Travel upgrades are like the jackpots of travel. Be it a first-class seat, hotel suite or car rental upgrade, there’s nothing more satisfying while traveling than hearing the words, “You’ve been upgraded.” But while you can often use loyalty points, miles or credit cards to receive an upgrade, there are also costs associated with them and other travel extras. So, I’m sharing some of the more common travel upgrades and extras and what you could expect to pay for them.
If travel upgrades are the jackpots of travel, then first-class upgrades are the holy grail. However, business/first-class upgrades are also the costliest if you’re not using status, points or miles to upgrade.
Nonetheless, you could get a flight upgrade on a short domestic flight, such as SFO to LAX, for $50-$100. A first-class upgrade for a cross-country flight could be as little as $100, but is typically much more, especially on international flights. The further the distance of the flight, the more the first-class upgrade will cost. And be aware that upgrades are typically first offered to those with status with the airline.
Premium Economy Upgrade
“Premium Economy” is the term that in recent years has come to mean those seats that are located in economy, often at the front of the aircraft, with added perks like more comfortable seats, more legroom and priority boarding. As such, premium economy fares are more than economy seats, but significantly less than business class. For domestic flights, a premium economy upgrade can be as little as $20, but can be more than $200 on cross-country flights. For international flights, however, it usually starts at $200, depending on the airline, perks and distance of the flight.
Rental Car Upgrade
Rental car companies often have the widest variety of upgrades compared to any other travel service. First and foremost, you have a variety of car options, including compact, mid-sized, full-sized, SUV, luxury, convertible, and more. As you go up in quality of car, so does the price, typically between $10-$20 per day. Some car rental companies, like Enterprise, will offer a free single upgrade at participating locations. Other upgrades include perks like GPS, which is typically between $5-$15 per day, and necessities for family travelers, like booster or child seats, which are usually $10-$15 per day.
Hotel Suite Upgrade
Like airlines, many major hotel brands often prioritize hotel room upgrades for elite members. But while there are often set rates for airline upgrades, it varies from hotel to hotel, night to night. Many of the major hotel brands offer room upgrades with points or based on status.
Expedited Travel Clearance
TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, CLEAR, and other expedited, line-beating airport services might not be as sexy as a hotel upgrade, but you’ll be grateful when you have them. The goal of all these services is to have you pre-approved for security and U.S. customs measures, giving you your own dedicated, expedited line when you go through airport security or U.S. Customs at participating airports. PreCheck is $85, Global Entry is $100, and CLEAR $179. Delta offers discounts for SkyMiles members, and complimentary membership for Diamond Medallion members, while some credit cards offer PreCheck and Global Entry for free.
Once a luxury, inflight Wi-Fi is now becoming an expectation on most flights. Rates vary, however, depending on the airline and length of flight. If just using your mobile to access Wi-Fi, it can be as little as a couple dollars, while most in-flight plans are between $5 to $15 per day. Additionally, you can buy in-flight Wi-Fi packages that include all-day passes and monthly subscriptions. Gogo’s monthly plans are $49.95 for single airplane Wi-Fi and $59.95 for multi-airline access.
Finally, upgrading to TripIt Pro can give you access to some of the services and extras mentioned above, such as lounge services, and a four-month free trial of CLEAR (and discounted annual membership), as well as discounted rates on travel services, such as rental cars.