For many years, I prided myself on being a budget traveler. Spending little allowed me to afford to travel internationally.
And while I still look for the best deal I can get, I'm getting older, and have started prioritizing my comfort. My body doesn't fare as well as it used to after being cramped in Coach for 10 hours.
Here are the things I splurge on.
1. Global Entry
I love Global Entry for several reasons. First, it gets me TSA Precheck at every U.S. airport. The line is usually shorter than the regular security line, and you don't have to take off your shoes or take out your electronics or liquids.
Also, when coming back to the U.S. from abroad, the process is faster and easier with Global Entry. Upon arriving in the States, there is a special line for people with GE. You take a picture of yourself at a machine and receive a receipt that you show the customs officers. No standing in long lines!
2. Business Class
This is a recent splurge for me, and one I'm still figuring out. I don't pay outright for Business class; I use points to upgrade.
I have an American Airlines credit card, as well as Capital One Venture X (I'll write a separate post about using cards to fly for free), so I buy a ticket and then put in a request upgrade. Note: there are different classes of tickets (usually called a letter, like W) and only some can upgrade to Business.
One caveat I learned on this trip to Italy is that you aren't guaranteed the upgrade. I requested it coming and going but only got it on the way back.
But oh, mama. Does it make a difference. I can NEVER sleep on planes, but I can get at least a couple of hours of shuteye on a lay-flat seat. And since COVID, I'm realizing that I really like a little space between me and my seatmates. The quality of food and service is incredible.
I'll continue to build my strategy around getting upgraded and keep you posted.
3. Airport Pleasures
Another thing that's made a big difference in how I feel when traveling is how I care for my body during layovers.
I've started getting massages when I have a long layover. Yes, they're overpriced at the airport, but after being stuck in a seat for 9 hours, it helps.
With my Capital One card, I got a free membership to Priority Pass, which gets me into airport lounges all over the world. These are usually $50+ a day, and they offer free food and a place to chill, so they're a great value for the frequent traveler.
I don't travel the way I did as a twenty something backpacker. I can afford to invest in things that make the experience more enjoyable!