Travel Is Still A Curse, But…
BY KITT WALSH
Facing endless lines and hostile TSA agents at security; nickeled-and-dimed for luggage, snacks and even seats; cramped, bounced and often delayed, you may feel (like I do) that airline travel is a curse. But now, with the holiday travel season upon us, I wanted to share three programs that I have made use of to make planning my upcoming trips a little less awful.
While searching for the best fare for a flight to LAX on Hipmunk, I was about to utilize the fare alert box—where Hipmunk lets you know when the fare drops so you needn’t hover over your keyboard till the wee hours hoping to snag a cheaper flight–when I noticed something new. A message box from a service named Options Away popped up. This new service allowed me to find a low fare and, for a minimal fee, hold that low price for up to 7 days. If within the time period I chose (1-day, 3-days, 5-days or 7 days) the fare dropped in price, the program would automatically apply the lower price instead and I need only pay the lower one.
I knew that old school logic stated that Tuesday was the best day to get the lowest airline fare and that one should never book on a weekend (when everyone else in the world is booking a seat), but I always hated the fact that you never could be sure which day to pick to buy a ticket. It was always a gamble and, from one coast to another, it could be an expensive roll of the dice. Options Away takes the anxiety away. It works with Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, Hipmunk and CheapTickets and will show up for fares originating in the USA and for most trips 9 days or longer away from the time of booking.
As I was checking fares on a Sunday, I picked the lowest fare itinerary that worked for me. The fare could be held by Options Away for 1 day ($7) 3 days ($17), 5 days ($28) or 7 days ($32). I chose a three-day hold (a one day hold is 24 hours, the longer holds expire at 3 pm on the day you chose) and pressed, “Hold” on the popup screen. The process was a breeze. I gave my credit card information and sat back and waited. On the third day, before the hold expired, Options Away informed me the price had dropped $67 and held that price for me! Even with the $17 I had shelled out, I still saved $57 and didn’t have to haunt the fare finding sites. I love it when a plan comes together. Visit www.OptionsAway.com for more information.
I have a grueling trip to Thailand coming up with a long layover in Hong Kong. Knowing how these (50+ and arthritic) bones of mine will feel after the 14 hour flight to Asia, I finally bit the bullet and investigated how we plebeians (not members of expensive airline clubs) could get into a VIP lounge. The notion of a seat I could stretch out on, a place to plug in my phone, some hot food and perhaps even a free cocktail seemed to me to be incentive enough to see if someone would sell me a Day Pass.
It is an app called LoungeBuddy and it is free to download. LoungeBuddy shows you 160 and counting lounges all over the world where you can enter without a membership by buying a discounted Day Pass from the LoungeBuddy app.
I found a lounge in Hong Kong that will let me pass those (5!) exhausted layover hours on a small private bed with a shower ($129) or present me the chair, food and even beer (no mixed drinks) for $64. To me, not dealing with the crowds (Hong Kong is one of the busiest airlines in the world) would make that worth the money.
LoungeBuddy did not help me domestically, though. I am flying into LAX and have a few hours wait until a friend picks me up. I turned to LoungeBuddy, but they only show two lounges in my arrival terminal, both owned by the airline on which I am already booked and which already allows walk-up admission for $59. That lounge does have alcohol and at the cost of an airport Bloody Mary plus a comfortable seat and an outlet, I feel I am ahead of the game.
LoungeBuddy does get credit for gathering all the information for me and making me think outside of the box when it came to flyer’s clubs in the first place. I will always check the app before being held hostage in an uncomfortable airport again. Visit www.loungebuddy.com for more information.
This is a company after my own heart.
In 2003, Frenchman Frederic Briest was flying to South America, a trip with many stopovers in remote cities. He realized that, though it was easy to find a bar in most places, finding a place to truly relax and unwind in any airport was virtually impossible. He decided to make traveling more pleasant by creating a relaxation and beauty lounge where travelers could get a massage, facial, mani/pedi and even catch up on that facial waxing they meant to save time for before they left for the trip.
BeRelax was born. The first salon opened in Charles DeGaulle Airport in Paris and the chain went international as of 2008. With more than 40 stores in 12 airports in 8 countries (with more opening all the time), you can literally put your feet up (and get them rubbed) while waiting for your plane.
I’m booking a chair massage (some locations offer table massages) and a facial at the LAX salon. Prices range from $29 (10 min) to $69 ($30 minutes) for massage and from $50 (20 minutes) to $100 (1 hour) facials with mani/pedicures running between $40 and $50. I can think of no better way to kill a few hours.
You can make reservations though walk-ins are accepted, usually with only a minimal wait. To check locations and make reservations, visit www.berelax.com.
For those of us who remember when travel was an adventure and something to look forward to (please bring back porters) as opposed to travel being the curse it has since become, this trio of useful programs and places just might make it a little easier.