Airline Lounges, Airport Lounges, Off the beaten path, save money on travel, transportation, Travel

How to benefit from lounge access without paying fees

What is this fancy lounge at the airport you speak of?

Right now, we (abroad and a brain) are able to lounge in any priority pass or American Express lounge. We indulge in chef-inspired meals, free drinks (including beer, cocktails, and wine), and ample space to stretch out before we board a flight. What’s even better, we don’t have to pay for the lounge! While status once allowed us in the lounge due to flying so often living overseas, living stateside for the past two years, we have lost that status. But even without our status, we lounge on. How? We have good credit cards. And you can too!

So, how do you accomplish this with credit cards? What’s the lingo?

First, there’s Priority Pass. It allows you into many lounges in most airports (don’t hate me when you cannot lounge in Maui, there is not a lounge there…yet). Some smaller airports do not have these Priority Pass approved lounges. However, for the most part, you are going to find these lounges.

Great. How do I sign up?

Now, to get the Priority Pass, you can do a couple of things. First, you can purchase their membership. Even with those fees, it is worth it if you travel often. Why? Because lounges are expensive on the fly (see what I did there?). If you were to pay each time, you are looking at $40-$100 per lounge stay, and that is just for one person. Have a guest? Double the price. So, if you are traveling more than five times a year, it pays for itself. The second way to get it is through a good credit card (our method). Many credit cards (think AMEX Platinum, Marriott Rewards, etc.) offer this membership as a part of the perks. While some of these cards do charge annual fees, you need to consider 1) how much you will be traveling and 2) the other benefits of the card that offset the fees. For example, AMEX platinum charges a fee of $500 per year to hold the card. However, you make up for that in travel perks, money back on purchases, lounge access, and more. You can think of it as a way of pre-paying. Now, this all comes down to your credit score. So, if your credit score is low, or you are just not good with the finances, I would not recommend this option for you.

Okay, got it. What else can I do?

Next, if you have the AMEX Platinum, it comes with AMEX lounges (which are incredible) as well as Priority Pass. This is the card with the big annual fees, but if you are using it correctly, you will make up for those fees in the perks of the card. What’s even cooler is it comes with an AMEX concierge and exclusive events and activities, including global entry to pass all those people in the airport. You will truly feel like a VIP.

Yeah. So, my credit is not so great. Am I sunk?

No! Another way to get into those lounges is to build up the miles with a particular airline and/or alliance. Have you ever thought about pledging allegiance to one particular airline? If you have not, you really may want to consider it. While it may seem smart to always book the cheapest flight, if you are doing this, you could miss out! If you stick with one alliance, you can build up miles.

Tell me more about alliances. Is it like Survivor?

Kind of. There are many different airlines and several different alliances. Then, you also have your airlines who are not in any alliance at all. Confused? Don’t be! Here is a simple way to figure out which alliance you should join. Below are the three most popular alliances. Just click on each alliance to see which airlines are in each:

Skyteam Star Alliance One World

What if my favorite airline is not on there?

It is true. Not all airlines are featured in these three main alliances. However, you can still sign up for a frequent flyer program for your favorite airline. It just all depends on you: where do you want to go? How often do you fly? Do you fly internationally? Depending on your needs, you can choose the one that is best for you. Better yet, sign up for all of them!

Keep in mind that miles are awarded according to different rules depending on airline, fare, and more. You can always look into that when booking your flight.

Will first class get me lounge access?

As a general rule, yes. However, first class tickets are often quite pricey. But, hey, if you are living it up, it is definitely a nice perk!

I don’t travel that much. Could I still rack up enough miles?

If you are only traveling a few times a year within the continental US, it will be difficult to rack up enough miles to do any good. However, if you travel for business or just travel a lot, you need to sign up for the miles programs NOW! Right now, we are members with Delta, Frontier, Star Alliance, and SkyTeam. This has allowed us some awesome perks. The best perks were getting upgraded to the lie flat seats overseas, for free! If you fly a lot of different airlines, sign up for all you can. You never know when you may rack up those miles to get those benefits.

Wait, tell me more about the lie-flat seat upgrade?

If the airline overbooks the flight, (which happens more than you would think) they will bump up mileage program members, starting with the highest member first. You would be surprised how many times we were bumped up at a relatively low level. I once was bumped up next to a lady who had almost zero skymiles, but she was a member, so they gave her the upgrade.

I think you will agree that lounging before a flight makes for a happier travel experience. After all, it is about the journey too, not just the destination!

Lounging is so much better than sitting at the chaotic gate with screaming, running kids, people eating, and no space to sit. Try it. You will be spoiled and insist on lounging it every time you fly.


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