Posts tagged “budget

Are Upgrades Worth It?

I’ll start the New Year with a confession; I always shop around for what sometimes feel like forever for the cheapest plane tickets I can find. It’s no secret that almost everyone does it but when you’re flying from Eastern Canada, even the most basic flights usually end up more expensive so shopping around is often the only way to spend a little less on plane tickets in the hope of maximizing the budget and focusing on the trip itself instead of the getting there. I never bothered giving much attention to the prices listed as “Elite”, “First Class” or anything relating to something other than cheap seats and questionable meal choices. In reality, I would have sold my soul for a seat/bed in first class when I flew to Australia but the $8000 price tag brought me back to reality rather quickly.

When I flew to Belgium this year there were still upgrades available at the time of boarding and although my flight was only about 7 hours, I caved in and decided to splurge on an upgrade. The good thing is my original ticket was so inexpensive that, at the end of the day, the total price was still more than decent for a flight to Europe.

Now onto the upgrade itself;

Seat space is probably what I fell in love with the most. I’m not a giant but apparently 6 feet is enough to feel stuffed in regular seats on quite a few airlines. This time, I had room to spare and to be honest, I loved every extra inch of it.

Flight attendants attention is something that really stuck out to me. Don’t get me wrong, I respect cabin crew people beyond words; their work ethic and professionalism always impresses me, but I never came close to that kind of attention before. I truly command them on the work they do in general but particularly in first class, which is obviously a section with a large amount of demanding guests and even more varied services offered.

Food certainly could have been first on my list but I felt better putting it in the middle so I don’t sound like someone who paid quite a few dollars for better food. The fact of the matter is, the food was plentiful and it was so very good. There’s absolutely nothing I would say I didn’t enjoy; which is a lot more than I can usually say about airplane food! Obviously I wouldn’t upgrade just for the food but it’s certainly a perk I enjoyed.

Alcohol is always available on planes but free alcohol is so much better. I’m sure I’m not the only one but I always felt weird paying $6-8 for a tiny glass of cheap wine to go with a bland tasting meal eaten with plastic utensils.

I have to admit right now that I’m a sucker for goodies and freebies in general. I have so many things from launches and work-related evens that I could potentially do a giveaway every day for maybe 3 months and still have stuff to spare. I didn’t include this just to brag but to say that the little goodies bag with a blanket, inflatable pillow, socks (!) and more is pretty much a bag of awesome if you ask me.

So there you have it; I think that about covers all the cool things you get from an upgrade (I won’t mention priority boarding or being the first off the plane but look at them as added bonuses!) and in a way I’d say all those things make for a fun experience but you really need to weigh the price for what it gives you in the end; you might be better off saving your money to visit, eat or make purchases once you get to your destination.

Do you usually fly first class? Any reason in particular? Is it the luxury, the comfort or something else?


Unexpected Expenses

Budget should always be a very important part of planning for a trip, a holiday or an extended period of travel but no matter how much planning is done, unexpected situations and events can occasionally arise and throw a wrench in all that careful planning. Just like planes can be delayed and social unrest or protests can disrupt cultural visits, a single event like the ones below can lead to a pretty drastic increase in your expenses and burn a massive hole through a budget.

While some events simply cannot be avoided, there are some steps to work around those situations or at least minimize the impact they will have on your plans (and your wallet!)

Sickness, illnesses and meds

While being sick might not break the bank, unless you need meds or a visit to the hospital, it can impact your plans and prevent you from going on tours that are already paid for which forces you to either book the same activity twice or simply give up on something you had planned on doing, without necessarily getting your money back.

Keep in mind that medical consultations and medication can become rather expensive, even if they seem rather minor, if you don’t have some kind of travel insurance and while some people feel that paying for insurance in case something happens is a waste of money, I definitely see it as one of those “rather be safe than sorry” moments. You can also get a year long protection for a reduced rate with quite a few different companies, which means you’ll never have to worry about your coverage expiring while on the road.

Lost or misplaced luggage

Although most airlines try their best to return any misplaced luggage to its rightful owner in under 24 hours, there is no guarantee that your beloved suitcase will be at your side the next day. Delays happen, and they often happen at the worst possible time, which can lead to some additional expenses if you need to buy some clothes or toiletries while waiting for your belongings to be returned to you. While there’s not much you can do to avoid this, unless you pack light and manage not to check any luggage, you can take a few pictures of your luggage and its content, in case you need to file an insurance claim later and keeping a few basic necessities in your carry on luggage is always a good idea. Don’t forget the rules for liquids and gels still apply if you choose to travel with toiletries in your carry on and not check in any luggage.

Passport (and other travel documents)

As a rule, you should never leave your passport out of sight when traveling but since that can sometimes be hard to do, it is always a good idea to either carry a photocopy of your passport (and all important travel documents) or scan them and keep a copy in your inbox. That way, should they get stolen, lost, misplaced or damaged while you travel, you’ll have a backup available. Granted, a photocopy of your passport or IDs will not get you far, it will make things a lot easier to get an emergency passport processed at the embassy, as they require two forms of ID. Having an idea of where your country’s embassy is located is never a bad idea as they can offer a lot of support in cases like this.

Although I wouldn’t go as far as to suggest getting a money belt to keep all your important documents safe, I would definitely suggest not keeping everything in the same place. The odds of losing all your belongings at the same time are rather slim but if your documents are all in your trusty day bag, things can do downhill very fast if a thief manages to separate you from it.

Accidents

Many places around the world make renting cars, bikes, motorcycles and many other means of transportation very easy and while the rates can be tempting, insurance is an absolute must-have. Basic car rental will offer some minimal insurance but it will most likely not cover a lot of damage in case of an accident, especially if you are responsible. Sorting out an accident while in a foreign country can also become a hassle as you don’t have the confidence of having home field advantage. It can be difficult to tell your side of the story, even though you might be completely innocent in the incident, especially if you don’t speak the local language, which is why travel agents and airline representatives in many Caribbean hotspots will advise against renting scooters and motorcycles as the risk of accident is high and the odds of being ruled “not responsible” for an accident are very slim.

Safety is obviously the first step to avoid getting in trouble on the road but since you can only control your own actions and not other drivers’, making sure you’re insured for accidents while driving in a foreign country is the responsible step to take before leaving the country.

Missed flights

So your alarm didn’t go off and you make a mad dash for the airport but the plane was on time for once and you end up missing your flight? You can try your luck with the airline and see if they can’t assign you on the next departing flight to your destination. Since the flight wasn’t delayed or cancelled and not making your flight falls on your shoulders, airlines aren’t required to put you on a different flight for free, but they might be able to do it for a small fee; which is definitely better than buying a new ticket at full price.

My only real advice if this ever happens is don’t panic, even though you’ll want to scream at the top of your lungs or throw a tantrum in the middle of the airport, your best bet to get on the airline’s good side is to be as nice as you possibly can. I’m guessing some tears probably don’t hurt either, but I’ll leave that up to you.