Paying More and Getting More Value

Joel Widzer”s new column up at is about spending more on travel and getting value for money spent. His basic message is right on the money: the rock-bottom lowest price isn”t always the best deal, and it can be worthwhile to spend a little more when traveling.

That doesn”t mean, as Joel says, “you get what you pay for.” I don’t think he means to imply that paying more is always worthwhile. Just this past weekend I helped a colleague get a room at the Jersey City Hyatt for $55 when they were looking for an inexpensive stay in New York. There wasn’t anything available inexpensively in Midtown. It’s certainly not the case that they would have been better off picking a $100 or $150 room (though if they were full price patrons at the Hyatt they might have gotten a more desireable room there, to be sure, but that wouldn’t have been worth the extra $150 a night to them).

But Joel’s point is certainly correct: paying a little more can often yield comfort, enjoyment, and even net savings.

MVP Gold members on Alaska Airlines receive complimentary upgrades, space available, 72 hours before departure. But there are tons of MVP Gold members (which is why Alaska is likely to introduce a new Platinum level next year) and upgrades on some routes (such as Seattle-Newark or Seattle-Washington Reagan National) are a crapshoot at best. Another benefit of Alaska”s Gold status is that purchasing a “Q fare” or higher entitles the member to confirm an upgrade any time from ticketing to checkin, whenever an upgrade seat is available. That fare might be $100 more roundtrip flying Seattle-Los Angeles, or $200 more than the lowest fare for a Washington, DC – Seattle roundtrip. I”ll pay $20 per hour of first class time to guarantee my seat at booking and not play the upgrade lottery; money well spent.

Similarly, an upgrade to a hotel’s club level is often worthwhile – especially for families. Hardly a luxury property, the Sheraton Seattle will often offer $30 upgrades to a club level room. Theirs is (relatively speaking) at the low end but it includes breakfast and even snacks. Ritz-Carlton may charge an extra $100 for a club level room, but the displays of caviar along with champagne may be well worth the money — not to mention access to a butler/concierge whose assistance may prove invaluable.

Widzer makes another good point: let your travel provider (or more generally, whomever you do business with) know when you’re displeased. I’m not suggesting you complain to an airline that doesn’t carry your favorite soft drink and expect to get something in return. But if there were major inconveniences during a hotel stay, try to get them resolved on the spot and let the manager know what happened. Diligent management will often appreciate the information so that they can improve their product, and will try to make it up to you — perhaps a future free stay, waived charges on your existing stay, or at least a complimentary upgrade on your next visit.

Of course it’s important that the inconveniences are real if you’re going to complain. But when they are there’s usually not a reason to keep silent.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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