Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
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AerialWombat
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Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by AerialWombat » Thu Nov 21, 2019 11:14 am

I've been a budget traveler my entire life. During my mid-30's, I spent three years traveling around the world -- staying in youth hostels, flying coach, traveling with only a small carry-on (no checked luggage), etc.

I'm now 41, and calling myself "semi-retired". I leave the US again for an extended overseas trip in a few weeks. I've already booked a luxurious Airbnb stay in Brussels for several weeks, and I'm flying over in business class.

Now that I "have money", what else can I do to make my travels easier?

I'm particularly interested in hearing from those of you that have been international business travelers for years and years. What simple things do you spend money on regularly that makes your frequent country-hopping easier?

I'm thinking about actually checking a bag, but don't want to waltz around London with it before going to Brussels. So, perhaps a luggage forwarding service?

What about getting from Gatwick to downtown? I've considered hiring a car service, just because I can.

Any tips like this? And not necessarily specific to London, I was just using those examples since that's my next stop.

Thanks!
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123
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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by 123 » Thu Nov 21, 2019 11:34 am

I've got an opposite view. Though I've been able to afford it for many years I've avoided a lot of things that make travel easier and luxurious. I think it tends to isolate you from the experience when you stay in swanky hotels and use various car services (including uber, lyft etc). I always try to travel like a poor college student, it makes it much more fun. For example, I take the (usually local) bus back and forth to the airport even though, in many cities, that could add an hour or more to the transit time when you consider schedules/delays/etc. To each his own. YMMV.
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randomguy
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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by randomguy » Thu Nov 21, 2019 11:34 am

This is really personal but I find spending money for time pays off. Things like staying closer to the places you want to be to save 30 mins traveling. Paying for direct flights. Taking taxis instead of waiting for a bus. Pure luxury (big seats, fancy hotels,...) doesn't do much for me but you might be different.

scophreak
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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by scophreak » Thu Nov 21, 2019 11:35 am

Are you flying from London to Brussels or taking the train? Perhaps you could stash your bag in a locker at the train station/airport (assuming they have them). In particular, train stations in many European cities have luggage lockers that will hold even very large suitcases. If you're traveling between cities by train that would appear to be one of the easier options for short-term storage while you're exploring the area.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by livesoft » Thu Nov 21, 2019 11:35 am

What else can you do? You can hire a personal assistant that travels with you and does anything you ask them to do. A Mr. Smithers if you will.
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mlipps
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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by mlipps » Thu Nov 21, 2019 11:47 am

Especially in Europe, I don't find spending money on fancy hotels very satisfying. But I will spend money to be at one centrally located to a lot of things i want to do, or an Air BNB in the most charming neighborhood. Agree with another poster that I usually enjoy taking a bus or train (but especially a bus) more than an Uber or Lyft, although I will take a car if I'm pressed for time. On the other hand, I nearly always pay the premium for an express train over long distances versus a slower one.

Most of my travel indulgence is going to expensive restaurants. My goal is to always pick the restaurant, and the food from a menu, that offers something I can't get back home or anywhere else. For example, on a recent trip to Seattle, we went to a really special Japanese restaurant that uses locally sourced ingredients to make homestyle Japanese food (Adana, if anyone is interested). Total bill was about $330 for 2 people and it was completely worth it.

Another thing in Europe that can be expensive but is worthwhile is fully planned day trips/tours to outlying areas. For example, from Barcelona, we took a train to an outlying suburb, then we met up with a group for a bike ride through Catalonian vineyards. The cities of Europe are great, but it's a different way to see the country to explore the smaller towns and villages. If I go back to Italy I will spend some time in the Tuscan countryside, for example.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by brainstem » Thu Nov 21, 2019 12:00 pm

Time and money are always interesting variables
Mix in your age and resiliency
So -- taking a 8-12 hr flight overseas -- fly business with a bed seat could mitigate jet lag and give you a more productive day on arrival (what is the value of that day to your travels?)
Airport lounges - comfort, productivity, assistance with delays --- or needless extravagance?
Took a 3 hour ferry ride and spent an extra $30 for a premium lounge on the boat - came with food/drinks and comforts
$50 extra for a hotel room that gives you a junior suite with 30-50% more room .... can be very nice

There are always ways to spend a little more - some are worth it and some are unnecessary (at least to me - to you, maybe)
If you have the $$ - I find it valuable to at least look and see what is offered and for what price -- my travel experience has definitely benefited from this approach - ie value driven luxuries

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by BuddyJet » Thu Nov 21, 2019 12:19 pm

My splurge is hiring a guide for the day. I've had good luck with toursbylocals.com

I usually look for an older, retired guide since their interest and knowledge is usually better for me than a younger, hipper guide.

Given the length of your say, I'd probably check a bag but be sure to pack several days of clothes and essentials in carryon in case bag gets delayed.
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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Thu Nov 21, 2019 12:22 pm

If it were me alone, indeed business class. I would only bring a carry on (backpack) and for the splurge, perhaps instead of taking the time to do laundry, have a hotel laundry service do it for me.
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CascadiaSoonish
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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by CascadiaSoonish » Thu Nov 21, 2019 12:28 pm

High quality noise-canceling headphones. Know where the business class airport lounges are if you'll have time to visit them. Smartwool clothing for the flight, breathes great and keeps you comfortable no matter what screwy stuff is going on with air circulation on the flight. Car service. And the little things -- a portable battery pack for USB charging is a must.

Agreed with the other poster that things like car services and luxury hotels might feel separate from the pulse of the city, so consider mixing it up a bit; take the car service when tired, take the train when you've got time to burn and want to see what the locals experience.

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dm200
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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by dm200 » Thu Nov 21, 2019 12:37 pm

Seems like, in retirement or semi-retirement, saving just "time" would not be a priority.

As far as hotels, etc. I have rarely found that lower of modest priced places have any significant drawbacks. There are exceptions, of course, and the location of your stay might have just the higher end hotels very convenient.

Perhaps, certain beneficial conveniences may be well worth the increased costs - such as lounges in airports, better travel from airport to hotel and more convenient food choices/availability when traveling.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by JediMisty » Thu Nov 21, 2019 12:40 pm

I have actually taken older clothes and left them behind in hotels. I leave a note that says to give the clothes away - preferably in the local language. For a variation of that, purchase clothes wherever you are. Works good for shoes and some other items, too. This allows me to carry less around. Generally cleaning service folks can use or sell anything you leave behind in good condition (nothing stained, for example.) once wrapped a suitcase that was heavier than I liked and had a broken latch and left it behind in Haiti. They used it to carry stuff from place to place. They didn't mind the broken latch at all. I've also dropped laundry off to be cleaned since I had a car. Went to dinner and came back when it was done. I tipped lavishly. In your case, perhaps use the expensive hotel laundry.

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Bogle7
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luggage check

Post by Bogle7 » Thu Nov 21, 2019 12:43 pm

Check out https://bagbnb.com
We used in Ferrara, Italia and it was great.

brainstem
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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by brainstem » Thu Nov 21, 2019 12:49 pm

We do not go for the high end hotels
Rather we look at mid to upper mid range and then spend extra for a larger room
A large, comfortable room/suite is worth more to us than a smaller, high end room

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by rj49 » Thu Nov 21, 2019 1:09 pm

I'm in a similar situation, a lifelong budget traveler trying to make travel less stressful. I found a nice compromise is to pay extra for premium economy on BA and Lufthansa, which have wider seats, more leg room, and better service. Another option you can look at is upgrading on budget airlines, such as the Norwegian Air premium class, with nice recliners and meals for a bargain price.

For going from Gatwick, just take the Gatwick Express, which drops you into Victoria Station much faster than any car service would. For hotels, to me it's still just a place to sleep, and I'd rather spend the money on a nicer flight or experiences where I'm visiting. For London, I prefer the Premier Inn chain, which has comfortable, clean hotels and nice breakfast spreads for a reasonable price--they also have one at Gatwick, so I like to stay there the night before a flight so I'm not stressing out the morning of a flight.

I take the Rick Steves approach, in looking for inexpensive but comfortable and friendly hotels centrally located. He also writes about spending more in flights to give a better vacation, and if you want to see a big country like Spain or a multi-country European tour, I'd pay extra for one of his tours, particularly off-season. He's also writes a lot about avoiding stupid tourist traps, how to save money in high-cost areas, but also how to travel comfortably and safely. I follow his advice by picking up street food (kebabs and hot dogs in Copenhagen) or convenience store snacks instead of wasting a lot of time and money on restaurant meals, but then I'm not a foodie or wine lover. To me the most important thing is the experience, and I find spending more for a nicer seat enhances that experience, but when I get to a place I want it to be as authentic as possible, so I try to live like a local, learning public transport systems and avoiding tourist restaurants and sights, so I experience a culture and meet more locals that way, as well as have more adventures. I think you lose a lot by insulating yourself from all that, or by spending time abroad shopping.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by LilyFleur » Thu Nov 21, 2019 1:24 pm

A luxurious Airbnb is still not being completely luxurious--an expensive hotel would cost you much more. However, in my travels last summer, I splurged on Airbnbs with air conditioning, and that was wonderful, especially in Venice. You can get some really nice Airbnbs, especially in the heart of cities like Paris and London.

We took cabs from Gatwick to our Airbnb in central London. Had interesting chats with the drivers. Our Airbnb host in London spent an hour with us; we took a walk; he showed us good restaurants, the train station, and even showed us a beautiful hotel where we could get free Wifi and sit and rest and showed us the room he got married in! That was lovely, and it is those personal experiences that make wonderful memories, in addition to the sightseeing.

In Barcelona we happened across a BBQ restaurant. The family who owned it had come to Barcelona from Columbia. The chef told us all about his special slow-cook equipment, and his mother visited with us quite a bit, too. We ended up taking a photo of us all together. And the food was amazing...

Serendipitous experiences that you don't have to worry about paying for can be quite memorable. And Yelp has guided us to restaurants that we would never have found otherwise. We ended up taking a walk from Parc Guell in Barcelona to a small restaurant with locals only, and I had the best gazpacho there. What a sense of atmosphere, right down to the dog tied up to the pole on the sidewalk outside...

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by bampf » Thu Nov 21, 2019 1:30 pm

rj49 wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 1:09 pm

For going from Gatwick, just take the Gatwick Express, which drops you into Victoria Station much faster than any car service would. For hotels, to me it's still just a place to sleep, and I'd rather spend the money on a nicer flight or experiences where I'm visiting. For London, I prefer the Premier Inn chain, which has comfortable, clean hotels and nice breakfast spreads for a reasonable price--they also have one at Gatwick, so I like to stay there the night before a flight so I'm not stressing out the morning of a flight.

+1 on this. I have done both and found that the train was much easier and much faster. I wouldn't check a bag under any circumstances. Invariably it will delay you. I have always said that if I can't carry it with me, I am not taking it. I have no problem fitting 10 days worth of clothes into two bags (both carryon). I use laundromats to wash or rent places with w/d amenities. Time is very valuable to me (as well as comfort) and both of these things maximize time and comfort for me.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by snackdog » Thu Nov 21, 2019 1:40 pm

My most relaxing business travel has been via large corporate jet without any more senior managers on board to make things difficult. Good food and drink - help yourself in the galley. Crew would meet us at the airport whenever we wanted with the plane ready to go. Customs and immigration were non-events (ten minute wait while someone collected passports and took them somewhere). Car services and five star resort style hotels. Strongly recommended if you can swing it. I would hate to be paying for it myself, but you sound like a man of means!

Local guides who can translate as needed and give the insider view of everything are worth their weight in gold. They arrange transportation and itineraries and help you avoid all the tourist nonsense. They can insure a "local" experience at all the better venues and help you jump the queue and get the best table, etc.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by whodidntante » Thu Nov 21, 2019 2:05 pm

I like to stay in local hotels when traveling abroad. These are often half the price of any american chain hotel and are better in my experience. If I end up staying at a hilton or a hyatt it's definitely a business trip and just a place to sleep.

When available, booking a king sized bed usually results in getting a better overall room.

When I travel to dangerous areas or certain developing economies, I like to hire a driver in advance. I've also gone it alone in such places but it is money well spent to hire a driver. Sometimes I'll pay the same person to take me wherever I want to go for the duration of my trip. They are willing to be available at all hours. If you treat them well you can even ask them to clear their schedule the next time you come and often they will. It's surprisingly affordable. Some of my best experiences have been in places where a lot of people would expect to be miserable.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by kramer » Thu Nov 21, 2019 2:11 pm

I use Google FI now for phone service ... on average it costs more than getting local sim cards, but it's a great convenience to be connected as soon as you land. And that initial connectedness can be helpful for communicating with your AirBnb host or summoning an Uber.

I think private and small group tours can be another great way to spend money. My favorite tour size is about 5 people, just enough to get a personal experience but you have other people to meet.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by chickadee » Thu Nov 21, 2019 2:13 pm

Totally agree on hiring private guides. You get to a purchase a local "friend for a day." I used to think just reading from a guidebook was the smart way to go. But my SO then expected me to explain the sites and do the guiding. It gets old trying to be the expert. I now always spend the money to get a guide for places that are important to us, or to cities that we've never been so that I can let someone else share their expertise and not have to be in charge for a few hours. Time and money well spent.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by perl » Thu Nov 21, 2019 2:17 pm

Sony WH-1000XM3 noise cancelling headphones

https://www.sony.com/electronics/headba ... wh-1000xm3

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by Seasonal » Thu Nov 21, 2019 2:23 pm

Use the fastest or easiest available mode of transportation. In cities or their environs, this is often taxis. Longer distances in many places it can be trains. Consider business class.

More luxurious would be better hotels (and better rooms in those hotels) and restaurants.

For kicks, browse the luxury travel forum on flyertalk: https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/luxury- ... ravel-220/

As others have suggested, noise cancelling headphones makes planes and trains more enjoyable and Google Fi is easier than buying local SIMs.

Part of the answer depends on why you travel. Is it to meet locals or to see sights or to shop or eat or something else?

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by Thesaints » Thu Nov 21, 2019 4:32 pm

- Business, or at least Premium Economy, seats on the overnight flights to Europe.
- High-end airbnb accommodations. For 2-300€ a night you get lodging you wouldn't get for 1,000€ in a hotel.
- Good train seats for longer travel. Frecciarossa Business in Italy, for instance.
- Taxi/Uber, when train/metro/bus are an inconvenience.
- Good restaurants only. Always wondered why someone would go to a less-then-good restaurant.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by Hockey10 » Thu Nov 21, 2019 4:46 pm

There might not be enough time to get this for your trip coming in a few weeks, but for future trips, apply for the Global Entry card. This also gives you TSA Pre-check, for getting through security faster. The last time I landed at PHL after a trip to Europe, the Global Entry line was 1 minute long. The regular line had somewhere between 500 - 1000 people waiting.

theplayer11
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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by theplayer11 » Thu Nov 21, 2019 6:02 pm

we splurge a little with hotel rooms with a great view. Nothing beats a cup of coffee in the morning on a balcony overlooking a fantastic view...be it the ocean, sea, city, ect.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by oxothuk » Thu Nov 21, 2019 6:04 pm

Hockey10 wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 4:46 pm
There might not be enough time to get this for your trip coming in a few weeks, but for future trips, apply for the Global Entry card. This also gives you TSA Pre-check, for getting through security faster. The last time I landed at PHL after a trip to Europe, the Global Entry line was 1 minute long. The regular line had somewhere between 500 - 1000 people waiting.
I have Global Entry, but it has never really saved me any time. It just lets me spend more waiting time at baggage claim instead of at Immigration.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by Seasonal » Thu Nov 21, 2019 7:18 pm

Hockey10 wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 4:46 pm
There might not be enough time to get this for your trip coming in a few weeks, but for future trips, apply for the Global Entry card. This also gives you TSA Pre-check, for getting through security faster. The last time I landed at PHL after a trip to Europe, the Global Entry line was 1 minute long. The regular line had somewhere between 500 - 1000 people waiting.
Global entry and pre-check have saved me a lot of time. There's also a mobile passport control app which may provide much of the benefits of global entry (but not pre-check). https://www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens/ ... rt-control

An advantage of flying business or first internationally is that you usually get fast-track security (both leaving the US and returning) and sometimes a shorter passport line in other countries.

Seasonal
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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by Seasonal » Thu Nov 21, 2019 7:18 pm

oxothuk wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 6:04 pm
I have Global Entry, but it has never really saved me any time. It just lets me spend more waiting time at baggage claim instead of at Immigration.
The key is never to check luggage.

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Watty
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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by Watty » Thu Nov 21, 2019 7:42 pm

AerialWombat wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 11:14 am
Now that I "have money", what else can I do to make my travels easier?
I am by no means a high end traveler but I will pay a reasonable amount extra for.

1) Direct flights, less chance of problems.

2) Decent flight departure and arrival times.

3) In my home city I will sometimes take a one way rental car to or from the airport. There are several suburban rental car locations near my house. I live on the opposite side of the city from the airport so it can easily take more than an hour to get to the airport.

4) A better location for hotels.

5) For long flights staying in an intermediate city to break up the flight. I was flying from the east coast to Australia this year so I spend a night or two in San Francisco each way to break up my flight. If I had flown straight through it would have been over 24 hours door to door at best.

California88
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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by California88 » Thu Nov 21, 2019 8:31 pm

Haven't read all the posts ... but what about an Airline Lounge membership? I've been stuck at Melbourne Airport while connecting to fly to U.S. ...whole place was jammed because flights were delayed ... there wasn't enough places to sit ... so if I'd had access to an Airline Lounge it would have made the trip a lot less stressful.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by Jeff Albertson » Thu Nov 21, 2019 8:45 pm

California88 wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 8:31 pm
Haven't read all the posts ... but what about an Airline Lounge membership? I've been stuck at Melbourne Airport while connecting to fly to U.S. ...whole place was jammed because flights were delayed ... there wasn't enough places to sit ... so if I'd had access to an Airline Lounge it would have made the trip a lot less stressful.
Day passes are sometimes available to these lounges, ~$50.

As for headphones Do Noise-Cancelling Headphones Hurt Your Ears? You’re Not Alone.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by Xrayman69 » Thu Nov 21, 2019 10:59 pm

direct Flight from west coast city to our European destination is the first choice and worth the premium if any. Premium seating or business is also a priority. If no direct to our intended destination we will fly into Dublin and stay 1 -2 days. Dublin is an easy city to connect to all of Europe. It is relatively cheap and lots of fun as a means to transition with any potential jet lag. Hotel near Dublin Airport runs about 200 euros a night with free shuttle to and from airport. After checking in to hotel and washing up makes everyone feel better. taxi Into city center about 20 euros for a nice night out. Can return to hotel and and early flight from Dublin to most cities throughout Europe and no need to go through customs as it is part of the EU.

Noise canceling headphones has been my greatest comfort to insure quality of life during travels.

We stay in apartments in prime locations as a high priority. Have apartment owner arrange car to pick us up from arrival airport and take us directly to apartment. Have owner or representative meet us upon arrival to apartment as the driver will call the owner or representative upon pickup. (no delay or getting lost or confusion). We don’t ever want to be in position of standing on the street waiting or not knowing how to get into the apartment (happened once 10 years ago in Paris and I vowed never again).

Some have mentioned about taking bus, shuttle or train from airport as a means to integrate with the locals. There are very few locals on these cattle calls as they are often lost tourists as well. I prefer to get settled in quickly and getting freshens up then taking my family into the cities and doing activities. Recently we were able to get from airport in Barcelona with our bags to the rental apartment just off Las Ramblas in 50 minutes. We were washed up and eating tapas and drinking wine within 2 hours of landing. 50 euros for the driver for a family of 3, barely more than 3 bus tickets.

Each person can bring 1 roll on bag and 1 backpack. Wife is also permitted her purse. No checked bags. Plane to customs, to driving to apartment. Washer for clothes is a requirement for the apartment. This minimizes the clothes we need to bring. Will buy toiletries upon arrival to destination city.

If doing multiple cities we try to keep it to no longer than 4 hours or so train ride. Premium private cabin for comfort. Rome to Florence cabin can accommodate up to 4 runs about 300 euros. We suck up the extra seat.

Nice meals at a nice restaurant for dinner. Lunch can be more casual near our destination when we get hungry or wanting to take in the scene.

Drink the local wine and eat the local food. We often eat 1 or 2 blocks off the tourist row. Tourist row rest tend to be tourist traps. 1-2 blocks off are often where the locals eat.

Museums, we prefer private guided tours. Ok if 4-6 people but now a days with the kid we usually just prefer our family to permit the kid chance to be as curious as she wants. We actually try to get graduate art students who are doing their studies abroad for art museums or graduate history students for historical tours. In Florence we had a graduate art student from Harvard who was there for the year writing his thesis on one of the Dutch masters that spent time in Florence. He was able to provide a very unique experience. It permitted a very efficient fast pass and experience. At the Vatican and Louvre similar experiences. Wandering aimlessly in a museum for hours on end after Standing in line is not a great value as time is precious.

We typically will limit our activists to 2 activities a day. 3-4 hours each and its ok only to do 1 thing and enjoy the ambiance in the cafes or Restaurants without the pressure of rushing. That being said we have the luxury of not “having to do it all” because if we don’t do it on this trip we can always return another time later in life.

In summary what we now most appreciate is not having to rush, stand in line, spend time between activities or at the airport waiting for transport or getting lost. I think taxis or private car are worth it because it saves me time and stress. 2 added hours at the airport and in mass transit multiplied by how many destinations now adds up to days. Time, comfort and piece of mind.

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whodidntante
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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by whodidntante » Thu Nov 21, 2019 11:38 pm

Global entry was a good suggestion. In my strange world, everyone has that.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by AlohaJoe » Fri Nov 22, 2019 12:01 am

theplayer11 wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 6:02 pm
we splurge a little with hotel rooms with a great view. Nothing beats a cup of coffee in the morning on a balcony overlooking a fantastic view...be it the ocean, sea, city, ect.
The problem I've always run into with this approach is where do you get good coffee from to enjoy in the morning on the balcony?

The coffee in the room is definitely not acceptable. Room service? Does the hotel even know how to make a good coffee? That's rarely the case in my experience. So I'm stuck leaving the hotel to get good coffee and at that point I rarely feel like trekking back to the hotel to enjoy it on the balcony.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by cinghiale » Fri Nov 22, 2019 1:13 am

Here’s a variation on some of the good suggestions offered thus far. We have opted for staying in an airport hotel the night before any morning hour departure, especially for a long haul flight. Given all the jostling-related stress of air travel these days, we found that waking up in a hotel property adjacent to an airport provided the chance to arrive the night before, enjoy a swim, jacuzzi, and/or sauna after checking in, and having a good dinner in-house, made for a relaxing and positive way to begin our travels. We have a Hilton affinity card for this (upgrades, welcome drink, free breakfast), and we have found it worth the larger annual fee.
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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by Seasonal » Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:36 am

California88 wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 8:31 pm
Haven't read all the posts ... but what about an Airline Lounge membership? I've been stuck at Melbourne Airport while connecting to fly to U.S. ...whole place was jammed because flights were delayed ... there wasn't enough places to sit ... so if I'd had access to an Airline Lounge it would have made the trip a lot less stressful.
If you're flying business or first internationally you almost always have access to an airport lounge.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by remomnyc » Fri Nov 22, 2019 7:51 am

snackdog wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 1:40 pm
Local guides who can translate as needed and give the insider view of everything are worth their weight in gold. They arrange transportation and itineraries and help you avoid all the tourist nonsense. They can insure a "local" experience at all the better venues and help you jump the queue and get the best table, etc.
+1 If you go somewhere where you have a friend, you would ask them for recs on what to do and see. A good local guide is your paid friend.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by LadyGeek » Fri Nov 22, 2019 8:27 am

I removed a post and reply regarding whether to leave luggage with a 3rd party (or not). The discussion was getting contentious.

Please state your concerns in a civil, factual manner.
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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by coalcracker » Fri Nov 22, 2019 9:06 am

I'll add to the chorus calling for a local guide. You can tailor this to you interests. We are foodies, and paid for full day culinary experiences on our past two trips to Barcelona and Provence. Both of them were just us and the guide/chef, and included market tours from individuals who knew a LOT about the markets that we otherwise would have completely missed.

Before and during the tours, we picked the brains of our guides for other recommendations (food, shopping, other experiences). It's so hard to sort the truth from ads when researching an area online, plus recommendations can become out of date quickly.

Also you can often pay extra for a private guide that helps you skip the lines. I know friends who did this at the Vatican.

We tend to Uber/Lyft our way around once we are in a city. Public transport can be fun (e.g. double decker London buses), but not always when we have our young children along. We've also hired a very affordable full-time driver/guide when traveling in Southeast Asia on prior trips. Sometimes this is included in the hotel reservation.

Congrats on your early semi-retirement. I hope to join you someday soon!

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by stan1 » Fri Nov 22, 2019 9:20 am

Some things I will pay for:
- Time, meaning that I don't rush my trips. We might only go to three places per day instead of trying to go to 10 places
- Hiring a local guide for a walking tour (small group or private). In London, Paris, and NYC we use a low cost guide (not free) for 2 hour tours in specific neighborhoods. On an African safari a private driver. There seem to be a lot of Art History Ph. Ds in the tour guide business.
- We don't do escorted group tours very often but in some places they are a reasonable choice. If we do one we pay more for a smaller group.
- On 8+ hour flights business class on an overnight flight, premium economy (wider seats with recline not just economy seats with more leg room) on daytime flights under 12 hours. More leg room on domestic flights.
- Non stop flights, if possible. Connections are worth paying to avoid. If we do have connections we make sure they are not too short.
- Well located mid range lodging unless you want to live like a commuter
- Public transit where available
- Lots of walking (10 miles a day or more if you are able)
- Internet reviews for low cost and good places to eat
- Good backpacks and carry ons. I have enough to customize to whatever I need for a trip.
- Layered location appropriate clothing in modern fabrics that is warm, cool, easy to wash on the inside and doesn't get dirty on the outside. It means multiple wardrobes for seasons (winter, summer) and location (city, outdoors).

Meh:
- Luxury hotels and restaurants. Value just isn't there for me other than a hotel with a good location.
- Hop on Hop off busses
- Airline lounges unfortunately many are very over crowded and noisy nowadays making them less enjoyable (lots of variables of course). Instead if I have an hour or more to wait I find an empty gate area in the terminal that I often have to myself.
- Shopping

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by Seasonal » Fri Nov 22, 2019 10:41 am

For those who recommend a local guide, how do you find an excellent one?

We often see local guides in museums, etc. with groups ranging from a couple to many people. When I overhear them talking about subjects we are passionate about, they are almost invariably providing information that we are very familiar with.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by bluebolt » Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:17 pm

kramer wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 2:11 pm
I use Google FI now for phone service ... on average it costs more than getting local sim cards, but it's a great convenience to be connected as soon as you land. And that initial connectedness can be helpful for communicating with your AirBnb host or summoning an Uber.

I think private and small group tours can be another great way to spend money. My favorite tour size is about 5 people, just enough to get a personal experience but you have other people to meet.
You could also order sim cards from Amazon in advance. About $20 and work in all of Europe and several other countries. If money is not an object, you can pay the $10/day to use your US plan minutes/texts/data. AT&T and Verizon both offer this.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by kramer » Fri Nov 22, 2019 8:22 pm

bluebolt wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:17 pm
kramer wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 2:11 pm
I use Google FI now for phone service ... on average it costs more than getting local sim cards, but it's a great convenience to be connected as soon as you land. And that initial connectedness can be helpful for communicating with your AirBnb host or summoning an Uber.

I think private and small group tours can be another great way to spend money. My favorite tour size is about 5 people, just enough to get a personal experience but you have other people to meet.
You could also order sim cards from Amazon in advance. About $20 and work in all of Europe and several other countries. If money is not an object, you can pay the $10/day to use your US plan minutes/texts/data. AT&T and Verizon both offer this.
Yes, I used to that sometimes, as well as buy at the airport or at a place near my hotel, but it's a hassle and it's different in different countries and regions and requires advanced research and changing out sim cards (Unfortunately, I have spent a lot of time studying the Simcard Wiki for many countries). Also, I wasn't always at a place where I could get mail or anything from Amazon before moving on to the next country. And there is typically an activation procedure (and sometimes that must be done in target country with a WiFi connection) and also learning how to load the account. Now I have just one sim card and it just works everywhere, as soon as the plane lands. I think that is what the OP was looking for, ways to make travel life more convenient, and I think Google Fi is a perfect example of that.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by capitalhockey » Fri Nov 22, 2019 8:28 pm

Getting massages at the airport while waiting for plane boarding is a great way to relax and enjoy travel experience.

While we were in Thailand, we got massages daily since they so cheap....felt pampered like a king!

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by AlohaJoe » Fri Nov 22, 2019 8:48 pm

An idea from a wealthy friend-of-a-friend: instead of worrying about early checkin, late checkout, or luggage storage, just book the hotel room for extra days. If he has a flight that departs at 5pm, he just books the hotel room for an extra day, in effect renting it from 10am-5pm. If his flight lands early in the morning, he books the hotel room the day before so he can check in at 8am instead of having to wait until 2pm.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by stan1 » Fri Nov 22, 2019 9:25 pm

Seasonal wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 10:41 am
For those who recommend a local guide, how do you find an excellent one?

We often see local guides in museums, etc. with groups ranging from a couple to many people. When I overhear them talking about subjects we are passionate about, they are almost invariably providing information that we are very familiar with.
You may have very high expectations but the best way is to communicate what you are looking for. If you are paying $25/person for a two hour tour I don't think its reasonable to expect the tour guide to be a world renowned expert, but she may be a good story teller and may point out some things you otherwise would not have seen. If you are paying $1000/day then it's reasonable to briefly interview the guide in advance before making a commitment. If you have been reading about a place you are visiting for decades and have a good memory maybe you are better off on your own.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by Starfish » Fri Nov 22, 2019 9:31 pm

To mt fancy travel is like very expensive cars. There is some added value, but per $ spend the value is abysmal.
I also travel for the destination. I don't care about the flight, I don't care much about hotels. I plan to be inside only while sleeping anyway.
My wife has a similar opinion and this is good. My kid has no opinion yet.
I do not go to extremes, I still need the hotel to be clean and in a good neighborhood, I don't take planes with multiple/long layovers. Time is important.

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by bluebolt » Fri Nov 22, 2019 9:37 pm

kramer wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 8:22 pm
bluebolt wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:17 pm
kramer wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 2:11 pm
I use Google FI now for phone service ... on average it costs more than getting local sim cards, but it's a great convenience to be connected as soon as you land. And that initial connectedness can be helpful for communicating with your AirBnb host or summoning an Uber.

I think private and small group tours can be another great way to spend money. My favorite tour size is about 5 people, just enough to get a personal experience but you have other people to meet.
You could also order sim cards from Amazon in advance. About $20 and work in all of Europe and several other countries. If money is not an object, you can pay the $10/day to use your US plan minutes/texts/data. AT&T and Verizon both offer this.
Yes, I used to that sometimes, as well as buy at the airport or at a place near my hotel, but it's a hassle and it's different in different countries and regions and requires advanced research and changing out sim cards (Unfortunately, I have spent a lot of time studying the Simcard Wiki for many countries). Also, I wasn't always at a place where I could get mail or anything from Amazon before moving on to the next country. And there is typically an activation procedure (and sometimes that must be done in target country with a WiFi connection) and also learning how to load the account. Now I have just one sim card and it just works everywhere, as soon as the plane lands. I think that is what the OP was looking for, ways to make travel life more convenient, and I think Google Fi is a perfect example of that.
I agree. That's why I would never use a card like that and also wouldn't want the hassle of getting one after I landed.

If you're leaving from the US, you can get the 3 UK sim card, which you can activate in the US prior to your trip so it works when you hit the ground. It works in 71 countries including all of Europe, some South American countries and some Asian countries.

I'm not saying that Google Fi isn't convenient or useful (it is), I'm just saying that this card is as convenient and cheaper in many cases.

Here's the link to that card:
https://www.amazon.com//dp/B01FI1JW72

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Re: Spending money to make travel easier and luxurious?

Post by theplayer11 » Fri Nov 22, 2019 10:05 pm

bluebolt wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 9:37 pm
kramer wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 8:22 pm
bluebolt wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:17 pm
kramer wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 2:11 pm
I use Google FI now for phone service ... on average it costs more than getting local sim cards, but it's a great convenience to be connected as soon as you land. And that initial connectedness can be helpful for communicating with your AirBnb host or summoning an Uber.

I think private and small group tours can be another great way to spend money. My favorite tour size is about 5 people, just enough to get a personal experience but you have other people to meet.
You could also order sim cards from Amazon in advance. About $20 and work in all of Europe and several other countries. If money is not an object, you can pay the $10/day to use your US plan minutes/texts/data. AT&T and Verizon both offer this.
Yes, I used to that sometimes, as well as buy at the airport or at a place near my hotel, but it's a hassle and it's different in different countries and regions and requires advanced research and changing out sim cards (Unfortunately, I have spent a lot of time studying the Simcard Wiki for many countries). Also, I wasn't always at a place where I could get mail or anything from Amazon before moving on to the next country. And there is typically an activation procedure (and sometimes that must be done in target country with a WiFi connection) and also learning how to load the account. Now I have just one sim card and it just works everywhere, as soon as the plane lands. I think that is what the OP was looking for, ways to make travel life more convenient, and I think Google Fi is a perfect example of that.
I agree. That's why I would never use a card like that and also wouldn't want the hassle of getting one after I landed.

If you're leaving from the US, you can get the 3 UK sim card, which you can activate in the US prior to your trip so it works when you hit the ground. It works in 71 countries including all of Europe, some South American countries and some Asian countries.

I'm not saying that Google Fi isn't convenient or useful (it is), I'm just saying that this card is as convenient and cheaper in many cases.

Here's the link to that card:
https://www.amazon.com//dp/B01FI1JW72
not good reviews, the cellhire dataroam sim has much better
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07H3 ... W0WO&psc=1

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