You Can Take the Best Vacation Ever With These Key Upgrades

Whether you’re headed overseas or taking an all-American road trip, your vacation does not need to break the bank. We gathered some tips on how to get free upgrades, find cheap flights, and more to make your trip top-shelf. You’re gonna want to write all of these down.

1. Keep your travel dates flexible

Calendar page

When choosing a vacation time, stay loose. | toeytoey2530/Getty Images

According to Time’s Money section, flights will cost you less if you avoid peak seasons for your vacation. Consider traveling in late spring or early summer, or even into fall. Also think about leaving or returning mid-week instead of weekends. You can save hundreds by traveling on off-days and seasons. And if you find a cheaper flight, you might be able to afford that sweet, sweet first-class upgrade.

Next: When booking a flight, think about timing.

2. Book flights at optimal times

Airplane at Seattle Tacoma aiport

Think about when you want to fly. | David_Johnson/iStock/Getty Images

CheapAir.com concludes the ideal time for booking flights to Europe falls roughly four months before departure. Plan ahead! When traveling off-peak, you can fudge that timeline a bit. Last-minute travel can come in cheaper too. Consider using budget carriers, flying into smaller airports instead of major hubs, or taking longer routes to save big bucks too. The more money you save on flights, the more you’ll have to spend on upgrades elsewhere.

Next: Don’t get shy about bartering.

3. Consider negotiating for a lower rate or better room

Businessman at arrival in room

As the customer, you sometimes have negotiating power when planning vacations. | iStock.com/Kzenon

Go ahead and use sites like Kayak.com and Expedia to find good deals, but don’t forget to search the internet at large for deals and promotion codes. Hotels do not always share those on deal roundup sites. Once you have a few in mind, try playing them against each other. According to a survey by Consumer Reports, sharing rates you found for other hotels yields a lower price or better room 80% of the time.

Next: Think about the assets you already have.

4. Go ahead, use those connections

elderly group of women having a meal

If you have a membership to AARP, AAA, or some other organizations, you can save. | monkeybusinessimages/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

Are you a student, a teacher, or a senior? How about a military veteran? Do you work for the government or use AAA for roadside assistance? You may qualify for discounted rates when traveling. Ask your hotel before booking, or check the website for your employer, AAA.com, AARP, or Military.com before you go to save some green.

Next: Get creative with your location.

5. Consider other neighborhoods or lodging

Apple iPhone 6s plus with Airbnb application on the screen.

Think about alternative lodging to kick your vacation up a notch. | OhmZ/iStock/Getty Images

In today’s world, we have more options than ever and some of those can get seriously swanky. The Nerd Wallet recommends checking AirBnB and HomeAway for more luxurious, often more affordable accommodations than the chain hotels. Neighborhoods off the beaten path have a lot to offer, too. Make sure you investigate transit options, but sometimes staying even just a few miles outside the city center can net you better digs at a decent price.

Next: Treat the staff well and they will (probably) reciprocate.

6. You’ll catch more bees with honey at the flight gate

woman is showing her documents to check-in attendan

When working with gate agents, it pays to be nice. | iStock.com/YakobchukOlena

When angling for an upgraded seat, treating the staff well goes a long way. Edward Pizzarello, who writes for Inside Flyer,  carries several $5 Starbucks gift cards when he travels. “It’s a great thing to hand to somebody when you’re having a discussion and they’re trying to help you,” he said. “More often than not, I’m going to get a desirable outcome.” He also recommends carrying on your luggage. “More flexibility will yield more benefits from the airline,” the expert added.

Next: Loyalty will get you a long way.

7. The most loyal customers reap the best rewards

a costco loyalty card

When considering loyalty, think outside the big box store. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Even though we all like shopping around, earning gold or platinum status on a single airline — or several, if you travel a lot — really helps. TripSavvy recommends sticking to one airline to earn loyalty points, or traveling with someone who has them. If you travel frequently, consider earning loyalty with hotel chains, as well.

Next: Want into the lounge? Here’s how.

8. Use this trick for lounge access

Family In Airport Departure Lounge Wait For Delayed Flight

You can get yourself out of this situation, if you play your cards right. | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

If a flight gets oversold and you have some flexibility, offer to give up your seat. Airlines will often offer big rewards for delaying your travel. Don’t fear negotiation, in this case. Ask for airline lounge access, and you can wait for your next flight in style.

Next: Class it up a little for this perk.

9. Dress nicely for real rewards

Businessman giving U.S. passport at the airport

If you want to fly business, look like it. | iStock.com/Kritchanut

Thrillist points out that wearing slightly nicer clothes — we’re talking real pants, not prom dresses — goes a long way. If you want to fly in business class, it helps to dress like you’re going places. Sorry folks, that means no spandex and no pajama pants.

Next: Give good feedback and you may reap this reward.

10. Make like an influencer

An Apple iPhone 7s is seen in the upgraded Apple store

Leaving feedback, even on social media, can pay off. | Leon Neal/Getty Images

Hotels and airlines are businesses, and they value good feedback. If you say nice things on social media, you may get better service next time. Conversely, don’t fear leaving negative reviews if your room or flight goes poorly. Sometimes, customer service will come through to avoid negative press.

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