Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Luxury Travel 101
Everybody wants to indulge once in a while and some are smarter, or let's say more informed than others, when it comes to Luxury Travel. So, here are my best tips as to how to spend as little as possible for as great an experience as possible.
First, you should check Flyertalk out. It is one the oldest and best online community for everything travel-related. You will find forums with detailed and accurate information from seasoned travelers. Whether you're looking for information about The American Express Centurion Card, Frequent Flyer Programs, upgrade deals or budget hotels in Bhutan, you will find the answer there. The community is very friendly and whenever I post a question, I usually get an answer within minutes! I can and must say that Flyertalk has changed my traveling habits and it is, in my opinion, the best information source when it comes to travel. They also organize "Dos" where fellow Flyertalkers meet. There are Dos almost every week on every continent! I've been to some and always had a great time with great people!
If you're 2000 miles shy of renewing your platinum status and need to find a mileage run deal, Flyertalk's mileage run forum is the place to go. I know it sounds crazy to fly just to renew one's status but believe me, many people do it... And I must confess I've done it too.
Thanks to Flyertalk's tips, I've been a Flying Blue (Air France & KLM frequent flyer program) Platinum member for 5 years and I'm now 5 years away from reaching lifetime Platinum status. Thanks again to Flyertalk, I fly most of my long-haul flights in Business class. There, unexpectedly, is a flood of business class deals around. It only takes some knowledge and time to find them. I've come to the point that I see this exercise as a challenge and even enjoy doing it for me, my family and sometimes friends.
Keep in mind that you can subscribe to Flyertalk forums and receive daily email alerts on deals and tips that you might be interested in. Sometimes there are crazy deals: like less than USD 100 for transcontinental flights.
As a demonstration to what I have learned on Flyertalk, here are some tips for travelers based in Strasbourg (France) as to how to find the cheapest airfares:
- Check for fares departing from Strasbourg (SXB), Mulhouse (MLH), Basel (BSL), Frankfurt (FRA) and Stuttgart (STR). Flying from BSL is sometimes cheaper than from MLH although it is the same airport and flight and the crazy thing is that you might also accrue more miles!
- Check different airlines and alliances. Keep in mind not to trust your instincts: flying Air France is usually cheaper departing from Germany than from France. Same for Lufthansa that is usually cheaper departing from France than from Germany (Major airlines try to attract foreign customers with competitive fares).
- Check the same itineraries on different websites or even the same website but based in a different country. Expedia US is usually cheaper than Expedia France for instance. Same for the carriers. You will sometimes find different fares if you check Air France US compared to Air France French or German website. You will find the best British Airways fares on American Airlines website!
The Holy Grail Of All Luxury Travel Questions: How Can I Be Upgraded On A Long-Haul? Simple answer: it is very unlikely that you will be unless you hold top-tier status with the carrier that you're flying. And even so, it is still rare. To maximize your chances of being upgraded: don't ask for it, be nice to the check-in agent & dress smart. There is really no other working tip. Be aware that 99% of upgrades on long-haul flights come when one of the classes of travel is full or overbooked (if Economy is overbooked, the carrier will upgrade passengers to Business class on Premium Economy depending on their status & paid fare).
Other noteworthy websites:
- Jaunted: The Pop Culture Travel Guide
- Vacationist: exclusive offers for members
- BonVoyou: great deals
- Jetsetters: great deals
- Premium Travel News: Business Class Fare Alerts
- ExpertFlyer: Very useful tools (award availability, fare buckets etc...) for subscribers
- TripTrace: more of a social network travel tool
- Trip Advisor: Great review website
- Yelp: Great review iPhone app and social network
- Urban Daddy: great website & daily newsletter on new trendy venues to discover. They have a cool iPhone app!
- Kayak: Fare Comparison engine
- Orbitz: Travel booking website
- Expedia: Travel booking website