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.
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 loungereview.com to get started. However if you are looking for reviews on a specific lounge I recommend checking out boardingarea.com 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.
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!
UPDATE on 12 Jan 2016: The official update from the Department of Homeland Security to clarify any rumors. The State of Illinois got another extension until January 22, 2018. That gives you plenty of time to get your passports now.
In case you have not heard the news TSA is in the process of reconsidering what is valid form of identification. For myself and friends in Chicago area this is urgent according to the news article; starting on Sunday January 10th the state of Illinois you may be required to provide an alternative government approved identification. The word straight from Department of Homeland Security is that passengers will be notified in advance so we are getting mixed messages here.
I personally always travel with my passport as identification partially because one never knows where a trip may end up taking you. : )
My advice folks is bring your passport to the airport for security to be safe. If you don’t have have a passport; what the heck are you waiting for? Get off the couch and get one!
Raise your hand if you enjoy standing in endless long lines? Do you enjoy taking your shoes off at the airport? or your belt? or your light jacket? or sweater? Or pulling out your bag of liquid items?
Most people would respond NO to all of the above questions. So if you don’t enjoy doing all of those things, then why don’t you change that and take control over your travel experience to make it a little more enjoyable?
Do you know how much TSA Precheck costs? Only $85 for 5 years. Let’s do some math here. Say you only travel 3 times a year and assuming all your trips include TSA Precheck airports this will cost you $2.83 per flight. I spend more than that on my morning latte and I don’t have to wait in a long line or take of my shoes!
For an extra $15 for the 5 years you can get Global Entry and avoid filling out the blue customs form every time you return to the USA. You simply fill out an electronic form and walk right past the immigration agent no questions asked.
In recent years I have learned to love the idea of carry on luggage. Some people may think it is to save money as most airlines have a fee to check luggage for domestic flights. However this can easily be avoided with airline status or simply booking your flight with the right credit card. In regards to international flights you are still allowed to check luggage for free with a few exceptions.
Even though I may have free checked luggage status for nearly all of my domestic travel I carry on. Given that most of my domestic travel is long weekends everything can fit into a carry on. Although I do make some exceptions to check luggage; especially if it involves sharing a couple bottles of wine purchased in Argentina with friends.
My primary reason for carry on luggage is to save time! Online checkin makes getting boarding passes easy prior to arriving to the airport and with no luggage to check I don’t have to wait for an agent. I have TSA Pre-Check so I get to fast track through security. We will save the topic of TSA Pre-Check for another post but if you travel 3-4 times a year you should seriously consider it!
So I have already saved anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour waiting to drop off my bag depending on the airport and current waiting time. Then upon arrival at the final destination I don’t have to wait to collect my luggage which can be again anywhere from 5 minutes to 45 minutes. So looking at worst case scenario when I add up the time spent for a return trip I have now saved 3.5 hours avoiding the wait for luggage. Yikes! I could fly from Chicago to Phoenix in that amount of time. Additionally if the trip is merely a long weekend that is significant amount of the weekend that I could be spending relaxing with a drink in hand.
For international travel my decision will depend on the duration of the trip, number of flight connections and the variation of attire required. For instance this past May I had a 10 day trip to Europe that involved visiting 6 cities, 8 flights and 2 train journeys. In addition the weather for the destinations varied from 55F to 105F and events ranged from casual to cocktail attire. It took a lot of careful planning but I managed to get everything into a carryon suitcase and one personal item. I was even more impressed that all my shopping purchases fit into the same luggage on the way back.
I do appreciate of course that packing for one person is much different from the monumental task of packing for a family of 6. When traveling with small children checking your luggage is your best strategy given the joys of unloading and reloading through airport security. For instance when traveling with my sister several years ago my nephew was 3 and my niece was 6 weeks old; I may have been the one who lost the boarding passes in all the commotion. Oops!
When have I checked luggage?
On a 2 week trip to Singapore and Bali with a long stopover
On a flight heading to a cruise given all that evening wear
On a last minute trip to Mexico and uncertain what our plans might be
On many return trips I will check a bag to balance out some of my travel purchases. I always travel with a small collapsable duffle bag that has been utilized many times!
I have a basic principle regardless of carrying on or checking luggage; it is your luggage so be prepared to carry it.