Don't you just hate it when you're sitting in the departure lounge, psyching yourself up for that 17-hour flight at the back of the plane, when the desk clerk calls, "Passenger Jones, if you're in the lounge, would you please report to the airline staff?" And the Joneses front up, and the clerk tears up their economy boarding passes and prints new ones, and you know they've been bumped up to the business cabin. Some people have all the luck when travelling. So here's your guide on how to . . .
Get an upgrade
Airlines and hotels favour loyal customers first, as well as those who don't pay with discounts. So join the loyalty programme and book your hotel direct. If your loyalty lies with your wallet, then travel during slow months at popular tourist destinations, or low-occupancy times like weekends at "business' hotels. For airlines, fly when economy is full and premium seats relatively empty, like school holidays when families want to travel together. You're also more likely to get an upgrade if you're flying solo. Another trick is to check-in late, so you're allocated whatever seat is available, or ask to be moved if you (legitimately) get a faulty chair, entertainment system, or annoying fellow passenger. Use your frequent flyer miles or pay a little more to bid for an airline upgrade on plusgrade.com. Fortune favours the bold, so if you're polite and well-dressed then why not ask for an upgrade at check-in? Bonus points for genuine reasons like being pregnant, extremely tall or celebrating a special occasion, which can also work at hotel check-ins.
Start as you mean to go on, and leave home well-rested. This means being organised in the days leading up to your flight, thereby reducing your stress. Limit your alcohol before and during travel, but increase your water intake. Set your watch or phone to the destination timezone as soon as it's announced aboard so your body is preparing for the new time. On arrival, stay awake until an early local bedtime, and if you have some daylight hours, get some fresh air and a little exercise outdoors to wind down. Some travellers always book a late-night flight to their destination so they can rest before they arrive in the daytime, and fool their body into thinking it's the normal routine. On the return journey they book a daytime flight, then stay awake so when they arrive home at night they can go straight to bed.
Beat the queues
This is where some dos and don'ts prove helpful. Do line up when others are busy with a timetabled event like fireworks at a theme park. Do get up early to queue before opening time, or at the end of the day, like Friday night when others are dining. Do buy tickets earlier online, and take advantage of pre-booked dates and times. Do get a guide, or pay a little more for a better ticket. Don't go to the main areas at peak times; see these places early, then move to the quieter areas. Don't eat in the tourist traps, they're pricey and not authentic; eat where the locals eat. Don't travel in peak season, or when other nationalities have long weekends; think British hens' parties in Greece. Don't travel during school or public holidays unless you want to join locals celebrating en masse, like the Great Wall during Chinese New Year. And finally, don't go to galleries and museums during school hours because of school trips.
Have a family road trip without a meltdown
Set some ground rules before setting off - no whining, hitting, throwing, or wanting the toilet after you've driven past the rest rooms. It will help if all travellers are well-fed and rested throughout the entire trip, so provide lots of healthy snacks, and limit sugar consumption. Pack some sporty items to use up contained energy when you make your pit-stops. If travelling with small children and babies, work around sleep time; consider travelling longer distances in the evenings. If you'd rather avoid digital devices like laptops for movies, plan some games for the entire family, CDs for sing-a-longs and audio books. Activity packs, including colouring books and stickers, will keep backseat travellers occupied, and reward good behaviour with small "gifts" such as
Lego, puzzles, and bubble blowers that can be used out the window. And stop at interesting spots along the way to break up the journey.
Get luxury for less
Do some online investigation before you travel, including airports. If you're transiting in Singapore you may qualify for the Changi Transit Programme, with vouchers to spend at airport shops and the Ambassador Transit Lounge. Visit luxury accommodation and facilities, such as Bangkok's open-air Sky Bar for sunset cocktails. Airbnb, boutique hotels, or those out of the main centres can offer affordable luxury, as well as brand new hotels that are still "bedding in". It generally pays to book early when you see a deal, or risk being very last-minute when say, a tour company is trying to fill empty spaces. Let's not forget that off-season will always be cheaper than peak, and that some countries, such as Thailand and some in Eastern Europe, will offer more for less, especially if the exchange rate is good.