TIM MAGEE guarantees a STYLISH ARRIVAL with his tips on NAVIGATING AIRPORTS and REDUCING BOOKING COSTS …
After years spent travelling for business and pleasure and observing holidaymakers in transit, I’m constantly asked for my recommendations on the following:
1. An airport must-have?
Get a Priority Pass or a Dragon Pass. Your credit card people might offer it with some cards. Or buy a day pass from the airline or airport when travelling for €25 to €30. Lounges for some mean the more you eat and drink, the more you save, but it’s my quiet place that makes it worth the money. Dumping bags, finding a corner with air conditioning and silence and getting on with your day until the flight is called. The quality of food, drink, reading material and facilities varies wildly, but my favourite Irish airports, Shannon and Cork, are better than ever and most others have finally cottoned on to the revenue from lounges with some serious competition across Europe.
2. Are airline schemes worth it?
Some are better than others, but join everything. The Aer Lingus Aer Club launch was clunky at best. I am trying to love it as much as I love the people and the airline, but it needs to be better. Etihad is pretty impressive, and even if you have hefty mileage flights and don’t think you can get around to redeeming them against another you can just go shopping on their site. BA Executive Club is the best out of Ireland but their surcharges are savage and I’ve been waiting for their business class to get wifi. The US carriers are a world unto themselves but I wish more airlines would take a leaf out of the Delta book and not let their miles expire.
Some car hire rewards schemes are better value. It takes a lot less spend to get something back. If you rent with Hertz, their points don’t expire either and after a few rentals you qualify for free upgrades or Gold Plus Rewards. Upgrades and awards schemes aside, after your first rental you are in and walking straight past the post-flight queues of queasy people shuffling their licence and credit cards, filling multiple choice forms and taking drawing classes while you saunter up to the desk to get someone to toss you your keys without any questions other than asking your name. Add some car hire excess insurance for the year which will be less than a week’s rental and travel like a pro.
3. Best in-flight wardrobe?
Airports are like Irish hotel breakfast rooms where the thermostat is turned up to Nursing Home. What you wear long haul is really the question. Lots of travel tips say have a cashmere scarf and swish smellies and spritzes but while everyone else is boarding I change in the short-lived pristine loo from wannabe James Bond to James Cordon into something pyjama-like from Tarjay (Target). Something that has become essential for me for flying long-haul – cotton that smells new, spending 30 bucks to feel like a million dollars.
4. Best hotel booking sites?
Try to support the hotel directly, although they don’t always make it easy. Check the rates with an aggregate site and then try to give the booking directly to the hotel. I usually scan Booking.com or Tablet Hotel (for the free upgrade and treats). Book a bit with Booking.com and you become a Genius. Recently that saved me nearly £100, booking a five-star hotel for my wife in Belfast. Unfortunately the hotel wasn’t offering the same rate.
5. Any in-transit advice?
In some airports it is better to have a car waiting. It’s always nicer and sometimes less expensive. Starting your trip with a lounge and finishing it with a smiling driver is especially welcome if there is more than one of you, if you’re travelling with kids, or if you are arriving late at night. Lisbon, Sydney or LAX can mean waiting 40 minutes for a cab on a bad day, and arranging a driver isn’t always as pricey as you might think. Google a local limo or transfer company like Blacklane or ask your hotel for private transfer costs. Falling into the soft leather of a cooled German luxury car knowing you don’t even have to say where you’re going is a relatively cheap travel cheat treat.
6. Chic rentals or hotels?
Airbnb has changed the game. Rentals with rooftop pools in Seville, sparkling Scandi apartments in Oslo, cheap trullos and swish villas in Puglia, allow you to play make-believe in places where there maybe aren’t great hotels. However, there is also an underlying competitive housekeeping and guest rating that I could do without. Most hotel booking sites have rentals too with some spectacular apartments that rival most hotel penthouses, but check the T&Cs. I left an opulent hotel in LA because it was party central and checked into an apartment rental but getting the keys and access to support was like something from Mission Impossible. I would rent an apartment exclusively when on holidays if I could, but I’d be renting it on my own eventually as I’d be divorced. What you don’t have you covet and hotels are home for me but holidays for my wife. Buying local sourdough and butter and the best eggs to have for breakfast is a five-star stay all day long for me.
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