Airport lounges: How? Where? When?

Dec 2015: ANA Lounge – Narita Airport Tokyo


Here you are at the airport looking for a place to sit and perhaps have a snack.  Let’s step away from all the airport hustle and bustle and take some time to relax in a comfy seat.


How do you get lounge access?  

You can get lounge access based on your ticket class, frequent flier status, credit cards or  you can simply pay for a day pass.   Lounge Buddy is an amazing app that I have loaded on my phone to check out my lounge access.  It is easy to utilize based on your specific status, credit card and itinerary.

Domestic carriers do not provide any lounge access for first class domestic travel.  I fail to understand the logic of this when you take in consideration New York to Honolulu nonstop travel time is 11.5 hours versus New York to Dublin nonstop travel time is a mere 6.5 hours.


Dec 2015: Palau airport

Where do I find lounge reviews?

Lounges very diversely in amenities from the basic coffee and cookie with a somewhat comfortable seat; all the way to gourmet dining with plush comfortable lounge chairs.   You can get a review similar to trip advisor specific to lounges at to get started.  However if you are looking for reviews on a specific lounge I recommend checking out which has independent travel blogger reviews to many different lounges.

When should I use a one time visit pass?

I save my one time passes to utilize at lounges outside of the US because the benefits are typically much more generous.  However for domestic travel;  I would utilize them for long layovers or your flight gets delayed.  Keep in mind that lounges typically have airline agents available that are usually very accommodating to help with travel issues.

Last year I was waiting for a flight from Chicago to Washington DC yet my flight was continuously  getting delayed and I wanted to get on the standby list for an earlier flight.  In order to add yourself to a standby list you must speak with an agent in person or on the phone.  Given the storms on the east coast causing the delays the phone call wait time was over 1 hour;  yet a short walk up to the desk in the lounge and magic.  I am on the standby list and actually better yet the agent booked me a seat as the flight was boarding soon.  By the way, my original flight was cancelled after 5 hours of delays.


Lounge etiquette

Lastly let’s talk briefly about appropriate lounge etiquette.  It saddens me that this is not common sense but alas here we are my friends.  The lounge is similar to relaxing in a friends living room.   Don’t put your feet on the couch; it does not belong to you.    Be considerate of your fellow lounge neighbors;  trust me that nobody wants to hear every detail of your day or witness a FaceTime call with your family.  Your personal life should be just that; remember you are in a public space.  There are usually business office spaces or private rooms for anyone looking to have a long personal chat.  In the event that you are traveling with children please ensure your children are not running around the lounge or playing with their iPad at full volume.  Be comfortable but be respectful!



What would you pay for an upgrade?

Ahh I remember the days when I had elevated status and if the stars aligned I would get a bump into business class.   However with elevated status I would on a recurring basis get the free upgrades to economy plus along with any of my travel companions.

Here is a quick review of what the major domestic carriers provide with each status tier  American Elite,  Delta Medallion,  United Premier.   Please if you do have elevated status with any carrier learn about your benefits and don’t forget to utilize your benefits that you worked so hard for!  Don’t end up like my friend who recently traveled on a transatlantic flight in economy even though his status allowed him free access to economy plus.  He did not know the process to utilize his benefits and found himself squeezed in the standard economy seat for 9 hour flights Chicago to Germany return.

Sadly I currently have no elevated status with any airline carrier.   As you may recall from last week’s post “Does loyalty matter anymore?“; I am only loyal to my wallet.     But never fear….you can treat yourself to an upgrade or splurge for the whole year with an annual United economy plus subscription.

Here are the primary factors that go into my decision process for consideration when purchasing an upgrade. 

How long is the flight?

For any flight under 2.5 hours I would not really consider it unless it was an upgrade to business class or first class at a low price.

What benefits come with the upgrade?

  • Economy plus generally has early boarding, free checked bags, and sometimes even free cocktails.
  • Business class generally flights over 2 hours a meal is served, 1st to board, free checked bags, cocktails (even prior to takeoff) and typically special access to movie/entertainment system.

How much is the upgrade?

This is a personal decision for everyone on what you feel comfortable spending.  This really comes down to how much you value being comfortable.  I typically determine the cost per hour (upgrade price / flight hours) to help me decide.  So for example a few weeks ago on our return from Puerto Vallarta to upgrade from economy to first class was $119 for a 4 hour flight which is basically about $30 per hour which included dinner, cocktails and the royal treatment.

I compare that to other hourly rate or luxury services:  Chicago downtown parking $18 hour, massage $90 hour, mani/pedi $45, maid service $100 or a round of golf $80.

Hmm which would make me happier….4 hours traveling first class or maid service this month?     Well you know who won!

Dec 2105: Asiana business class
Dec 2105: Enough leg room to dance…













Additional considerations:

  • Do I have a connecting flight?
  • Do I need to sleep on this flight? (i.e. red-eye or international)
  • How much did I spend on the original ticket?

My personal limit is about $40 per hour however the flight duration and benefits included are critical in my decision process.   Although somedays I just want to be treated like a princess; on those days even the loyalty to my wallet gets tossed.   It is all about me with a glass of champagne!

Seek your adventure!


Does loyalty matter anymore?

Jan 2016: O’hare sunrise

So I have only one loyalty when it comes to travel which is simple – my wallet.  I have an active frequent mileage account with every major US carrier and many international airlines.  I used to have a preferred airline when I travelled for work and lived abroad.  My favorite airline was by default the airline my employer had negotiated a discount.   However I rarely travel for work these days;  so I no longer play favorites.  I won’t take a later flight or  an extra stop to stay with a preferred carrier.  I want the best price, at my ideal time and ideally the best plane with the best seat configuration.


Wow that is complicated.  Right?   Take for example my last trip to Mexico.  I booked a hacker airfare with 2 one way tickets because it had the best price and best times for the dates I wanted.  I flew American Airlines via Dallas to Puerto Vallarta; yet I took a non-stop flight home with United Airlines.

The US airline industry has created a new challenge  to earn miles based on a calculation of airfare cost, frequent flier status and miles flown.  It takes a rocket scientist to determine how many miles you will earn not to mention where you stand on qualifying dollars to get status.  Here is an example to help make your head spin.

Nov 2015: Palau lounge – only guest : )

Don’t get me wrong there are some great perks once you earn status with any of the major airline carriers; upgrades to economy plus, free checked luggage, early boarding, lounge access, no change fee, and etc.    In reality so many of these perks you can purchase or are included credit card benefits.  So unless you are a road warrior who travels for business on a regular basis the “butt in seat” miles needed to reach the different status levels are simply a pain in the butt.


I am not willing to pay more, add stops, or change my personal schedule to ensure my devotion to any airline carrier.  Let us be honest; do you think any airline would return the favor?

My strategy shall remain to keep my loyalty aligned to my wallet.

Seek your adventure!

My essentials for a “flip flop” trip

This Chicago winter has been very kind to us so far,  yet my desire to run for the sun was still there.  I just returned from Puerto Vallarta Mexico for my annual “flip flop” trip  which is simply defined as  anywhere location I can wear flip flops.   Ideally I would like to visit a city I have never been to however I am not picky as the goal is to wear flip flops.  The one year I skipped my annual “flip flop” trip it was -46F with the windchill factor for several days.   Trust me when I say I won’t make that mistake again!

What makes a good “flip flop” trip?

Sunrise walk


Sunshine – Enjoying some beautiful weather and replenish your Vitamin D by soaking in some sunshine.  Of course the weather is something we cannot control; however there are so many websites where you can check the historical temperature of that location to get solid information.   I like because it gives you the weather, humidity, daylight hours, and precipitation.



Breakfast view


Al Fresco –  I want to have morning coffee on the balcony, breakfast on the patio overlooking the gardens, lunch at the pool and dinner on the beach.  The locations are negotiable but I want to be outdoors enjoying the open air.



Beach sunset

“Unplugging” – I cherish these few days when I can power off the digital world for 99% of the day!  I don’t check personal or work email.  I will rarely turn on the TV.  There are so many benefits to an unplugged vacation.  If you need to stay connected to work while on vacation; please be warned don’t sit next to me or I might accidentally toss your laptop into the pool.   Uh Oh!  Just enjoy the outdoors and read a good paperback book or magazine.  I try to imagine what life would have been like in 1965!


Seek your adventure!