[UPDATE: Some offers mentioned below have expired. You can view the current offers from our partners here — Gold Delta Skymiles card, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard and American Express Platinum Card. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
Modern-day travel may be fast, but unless you’re doing it in a premium class, it’s typically less than enjoyable, especially when flying. There’s security, long lines, cramped seating, delays, crying babies, abusive passengers (and sometimes crew), lousy food (if there’s any at all) and of course, jet lag if you’re going anywhere long distance.
While you may not be able to afford to fly first class, or even business class, there are things you can do to make your time on the ground and in the air more enjoyable. Heck, you might even feel pampered with these seven travel perks you can definitely afford.
1. Buy a Good Carry-On
Unless you plan to stay at home most of your life, a sturdy carry-on that’s built to last will pay for itself after a few years. It’s actually possible to buy luggage that could last you a lifetime. A stylish bag that can carry your essentials for before, during and after your flight can make a bad trip better (you may want to consider a good luggage set in general if you plan to travel a lot). Compare manufacturers that offer lifetime warranties, like Briggs & Riley, for example. Their warranty covers repair of all functional aspects of your bag. Did the airline damage it? Not a problem. Your dog chewed it up? It’s covered.
2. Pay for More Legroom
Some airlines offer seating with more room for a small charge (usually $50 to $65) that will put you closer to the front of the plane, but more importantly, especially for the long-legged among us, give you more legroom. That extra charge also ensures you’ll have an earlier boarding, plenty of room for your carry-on, quicker access to the forward restroom and a quicker time getting off the plane.
3. Invest in a Travel Kit
People who fly first and business class, especially on international flights, usually get a handy kit including a toothbrush and toothpaste, eye mask, ear plugs, lotion and other niceties. You can assemble your own to help you sleep better and feel fresher upon arrival.
4. Get Free Flights & Upgrades
If you have a favorite airline, it pays to sign up for the mileage program. You can earn a free ticket or upgrade on most airlines starting at around 20,000 miles (keep in mind you’ll still have to pay taxes and some other fees), which means you can typically begin reaping rewards after a few flights.
5. Get More Miles for More Perks
If you’re serious about getting free travel and upgrades, you’ll want to earn miles faster. You should consider a travel rewards credit card. You can sign up for a card associated with your airline to maximize your earning potential. For example, if you regularly fly Delta, you may want to sign up for the Gold Delta Skymiles card from American Express, which comes with a signup bonus of 60,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within your first four months of qualifying. Plus you’ll earn a $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase within your first four months (offer expires July 5, 2017, see the card agreement for details). After that, you’ll earn two miles on every dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta, and one mile for every dollar spent on all other eligible purchases. This card comes with a $95 annual fee, which is waived the first year.
6. Earn Miles on Every Purchase
If you’re not loyal to any particular airline, a general travel rewards card may be a better option for you. One of our favorites is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. It comes with serious kickback — 2% miles back on all purchases, plus a 5% rebate when those miles are redeemed that you can use toward your next redemption. While it also comes with an $89 annual fee, that’s waived for the first year. All of this adds up to making free upgrades or free flights a real possibility.
7. Get a Luxury Travel Rewards Card
If you’re looking for luxury when it comes to travel perks, signing up for a card like the American Express Platinum Card can pay off. Yes, it comes with a steep annual fee of $550 and you’re going to need seriously good credit to qualify, but the cost is offset by a $200 annual airline credit, up to $200 in Uber credits, an $85 or $100 credit every four years for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (reimbursement amount depends on which program you apply for), access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide and no foreign transaction fees (see the card agreement for full details).
Remember, before applying for any credit card, it’s a good idea to check your credit scores to see where your credit stands. You can get your two credit scores, absolutely free, right here on Credit.com.
At publishing time, the Gold Delta Skymiles card, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard and American Express Platinum Card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, these relationships do not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).
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