors d’oeuvres and drinks but better service, to boot. “The staff gets to know you, and the concierge is at your beck and call,” she says.
Worth It? Usually. This splurge, which typically adds about 20% to 30% to your regular room tab, is a favorite of both Bebell’s and Hobica’s – unless you’re vacationing in a foodie paradise, like Rome or New Orleans, and already have a list of must-eat spots for dining around town.
What Our Travel Pros Suggest Whether you plan to spend most of your time visiting all the top city sights or lounging by the pool at an island resort, this splurge can be well worth the extra money you’ll pay for it.
In many cases, club rooms offer the best views in the hotel, extras amenities – like early check-in and free Wi-Fi – and even access to specialty tours. But scoring club access isn’t just about living the good life. Spending more on this perk up-front can actually decrease your restaurant budget.
“Usually, there is so much food in club lounges that you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner there,” Hobica says. “If you’re in a pricey city like London, that can save you some serious cash – maybe even hundreds of dollars a day.”
Upgrade #3: Investing in Travel Insurance
Sure, there’s a chance you’ll get sick right before your big trip. Or your airline could go out of business.
In theory, all of these things could go wrong – but are they common enough to justify the added cost of travel insurance?
Worth It? Yes. In fact, Bebell advises all of her clients to tack on this expense – because sometimes you just can’t avoid a curveball. “There aren’t too many refundable travel experiences these days, so it’s better safe than sorry,” she says.
What Our Travel Pros Suggest Insurance can cover a bevy of accidents, such as illness, missed flights, cancelled tours, lost baggage and theft. It will run you about 5% to 12% of the total trip’s cost, depending on your destination, the time of year and your age. (Just like health insurance, premiums are likely to increase for those over 50, but are much less expensive for kids.)
Note: If you’re working with a travel agent, you’ll likely be told that travel insurance is a must, since agents typically earn a commission per plan sold, and can be held liable for your losses if they don’t adequately explain insurance options.
But that doesn’t mean you should skip this to-do. Instead, you should do your homework to make sure you’re getting the best quotes, and work directly with the insurance provider.
Photo credits: Wikipedia