I know, I know. We're work-at-home moms, so why am I talking about airplane tickets? Because, even though my business is mostly based from my home, I do travel to conferences, client events, and media junkets. So how does a budget-friendly small business owner justify flying first class? By remembering why we fly, and how we can use the first class ticket as a way to actually save money.
Here's why it may be worth it to upgrade:
1. Snacks, meals, and drinks. The worst part about flying for me is the long, long day -- often without food. By the time I drive an hour to the airport, wait for 20 minutes in the TSA line, hang out by the gate, and then board the plane, I'm hungry. The little packs of peanuts they give me doesn't satisfy. Then I do the wait and board game again for my second flight of the day. I can sometimes go 6-8 hours without food, and snack bars get tedious.
Since first class offers unlimited free drinks (even alcohol), meals -- if offered, and snacks, you can actually get your fill on fruit, premium crackers or chips, and a big glass (or three) of OJ. For the hungry mom on the go, you'll save between $8-18 dollars over buying your food in the airport between flights.
2. Free wifi. Many planes offer free wifi to their premium cabin members. This is usually a savings of $10 per flight for each leg of your journey. If you take 2 planes per day, like I do, that's a savings if $20!
3. Early boarding and exit. I don't know about you, but I hate running. I don't do mud runs, and I don't like to sprint through the airport, either. Getting on the plane first allows me ample space for my luggage; getting off first makes sure I'm at the next gate 10-15 minutes earlier than everyone else on the plane. No missed flights means no $50-100 change fee. That's a win in my book.
4. Free checked bags. At a cost of $25-40 per checked bag, it's expensive to fly with any luggage. As a mom who tends to need to pack quite a bit, it's nice to get that first free checked bag as a first class passenger. By combining first class perks with my Delta American Express Card, I get THREE free checked bags per trip. If I needed to bring back swag from an event, or carry extra supplies (like a breast pump), it's definitely a good value.
5. Room to rest or work. I always look forward to bringing my fully charged laptop on my flight so that I can get things done. Flights are some of the only times I don't deal with kids or home interruptions. So, you can imagine how perturbed I get when the guy in front of me fully reclines his sit into my lap, preventing me from opening my even very small laptop. Flying first class guarantees that I have room to work; if I earn $50 an hour working, I can essentially earn $100-300 per trip just in productive time! (And if you use your business trips to catch up on rest, you can easily sleep in first class, too.)
So, now that you know that you can essential save/earn up to $400 per flight from perks and productive time, how can you make sure your first class upgrade doesn't cost more than it's worth? I like to recommend these tips for the first class flyer:
- Enroll in the frequent flyer program of your favorite airline.
- Get the rewards credit card (which is free of membership fees the first year and usually gets you a free checked bag, as well as access to first class upgrades -- sometimes for a discount.)
- Book your flight early, then immediately check for seat changes and cheap upgrades. I booked my flight on a Tuesday, then checked on Thursday for upgrades. I found a first class upgrade for $70!
- Check in very early and ask. If check in from home the night before your flight, you can sometimes see that there are first class seats available for less. Take advantage.
There is no surefire way to get first class at a deep discount, so if you have a trip coming up, check back early and often. You might see the right price that makes an upgrade worthwhile to you, too!
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