The value of travelling comfortably
Travel, above all, is a journey towards new experiences and beautiful memories. Many choose to experience the same comfortable lifestyle from home, while travelling.
Many comfort (luxury) travel experiences certainly bring the value for the money paid for them. However, there are many hotels and experiences for which travellers end up overpaying.
Money Bear Club will compare and calculate the common travel experiences, alternatives, and the value they bring to the travellers. Since many misconceptions surround travel, and comfort travel in general, Money Bear Club will also analyse them.
Read on to find out how different strategies for airport lounges, hotels, experiences and fine dining stack up against each other.
Until the 90s, owning a credit card with travel rewards was the only way to gain access to many airport lounges at a cheap price.
Priority Pass and later DragonPass, changed the way many travellers access airport lounges. These services allow travellers to access airport lounges without owning a credit card, or paying a fee every time a lounge is visited (for members with unlimited passes).
Services like DragonPass not only offer unlimited lounge visits to the top tier members. They also offer exclusive discounts on other travel-related purchases. If a traveller frequently makes purchases at airports, an airport lounge service membership could help them to save money.
Let’s look at whether owning a credit card or paying for a service to access lounges is cheaper.
Money Bear Club will compare these options by 4 factors: the number of lounges, their diversity, price, and additional services. Lounge diversity in this article is defined as the factor of how well all continents are represented in the service. Only the best additional service offered for the clients of each service is included in the table.
Two credit cards were chosen: Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® and American Express Delta Reserve Card. 2 independent airport lounge services – Priority Pass, DragonPass – were also chosen for the comparison. The best offers for each factor are highlighted in the table.
If the main factor in choosing the access to airport lounges is price, then DragonPass is the best choice. The value for the price of $399 is the best among the compared options.
However, if above all, the diversity of the locations of lounges is the most important factor, then Priority Pass is the best choice. With 1,200 airport lounges all over the world, it passes most of its competitors by a significant margin.
In the case of two lounge service providers – DragonPass vs Priority Pass – Priority Pass comes out as a winner in two categories. These categories are the number of lounges, and the diversity of locations. On the other hand, DragonPass has a 11.53% lower annual cost compared to Priority Pass.
It’s important to note that the annual cost of credit cards not only includes the access to airport lounges, but also many other useful services. If the total cost of these useful services was subtracted from the annual fee, then the access to airport lounges would likely be cheaper than the membership fees of the airport lounge service providers.
Independent lounges, especially for U.S.-based travellers, can offer the needed comfort, without the special clauses and conditions travel-oriented credit cards bring. Independent lounges often belong to a group of independent lounges. This allows travellers to use lounges at more airports, without paying more membership fees.
Independent airport lounges offer the most value for frequent travellers. Frequent travellers can access independent airport lounges at cheaper prices than travellers who travel less frequently.
Most hotel booking websites don’t really work for comfortable, above-average hotels. Many even are not on the most popular booking websites.
For travellers looking to book an exclusive hotel room, or a resort room, or looking to find a better place to stay than the hotels on the most popular booking websites, luxury travel websites are the way to go.
Websites like Classic Travel, Luxury Link and Grand Luxury Hotels, offer housing at unique and hand-picked hotels. Moreover, websites like these offer additional services for their clients, like around the clock booking-related help.
A winning combination for luxury hotel stays and saving money on them is off-season offers. More specifically, off-season offers on the most popular hotel booking websites. Discussed in Tips to save money during holidays and increase travel value, the best value deals on hotels occur during the early season or at the end of the off-season period.
Luxury hotels aren’t an exception. Booking a stay at one of them during the early period of the season through one of the hundreds of hotel booking websites is an easy way to not overpay for the experiences these hotels offer. Higher demand during the peak of the season pushes hotels to increase their room prices. Even if, the service stays the same as the one offered during less popular time periods.
Hotel loyalty programmes are getting more complicated year after year. Hotels offering high quality service often have complicated programmes. Calculating the exact amount of benefits a guest will receive, and comparing them to other hotel loyalty programmes can be time-consuming.
Yet, putting in the work and choosing the best deal can save as much as multiple free nights or bonus flight miles. The high quality service and the potential savings make hotel loyalty programmes an attractive, if a time consuming choice.
An alternative to above-average hotels is local luxury housing. Renting an apartment or a house for a short-term period is a path to authentical experiences and high quality housing. Searching for local luxury housing can be done through websites focusing on it, or on real estate renting websites.
Renting from family friends or friends of friends can be the right choice for travellers seeking comfort, and not wishing to overpay for it.
The benefits of renting from friends include the ability to pay a lower price, to not deal with the tiring protocols of hotels (behavioural policies, strict checkout times), and to live in housing that is often not available to other tourists.
The disadvantages of renting from friends include not being able to complain about any problems and having to be a 100% commendable guest.
Creating own experiences, instead of buying them through middlemen, is the best option for luxury activities.
It seems counterproductive to organise own activities in foreign countries, instead of using local agents.
Yet, most activities sold by travel agencies are highly-structured and often don’t offer much free exploration time. Planning and executing activities on your own while travelling, sometimes is the best choice for comfort-seeking travellers.
Firstly, planning experiences on your own provides far more room for customization than buying activities from service providers. Secondly, even personal concierges and travel agents can’t know all the of the relevant personal preferences that affect how much a traveller enjoys their experiences. Finally, executing activities on your own can be as cheap or as expensive, as the person paying for them wants it to be. Discussing a better price with a service seller sometimes is not an option.
Travel agents are a good choice in less popular countries. Countries which receive low numbers of tourists often have underdeveloped tourism infrastructure. Underdeveloped tourism infrastructure can lead to tourists getting lost or getting disappointed with their experiences. Booking the services of a travel agent, because of their high level of local knowledge, is a rational choice in less popular countries.
Using the services of travel agents is also a good choice in countries where the tourist doesn’t know the local language. Comfortable travel, above all, is concerned with minimizing discomfort, and maximizing pleasant experiences. Not knowing the local language, especially when out and about, can lead to experiences causing confusion. Avoiding it can be easily done by booking experiences through travel agents.
Trips and experiences booked through travel agents often come with a discount for big groups. Travelling as a group comfortably, and saving money at the same is a good deal.
Alternatives to the conventional route of acquiring luxury travel experiences are boutique agencies and ticket services.
Boutique local agencies can be a route for not overpaying for comfort. Local agencies offer trips and experiences at better prices than foreign travel agencies. This happens simply because of the fact that local agencies don’t have to employ both foreign and local staff.
Smaller travel ticket services (GetYourGuide, Klook) offer rarer and more intimate experiences than the conventional travel ticket services. These smaller travel ticket services either offer experiences that are not found in other platforms, or that are more intimate and private.
An example of smaller travel ticket services offering more intimate and private experiences are their approach to popular destinations. These ticket services rarely offer tickets to heavily crowded areas to their customers. Moreover, skip-the-line or priority tickets are found more often in these up and coming ticket services.
Michelin stars are an useful criterion for determining whether a restaurant in a foreign country is worth a visit. It still takes a lot to earn a Michelin star, and restaurants boasting even one or two of them are very unlikely to be a let down in terms of quality.
For travellers, especially if they are travelling to a country they haven’t previously been to, Michelin stars will be one of the most invaluable guides in finding high quality and comfortable fine dining.
The main “secret” tip for finding best luxury restaurants? Searching for local guides, and not trusting international rankings. International rankings, be they from acclaimed restaurant guides, or entertainment websites, often feature the perspectives of outsiders to the local dining scene. That doesn’t mean that an outsider will always present a wrong perspective about the local dining scene. It just means that it is more likely to be an incomplete perspective.
Dining guides created by local experts or journalists don’t make the mistake of over-focusing on trendy and new restaurants. This mistake is very common in guides from international entertainment websites. Moreover, guides from local experts highlight the restaurants that reflect the local tastes, and not the tastes of tourists. If authenticity during travel is important, then using the local, instead of international advice, is the key.
Hotels are often the answer for those seeking excellent experiences in fine dining. It’s rare to find hotel restaurants that push the envelope with extremely well-done fine dining. However, most hotel restaurants deliver a consistently above-average, if not excellent, selection of dishes.
Moreover, hotel restaurants often offer discount rates for the guests of the hotel. Saving money on fine dining can be achieved through strategic booking, and researching both the hotel, and the restaurant it owns.
If fine dining during travel is tied to a special occasion, like an engagement or a wedding anniversary, a simple life hack can help to verify the quality of a restaurant. Before going to the restaurant, a person just has to search for it on Google, and read through the reviews. The reviews may not always be 100% true, but they do help to verify if the restaurant really offers exceptional service.
Every person has a different comfort level. That’s why it is impossible to apply all comfortable travel tips for all travellers and expect the same level of satisfaction.
Yet, by striving for, and using tips for the ultimate comfort, travellers become more likely to experience travel at a comfort level above their own. The results of tips for comfortable travel may not always yield the exceptional, but at least they will deliver the above-average experience.
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