How to Get VIP Treatment When You Travel

Photo (cc) by MikeBehnken

Ready for a vacation? Airfare’s gone up seven times this year already, checking a single bag on the plane can cost you $25, and then you get to the hotel: parking fee, Wi-Fi and other service fees. And a car rental, too? Ouch.

Sure, travel’s never been cheap. But the double whammy of a recovering economy and soaring airfares are making this travel season an especially challenging one. The good news? According to frequent traveler Nicole Hockin, you don’t have to play the nickel-and-dime game and you don’t have to be someone special to get special treatment.

“You don’t have to be a celebrity or executive to feel like a VIP,” says Hockin, the author of TravelSmartBlog.com and a Hotels.com spokesperson. She explains how to get a little extra TLC to Money Talks reporter Jim Robinson in the video below — check it out, then read on for more.

Planning

According to Hockin, the most important tip to getting VIP treatment is to plan well. “You have to take control of your vacation, and it starts with planning,” she says. “Plan in advance, don’t leave things to chance.”

First step? Look regularly for the best prices. If you don’t know where you want to go, sign up for deal alerts on sites like Travelzoo, TripAlertz, and LivingSocial Escapes. Hockin adds, “Hotels.com has a great one for last-minute deals every Tuesday.”

What you’re looking for is not just a great price — but also included amenities and perks that make you feel like a special guest.

“I always look for things beyond price,” says Hockin. “Not just ‘stay two nights get a third night free,’ but maybe ‘stay two nights and earn a $50 resort credit’ that can be used at restaurants and casinos. Spend their money, not yours.”

Don’t forget to check on things like free Wi-Fi and breakfast, too.

Transportation

Once you reach your destination, you probably need a way to get around — including how to get from the airport to your hotel. Sometimes a rental car makes sense — check out 5 Tips for a Better Deal on Rental Cars – but also look into the costs and convenience of public transit, train and cab fares, and even what’s within walking distance. Also check if free shuttle service is included with anything you’re already paying for.

Take advantage of any discount offers — if you’re a member of AAA, AARP, or any number of other programs you may be entitled to savings, but you have to remember to ask and mention it.

Always ask for more – and less

There’s nothing wrong with being greedy on vacation, as long as you’re nice about it. Ask for upgrades.

“I was in Las Vegas staying at a great hotel with just a regular room and I said, ‘Is there anything else available, any opportunity to be upgraded tonight?’” says Hockin. “They said ‘yeah, sure.’ The next thing I know I’m in a junior suite on the 29th floor overlooking the city for not a penny more.”

We’ve mentioned this tip and others before, in 8 Tips to Save at Any Hotel. Ask them to waive frivolous fees, too — like if they charge you for parking when you didn’t bring a car.

“People ask how can I avoid paying that resort charge. Just say, ‘Hey, I didn’t use this’ or ‘I don’t understand why I need to pay, is it really necessary,’ or ‘I’d really like to come back here but that fee bugs me, is that something that can be waived?’” says Hockin.

What’s the worst that can happen? They say “too bad.” But Hockin says she often gets a positive response. “They want to keep your loyalty, and if you approach it nicely, they will return it nicely and credit you back,” says Hockin.

Hockin also suggests making nice with the concierge for freebies and advice. “Celebrities have their publicists, we have the concierge. Often they have discount tickets or free ones that they can pass along to you,” she says.

Hotel alternatives

Hotels do want your loyalty — and many have loyalty programs that can sometimes make it worthwhile. Hotels.com also has Welcome Rewards, which earns you a free night’s stay after every 10 total booked nights, with no blackouts or restrictions.

But if you’re not a frequent traveler and want to try something new, or find a more personal experience — not to mention save a few bucks — you might try renting a private home or a room in one. There are tons of sites that hook travelers up with private property owners, including Homeaway, iStopOver, Vacation Rental by Owner, and Trip Advisor. (To find more, simply do a search for “Vacation Rentals.”) This article from Independent Traveler also offers tips and links to a couple of dozen sites.

Vacation rentals are simple concept: People with extra space — whether it’s a vacation villa on the beach or a spare bedroom in the apartment — can rent it out at rates they name for a time they specify. Travelers, meanwhile, can make custom requests and see if anybody bites.

iStopOver CEO Anthony Lipschitz describes it this way: “You can go into the site and say, ‘I’m going to Miami and I would like tonic water and no feather pillows, and, you know, 12 Coronas in the fridge.’ And owners can then respond and say we can accommodate you or no we can’t.”

We put the site to the test by doing a search in Miami. For $89 a night, you can rent a cottage 5 minutes from the beach with a pool and free Wi-Fi, and other optional services — like a beer-stocked fridge or airport pickup.

Plus, Lipschitz says, private owners are more knowledgeable than hotel concierges. Want a relaxing local coffee shop? “You can have a concierge tell you go to Starbucks,” says Lipschitz, “Or an owner tells you ‘oh, go see Mario down the corner, he’s the best barista in the neighborhood.’”

You can read personal reviews and information from the host before booking, and the site handles the potentially awkward part of the transaction. “We act as a clearinghouse,” says Lipschitz. “We collect the payment and when the guest checks in to the property and everything is OK and they’re comfortable, they provide a security code to the host and we release the funds.”

For an even less expensive alternative, offer to swap your home for someone else’s: See our story Best Hotel Price This Summer? $0.

We’ve got more: try 17 Tips to Save On Vacation Home Rentals. And for other vacation advice, try 10 Things to Know Before You Book a Cruise, 4 Ways to Save Big at Disney, and Top 2011 Vacation Hotspots.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
How Baby Boomers Are Earning an Extra $573 a Month
How Baby Boomers Are Earning an Extra $573 a Month

In the gig economy, baby boomers are out-hustling their younger competition. You can cash in, too.

This Cellphone Carrier Has the Worst Network Quality, Customers Say
This Cellphone Carrier Has the Worst Network Quality, Customers Say

One major wireless provider stands out for the least reliable call, messaging and data services.

7 Things I Never Buy at Costco
7 Things I Never Buy at Costco

A bulk buy isn’t always the best buy. Here’s where I shop for these items instead of a warehouse club.

How to Get the Best Possible Deal on Car Insurance
How to Get the Best Possible Deal on Car Insurance

This is the last article on understanding and shopping for car insurance that you’ll ever need.

13 Smart Tricks to Organize Every Room of Your Home
13 Smart Tricks to Organize Every Room of Your Home

Get your household organized with these brilliant and inexpensive tricks.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Whether you resell it for a big profit or add it to your own wardrobe, this type of clothing is a hidden steal.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years
10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years

The cars that owners hold onto the longest have one thing in common, a new study shows.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider
Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider

A new study has bad news for the millions of Americans who spend money on multivitamins.

21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss
21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss

Start off the new year by implementing these small-but-smart savings strategies. They’ll soon add up.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021
Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021

More than 700 prescription medications have seen price hikes so far this year. Here’s a look at the worst.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

5 States Lowering Taxes This Year and 2 Raising Them
5 States Lowering Taxes This Year and 2 Raising Them

State personal income tax rates, brackets and deductions just changed in these places.

9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car
9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car

Thinking of leaving these possessions in a car? Prepare for unexpected consequences.

7 Tricks to Cleaning Your Bathroom Faster
7 Tricks to Cleaning Your Bathroom Faster

These tips can get your bathroom sparkling with little time and no elbow grease.

11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked
11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked

Does your retirement budget account for all of these costs?

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.